David Frum

02.15.13

Western Delusions on Display

A North Korean soldier watches the South Korean side at the border village of Panmunjom in the DMZ, demilitarized zone in Panmunjom on December 28, 2011. (WALLY SANTANA/AFP/Getty Images) ()

Michael Totten takes the New York Times' Nick Kristof to task on North Korea:

Sorry, Nick. While it’s true that isolation and sanctions haven’t normalized North Korea’s politics or behavior, China’s strategy hasn’t worked any better. First of all, North Korea has isolated itself. Its people are as cut off from the rest of the world as the most remote tribes of Papua New Guinea. Even a country as walled off from the rest of us as Saudi Arabia is vastly more plugged in and integrated into the 21st century.

Second, China flat doesn’t care if North Korea opens up or reforms. The Chinese government is spectacularly uninterested in the internal characteristics of its allies as long as its own needs are met. Beijing’s rulers are no more sentimental about human welfare and rights—especially abroad—than the Algerian military that recently killed a bunch of hostages while taking out a terrorist cell at a natural gas plant in the Sahara.

Kristof assumes the Chinese government is at least marginally interested in opening and reforming Pyongyang because he, like plenty of Americans—myself included—wish to see reform in non-democratic countries aligned with the United States. He’s projecting our own psychology onto Beijing.