A number of friends and neighbours have expressed some concern about my proximity to the Bouffant Brigades across the DMZ, and asked me for my take on the latest developments here in Korealand™. I am happy to oblige.
First, some background, which tends to be glossed over by the shiny-toothed automata reading the news, and seems to be missed by most of the print media I’ve seen too, unsurprisingly.
In 1994, the Clinton administration established an “Agreed Framework” with the well-fed wackjobs in Pyongyang. One of the drivers of the agreement was the desire on the part of the Americans to prevent North Korea from operating a weapons-grade reactor. The Agreed Framework promised North Korea progress toward “full normalization of political and economic relations.” It also promised shipments of heavy fuel oil, and two light-water reactors by 2003 to replace the weapons-grade facility Pyongyang was to shut down.
Several months ago (November 14 2002), the Bush administration decided to punitively cut off fuel oil supplies in response to Kim Jong Il’s latest hijinks (admitting to a secret nuclear program), just as winter was approaching and famine looming again. This is significant because these fuel supplies were basically the only thing that America actually delivered on to fulfill their part of the 1994 agreement, and given the poverty of the country, the only way that any fuel could be had for electrical generation and so on. Ironic, actually, because it is fairly clear that, at least in part, the reason for the nuclear program in the first place was to generate electricity (and make filthy bombs to sell off and/or kill people with, of course). Construction on the promised lightwater reactors began in August of 2002, 8 years after the agreement, and 4 months before they were meant to begin operation.
Not only had America in fact ignored almost entirely their commitment to the requirements of the Agreed Framework, and eventually by the end of the Clinton administration delivered solely (and then partially) on their commitment to supply heavy fuel oil, but as soon as Bush and his cadre of demonic sh-tweasels took over, North Korea was declared part of the laughable “Axis of Evil.” How’s that for “full normalization of political and economic relations,” huh? It may be worth noting that during the last few years of the last decade, during the time we’re talking about, North Korea was experiencing a famine that killed, by some estimates, more than 10% of its population, or about 2 million people.
In fact, the Americans can’t really even claim with anything like a straight face (although they try, naturally, and get away with it) that the secret uranium-enrichment program revealed by Pyongyang a couple of months ago puts it in “material breach” of the 1994 agreement, anyway : uranium enrichment is one of the things simply not covered in the Agreed Framework.
This is typical of the bullsh-t-spinning that these lying scum engage in (on both sides of the fence, of course. The North Korean mouthpieces do it so badly that it’s more comedy than tragedy, though.) :

Q Is there something the North Koreans can do that would prompt the U.S. to sit down and talk, which seems to be a key for them?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, keep in mind, the United States has long supported South Korea’s engagement with North Korea. When you take a look at what’s happened, nations like Japan were engaging — were beginning engagement with North Korea. And as a result of North Korea’s actions, Japan examined what it was doing and has decided to proceed at a different pace. So various nations continue to have various levels of discussion with North Korea.
I want to point out that even while there were many conversations — in North Korea, North Korea was still breaking its word. So I don’t think the issue is whether or not North Korea is being talked to or not talked to. The issue is North Korea breaking its word. They have broken the word of the people they talked to, and they’ve broken their word with the people they don’t talk to. The one constant is that North Korea breaks its word.
So from the American point of view, we very strongly support the efforts to discuss with North Korea, through our friends in South Korea and Japan; we always have. But the United States has made it clear that North Korea knows what it needs to do, and it needs to come back into international compliance, as the IAEA has urged them to do today in the strongest of terms.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/01/20030106-1.html#4

The truth, as usual, is approxiately 180 degrees away from what is quoted above, for reasons I’ve discussed here at the ‘bottle many times before. What has been happening is what would seem to be a concerted effort by America, and particularly by the Arbusto Administration, to subvert and obstruct South Korea’s efforts towards productive engagement with the North. Not much wonder that the ‘sunshine policy’ of Kim Dae Jung has seen limited success in areas other than domestic.
The Bush administration’s policy of ‘tailored containment’, so remniscent of Reagan-era cold-war-speak (and not surprisingly given the array of Reaganite criminals and courtiers re-elevated to positions of power), displays a lack of any real understanding and responsiveness to the realities of the situation, and is counterproductive at best and a reckless endangerment of millions of lives at worst.
The wisdom of Kim Dae Jung’s sunshine policy, a strategy which the new president-elect Noh Moo Hyun (usually romanized as ‘Roh Moo Hyun’ for some reason) has pledged to continue, is more sensible given the context I describe above, I think, and is one which is supported by Japan, China and other states in the region. North Korea has always been responsive to chances for improved relations with the outside world, and its current attitude can be seen as defensive, and as with other bluffs and brinkmanship in the past intended primarily to bring America to the bargaining table.
Not to say that Kim Jong Il, the Stalinist Bouffant Butterball, is anything other than pure evil. But he’s not a madman. American media is always quick to demonize their so-called enemies : Saddam Hussein, of course, being only the latest in a long string of ‘madmen’ and ‘new Hitlers’. Kim JI is canny, and continues to respond with the only tools at his disposal – threats – to the posturing, lies, bad-faith negotiation and arrogance of the Americans.
This from the Guardian today echoes my point : “The North Korean nuclear standoff moved a step closer to a peaceful resolution yesterday as Pyongyang set a date for negotiations, amid reports that it was prepared to scrap its weapons programme in return for a security guarantee from the United States.”
There is a lot of talk recently, as well, about the idea of America pulling its 37,000 troops out of Korea. It’s difficult to say where they’d be withdrawn to : maybe they could share bunks with the 40,000 in Japan. The strong anti-American sentiment in South Korea in recent times, which I recently discussed here, has finally percolated through to North America, and of course the yanks are shocked and bemused. How could they hate us so? We’re the good guys, aren’t we?
It’s generally acknowledged that the 37,000 American troops here would make little to no difference were the North to invade again. The third largest standing army in the world – over 1,000,000-strong – is just across the DMZ. South Korea, with about 600,000 soldiers at any given time, a large segment of which is composed of university-age young men doing their two years of compulsory military service, would bear the brunt of any invasion. The reason that those troops are important is the psychological effect. The idea of those American soldiers being a tripwire of sorts is an outdated one : the US could just as effectively defend South Korea against attack from bases in Japan or even Hawaii. But to withdraw the troops, after 54 years, would raise questions about the role America wishes to play in Asia, how committed it is to maintaining stability, and make goverments in Beijing, Tokyo, Taipei and elsewhere very nervous indeed. It might even, given the apparent nuclear ambitions of Pyongyang, force Japan to ‘go nuclear.’ The role of the 37,000 American troops in Korea is mainly symbolic, and both the Koreans and the Americans calling recently for their withdrawal are swayed too much by emotion and too little by the ravages of intelligence to consider what the consequences of a withdrawal might be.
It’s generally accepted that North Korea already has one or possible two nuclear weapons, and they clearly have the technology to deliver them. Seoul is about 55 km south of the DMZ, and I live about 30 km south of downtown Seoul. I recently asked my wife if she knew what to do if she were to see a sudden bright flash in the sky outside our kitchen window, which looks north : drop, stay away from the windows, move to the bathroom at the center of the apartment, and wait for the shockwave and its backlash to pass.

seoul-pyong.jpg

My guess is that we’d probably survive an airburst, if it were to happen. But I don’t really think it’s going to, unless the criminals in Washington decide to turn their gun barrels this way after they raze Iraq (or are denied the opportunity to do so).
Related wonderchicken rantings : here, here, here and elsewhere.
Reading things like “North Korea Withdraws From Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty” is not as scary, hopefully, when one is aware of the game being played. That said, one hopes that mom stops them before someone loses an eye.
Also : this. [via provenanceunkown]

Category:
Korea-related, Politics Chafe My Scrote, Uncrappy

Join the conversation! 24 Comments

  1. North Korea from south of the border

    I do not understand why we continue to focus on Iraq, whom I think we all know, deep in our hearts and minds not to be a threat, when we’re faced with situation far more chilling: North Korea’s withdrawal from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. I on…

  2. Thanks for the update Stavros. Always good to hear on-the-scene updates from like-minded people since we don’t get very in-depth covereage here in the US. I was just in korea the last couple of weeks (coincidentally, if you’re 30 miles south of downtown seoul, we must have been very close as I was staying primarily in suji and suwon), but with visiting relatives and all, I didn’t have much time to keep up with developments very closely.

  3. this is an outstanding post, and something which has been the subject of discussion in my home since NK admitted to their nuclear program.
    see, my husband spent 14 months in korea when he was in the army. he was there back in 97 when the last major incident on the DMZ happened. he’s told me about basically everything you’ve detailed in this post, and i wish more people here in the USA were aware of the truth.
    trust me, there are quite a few of us americans who realise the hypocrisy of our policies in the korean peninsula. i hate to be lumped in with the ignorant masses simply because of my “nationality”, but i understand why you’ve put it that way.
    what boggles me most is the bush junta’s attitude toward korea. i find it ironic that the north koreans basically have us by the nuts right now, but we can’t publicly admit it because that might encourage other asian countries to develope nuclear capability. basically, this secret weapons program -has- deterred us. would you agree or disagree?
    NPR had a great discussion about this yesterday, specifically the chinese angle. did you realise the chinese are responsible for 85% of the north korean trade? were the chinese to put the smack down on KJI, he’d have to back off. if the chinese are allowing KJI to smack us around, perhaps it’s in retaliation for our defense of taiwan (who produces so much of the cheap asian goods we americans love to consume)… basically the point made was that if the chinese are doing anything about this then we will never know, because they are not that “open” yet. they’d never publicly admit it.
    god, i’ve really rambled on. i know i had a point to make somehow… oh yea, that this issue is incredibly complicated and the US media is all about sound-bites, hence the general public doesn’t have a clue what’s really going on. you’d be amazed at how many people really fell for that “axis of evil” crap. yea, very complicated and too many things for the average ADD american to absorb. bah!
    and i sincerely hope you and your wife never see that bright flash from your north window.

  4. This comic from the comments at Burningbird is amusing…

  5. Any chance of shortening that name?

    stavrosthewonderchicken has only been back a day or so and already he’s causing me grief. Last night an email arrived from Kevin Laurence: Your weblog is doing strange things. Like a few others I find your new font rather small, so I tried increasing t…

  6. Good analysis. I try to keep half an eye on the situation in North Korea.
    I am wondering, though, if this is leaving part of the story out: weren’t there some shenanigans on the part of the DPRK during the 94-02 period that slowed construction on those light-water reactors? I’m not saying the US government was acting entirely in good faith, but I seem to recall that the dude with the ‘do was equally culpable.

  7. No doubt, Adam. The games played on both sides are rococco and ridiculous…

  8. Also – yeah, Jonner, you were just next door (although I was in Canada at the time). I’m three stops on Line 1 north of Suwon at the moment.

  9. The WonderChicken returns

    stavrosthewonderchicken has only been back a day or so and already he’s causing me grief. Last night an email arrived from Kevin Laurence: Your weblog is doing strange things. Like a few others I find your new font rather small, so I tried increasing t…

  10. One quick thing. The “surprise” announcement that Korea had a “secret” nuclear weapons program wasn’t such a secret. The American government has know about this program for quite some time now, back in Bush I days.

  11. Anyone who wants to understand U.S. gov’t policy in Korea MUST visit the website http://www.thekoreasociety.com
    there you will find listed the gentlemen who are driving the agenda, and with a little familiarity with the names, and even less imagination, you will have superior insight.

  12. Sorry, I mean:
    http://www.koreasociety.org
    From their home page, click on ABout, go to the bottom of Gregg’s letter, click on Board of Directors & Advisory Council, scroll down to the Advisory Council.
    Damn, they’ve added Al Haig since I was there last time!! Obviously, this group has no shame.

  13. Any chance of shortening that name?

    stavrosthewonderchicken has only been back a day or so and already he’s causing me grief. Last night an email arrived from Kevin Laurence: Your weblog is doing strange things. Like a few others I find your new font rather small, so I tried increasing t…

  14. most of the reactors in the world used for electricity generation are in the 1000+MW range. (see World NUCLEAR POWER REACTORS 2001-02 for a rough picture.) In comparison, the DPRK’s 5MW *research* reactor is tiny, tiny, tiny… (and produces but a small fraction of the electricity yielded by burning the fuel-oil that was being sent to them…) but, because it’s a classic-soviet era model, about the only thing it does well is generate enough plutonium annually to piss people off. so, can we please, put the “we need it for electricity” misconception to rest?

  15. OK. Thanks for the info, Jason. Although in my own defense I did note that my assumption was that the reactor was to be used both for electrical generation and making nasty big bombs and such…

  16. Yeah, it’s great what the Canadians have contributed to solving the problems in North Korea… (This is called “SARCASM”).
    I tell you, the “Yanks” stationed in Koreaville could come home and the Canadians can take over their job, with their superior negotiating skills to boot…

  17. Welcome back, StavrosTheWonderchicken

    Stavrosthewonderchicken is back, leading off his return with a great post on the situation on the ground in Korea, Cloudy, Strong Chance of Rain and a screed about our legal drug pushers. I discovered the wonderchicken 6 months or so ago, when he crack…

  18. North Korea.

    Now, I try not to spout off about shit I don’t know shit about. That’s why I’ve been silent, for the most part, about the current situation. I’ve been doing some reading (when time has allowed). I still don’t think I have a good grasp of the situation …

  19. *sigh*
    You most certainly let your hatred of the US color any rationality this post might have had.
    Let us look at your misstatements, okay?
    First, you say, “It also promised shipments of heavy fuel oil, and two light-water reactors by 2003 to replace the weapons-grade facility Pyongyang was to shut down.”
    Let’s look at the ACTUAL language from the agreement, shall we?
    I. Both sides will cooperate to replace the DPRK’s graphite-moderated reactors and related facilities with light-water
    reactor (LWR) power plants.

    1) In accordance with the October 20, 1994 letter of assurance from the U.S. President, the U.S. will undertake to make arrangements for the provision to the DPRK of a LWR project with a total generating capacity of approximately 2,000 MW(e) by a target date of 2003.
    — The U.S. will organize under its leadership an international consortium to finance and supply the LWR project to
    be provided to the DPRK. The U.S., representing the international consortium, will serve as the principal point of
    contact with the DPRK for the LWR project.
    — The U.S., representing the consortium, will make best efforts to secure the conclusion of a supply contract with the DPRK within six months of the date of this Document for the provision of the LWR project. Contract talks will begin as soon as possible after the date of this Document.

    Please notice the ACTUAL language. NO guarantees of dates were made. It discusses, best efforts and target dates. Why is this important? Because building a nuclear reactors is a bitch and getting a consortium together to finance and build it is even harder. That is why there was the guarantee of fuel oil during this time.
    Also, as so eloquently put above, saying this reator was for anything other than nuclear weapons is a joke.
    Let’s continue!
    Next, you say, “Not only had America in fact ignored almost entirely their commitment to the requirements of the Agreed Framework, and eventually by the end of the Clinton administration delivered solely (and then partially) on their commitment to supply heavy fuel oil, but as soon as Bush and his cadre of demonic shitweasels took over, North Korea was declared part of the laughable “Axis of Evil.” How’s that for “full normalization of political and economic relations,” huh?”
    HUH? This normalization was predicated on BOTH sides doing their best to engage with each other. Do you need me to quote that part of the Agreed framework as well? How can North Korea’s continued provocations, border crossings, naval battles and the like be considered as anything but hostile towards any kind of friendly political and economic engagement? This is beside the continued and continuous rhetoric spewed out by the North.
    Much much more can be said on that issue, but to blame the US for the failure of engagement is ludicrous.
    But wait! There’s more!
    You say, “In fact, the Americans can’t really even claim with anything like a straight face (although they try, naturally, and get away with it) that the secret uranium-enrichment program revealed by Pyongyang a couple of months ago puts it in “material breach” of the 1994 agreement, anyway : uranium enrichment is one of the things simply not covered in the Agreed Framework.”
    Huh? I guess you glossed over that part of the framework in your reading. Let’s review it again.
    From the Framework:

    III. Both sides will work together for peace and security on a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

    and

    1) The DPRK will remain a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and will allow
    implementation of its safeguards agreement under the Treaty.

    I pretty well think their enriched uranium program sheds that part of the Agreed Framework, don’t you?
    That is all for now, maybe I’ll comeback and deal with your “sunshine” policy and “anti-american” rehetoric later.
    Regards.

  20. Before my first coffee, but :
    1) You quote this “by a target date of 2003” and then say “NO guarantees of dates were made.” Well, which is it? Playing semantic games with the word ‘target’ and ‘guarantee’ is a strawman.
    2) North Korea has a pattern of acting out in “provocations, border crossings, naval battles and the like” to get attention when America steps away from the table. This is infantile, certainly, and and dangerous, naturally, but it’s not something that the Americans should be surprised by : quite the contrary. Citing such events as a reason for not acting in good faith is disingenuous in the extreme. Ludicrous, in fact.
    3) Another straw man. ‘Keeping the peninsula nuclear-free’ is the language of the Agreed Framework. Again, this says nothing about enrichment of uranium, or about the bulding of lightwater reactors, for that matter. If you think the vagueness of the language that was agreed upon was accidental, you’re more gullible than you appear.
    Nice try, Plunge, but not nearly good enough.

  21. Also : the fact that I despise America does not imply irrationality. This knee-jerk platitude never ceases to amuse me. There are plenty of anti-American types who are irational, but I’m not one of them.
    Do the facts that I loathe North Korea and that I’d feel downright pleased at seeing Saddam reduced to a grease stain make me irrational too, or is it only when someone dislikes America that they have taken leave of their senses?

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