Tuesday, October 10, 2006

North Korea: Nukes: Kim Jong-il strangeloves his way into terrorizing China, Japan, South Korea, and the world

The left-slant yet-often-astute openDemocracy carries an article by Tom Savage and Peter Hayes,"Dr Strangelove in Pyongyang"(Oct10,2k6) on the North Korea nuke-test:

Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film about nuclear war, Dr Strangelove, was subtitled How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.

Like Strangelove, North Korea's Kim Jong-il wants his neighbours to love the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK's) bomb. In announcing the nuclear test on 9 October 2006, the (North) Korean Central News Agency argued: "It will contribute to defending the peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the area around it."

His neighbours, however, do not see it that way. South Korea, Japan, and even China have condemned the nuclear test. All three countries, after all, are within range of North Korea's missiles. The United States says that the world cannot live with a nuclear North Korea.

Few people know that Kim was first a filmmaker, only later a leader of a nuclear-weapons state. Chapter VII of his turgid text on moviemaking reads: "The Art of Directing Cinema Lies with the Director". This may be a bad movie, but there's no doubt that Kim is choreographing this drama.

The demonic genius of the nuclear Doomsday Machine is that it gives your opponent a stake in your survival. As unpalatable as the world may find Kim Jong-il with nuclear weapons, the alternatives are worse. Regime collapse, the long-cherished dream of the hardliners in Washington and Tokyo, poses the prospect of loose nukes ending up in the hands of power-mad generals in the midst of a war in Korea, or being spirited out of the country to find their way into the hands of terrorists.

South Korea, China and Russia all understand this, which is why they won't go along with any United States plans to bring Pyongyang to its knees through financial pressure. Both may retreat from engagement in the short-term, but they will re-engage North Korea in short order.
Of course, other reports have different slants. Among those are the aggregated three reports in New York Times today: "China shows willingness to punish North Korea for test," "Kim motivated by insecurity," "Atomic experts' analysis - for US a strategic jolt."

Let's take a look at the article that most parallels tht of Savage and Hayes. Donald Greenlees' "Deep insecurity led Kim to build nuclear program, experts say" (originally in International Herald Tribune, Oct9,2k6):
HONG KONG, Oct. 10 — The military in North Korea is by far the largest consumer of the country’s scarce resources. But even so, its combat jet pilots get only about two hours of flying time a month, its soldiers sometimes have to grow their own food, and much of its equipment is old and outclassed by that of its neighbors. According to South Korean and Western experts, if a conventional war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula, the best the North Korean military could manage would be to fight to a bloody stalemate.

It is the deep insecurity born of these shortcomings, the experts say, and not any desire to grab attention or gain leverage, that drove President Kim Jong-il’s decision to defy international warnings and declare this week that his country had tested a nuclear weapon.
Asia > North Kora
“I think North Korea wants an effective deterrent against the U.S. in case of war on the Korean peninsula,” said Park Yong Ok, a former lieutenant general in the South Korean army who served as vice minister for defense in the late 1990’s. “Kim Jong Il wants a nuclear weapon at hand. It’s not a bargaining chip.”
But the raw fact of a nuclear explosion (thos still not confirmed by US sleuthing, and claimed to have been small and underground by the Kim regime) puts both China and Russia on the edge, if only to preserve credibility before the rest of the nations of the world (needless to say, also the USA). That's why John O'Neil and Choe Sang-Hun's "China Shows Willingness to Punish North Korea for Test" (Oct10,2k5, NYT transmits a stark new reality, a world-historical reconfiguration that China now must find a way to undo, or become the laffing-stock of small nations who rejoice in NorKor's sheer chutzpah.
In Beijing, Chinese officials had earlier reiterated their condemnation of the regime in Pyongyang, although a foreign ministry spokesman said that military action on the issue was “unimaginable.” President Hu Jintao called on all countries to “avoid actions that may lead to escalation or loss of control of the situation,” according to the official Xinhua news agency.

China and Russia are the crucial votes on the Security Council; each has a veto. In the past, China in particular has resisted tough measures against the North that it fears could destabilize its poor and isolated ally.
Yet China is tip- toeing thru the radiation, so to speak:
The country’s ambassador to the United Nations, Wang Guangya, told reporters that “there has to be some punitive actions, but also I think that these actions have to be appropriate.”

He said that the council needed to have a “firm, constructive, appropriate but prudent response to North Korea’s nuclear threat,” according to news services.

It was not clear whether Mr. Guangya’s remarks meant that China would support the resolution proposed by the United States, which calls for international inspections of all cargo going in or out of North Korea.
It seems to me that blockage and inspection of all sea/ocean cargoes, all by itself, is a rather cautious and mandatory step. To me the real issue is: what else? The problem with punishing North Korea is the extreme poverty of the populace, cruelly imposed by Kim, which seems unable to take any further rigours. Indeed, the food supply for the country's non-military and non-elite citizens is siphoned off when humanitarian food aid is arranged with outside countries. For most, I hear, grass soup is a staple. Meanwhile, South Korea is agonizing over its own policy reaction
President Roh Moo Hyun of South Korea met with political leaders and former presidents today for discussions on how far he should revamp South Korea’s decade-old policy of engaging North Korea with aid and investment.

Mr. Roh said a “change” was inevitable, but sounded unsure of how big it should be, as South Korean society appeared to slide into an ideological divide. Liberals have expressed sympathy with the North, seeing the claimed nuclear test as a desperate reaction to what they call the Bush administration’s confrontational approach. Conservatives, meanwhile, view it as proof that Roh’s reconciliation policy has failed.

Nearly one-third of the 1,260 South Korean tourists who planned to visit the scenic Diamond Mountain in North Korea today canceled their trips, said officials at Hyundai-Asan, which runs the tours. At three South Korean ports, freighters waited for word from Seoul about whether they could sail to the North with food and construction materials intended for flood victims in North Korea.
The Kim regime's vociferous bellicosity in the past raises the possibility of many in South Korea wanting to go onto a war-footing, and likewise Japan. Let's pray that that doesn't prove necessary.

This bring us back to Communist-capitalist G8-member UN SecurityCouncil-member China, as analyzed by Robert Kaplan in Atlantic Monthly (Oct10,2k6):
Kim Jong Il’s compulsion to demonstrate his missile prowess is a sign of his weakness. Contrary to popular perception in the United States, Kim doesn’t stay up at night worrying about what the Americans might do to him; it’s not North Korea’s weakness relative to the United States that preoccupies him. Rather, if he does stay up late worrying, it’s about China. He knows the Chinese have always had a greater interest in North Korea’s geography—with its additional outlets to the sea close to Russia—than they have in the long-term survival of his regime. (Like us, even as they want the regime to survive, the Chinese have plans for the northern half of the Korean peninsula that do not include the “Dear Leader.”) One of Kim’s main goals in so aggressively displaying North Korea’s missile capacity is to compel the United States to deal directly with him, thereby making his otherwise weakening state seem stronger. And the stronger Pyongyang appears to be, the better off it is in its crucial dealings with Beijing, which are what really matter to Kim.
The effect on China of a US negotiation bilaterally with the NorKor regime would cause China to distrust its growing but yet quite fragile rapport with Bush's China policy.

-- Politicarp

Further Research:

NorKor's nuke test may be only partial succes
For US a strategic jolt after NorKor nuke test

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