History's Shadow

North Korea’s third nuclear test has provoked the expected condemnation from the international community. With sanctions against Kim Jong-Un’s state already pretty severe, the usual dilemma of what punishment to impose on the North Koreans without resorting to military might is confounding leading statesmen.

As mentioned before on this blog, there is likely to follow a period of diplomatic brinksmanship before the North Koreans extract an alleviation of certain sanctions in exchange for a promise to dismantle its nuclear programme. Talks and posturing will rumble on, maybe even with the return of the Six-Party Talks, before the next nuclear test is undertaken and the process is repeated.

North Korea’s leader has cause to feel vulnerable. His state is isolated, shorn of allies, internationally castigated. Yet it also suffers from a historical vulnerability that has always plagued the Korean Peninsula.

Strategically located between China, Japan and Russia, Korea has historically been…

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