It seems the world is powerless against the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, as shown by that country conducting its fourth nuclear test on Jan 6 and the killing of senior government officials, many of whom were formerly Kim's most trusted aides and close relatives. But how long should the world tolerate such brutal behaviour?
It is ridiculous that we let the ruthlessness of the leader of an extremely impoverished nation terrorize the world. This is not just a threat to its close neighbour but also to world peace and order. Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly demonstrated his displeasure with the North. He has refused to meet with Kim because the latter often humiliates China in front of the international community by defying Chinese leaders' expectations. China is Pyongyang's only ally and sole donor. Media reports show growing frustration and even anger against the North for its confrontational approach, including its nuclear development programme.
The reported execution of Ri Yong-gil, the chief of the North Korean military's general staff and former close confidante of Kim, again demonstrates his brutality against anyone whom he dislikes or regards as a threat to his power, including his uncle Jang Song-thaek in 2013. The leader has ordered the killing of no fewer than 70 officials since he came to power in 2011, according to the South Korean intelligence service.
Following last month's nuclear test and after North Korea launched a long-range rocket over the weekend, the UN Security Council condemned Pyongyang for ignoring the world body's resolution on its nuclear ambition. The US, South Korea and Japan also deplored the North's military actions.Japan threatened more economic sanctions. South Korea has closed down a joint-venture industrial complex located on the two country's border at Kaesong, where the South Korean government and companies have invested US$852 million (S$1.18 billion) in infrastructure and factories. Last year alone, the North earned more than US$120 million in workers' wages from Kaesong, as the workers received only a small portion of their earnings.
Kim Jong-un knows well that he has at least three strategies to maintain power, inherited from his father Kim Jong-il and his grandfather Kim Il-sung. The first is terrorising his own people. His second tool is to intimidate his much bigger neighbours and the world with his nuclear power. His third threat is to flood China and also South Korea with waves of refugees when things get out of control in the North.But the world should no longer tolerate such a leader.
The Jakarta Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 22 newspapers seeking to promote coverage of Asian affairs.