Are things in North Korea more normal than they seem?

An ordinary North Korean diplomatic trip to the Middle East might seem like small potatoes in light of all the hostile rhetoric rising from Pyongyang this week. But even as the international crisis continues, North Korea’s relatively mundane overtures to certain parties abroad could actually be a signal that all is normal in the DPRK ...

JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

An ordinary North Korean diplomatic trip to the Middle East might seem like small potatoes in light of all the hostile rhetoric rising from Pyongyang this week. But even as the international crisis continues, North Korea's relatively mundane overtures to certain parties abroad could actually be a signal that all is normal in the DPRK -- at least, as normal as things ever get for a paranoid hermit state:

Vice Foreign Minister Kim Hyong Hun, with a Foreign Ministry delegation, has left Pyongyang for Arab countries, state-run radio reported 27 May. Kim's delegation was seen off at the airport by diplomatic officials from Syria and Egypt, and a member of the Libyan economic cooperation office.

Other branches of government appear to be functioning as usual, too.

An ordinary North Korean diplomatic trip to the Middle East might seem like small potatoes in light of all the hostile rhetoric rising from Pyongyang this week. But even as the international crisis continues, North Korea’s relatively mundane overtures to certain parties abroad could actually be a signal that all is normal in the DPRK — at least, as normal as things ever get for a paranoid hermit state:

Vice Foreign Minister Kim Hyong Hun, with a Foreign Ministry delegation, has left Pyongyang for Arab countries, state-run radio reported 27 May. Kim’s delegation was seen off at the airport by diplomatic officials from Syria and Egypt, and a member of the Libyan economic cooperation office.

Other branches of government appear to be functioning as usual, too.

Although North Korean soldiers were told to "return to barracks" on Wednesday, they haven’t gotten any orders yet to "live in caves" — the code that marks a heightened alert status and the expectation of hostilities. The argument for a presiding state of normality in Pyongyang dovetails well with recent speculation that the Dear Leader intentionally manufactured the Cheonan crisis as part of a succession strategy.

Perhaps the North isnt actually gearing up for war.

Brian Fung is an editorial researcher at FP.

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