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The Mind of Kim Jong Il

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As channeled by Richard Bush, The Brookings Institution

I have done it again. I have provoked the international community to take seriously the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea, AKA North Korea]. The American imperialists are worried about our preparations for a satellite launch, despite its other crises. The lackey regime in the South is roiled by our suspension of cooperation and communications channels. China and Russia urge us to be restrained, but they are more concerned about the Americans' reaction so I don't take them seriously. The Japanese are frightened by our missiles and that their ally will ignore their interests. Mao Zedong, who was a better friend of the DPRK than his successors, once said, "There is great chaos under heaven, and the situation is excellent." My feelings exactly.

I have not yet achieved my objective, which is to get the U.S. imperialists and their lackeys to act according to my direction. The Lee Myung-bak clique in the South has put up a good show of firmness in the face of our provocations. The Obama Administration is still talking a tough game, saying the DPRK will pay a price for our missile test. This reminds me of George Bush's initial line, that he would not "reward bad behavior." But we responded to his hard line with our own hard line. We ended the freeze on our plutonium facilities, reprocessed the spent fuel, and, thirty months ago, detonated our first nuclear device.

Did the Bush Administration punish us for our test? No! It abandoned its hard line and returned to negotiations, where we set the terms and the pacing. Why should the Obama Administration be any different? After all, it's full of old Clinton officials. China was angry after our 2006 nuclear test, but this time Beijing is mild and even-handed. It won't be a problem.

The South will cave sooner or later. The Lee clique is in a no-win situation. If it sticks to its firm posture, the imperialists' coming capitulation will leave it out in the cold. Simultaneously, the "progressive forces" will make its life miserable and then win the next election. Sooner or later, assistance from the South will resume.

I don't engage in these provocations just to discipline the imperialists and their lackeys and to make them regret their arrogance. I also need to keep my generals happy. They insist that we need to test of the Taepodong missile, to ensure that it can actually hit Japan and the United States and so make our deterrent credible. They are correct, so we increase tensions to create a better environment for a test. (Meanwhile, my diplomats brilliantly are portraying the test as a satellite launch.) My generals have also said that our deterrent is only real if we retest our nuclear device. Again they are correct, so we will keep tensions high to pave the way for a test--always blaming the Americans' "hostile policy."

The DPRK is in a win-win position. At best, our provocations will induce the American imperialists to abandon the Six-Party Talks and negotiate with us on a bilateral basis, thus acknowledging our importance. That way, I can marginalize the lackeys in the South, the Japanese imperialists, and the overbearing Chinese. If necessary, and only if we are offered sufficient incentives, we will return to the Six-Party Talks. Whether the talks are bilateral or multilateral, we will engage on our terms. We will only accept limited verification of our weapons programs, and we will never resolve the imperialists' concerns about our effort to get fissile material through uranium enrichment. Having given up the plutonium program, we must defend other things even more vigilantly.

My stroke last August demonstrated that my time is short. In order to preserve the DPRK, I have to set priorities and pick my fights. I would have preferred that one of my sons succeeded to all my powers, but they are all too young and inexperienced. So I have to rely on the military, on which I have bestowed many favors, to guarantee DPRK security and secure my legacy.

I may still live long enough to see Barack Obama come to Pyongyang, as he suggested he would do. That would be a fitting end to this long struggle. But it is more important now to convince the imperialists to accept us as a nuclear power, either in international law or in fact, and to provide us with economic aid without real conditions. That may take time, but we should avoid foolish concessions.

Our talk of the imperialists' "hostile policy" is mostly empty cannons. Still, America is too powerful and too unpredictable for us to put our security in its hands. If we did, what is to stop it from taking advantage of the uncertainty that follows my death? I may not have many years left, but I will continue the struggle to the last day. I intend to leave the DPRK in a position that is strong and impregnable.

I occasionally worry, however, that my game-plan will not succeed this time. Why? The Obama Administration has responded to my brinksmanship with restraint--unlike the Bush Administration. Before our missile and nuclear tests in 2006, Bush engaged in rhetorical overkill and pressure tactics. We did not bend, and China and the South concluded that Bush, not I, was the cause of the crisis. Then, after our tests, Bush began negotiating with us on a basically bilateral basis and gave into our tough negotiators. Obama, however, is neither reckless nor panicky. In addition, unlike Bush, his Administration seems united. It is making common cause with the South and the Japanese. It is making its case to the Chinese.

I still believe Obama will capitulate. Provocation worked before; it will work this time. But if Obama "outplays me," the DPRK will end up in an isolated position. For the first time, we will have to make choices we do not wish to make.