Fletcher in the News

Kim III Not Likely to Act in "Predictable" Ways: Prof. Sung-Yoon Lee

IHT Rendezvous Blog

Excitable Boy, They All Said

Here’s a modest proposal for peace on the Korean Peninsula: Give the kid a break.

Kim Jong-un, not yet 30, passed his first big test as the new leader of North Korea on Monday: He kept his military in check and did not make any moves against the South Korean marines and artillery batteries that were firing live shells just a couple miles off his coastline.

The young general’s restraint might well be seen as nothing short of remarkable. Fighter planes were not scrambled, as my colleague Choe Sang-hun reported, and soldiers stayed in their barracks. Adjust the Western political kaleidoscope a half-turn and Mr. Kim’s decision not to return fire might even appear statesmanlike. Courageous. Gutsy.

Another half-turn, and a nasty shooting war might have begun.

Not many will buy this argument, of course. They’re sold on the kid’s political inheritance.

“Kim III would not be so ‘predictable’ as to shell South Korea again,’’ Sung-yoon Lee, a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, told Rendezvous. “He will provoke when it suits him, in ways unexpected by his target. As ever, it will be a pinprick, not a stab, which might bring retaliation.’’

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