Stephan Haggard writes: March brought us a series of what pundits like to call “provocations” by North Korea. On closer inspection, Pyongyang has opted for rhetoric over actual military actions.
While Kim Jong Un’s pursuit of nuclear and missile capability remains worrisome, escalating signals of resolve could suggest nervousness as much as strength.
So, is the regime in trouble?
The first round of saber-rattling came as the U.N. Security Council deliberated on a new sanctions resolution after North Korea’s satellite launch in December and its third nuclear test in February. The Supreme Command of the Korean People’s Army, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a party organ dealing with North-South relations began putting out public statements in an effort to chip away at the institutions of the armistice, such as military hot lines and the stationing of a North Korean military mission in Panmunjom.
North Korea ultimately “withdrew” from the armistice, but it had done so before and it is not clear what its recent statements actually mean. The armistice is not a peace treaty, but merely a cease fire. The armistice is stable not because of verbal commitments but because of the deterrent capability of both sides. [Continue reading…]