Economy root to N Korea crisis
The focus of the international community's alarm over North Korea is the isolated nation's nuclear arsenal, and its refusal to talk about it.When you are a pariah, the only thing left is blackmail.
An aspect that is sometimes overlooked is the dire state of its economy, and yet this could be at the heart of the nuclear crisis.
The regime, with few allies in the world, cannot appeal to the sort of humanitarian emotions that African or South Asian nations have in the past.
To ensure the flow of food and oil, it must have a bargaining chip, and its nuclear arsenal is that chip.
Therefore Pyongyang's diplomatic bluster is inextricably linked to its need to keep what remains of its economy propped up by donations.
As for the economy today, it has to all intents and purposes collapsed.
The reforms were limited, and benefited just the elite of the country rather than ordinary people.
The basic structure remains in place and continues to erode the economy.
However, as long as the regime can keep the country isolated, it can survive on this drip-feed indefinitely.
The endgame is simple - regime survival. It is a long-term strategy using diplomatic belligerence and military threat to secure enough aid to maintain power and isolation.
The regime may survive, and may under pressure begin another round of tentative reform, but it seems unlikely that life will improve for ordinary North Koreans any time soon.