Burma and North Korea: Two hungry tigers

Peter Hartcher, the International Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, has an article in today’s paper which compares current political trajectories in Burma and North Korea. It begins by stating that:

Dictators, said Winston Churchill, ”ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.” Two medium-size nations of east Asia, both military dictatorships, both allies of China, and both traditionally Buddhist societies, are taking diametrically opposite courses in dealing with their hungry tigers.

One is tightening its grip around the tiger’s neck; the other is challenging Churchill’s dictum by attempting a delicate dismount.

Executing a dismount from a hungry tiger? It is a splendid image of what can become an impossibly fraught maneuver.

Later in the article Hartcher cites some of my comments on Burmese politics to explain how and why Burma is changing. One of my assessments is that Burma’s military leadership “came to the realisation that they could engineer a new compact among the country’s political elites, inviting Aung San Suu Kyi and her forces into some place of power while keeping overall control for themselves.” From everything I read, it appears the North Korean leadership  is still a long way from any realisation of that sort. 

And for those in the mood for a trip down memory lane, the above image of North Korea-Burma cosiness is sourced from here.