Now why do this?


Dictator’s Death Stokes Fears


U.S. officials aggressively lobbied China, Russia and Japan and suspended a food-aid plan for North Korea following the death of the country’s leader, aiming to gain a diplomatic foothold as control over the authoritarian, nuclear-armed country appeared to pass to Kim Jong Il’s untested young son.

North Korea officially returned to its customary silence on Monday after announcing the death of its supreme leader early in the day, underscoring the world’s anxiety over its trajectory under Kim Jong Eun, the former ruler’s youngest son, whom state media says will now lead the isolated country.

The U.S. doesn’t have a clear picture of what may happen next there, said a senior defense official in Washington. “A 27-year-old running a repressive regime with nuclear weapons: It’s kind of hard to say you don’t have some concerns,” the official said.

More at the link. It’s no surprise that we don’t have a “clear picture” of what is going to happen in North Korea; anyone who says that he does know what will happen next there is lying.

But the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are seriously malnourished, and winter is starting; there will be no more harvest in North Korea this year. If, despite all of our differences, the United States believed that it was important enough to aid the Communist regime of Kim Jong-il with food assistance, for whatever concessions were received, why should we cut off that assistance now?

The article suggested that continuing food aid might give the country a bit more stability now, and perhaps policymaker in Washington don’t want that, hoping that more instability might prevent Kim Jong-un from securing his hold on power. But that’s a prescription for disaster: the only possible contenders for power would have to have the backing of the military’s leadership, and they are unlikely to be any more reform minded than the younger Mr Kim. And the chance of a popular uprising is vanishingly small: a population which hasn’t had enough to eat lacks the physical energy for revolution.

There are no really good options right now, and there won’t be until we understand where power will reside following the death of the Dear Leader . . . and that might take a while. But cutting off food aid certainly seems like the wrong thing to do right now:

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