x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Seoul well backed by band of brothers

South Korea's importance as a supplier of goods ensured the world came to its defence when it was attacked by the North.

If you have a nutter living next door, it is a good idea to be a producer of things people want to protect.

That way, as happened a couple of days ago when North Korea randomly decided to start shelling parts of South Korea, the rest of the world will rally to your defence.

Had it happened in some countries one might mention they could easily have been abandoned and left to their fate; the grass on their fields would eventually regrow, their cattle would breed again.

But South Korea has become too big a trading partner for north and south Asia and the rest of the world to ignore. The country is home to the industrial giant LG and its sleek, flat-screen televisions, Samsung, the maker of snazzy mobile phones, and Hyundai, the manufacturer of family saloon cars.

Hardly surprising then that the world's leaders lined up to condemn the attacks. Barack Obama, the US president, pledged to protect "one of our most important allies".

"We strongly condemn the attack and we are rallying the international community to put pressure on North Korea," Mr Obama said. "We want to make sure all the parties in the region recognise that this is a serious and ongoing threat that needs to be dealt with."

Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, "strongly condemned" the attack, while Kevin Rudd, the Australian foreign minister, said it was "outrageous".

North Korean watchers, the modern equivalent of Kremlinologists, who missed the big story when it hit, are struggling to explain the actions of the secretive regime.

Even China, thought to have some sway with the North's leaders, expressed "concern".

Its main concern is that nothing derails the economic recovery, urgently needed to keep jobs among its growing population. South Korea is one of China's biggest trading partners in the region and it wants things to stay that way.

The calmest heads of all have been in the financial markets. But then they have all been taught Lord Rothschild's mantra that one should "buy on the sound of gunfire and sell on the sight of a peace treaty".