North Korea Has Us 'Walking On Eggshells'

by LT. COLONEL JAMES G. ZUMWALT, USMC (RET) April 26, 2012

"Do you feel manipulated, controlled or lied to? Are you the focus of intense, violent and irrational rages? Do you feel you are 'walking on eggshells' to avoid the next confrontation?"

So begins a marketing campaign for a book entitled "Stop Walking on Eggshells" -- the psychology of dealing with people suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder.

The book's title is an axiom meaning "to take steps gingerly; to be very diplomatic and inoffensive." In the foreign policy arena, if the answer to the question above is "yes," be assured the country with which we are dealing is North Korea.

On April 13, continuing its cycle of unprovoked hostility, interspersed with an occasional feint at cooperation, North Korea conducted a rocket test, in violation of its Feb. 29 promise for a moratorium on missile and nuclear tests, given in exchange for a U.S. commitment for 240,000 tons of food.

Pyongyang disregarded numerous international protests made in advance of the test, electing to demonstrate its missile acumen on the occasion of the country's celebration of the 100th birthday of its founding father Kim Il Sung.

While the North claimed the effort was a satellite launch, it is believed that was simply a cover story for a missile test as the two involve similar technology. Like the North's two previous tests, this one proved to be an embarrassing failure as the missile broke up 90 seconds into flight.

What has also proven to be an embarrassment is the international response to the North's latest provocation.

Already one of the most heavily sanctioned countries by the United Nations, Pyongyang's decision to go forward with the test reflected its total disdain for the international body.

Among the factors it obviously considered in conducting the test was: "What more can the U.N. sanction?" The North appears to have made the right assessment as nothing substantive will be done by the world body.

As if "walking on eggshells," while the United Nations and the United States have condemned the test, they won't dwell on it or seek additional sanctions for fear of provoking further aggression by Pyongyang. Instead, the only punitive action to be taken will be to tighten existing sanctions.

This inaction is directly linked to a huge pile of dirt at a North Korean nuclear test site identified in a South Korean satellite photograph.

The past two missile tests Pyongyang conducted were followed by subsurface nuclear tests. In both, the nuclear device was placed deep within a tunnel, which was back-filled with dirt trucked in earlier. The satellite photograph suggests another nuclear test is to follow the failed April 13 launch based on a new massive pile of dirt being stockpiled.

The international community hopes to dissuade Pyongyang from conducting a nuclear test. Therefore, it doesn't want to antagonize the North by being too critical. After being unsuccessful in dissuading Pyongyang from conducting its missile test and after 64 years of being stung by its very aggressive foreign policy -- one involving repeated acts of unprovoked violence including an invasion, numerous kidnappings, assassinations, infiltrations, attacks on ships and aircraft, etc. -- one would think the international community would have arrived at a proper diagnosis for three generations of the Kim family leadership -- i.e., it suffers from BPD, leaving little hope for changing its foreign policy.

Even the one nation threatened most by Pyongyang's aggression -- South Korea -- has done little to try and curtail it. A decade of foreign policy appeasement (Sunshine Policy) by Seoul toward the North (1998-2008) did little to do so. But even when a new party took power and renounced the Sunshine Policy, it did nothing to "stand tall" against the North when its aggression continued -- always threatening action but then backing down.

Its hands now have been tied by South Korean voters who, in the country's most recent election, made clear they have yet to be pushed to the point of responding in kind to the North's aggression as they desire a diplomatic solution.

The book "Stop Walking on Eggshells" notes the need to make sense out of the chaos created by one suffering from BPD behavior. Other steps include standing up for one's self and, perhaps most importantly, setting boundaries.

This is something yet to be done with Pyongyang as the North has consistently been the one setting higher limits on its aggression. As it does so, it watches us backpedal, drawing a new line in the sand beyond which their aggression won't be tolerated -- only again to see us do so. As such, we all become enablers of the North's disruptive disorder.

When criticized for making the food agreement with Pyongyang, U.S. President Barack Obama said he did so only to see how serious the North was about cooperating. He now has his answer.

And, by Obama rendering a rebuke of the North as if he were "walking on eggshells," Pyongyang now has its answer as to how serious he is about taking action to curtail its aggression. Such a lame rebuke not only encourages Pyongyang to conduct its third nuclear test but encourages Iran to press forward with its own nuclear program as well.

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)


© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.), is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf war. He is the author of "Bare Feet, Iron Will--Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam's Battlefields," "Living the Juche Lie: North Korea's Kim Dynasty" and "Doomsday: Iran--The Clock is Ticking." He frequently writes on foreign policy and defense issues.


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