It has been long thought that the DPRK’s belligerence stemmed from their wartime experience. Kim Il Sung started a war that utterly and completely destroyed his own country. Pyongyang, the oldest city in Korea and the home of most of Korea’s Christian community, was leveled. Every city, town, and village in the DPRK was wiped more or less off the map. The DPRK suffered blows that we in the US would never understand. A Pole might understand it, or a Russian, but we’ve been lucky enough to avoid it. That kind of destruction, the theory goes, led to the DPRK becoming a heavily-armed, inwardly turned, belligerently militant state. It was thought that fear of another go-round with the US caused the DPRK to pursue a nuclear deterrent.
Having read this, I’m not sure it was fear of the US, although the North Koreans certainly saw what happened to Iraq, and the lessons that had for the rest of the world. If this is true, I’d guess the DPRK has about as much to fear, in all reality, from either Russia or China as it does from us. Especially the Chinese, who have, up until now, enjoyed a monopoly.
This points up why the division of Korea is such a sad thing. The South is a breadbasket, as well as an industrial powerhouse. The North may be the home of unimaginable mineral wealth. As one nation, there is probably nothing they could not do.
“The value of rare earth metals and their relatively limited supply would seem to work in North Korea’s favor. Rare earth metals are used in the construction of everything from iPods to precision guided missiles. China currently produces more than 95% of the world’s output of these metals. China’s control over these minerals has regional implications for Northeast Asia. For example, in 2010 Japan alleged that China suspended its export of the minerals to Tokyo in response to a territorial dispute between the two countries. The EU, U.S., and Japan also recently brought a case against China at the WTO for unfairly inflating the prices of these minerals.”
“If North Korea is willing to create conditions for investment, its supply of rare earth metals and its rich mineral sector have tremendous transformative potential. ”
And even if they do NOT create the conditions for investment, it could well be that another Boy George, or even a Putin, may decide that much wealth is too good to pass up, given how weak the DPRK actually is. Or at least, was. There is no question that the possession of nukes prevents the DPRK from becoming the new Iraq. Given the unimaginable wealth waiting to be extracted (presumably greater than we ever would have gotten from Iraq,) I don’t think anyone should expect that the DPRK will ever give up its nukes.