According to this fascinating article, there’s new evidence that the North Korean regime is on the verge of collapse. Some relevant quotes:
According to exiles, North Korean agents in Beijing and Ulan Bator are frantically selling assets to raise cash — an important sign, says one activist, because “the secret police can always smell the crisis coming before anybody else”.
…Word has spread like wildfire of the Christian underground that helps fugitives to reach South Korea. People who lived in silent fear now dare to speak about escape. The regime has almost given up trying to stop them going, although it can savagely punish those caught and sent back.
…Bush’s re-election dealt a blow to Kim, 62, who had gambled on a win by John Kerry, the Democratic candidate. Kim used a strategy of divide and delay to drag out nuclear talks with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea through 2004. Kim lost his bet and now faces four more years of Bush, who says that he “loathes” the North Korean leader and has vowed to strip him of atomic weapons.
…An attempt to kill Kim would come as no surprise. Defections by party officials and army officers have increased as the elite senses that it faces disaster. Japan is considering economic sanctions to retaliate for the kidnappings of its nationals by North Korea and some American policymakers think that the regime should be pushed to the point of self-destruction.
Nonetheless, Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, wants to keep pressurising North Korea through negotiations. “The military option is not on the table for the United States,” said an American aid official who is up-to-date with her thinking.
If they really are that close to collapse, I don’t think any option should be off the table.