MOST NORTH Korea watchers believe that Wednesday’s missile launch by the insular dictatorship was prompted by domestic imperatives. The latest Stalinist ruler, 29-year-old Kim Jong Eun, is reportedly struggling to consolidate power; the anniversary of his father’s death is coming up; and something had to be done to deliver on the regime’s promise that 2012 would be a year of “strength and prosperity.”
It’s likely, though, that the new leader is hoping to repeat the trick of his father and grandfather before him: luring the United States and South Korea into trying to stop his misbehavior with “engagement,” complete with bribes of cash and food. Pyongyang has a long record of promising to stop its missile tests or to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for such aid. It then pockets the reward and reneges. The latest instance came in April, when the North staged a missile test just weeks after agreeing with the Obama administration on a freeze of its programs in exchange for 240,000 tons of food (which were never delivered) and de facto U.S. recognition of the new ruler.