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.
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.
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]