Archive | North Korea

The Korean Crisis and the THAAD Missile Deployment: A Growing Tinderbox in the South


As the first military hardware associated with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, commonly called THAAD, arrives in the southern region of the Korean Peninsula, the tensions around and within the  region seem to be escalating. A number of ongoing crises in South Korea are starting to take their toll, and could have regional and global implications.

The most prominent source of tension is the new missile system being erected in cooperation with the United States. The narrative in US media surrounding THAAD is that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, smeared as “the crazy North Koreans,” are threatening to destroy the Republic of Korea located in the south. The new missile system is said to simply be a mechanism for protecting a vulnerable, democratic US ally, that faces being wiped out. Mark Toner of the US State Department described the erection of THAAD as “frankly a response to a threat.”

Who is mad about THAAD? And Why?

Objections to THAAD are not only coming from Pyongyang. Moscow and Beijing have both spoken up against the new missile system for reasons that are routinely ignored in US media discourse.

South Korea is hardly unprotected and alone. The United States already has 28,500 troops in South Korea. It also has F-16 fighter aircraft and A-10 bomber jets. South Korea’s military is also very well stocked, with F-35 Fighter Jets, Aegis Destroyers, and all kinds of military hardware purchased from the United States.

The THAAD missile system being erected in a contract with Lockheed-Martin, in cold war terms, is a “strike enabling system.” Once the system is completed, the US and South Korean forces that are already in the Peninsula are free to launch an attack on North Korea, China, or Russia. The THAAD system, modeled after Israel’s Iron Dome, would prevent retaliation strikes aimed at disabling the attackers. THAAD enables the US and South Korea to begin striking countries in the region, while shielding themselves from any response. Furthermore, THAAD includes a radar system that will closely monitor regional activity, not only in North Korea, but also in northern China.

Its not hard to tell why Russia and China are loudly objecting to this multi-billion dollar military project. Strike enabling systems with penetrating radars are not a mechanism of defusing tension, in an already tense region. THAAD is the latest development in the Pentagon’s ongoing “Asian Pivot,” moving forces into the Pacific. Similar moves have already escalated tensions in the South China Sea.

US media’s justification for the project depends on a false, racist and cartoonish caricature of the DPRK. Fictional Hollywood movies, disproven news items about executions by wild dogs, and endless rumor mongering have all painted a picture of DPRK’s leadership as a group of people hell bent on nuclear war. In reality, the government in the north has frequently stated that its goal is peaceful, democratic re-unification of the peninsula, not war, death, and destruction.

Dissent, Repression & Democracy

At the same time this controversial and provocative missile system is being erected, the President of the Republic of Korea is facing impeachment. Park Geun-hye has had her power suspended as the country prepares for an impeachment trial. Park has been caught taking bribes, and giving favors to members of the corporate elite. Lee Jae-yong, described as the de-facto leader of the multinational electronics conglomerate known as Samsung is facing criminal charges for his illicit dealings with President Park.

Lee Jae-myung, a left-wing populist, is growing in popularity. Lee’s political career has been closely identified with expanding the social safety net and workplace protections. Lee is also a loud opponent of THAAD. Lee’s voice joins a chorus of Korean activists who have filled the streets protesting against the ongoing presence of US troops and the installation of the new missile system. The large anti-US, left-wing activist movement among Koreans, which made global headlines in prior decades has not gone away. It persists among young and old Koreans, despite the heavy restrictions on its activity and constant repression.

Global media has dubbed Lee Jae-myung as “the Bernie Sanders” of South Korea. However, there is one key difference between Lee and Sanders. Sanders identifies himself as a “Democratic Socialist.” Lee does not use such terms to describe himself, as doing so is illegal under the National Security Laws. While millions of Koreans living in the south identify with organized labor, anti-capitalism, socialism, and other radical left-wing ideas, their ability to express themselves is tightly restricted.

The slightest criticism of capitalism, discussions of the history of the Korean War, or statements in any way perceived as being supportive of their northern countryfolk can land citizens of South Korea in prison. The National Security Laws of South Korea are condemned by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and many international bodies. A 24 year old photographer and activist named Park Jung-geun was convicted and given a 10-month suspended sentence simply for sarcastically tweeting the phrase “Long Live Kim Jong-Il” in 2012.

The Unified Progressive Party, a dissident voice in Korean politics, has been outlawed. The leaders of the party were imprisoned after an audio recording surfaced. The crime for which party leaders were sentenced to decades in prison was a hypothetical conversation about what to do in the context all out war between the North and South.

While the US media’s narrative ignores it, for the majority of the years following the country’s division in 1945, the southern half of the Korean peninsula has hardly been democratic. Military dictators like Sygman Rhee ruled with an iron fist. The scandal ridden President who faces a pending impeachment trial is herself the daughter of Park Chung-Hee, the military dictator who ruled the country until his assassination in 1979.

The current President’s father not only brutally repressed labor unions and dissident students, but also slaughtered thousands of Koreans simply for being homeless. In 1975, Hee issued an order for the police to remove all homeless people from the capital city of Seoul. Koreans determined by the police to be vagrants were placed in a network of 36 different prison camps throughout the country, and forced to work long hours. Torture was routinely utilized in these camps, and an unknown number died. While US media endlessly hypes up unsubstantiated claims about “labor camps” in the North, often coming from defectors with clear incentives to exaggerate, the reality of labor camps under the US backed regime in the south, and the thousands who died after being worked to death in them, has been largely glossed over.

What Role Will South Korea Play?

China hasn’t simply objected to THAAD with words. Chinese corporations are tightly controlled by the Communist Party, and their activities fit in with the country’s five year development plan. International observers have often commented on the Chinese governments ability to cooperate with the private sector in order to serve geopolitical goals. An undeclared boycott of South Korea is now being carried out by Chinese businesses.

China’s tourism websites have stopped booking packages in South Korea, which has been a popular destination for Chinese tourists in recent years. The Japanese-Korean conglomerate known as Lotte has also faced a sudden loss of Chinese business. 23 Lotte owned stores in China have been closed own. South Korean music and TV programs have been blocked from web-streaming services on the Chinese mainland. As China cuts off a large amount of its business dealings with South Korea, critics of Beijing are calling these measures “unofficial sanctions” in retaliation for THAAD.

During his Presidential campaign, Donald Trump questioned the US relationship with South Korea, saying “We are better off frankly if South Korea is going to start protecting itself … they have to protect themselves or they have to pay us.”

Though Lee Jae-myung is a leftist, and Trump is identified with the extreme right wing in the United States, on this issue, they seem to agree. Lee is quoted as saying “Americans impeached their establishment by electing Trump… Our elections will do the same.”

Lee Jae-myung, who wants to US military presence scaled back, is one of the “big three” expected to run in the upcoming Presidential election. More and more Koreans agree with his argument that allying with the United States against the north, China, and Russia, is not in the people’s best interest. Furthermore, less than 4% of the population stands behind the disgraced President. South Korea could soon be moving in the same direction as the Philippines, where the long standing neoliberal, pro-American status quo was shaken up by the election of Rodrigo Duterte.

With the THAAD controversy boiling, amid bribery scandals, impeachment proceedings, discontent with the status quo, and renewed tensions with the North, the southern half of the Korean peninsula is gradually becoming more and more of a global hotspot. The point of disagreement seems to be about the role southern Korean will play in the world. Will it remain an extension of US influence in Asia, or will the southern half of the Korean peninsula follow in the footsteps of its powerful Chinese neighbors and northern countryfolk? Will Koreans in the south declare their economic, political, and military independence from the United States and Japan?

These questions, which have driven so many uprisings, protests, military coups, and strikes since 1945 are not going away any time soon.

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North Korea May Be Close to Targeting US With Nuclear Missile


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised a ballistic rocket launching drill of Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the KPA on the spot in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang March 7, 2017

North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile programs have some analysts worried that the reclusive state may pose a real threat to the rest of the world very soon.

Amid speculations about North Korea attacking the US, analysts expect the state to soon launch its most powerful nuclear test to date.

Based on recently released satellite images of substantial tunnel excavation at the North’s nuclear test site in North Hamgyong Province, analyst Frank Pabian of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and David Coblentz, an environmental science expert at LANL, have concluded that the regime may be preparing an explosion 14 times more powerful than the one it conducted in September.

“The continued tunneling under Mt. Mantap via the North Portal has the potential for allowing North Korea to support additional underground nuclear tests of significantly higher explosive yields, perhaps up to 282 kilotons (282000 tons),” South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported, referring to the analysts.

The September 9 detonation by North Korea is estimated to have been a 15,000-20,000 ton yield.

The news comes just a day after Bruce Klingner, a former CIA deputy division chief for Korea, made an alarming statement about Pyongyang being close to developing a ballistic missile that could strike the US.

“We can expect an [intercontinental ballistic missile] test this year, with full capability within the next few years,” he told Fox News on Friday.

During his annual address earlier this year, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said the country was in the final stages of test-launching an intercontinental ballistic rocket, but most experts believe the announcement was meant to intimidate, and that Pyongyang doesn’t actually have that ability. But the North has been making statements like these for years, and for years they seem to have been incrementally improving their capabilities.

Defense experts also warn that North Korea and other rogue states pose unique challenges to the space environment as they don’t have anything at stake in the global economy and therefore no incentives to remain peaceful in orbit.

Last year, North Korea carried out two nuclear tests and more than two dozen test launches of ballistic missile technology. Previously, the United Nations imposed sanctions on North Korea for three nuclear tests it carried out in 2006, 2009 and 2013.The UN Security Council has adopted a number of resolutions imposing restrictions on North Korea in order to make Pyongyang halt its nuclear and missile activities.

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The Korean Crisis, the US’ Next Phase of Pan-Eurasian Containment

Andrew Korybko

The security situation has markedly deteriorated on the Korean Peninsula in recent days following the North’s latest missile test, which Pyongyang antagonistically said was a drill for striking US bases in Japan in response to the latest US-South Korean military exercises that it rightly views as a sign of hostility.

These surprise launches prompted the Pentagon to speed up its planned deployment of the THAAD anti-missile system to South Korea, which has drawn the immediate ire of Russia and China who previously warned that it would set the precedent for undercutting their nuclear second-strike deterrent and spy on their territories.North Korea’s latest moves have also led to talk in Japan for a “first-strike option” to complement Tokyo’s militant reinterpretation of its post-war (supposedly) pacifist constitution. Not to be outdone, the Trump Administration ominously reiterated that “all options are on the table”, which Reuters reports could include “a return of U.S. nuclear weapons to South Korea, and even pre-emptive air strikes on North Korean missile installations.” China has frantically sought to cool down the dangerously rising temperatures on the peninsula and kick start a new round of negotiations by wisely calling for the dual suspension of the North’s nuclear and missile tests in exchange for the US and South Korea putting their joint military exercises on hold.

Neither side, however, seems ready to follow Beijing’s advice, thus running the risk that tensions will only continue to rise for the foreseeable future. This can’t help but work to Russia and China’s overall strategic detriment since the leading Eurasian Great Powers can ill afford for the US to open up yet another containment front against them. On the upside, however, this would serve to strengthen the already rock-solid Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership and accelerate Moscow and Beijing’s previously stated joint efforts to confront THAAD, though both of them are at a loss for how to properly respond to their wayward and increasingly reckless North Korean partner.High Stakes

All of the actors in Northeast Asia have significant stakes in the outcome of the Korean Crisis, not least of which is that they’d all like to avoid the worst-case scenario of a nuclear war. Here’s a brief look at the interests and agendas that the exclusively Asian countries are pursing, followed later by an examination of the US and Russia’s:

North Korea:

Pyongyang has the long-term goal of reunifying the Korean Peninsula under communist leadership, though its short-term motivations are more directly geared towards countering US-South Korean belligerence in staging their inciting war games (which this year happen to be the largest-ever) so close to the DMZ. The North’s nuclear and missile tests are muscle flexing aimed at showing the US that it will not fall victim to a Yugoslav-Iraqi-Libyan-style regime change war, but its predictable knee-jerk reactions feed into US strategy by gifting Washington the excuse for THAAD and other expected future deployments which are tactically much more about subverting Russia and China than North Korea.South Korea:

Just like the North, the South also wants to reunify the peninsula, albeit under capitalist leadership, and its latest moves are responses to what it perceives as (and is led by the US to believe is) the “North Korean” threat, ignorantly unaware of how its own actions play into and actually started this whole escalation cycle in the first place. In regional terms, South Korea endeavors to remain the pivotal economy wedged between its larger Chinese and Japanese neighbors, ideally retaining respectable and positive relations with each, but the country is inadvertently endangering its pragmatic and profitable high-level ties with China because of THAAD and strategically converging with Japan despite Seoul’s historical-territorial disputes with Tokyo (as per the US’ envisioned Northeast Asian NATO plans).


This archipelago country hosts the most US troops anywhere in the world at approximately 50,000 and is a key component of the Pentagon’s “Pivot to Asia”. The US and the Abe government aspire to help Japan return to its World War II-era sphere of influence in East and Southeast Asia in order for Tokyo to become Washington’s premier “Lead From Behind” partner in the Asia-Pacific. In pertinence to the problems on the Korean Peninsula, Japan plays the role of an indirect antagonist by giving the US an “unsinkable aircraft” carrier for deploying ever more THAAD-like systems under the cover of ‘responding’ to North Korea but in reality to undermine Russia and China. Tokyo also has personal disputes with Pyongyang over the latter’s alleged abductions of Japanese citizens throughout the years, while North Korea viciously hates Japan for its brutal 35-year-long occupation between 1910-1945.China:

Beijing wants a nuclear-free and stable Korean Peninsula preferably united by peaceful methods and becoming a militarily neutral country. China does not want to see American troops on the Yalu River again under any circumstances, as this would present a national security threat of the highest caliber. Accordingly, it also wouldn’t tolerate pro-American United Korean troops there either. China wants North Korea to act as a buffer between itself and the US military and its proxies, but it recognizes that this said buffer region also carries with it inherent risks as well. Other than the fact that the Kim government is irresponsibly enabling the US to expand its strategically disruptive military footprint in the peninsula, its sudden and unexpected collapse could generate a sweeping flood of millions of “Weapons of Mass Migration” into China which could later be exploited by any pro-American United Korean government to press ancient historical claims in destabilizing this part of the People’s Republic.American Aims

While none of the exclusively Asian participants in the Korean Crisis want a hot war to break out, the US doesn’t necessarily have the same reservations despite having at least 80,000 troops stationed in total in Japan and South Korea, to say nothing of their many dependents (family, contract workers, etc.). The author isn’t suggesting that the US’ one and only goal is to spark a regional war, but just that it comparatively has the least to lose out of any of the countries involved (whether directly or indirectly), and that its military forces are more than capable of obliterating North Korea, although likely with substantial American casualties depending on how long and effectively Pyongyang holds out (which could include a suicidal last-ditch nuclear strike).

Accepting that the above scenario is the worst-case and least-likely one (at least for the time being), it’s much more relevant to discuss the more realistic reason why the US instigated the Korean Crisis. In the larger scheme of things: the US is hoping that its provocations against Pyongyang can drive North Korea into simultaneously providing Washington with the indefinite ‘justification’ for THAAD and thus transforming the country into a troubling security liability for Russia and China. If successful, then Washington could cleverly prompt Moscow and Beijing into taking on the burden of dealing with Pyongyang and consequently making Kim Jong Un the ultimate international pariah by turning his last remaining partners against him.This would amount to skillfully utilizing Russia and China as the US’ ‘cat’s paws’ in handling North Korea, as all parties would by then have a large degree of common ground between them in working towards the same ends (restraining Pyongyang), whether together or separately, no matter which means they go about in attempting to do so (barring of course the unacceptable unilateral use of force by the US). There’s nothing wrong with multilateral cooperation on such a pressing regional security issue as North Korea, let alone one with such profound global implications, so the reader shouldn’t misinterpret this as necessarily being the author opposing this potential eventuality per se, but just that the US certainly has ulterior motivations in prompting this scenario in order to promote its own self-interests.

Russian Recourse to Prevent Divide And Rule

US Interventions in World Politics: Infographic
It was earlier alluded to how the leading Eurasian Great Powers of Russia and China can ill afford to intensely focus on the Korean Crisis at this moment in time, and the title of the article does indeed refer to the latest events being part of the US’ next phase of pan-Eurasian containment. What’s meant by this select choice of words is that the US has already engineered serious strategic proxy crises against Russia and China in Eastern Europe (Ukraine), the Mideast (“Syraq”), and Southeast Asia (South China Sea), and that yet another major disturbance in a different corner of Eurasia – this time one which borders both Great Powers – would occur at a very inopportune time for them.Moreover, the Korean Crisis is unfolding concurrently with the intensification of the existing containment proxy battlegrounds, with the Balkans boiling, the “Cerberus” coalition of the US-Israel-Gulf teaming up once more against Iran, and Myanmar slipping back into all-out civil war in parallel with Daesh ominously rising in the tri-border Mindanao-Sulawesi Arc between the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Understandably, if the incipient Korean Crisis was paired with a Central Asian expansion of the Hybrid War on CPEC, then the entire supercontinent would be embroiled in destabilizing conflicts (or threats thereof), which would surely create the perfect divide-and-rule existential challenge for the emerging Multipolar World Order.

The most realistic recourse against this insidious stratagem is for Russia to leverage its newfound diplomatic balancing role in Asia by urgently staging a diplomatic intervention aimed at calming tensions between the two Koreas in order to stem the American-encouraged spread of pan-Eurasian destabilization. Moscow enjoys excellent relations with Beijing, is in a promising rapprochement with Tokyo, and has unrealized by strong potential to better its ties with both Koreas, so it’s perfectly positioned to liaison and mediate between the four most directly affected actors. While the ongoing “deep state” war in the US has considerably diminished the prospects for reaching a New Détente in the New Cold War, Russia could still find a way to utilize any pivotally forthcoming diplomatic role that it plays in the Korean Crisis to its own bargaining advantage in attempting to secure a holistic and comprehensive ‘gentleman’s agreement’ with the US.At the end of the day, since all Eurasian diplomatic roads lead through Russia nowadays and the solution to seemingly intractable conflicts like Syria and Afghanistan is being actively discussed in Moscow, there’s no reason why Russia shouldn’t be at the center of organizing multilateral efforts aimed at resolving the Korean Crisis too and simultaneously strengthening its own “Pivot to Asia.”

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US Rejects Talks over North Korea, Declaring “All Options on Table”… Including War against the DPRK?


Amid sharply rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the Trump administration has flatly rejected a Chinese proposal for negotiations with North Korea despite warnings from the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, that Washington and Pyongyang were on a collision course. A confrontation looms as huge South Korean-US military exercises are underway, involving over 300,000 troops backed by an US aircraft carrier strike group, stealth fighters and strategic bombers.

China is clearly alarmed at the prospect of war on its doorstep. Speaking in uncharacteristically blunt terms in Beijing yesterday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned:

“The two sides are like accelerating trains coming toward each other with neither side willing to give way,” he said. “The question is: Are the two sides really ready for a head-on collision? Our priority now is to flash the red light and apply the brakes on both trains.”

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley emphatically rebuffed the Chinese plan for the US and South Korea to halt their annual Foal Eagle war games in return for a freeze by North Korea on its nuclear and missile programs. Speaking after an emergency UN Security Council meeting yesterday, Haley not only rejected China’s “dual suspension” scheme but provocatively declared that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was “not a rational person,” effectively ruling out any future negotiations.

Haley told the media that the US was revaluating how to deal with North Korea. “We are not ruling anything out and we’re considering every option that’s on the table,” she said, in a thinly veiled threat that the US could attack North Korea. To emphasise that time was running out, Haley warned: “We are making those decisions now and will act accordingly.” The US ambassador was flanked by her South Korean and Japanese counterparts to highlight their support for Washington’s aggressive stance.

After coming to office, the Trump administration initiated a “comprehensive rethink” of US strategy toward Pyongyang. According to the Wall Street Journal, deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland called for proposals, including those “well outside the mainstream”—ranging from talks with North Korea to “regime-change” and military strikes. Given Haley’s comments yesterday, the White House appears to have ruled out any negotiations and is preparing to embark on a reckless course of action that could potentially plunge Asia and the world into a catastrophic conflict.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that three meetings of National Security Council deputies concluded that “a dramatic show of force, like attacks on the North’s missile and nuclear sites, would probably start a war.” Chillingly, the article did not say that, as a result, the White House had ruled out military strikes.

The US is exploiting North Korean missile launches this week to justify its military build-up in North East Asia, which is primarily directed against China. Foreign Minister Yang yesterday opposed the installation that began on Monday of a US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea. “It’s common knowledge that the monitoring and early warning radius of THAAD reaches far beyond the Korean Peninsula and compromises China’s strategic security,” he said.

However, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime’s response to the danger of war—seeking a deal with Washington, on the one hand, and expanding its own military capacities, on the other—only heightens the danger of conflict. A commentary in the official Xinhua news agency warned that THAAD would result in a regional arms race and suggested China would build more nuclear missiles to counter the US anti-missile systems.

The immediate pretext for the escalating US confrontation with North Korea was Monday’s test firing of four intermediate-range ballistic missiles, which flew about 1,000 kilometres before splashing down in the Sea of Japan. The missile launches, which coincided with the war games underway in South Korea, were accompanied by a militarist statement from North Korea. It declared it would “reduce the bases of aggression and provocation to ashes with its invincible Hwasong rockets tipped with nuclear warheads” if its territory were attacked. Such reckless threats do nothing to defend the North Korean people. They play directly into the hands of US imperialism and only heighten the danger of war.

Washington’s primary target is not North Korea, but China. During the presidential election campaign, Trump deliberately whipped up anti-Chinese xenophobia, accusing China of stealing American jobs and “raping America.” The White House fired the first shot in trade war measures on Tuesday, by slapping a record $1.19 billion fine on the Chinese technology giant ZTE for allegedly breaching US sanctions.

Having previously made menacing statements over the South China Sea and threatened to tear up the “One China” policy, the Trump administration seems to have settled on North Korea as the means for exerting intense pressure on China. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is heading for Asia next week for meetings in Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing that will focus on “the advancing nuclear and missile threat” from North Korea. The State Department said the discussions would “try to generate a new approach to North Korea.”

Tillerson’s trip will seek to further concretise Japanese and South Korean support for US war planning and exploit the mounting crisis over North Korea to bully the Chinese government into making major concessions—not only over Pyongyang, but the entire range of US demands. The overriding aim of the Trump administration, which is accelerating Obama’s confrontational “pivot to Asia” against Beijing, is to halt the historic decline of US imperialism and subordinate China to its economic and strategic interests.

The risk of war is compounded by the political and economic crisis wracking the US and its allies in North East Asia. The South Korean government is mired in a corruption scandal that has resulted in the impeachment and possible removal of President Park Geun Hye and could lead to an early election. Seoul is backing a belligerent approach to North Korea as a welcome diversion from its domestic strife. Similarly, the Japanese government is exploiting the confrontation with Pyongyang to deflect attention from its stagnant economy and justify its own military rearmament. Senior government figures have called in recent days for Japan to acquire the military hardware to conduct pre-emptive strikes against North Korea or any other potential enemy.

However, the most explosive factor in the profoundly unstable situation is the United States, where the entire political establishment and state apparatus is mired in bitter infighting and recriminations over foreign policy and tit-for-tat hacking allegations. The danger is that the Trump administration, which is guided by fascistic figures such as Stephen Bannon on the National Security Council, will choose the path of provocations and military action against North Korea to distract from the profound crisis at home, and to advance its plans for a confrontation with China, regardless of the potentially disastrous consequences.

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The Dubious Story of the Murder of Kim Jong-nam, Brother of DPRK Leader Kim Jong-un


In the West, even among people who consider themselves not susceptible to government-corporate media propaganda, any wild story about North Korea can be taken as credible. We should ask ourselves why that is the case, given what we know about the history of government and media fabrications, often related to gaining our acquiescence to a new war.

The corporate media reports North Korean agents murdered Kim Jong Nam with a banned chemical weapon VX. They fail to add that the US government is not a signatory to the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. They rarely note the Malaysian police investigating the case have not actually said North Korea is connected to his death.

The story of his death or murder raises a number of serious questions. North Korea says Kim Jong Nam was not murdered, but suffered from heart problems, high blood pressure and diabetes, required constant medication, and this caused his death. The North Korean diplomat in Malaysia Ri Tong-il “cited the postmortem examination conducted by Malaysian health authorities, claiming that the postmortem showed Jong-nam died of a heart attack.”

Malaysian authorities conducted two autopsies, the second after the first said to be inconclusive in identifying a cause of death, before announcing well over a week later that VX was involved.

What was going on here? And why weren’t the autopsies made open to others besides Malaysian officials?

Why was the South Korean government the first country to come out quickly after Kim’s February 13 death to blame North Korea for murdering him with the VX nerve weapon – before Malaysia had determined anything? The Malaysian autopsy was not complete until February 23, ten days later.

Why did these two women charged with murder travel several times to South Korea before this attack occurred?

Why was the only North Korean arrested in the case released for lack of evidence?

The two women did not wear gloves, but had the liquid directly on their hands.  “The police said the four North Korean suspects who left the country the day of the killing put the VX liquid on the women’s hands.”They later washed it off.  Why did none of them die or even get sickened by it? No reports say they went to the hospital.

“Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu  Khalid said the women knew they were handling poisonous materials during the attack…. leading forensic toxicologists who study murder by poison… question how the two women could walk away unscathed after deploying an agent potent enough to kill Kim Jong Nam before he could even make it to the hospital.”

“Tens of thousands of passengers have passed through the airport since the apparent assassination was carried out. No areas were cordoned off and protective measures were not taken.”

Why, if a highly deadly VX used to kill Kim, did the terminal remain open to thousands of travelers, and not shut down and checked for VX until February 26, 13 days later?

Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam said “VX only requires 10 milligrams to be absorbed into the system to be lethal,” yet he added that there have been no reports of anyone else being sickened by the toxin.

DPRK’s Ri Tong-il said in his statement, “How is it possible” the two ladies survived? “How is it possible” no single person in the airport got contaminated? “How is it possible” no nurse, no doctor, no police escorting Kim after the attack were affected?

Why does Malaysia, which acknowledges Kim Jong Nam is Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, make the outrageous demand that Kim’s body won’t be released to North Korea until a close family member provides a sample of their own DNA?

From what we are told, the story does not add up.

Ri Tong-il asked in his same statement “Why is South Korea trying so hard [to blame the DPRK] in this instance? They have a great political crisis inside South Korea [which is quite true] and they need to divert people’s attention,” noting also that the two women involved traveled to South Korea and that South Korea blamed the North for murder by VX the very day it happened.

Stephen Lendman also gives a plausible explanation:

“Here’s what we know. North Korean senior representatives were preparing to come to New York to meet with former US officials, a chance for both sides to discuss differences diplomatically, hopefully leading to direct talks with Trump officials.

The State Department hadn’t yet approved visas, a positive development if arranged.

Reports indicate North Korea very much wanted the meeting to take place. Makes sense. It would indicate a modest thaw in hostile relations, a good thing if anything came of it.

So why would Pyongyang want to kill Kim Jong-nam at this potentially sensitive time, knowing it would be blamed for the incident, talks likely cancelled?

Sure enough, they’re off, Pyongyang accused of killing Kim, even though it seems implausible they planned and carried out the incident, using agents in Malaysia to act as proxies.”

Is possible that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un decided to murder his apolitical brother, chosing to do so by using a banned highly toxic agent in public, under video cameras in a crowded airport of a friendly country? Instead of say, doing it by easier means in the North Korean Embassy’s guesthouse in Kuala Lumpur, where the New York Times said his brother sometimes stayed?

We are not supposed to doubt what we are spoon fed, that Kim Jong Un is some irrational war-mongering madman who has instituted a reign of terror. A safer bet is this is a new attempt to beat the drums of war against North Korea and its allies.


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The Unknown Truth About Korea: U.S. Sanctioned Death Squads and War Crimes, 1945-1953

 Image result for north Korea leader photo

The mostly unknown record of the brutal U.S. occupation and subsequent control of Korea following the Japanese defeat in August 1945, and the voluminous number of war crimes committed between 1950 and 1953, have been systematically hidden under mountains of accusations directed almost solely against the “red menace” of northern Korea. The Korean War itself grew out of U.S. refusal to allow a genuine self-determination process to take root. The Korean people were exuberant in August 1945 with their new freedom after being subjected to a brutal 40-year Japanese occupation of their historically undivided Peninsula. They immediately began creating local democratic peoples’ committees the day after Japan announced on August 14 its intentions to surrender. By August 28, all Korean provinces had created local peoples’ offices and on September 6 delegates from throughout the Peninsula gathered in Seoul, at which time they created the Korean People’s Republic (KPR).

The United States had a different plan for Korea. At the February 1945 Yalta conference, President Roosevelt suggested to Stalin, without consulting the Koreans, that Korea should be placed under joint trusteeship following the war before being granted her independence. On August 11, two days after the second atomic bomb was dropped assuring Japan’s imminent surrender, and three days after Russian forces entered Manchuria and Korea to oust the Japanese as was agreed to avoid further U.S. casualties, Truman hurriedly ordered his War Department to choose a dividing line for Korea. Two young colonels, Dean Rusk (later to be Secretary of State under President’s Kennedy and Johnson during the Vietnam War) and Charles H. Bonesteel, were given 30 minutes to resolve the matter. The 38th parallel was quickly, and quietly, chosen, placing the historic capital city of Seoul and 70 percent, or 21 of Korea’s 30 million people in the “American” southern zone. This was not discussed with Stalin or any other political leaders in the U.S. or among our allies. Surprisingly, Stalin agreed to this “temporary” partition that meant the Russians already present in the country would briefly occupy the territory north of the line comprising 55 percent of the peninsular land area. On August 15, the United States Army Military Government in Korea (USAMGIK) was formed and on September 8, 72,000 U.S. troops began arriving to enforce the formal occupation of the south.

The Korean People’s Republic officially formed just two days prior to the first arrival of U.S. forces was almost immediately shunned by the U.S. who decided its preference was to stand behind conservative politicians representing the traditional land-owning elite. The U.S. helped in the formation on September 16 of the conservative Korean Democratic Party (KDP), and brought Syngman Rhee to Korea on General MacArthur’s plane on October 16 to head up the new party. Rhee, a Korean possessing a Ph.D. from Princeton (1910) and an Austrian wife, had lived in the United States for more than 40 years. To his credit he had detested the Japanese occupation of his native country, but he hated the communists even more. Just before Rhee arrived to begin efforts to consolidate his power in the south, long-time resistance fighter Kim Il Sung returned from exile to begin his leadership in the  north. As a guerrilla leader Kim had been fighting the Japanese occupation of China and Korea since the early 1930s.

Rhee and his U.S. advisers quickly concluded that in order to build their kind of Korea through the KDP they must definitively defeat the broad-based KPR. While Kim, with the support of the Russian forces in the north, was purging that territory of former Japanese administrators and their Korean collaborators, the USAMG was actively recruiting them in the south. In November the U.S. Military Governor outlawed all strikes and in December declared the KPR and all its activities illegal. In effect the U.S. had declared war on the popular movement of Korea south of the 38th Parallel and set in motion a repressive campaign that later became excessively brutal, dismantling the Peoples’ Committees and their supporters throughout the south.

In December 1945 General John R. Hodge, commander of the U.S. occupation forces, created the Korean Constabulary, led exclusively by officers who had served the Japanese. Along with the revived Japanese colonial police force, the Korean National Police (KNP), comprised of many former Korean collaborators, and powerful right-wing paramilitary groups like the Korean National Youth and the Northwest Youth League, the U.S.Military Government and their puppet Syngman Rhee possessed the armed instruments of a police state more than able to assure a political system that was determined to protect the old landlord class made up of rigid reactionaries and enthusiastic capitalists.

By the fall of 1946, disgruntled workers declared a strike that spread throughout South Korea. By December the combination of the KNP, the Constabulary, and the right-wing paramilitary units, supplemented by U.S. firepower and intelligence, had contained the insurrections in all provinces. More than 1,000 Koreans were killed with more than 30,000 jailed. Regional and local leaders of the popular movement were either dead, in jail, or driven underground.

With total U.S. support Rhee busily prepared for a politically division of Korea involuntarily imposed on the vast majority of the Korean people. Following suppression of the October-December insurrection, the Koreans began to form guerrilla units in early 1947. There were sporadic activities for a year or so. However, in March 1948, on Korea’s large Island, Cheju, a demonstration objecting to Rhee’s planned separate elections scheduled for May 1948 was fired upon by the KNP. A number of Koreans were injured and several were tortured, then killed. This incident provoked a dramatic escalation of armed resistance to the U.S./Rhee regime. The police state went into full force, regularly guided by U.S. military advisors, and often supported by U.S. military firepower and occasional ground troops.

On the Island of Cheju alone, within a year as many as 60,000 of its 300,000 residents had been murdered, while another 40,000 fled by sea to nearby Japan. Over 230 of the Island’s 400 villages had been totally scorched with 40,000 homes burned to the ground. As many as 100,000 people were herded into government compounds. The remainder, it has been reported, became collaborators in order to survive. On the mainland guerrilla activities escalated in most of the provinces. The Rhee/U.S. forces conducted a ruthless campaign of cleansing the south of all dissidents, usually identifying them as “communists,” though in fact most popular leaders in the south were socialists unaffiliated with outside “communist” organizations. Anyone who was openly or quietly opposed to the Rhee regime was considered suspect. Therefore massive numbers of villagers and farmers were systematically rounded up, tortured, then shot and dropped into mass graves. Estimates of murdered civilians range anywhere from 200,000 to 800,000 by the time the hot war broke out in June 1950.

The hot war allegedly began at Ongjin about 3 or 4 A.M. (Korean time) June 25, 1950. Just how the fighting started on that day depends on one’s source of information. It is mostly irrelevant, since a civil and revolutionary war had been raging for a couple of years, with military incursions routinely moving back and forth across the 38th parallel.

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US-North Korean Relations in a Time of Change



By Gregory Elich 

The months ahead may reveal the direction that U.S.-North Korean relations will take under the Trump administration. After eight years of ‘strategic patience’ and the Rebalance to Asia, those relations now stand at their lowest point in decades. Many foreign policy elites are expressing frustration over Washington’s failure to impose its will on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). There are increasing calls for a change in policy, but what kind of change do they have in mind? We may be at the point of a major transition.

President Trump has given mixed signals on North Korea, ranging from saying he is open to dialogue, to insisting that North Korea cannot be allowed to possess nuclear weapons and that he could solve the dispute with a single call to China. It is fair to say that any change in policy direction is possible, although deeply entrenched interests can be counted on to resist any positive movement.

Other than his frequently expressed hard line on China, Trump has not otherwise demonstrated much interest in Asian-Pacific affairs. That may mean an increased likelihood that he will defer to his advisors, and conventional wisdom may prevail. The more influence Trump’s advisors have on North Korea policy, the more dangerous the prospects.

National Security Advisor Michael Flynn could be a key figure. Back in November, he told a South Korean delegation that the North Korean nuclear issue would be a top priority for the Trump administration. [1] At around the same time, he told a Japanese newspaper that the North Korean government should not be allowed to last very long, and he has no intention of negotiating an agreement. [2]

Flynn has written that North Korea, Russia, China, Cuba and Venezuela are in a global alliance with radical Islam, a loopy concept if ever there was one. [3] It is a disturbing thought that a man so disconnected from reality is helping to shape policy.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo believes that Iran and North Korea cooperate in what he calls “an evil partnership.” [4] He has also called for the mobilization of economic and military powers against the DPRK. [5]

Establishment think tanks have churned out a number of policy papers, filled with recommendations for the new administration. Their advice is likely to fall on receptive ears among Trump’s advisors. How much influence they will have on Trump’s decision-making is another question, but he is hearing a single message from those around him and from the Washington establishment.

A common theme running through these think tank policy papers is the demand to punish China for its relations with the DPRK.

The most moderate set of proposals offered the Trump administration is the one produced by Joel Wit for the U.S.-Korea Institute, in that it at least calls for an initial stage that Wit terms “phased coercive diplomacy.” Initial diplomatic contacts would “explore whether agreements that serve U.S. interests are possible while at the same time” the U.S. would lay the groundwork for “increasing pressure” on North Korea. A modest scaling back of the annual U.S. war games could be offered as an incentive to North Korea, along with negotiations on a peace treaty, as long as the U.S. feels it can gain more from North Korean concessions.

At the same time, Wit calls for the new administration to “communicate toughness” and implement a “long-term deterrence campaign.” This would include the rotation of B-1 and B-52 bombers into South Korea on a regular basis, along with stationing nuclear weapons-armed submarines off the Korean coast.

While negotiations are underway, Wit wants the U.S. to direct a propaganda war against the DPRK, by increasing radio broadcasts and infiltrating portable storage devices containing information designed to destabilize the government. What he does not say is that such hostile measures can only have the effect of derailing diplomacy.

If North Korea proves less than compliant to U.S. demands, or if it prepares to test an ICBM, then Wit advises Washington to impose a total “energy and non-food embargo” on North Korea. Wit argues that China must accede to U.S. demands in the UN Security Council for what amounts to economic warfare on North Korea, or else the United States should impose “crippling sanctions” on the DPRK and secondary sanctions on China. By attacking the Chinese economy in this manner, Wit says this would send a message “that the United States would be prepared to face a serious crisis with China over North Korean behavior.” The arrogance is stunning. If China does not agree to American demands in the United Nations, then it is to be punished through U.S. sanctions. [6]

This is what passes as the “moderate” approach among Washington’s foreign policy establishment.

Wit is not alone in his eagerness to punish China. Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute believes that “the next round of penalties will probably have to be ones which have some sort of collateral fallout for China…Sanctions are fine, more sanctions are better,” he says. “Increasing the cost for China, I think, is the way to go.” [7]

Eberstadt argues that U.S. North Korea policy should “consist mainly, though not entirely, of military measures.” “It is time for Beijing to pay a penalty for all its support” for North Korea, he declares. “We can begin by exacting it in diplomatic venues all around the world.” [8] Displaying the presumption all too typical of Washington elites, he has nothing to say about how China might react to his hostile policy prescriptions. The assumption is that China should just take the punishment without complaint. That will not happen.

U.S. Navy Commander ‘Skip’ Vincenzo prepared a set of recommendations that proved so popular that it was jointly published by four think tanks. Vincenzo is looking ahead and planning for how the United States and South Korea could attack the DPRK without suffering great losses. He urges the Trump administration to conduct an information war to undermine North Korea from within. The aim would be “convincing regime elites that their best options” in a conflict “would be to support ROK-U.S. alliance efforts.” He adds that “easily understood themes such as ‘stay in your garrisons and you will get paid’ should target the military rank and file.” North Korean military commanders should be told they would be “financially rewarded” for avoiding combat. “The objective is to get them to act independently when the time comes with the expectation that they will benefit later.” [9]

Interesting phrase, ‘when the time comes.’ Vincenzo anticipates that military intervention in North Korea is only a matter of time. He clearly envisions a scenario like the U.S. invasion of Iraq, when many Iraqi units melted away rather than fight. The fantasy that the U.S. could repeat the Iraqi experience in the DPRK is based on a misjudgment of the Korean national character. Nor does it take into account that what followed the invasion of Iraq could hardly be construed as a peaceful development.

The Brookings Institute, despite its centrist reputation, encourages Trump to take actions that are savage and reckless. “The new president,” the Institute says, “should adopt an approach that focuses on North Korea’s main goal: regime survival… The United States and its allies and partners should make North Korea choose between nuclear weapons and survival.”

The Brookings Institute calls for all-out economic warfare on the North Korean people. “A more robust approach,” it advises, “should go after “the financial lifeblood of the North Korean regime in new ways: starving the regime of foreign currency, cutting Pyongyang off from the international financial and trading system, squeezing its trading networks, interdicting its commerce, and using covert and overt means to take advantage of the regime’s many vulnerabilities. A strong foundation of military measures must underline this approach.”

In a major understatement, the Institute admits that “such an approach carries risks.” Indeed it does, and it is the Korean people who would bear that cost, while Washington’s elites would face none of the consequences of their actions. What the Brookings Institute is calling for is the economic strangulation of North Korea, which would bring about the collapse of people’s livelihoods and mass starvation.

Like other think tanks, the Brookings Institute advocates targeting China, calling for the imposition of secondary sanctions on “Chinese firms, banks, and state-owned enterprises” that do business with North Korea. [10] The aim would be to cut North Korea off from all trade with China.

Walter Sharp, a former commander of U.S. Forces Korea, says that the United States should launch a preemptive strike if North Korea prepares to launch a satellite or test a ballistic missile. “The missile should be destroyed,” he declares. It is easy to imagine the violent response by the United States, were a foreign nation to attack one of its missiles on the launch pad. It is delusional to expect that North Korea not only wouldn’t respond in some manner but would have no right to do so. But Sharp advocates “overwhelming force” if North Korea retaliates, because, as he puts it, Kim Jong-un should know “that there is a lot more coming his way, something he will fear.” [11] If this sounds like a prescription for war, that is because it is.

It is a measure of how decades of militarized foreign policy have degraded public discourse in this country to such an extent that these lunatic notions are not only taken seriously, but advocates are sought out for advice and treated with respect.

With suggestions like that, it is not surprising that Walter Sharp was invited to join the task force that produced a set of recommendations on behalf of the Council on Foreign Relations. The task force calls for the early stages of negotiations to focus on a nuclear freeze, limitations on North Korean conventional forces and missile development, and inspection of nuclear facilities. Obligations on North Korea would be front-loaded, with absolutely nothing offered in return. The promise of a peace treaty and gradual normalization of relations would be back-loaded, contingent on full disarmament, an improvement on human rights, and allowing U.S. and South Korean media to saturate the DPRK. Certainly, that last demand would be a non-starter, as it is impossible to imagine that North Korea would agree to allow its media space to be dominated by hostile foreign entities.

Such a one-sided approach has no chance of achieving a diplomatic settlement. As a solution, the Council recommends that the United States continually escalate sanctions during the negotiating process.

The Council on Foreign Relations calls for the U.S., South Korea, and Japan to build up the capability to intercept North Korean missile launches, “whether they are declared to be ballistic missile tests or civil space launch vehicles.” If negotiations falter, it advises the three allies to shoot down North Korean missiles as soon as they are launched. That would be an act of war. And how does the Council on Foreign Relations imagine North Korea would respond to having a satellite launch shot down? It does not say.

Further development of North Korea’s nuclear program, the Council suggests, would require “more assertive diplomatic and military steps, including some that directly threaten the regime’s nuclear and missile programs and, therefore, the regime itself.”

“The United States should support enhanced information operations” against North Korea, the Council adds, to undermine the government and “strengthen emerging market forces.” Predictably enough, it advocates “severe economic pressure” on North Korea, as well as encouraging private companies to bring legal suits against nations and companies that do business with North Korea. [12]

It is not diplomacy that the Council on Foreign Relations seeks, but regime change, and its policy paper is filled with the language of the bully.

Bruce Bennett is a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corporation. He warns that North Korea’s desire for a peace treaty is a ruse. “In reality,” he says, “by insisting on a peace treaty, North Korea is probably not seeking peace, but war.” He goes on to claim that a peace treaty might lead to the withdrawal of U.S. forces, after which the North could be counted on to invade South Korea. Calls for a peace treaty, he adds, “should be regarded as nothing but a deceitful scam that could lead to the devastation of South Korea, a U.S. ally.” [13] This is an argument that other analysts also make, and is clearly delusional. But it serves as a good illustration of how in the blinkered mindset of Washington’s policy analysts, unsupported assertion takes the place of any sense of reality.

The Center for a New American Security has planted deep roots in the U.S. establishment. Ashton Carter, secretary of defense in the Obama administration, expressed the level of respect and influence that CNAS holds in Washington. “For almost a decade now,” Carter said, “CNAS has been an engine for the ideas and talent that have shaped American foreign policy and defense policy.” Carter added that “in meeting after meeting, on issue after issue,” he worked with CNAS members. [14] His comments reveal that this is an organization that has constant access to the halls of power.

The Center for a New American Security has produced a set of policy documents intended to influence the Trump administration. Not surprisingly, it favors the Rebalance to Asia that was initiated by President Obama, and advocates a further expansion of U.S. military forces in Asia. [15] It also wants to see greater involvement by NATO in the Asia-Pacific in support of the U.S. military. [16]

Patrick Cronin is senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at CNAS, and as such, he wields considerable influence on U.S. policy. Cronin asserts that “Trump will want to enact harsh sanctions and undertake a serious crackdown” on North Korean financial operations, but these steps should be of secondary importance. Trump should “double down” on the U.S. military buildup in the region, he says, and alliance strategy should send the message to Kim Jong-un that nuclear weapons would threaten his survival. There it is again: the the proposal to threaten North Korea’s survival if it does not abandon its nuclear program.

Regardless of diplomatic progress, Cronin believes the U.S. and its allies should conduct an information war against North Korea “at both elite and grassroots’ levels.” [17]

China is not to be ignored, and Cronin feels Trump will need to integrate “tougher diplomacy” with economic sanctions against China. [18]

It remains to be seen to what extent Trump will heed such advice. But the entire foreign policy establishment and mainstream media are united in staunch opposition to any genuinely diplomatic resolution of the dispute. Trump has expressed a healthy skepticism concerning CIA intelligence briefings. Whether that skepticism will be extended to the advice coming from Washington think tanks is an open question.

If the aim of these proposals is to bring about denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, then they are recipes for failure. But if the intent is to impose economic hardship on the North Korean people, while capitalizing on the nuclear issue as a pretext to dominate the region, then these think tanks know what they are doing. As always, human considerations mean nothing when it comes to serving corporate and imperial interests, and if they fully have their way, it will be no surprise if they succeed in bringing to the Korean Peninsula the same chaos and destruction that they gave to the Middle East. One can only hope that more reasonable voices will prevail during policy formulation.

What none of the policy papers address is the role that South Korea has to play. It is simply assumed that the status quo will continue, and South Korea will go along with any action the U.S. chooses to take, no matter how harsh or dangerous. In the mind of the Washington establishment, this is a master-servant relationship and nothing more.

That Koreans, north and south, may have their own goals and interests is not considered. The truly astonishing mass protests against South Korean President Park Geun-hye, which led to her impeachment, have opened up a world of possibilities. Whatever happens in the months ahead, it won’t be business as usual. U.S. policymakers are in a panic at the prospect of a more progressive and independent-minded government taking power after the next election in South Korea, and this is what lies behind plans to rush the deployment of a THAAD battery ahead of schedule. But in a sense, it may already be too late. Park Geun-hye, and by implication her policies, have been thoroughly discredited. It may well be that the harsher the measures Washington wants to impose on the DPRK, the less it can count on cooperation from South Korea. And it could be this that prevents the United States from recklessly plunging the Korean Peninsula into chaos or even war.

Let us imagine a more progressive government taking power in South Korea, engaging in dialogue with its neighbor to the north and signing agreements on economic cooperation. Were the U.S. so inclined, it could work together with such a government in South Korea to reduce tensions and develop economic ties with the DPRK. Rail and gas links could cross North Korea, connecting the south with China and Russia, and provide an economic boost to the entire region. North and South Korea could shift resources from military to civilian needs and start to dismantle national security state structures. The nuclear issue would cease to matter. All of those things could be done, but it would take a change in mentality in Washington and a willingness to defy the entire establishment.

Alas, it is far more likely that tensions will continue to be ratcheted up. Longstanding confrontation with Russia and China has been the keynote of U.S. policy, leading to the encirclement of those nations by a ring of military bases and anti-ballistic missile systems. The Rebalance to Asia aims to reinforce military power around China. North Korea, in this context, serves as a convenient justification for the U.S. military and economic domination of the Asia-Pacific.

Why is North Korea’s nuclear weapons program regarded as an unacceptable threat, whereas those of other nations are not? Why do we not see the United States imposing sanctions on Pakistan for its nuclear program, or conducting war games in the Indian Ocean, practicing the invasion of India? Why do we not hear calls for regime change in Israel over its nuclear program?

Instead, Pakistan is the fifth largest recipient of U.S. aid, slated to receive $742 million this year. India receives one-tenth of that amount, and the United States recently signed an agreement with it on military cooperation. [19] As for Israel, the United States has pledged to provide it with $38 billion in military aid over the next ten years. [20]

What is it about its nuclear weapons program that causes North Korea to be sanctioned and threatened, whereas the U.S. warmly embraces the others? Pakistan, India, and Israel have nuclear programs that are far more advanced than North Korea’s, with sizeable arsenals and well-tested ballistic missiles. The other major difference is that North Korea is the only one of the four nations facing an existential threat from the United States, and therefore has the greatest need of a nuclear deterrent.

There is no threat of North Korea attacking the United States. It has yet to test a re-entry vehicle, and so cannot be said to have the means of delivering a nuclear weapon. Furthermore, the nation will never have more than a small arsenal relative to the size of that owned by the U.S., so its nuclear weapons can only play a deterrent role.

The “threat” that North Korea’s nuclear program presents is twofold. Once North Korea succeeds in completing development of its program, the United States will lose any realistic possibility of attacking it. Whether the U.S. would choose to exercise that capability or not, it wants to retain that option.

The other aspect of the “threat” is that if the DPRK succeeds in establishing an effective nuclear weapons program, then other small nations facing U.S. hostility may feel emboldened to develop nuclear programs, thereby reducing the ability of the U.S. to impose its will on others.

It’s difficult to see why North Korea would ever give up its nuclear program. For one thing, according to U.S. State Department estimates, North Korea is spending anywhere from 15 to 24 percent of its GDP on the military. [21] This is unsustainable for an economy in recovery, and nuclear weapons are cheap in comparison to the expense of conventional armed forces. The DPRK is placing great emphasis on economic development, and a nuclear weapons program allows it to shift more resources to the civilian economy. [22]

Recent history has also shown that a small nation relying on conventional military forces has no chance of defending itself against attack by the United States. For a nation like North Korea, nuclear weapons present the only reliable means of defense.

North Korea attaches great importance to the signing of a peace treaty. After more than six decades since the Korean War, a peace treaty is long overdue and a worthy goal. But if the DPRK imagines that a peace treaty would provide a measure of security, I think it is mistaken. The U.S. was officially at peace with each of the nations it attacked or undermined.

What kind of guarantees could the United States possibly give North Korea to ensure its security in exchange for disarmament? An agreement could be signed, and promises made, and mean nothing. Libya, it should be recalled, signed a nuclear disarmament agreement with one U.S. administration, only to be bombed by the next. No verbal or written promise could provide any measure of security.

The one-sided record of U.S. negotiators is hardly an encouragement for North Korea to disarm either.

For example, shortly after the United States signed the September 2005 Joint Agreement with North Korea, U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill sought to reassure Congress that the United States was not about to begin to normalize relations, even though that is precisely what the agreement obligated it to do.

Normalization of relations, he explained to Congress, would be “subject to resolution of our longstanding concerns. By this, I meant that as a necessary part of the process leading to normalization, we must discuss important issues, including human rights, biological and chemical weapons, ballistic missile programs, proliferation of conventional weapons, terrorism, and other illicit activities.” North Korea “would have to commit to international standards across the board, and then prove its intentions.” Christopher Hill’s point was clear. Even if North Korea were to denuclearize fully, relations would still not move toward normalization. North Korea would only be faced with a host of additional demands. [23]

Indeed, far from beginning to normalize relations, within days of the signing of the September 2005 agreement, the Treasury Department designated Macao-based Banco Delta Asia as a “primary money-laundering concern,” despite a lack of any evidence to back that claim. U.S. financial firms were ordered to sever relations with the bank, which led to a wave of withdrawals by panicked customers, and the bank’s closure. The aim of the Treasury Department was to shut off one of the key institutions North Korea used to conduct regular international trade. That action killed the agreement.

The Libyan nuclear agreement provides the model that Washington expects North Korea to follow. That agreement compelled Libya to dismantle its nuclear program as a precondition for receiving any rewards, and it was only after that process was complete that many of the sanctions on Libya were lifted. It took another two years to remove Libya from the list of sponsors of terrorism and restore diplomatic relations.

Upon closer examination, these ‘rewards’ look more like a reduction in punishment. Can it be said that a reduction in sanctions is a reward? If someone is beating you, and then promises to cut back on the number of beatings, is he rewarding you?

It did not seem so to the Libyans, who often complained that U.S. officials had not rewarded them for their compliance. [24]

What the U.S. did have to offer Libya, though, were more demands. Early on, Undersecretary of State John Bolton told Libyan officials that they had to halt military cooperation with Iran in order to complete the denuclearization agreement.[25]  And on at least one occasion, a U.S. official pressured Libya to cut off military trade with North Korea, Iran, and Syria. [26]

American officials demanded that Libya recognize the unilateral independence of Kosovo, a position which Libya had consistently opposed. [27] This was followed by a U.S. diplomatic note to Libya, ordering it to vote against the Serbian government’s resolution at the United Nations, which asked for a ruling by the International Court of Justice on Kosovo independence. [28]

Under the circumstances, Libya preferred to absent itself from the vote, rather than join the United States and three other nations in opposing the measure.

The U.S. did succeed, however, in obtaining Libya’s vote for UN sanctions against Iran. [29] In response to U.S. directives, Libya repeatedly advised North Korea to follow its example and denuclearize. Under U.S. pressure, Libya also launched a privatization program and opened opportunities for U.S. businesses.

U.S. officials often urged the North Koreans to take note of the Libyan deal and learn from its example. These days, that example looks rather different, given the bombing of Libya by U.S. warplanes and missiles. Colonel Muammar Qaddafi was rewarded for his cooperation with the United States by being beaten, impaled on a bayonet, and shot several times. There is a lesson here, all right, and the North Koreans have taken due note of it.

It is time to challenge the standard Western narrative.

Under international space law, every nation has the right to launch a satellite into orbit, yet North Korea alone is singled out for condemnation and denied that right. The United States, with over one thousand nuclear tests, [30] reacts with outrage to North Korea’s five.

To quote political analyst Tim Beal, “The construction of North Korea as an international pariah is an expression of American power rather than, as is usually claimed, a result of the infringement of international law. In fact, the discriminatory charges against North Korea are themselves a violation of the norms of international law and the equal sovereignty of states.” [31]

Since 1953, North Korea has never been at war.

During that same period, to list only a sampling of interventions, the U.S. overthrew the government of Guatemala, sent a proxy army to invade Cuba, and bombed and invaded Vietnam, at the cost of two million lives. It bombed Cambodia and Laos, sent troops into the Dominican Republic, backed a military coup in Indonesia, in which half a million people were killed, organized a military coup in Chile, backed Islamic extremists in their efforts to topple a secular government in Afghanistan. The U.S. invaded Grenada, mined harbors and armed anti-government forces in Nicaragua, armed right-wing guerrillas in Angola and Mozambique, armed and trained Croatian forces and supplied air cover as they expelled 200,000 people from their homes in Krajina, bombed half of Bosnia, armed and trained the Kosovo Liberation Army, attacked Yugoslavia, invaded Iraq, backed the overthrow of governments in Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Georgia, Honduras, and many other nations, bombed Libya, and armed and trained jihadists in Syria.

And yet, we are told that it is North Korea that is the threat to international peace.

2017 could be a pivotal year for the Korean Peninsula. An energized population is bringing change to South Korea. We should join them and demand change here in the United States, as well. It is time to resist continued calls for a reckless and militarized foreign policy.



[1] Jesse Johnson, “Trump National Security Pick Tells South Koreans that North’s Nuke Program will be Priority,” The Japan Times, November 19, 2016.

[2] Chang Jae-soon, “Trump Names Former DIA Chief Mike Flynn as his National Security Advisor,” Yonhap, November 19, 2016.

[3] Edward Wong, “Michael Flynn, a Top Trump Adviser, Ties China and North Korea to Jihadists,” New York Times, November 30, 2016.

[4] Press Release, “Pompeo on North Korea’s Nuclear Test,” U.S. Congressman Mike Pompeo, January 16, 2016.

[5] Chang Jae-soon, “Trump’s Foreign Policy Lineup Expected to be Supportive of Alliance with Seoul, Tough on N.K.,” December 13, 2016.

[6] Joel S. Wit, “The Way Ahead: North Korea Policy Recommendations for the Trump Administration,” U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), December 2016.

[7] FPI Conference Call: North Korea’s Dangerous Nuclear Escalation,” The Foreign Policy Initiative, September 15, 2016.

[8] Nicholas Eberstadt, “Wishful Thinking has Prevented Effective Threat Reduction in North Korea,” National Review, February 29, 2016.

[9] Commander Frederick ‘Skip’ Vincenzo, “An Information Based Strategy to Reduce North Korea’s Increasing Threat: Recommendations for ROK & U.S. Policy Makers,” Center for a New American Security, U.S.-Korea Institute, National Defense University, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service Center for Security Studies,” October 2016.

[10] Evans J.R. Revere, “Dealing with a Nuclear-Armed North Korea: Rising Danger, Narrowing Options, Hard Choices,” Brookings Institute, October 4, 2016.

[11] Richard Sisk, “Former US General Calls for Pre-emptive Strike on North Korea,” Defense Tech, December 1, 2016.

[12] Mike Mullen and Sam Nunn, chairs, and Adam Mount, project director, “A Sharper Choice on North Korea: Engaging China for a Stable Northeast Asia,” Independent Task Force Report No. 74, Council on Foreign Relations, 2016.

[13] Bruce W. Bennett, “Kim Jong-un is Trolling America Again,” The National Interest, May 17, 2016.

[14] Ashton Carter, “Networking Defense in the 21st Century”, Remarks at CNAS, Washington, DC,, June 20, 2016.

[15] Mira Rapp-Hooper, Patrick M. Cronin, Harry Krejsa, Hannah Suh, “Counterbalance: Red Teaming the Rebalance in the Asia-Pacific,” Center for a New American Security, November 2016.

[16] Julianne Smith, Erik Brattberg, and Rachel Rizzo, “Translatlantic Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific,” Center for a New American Security, October 2016.

[17] Patrick M. Cronin, “4 Ways Trump Can Avoid a North Korea Disaster,” The Diplomat, December 13, 2016.

[18] Patrick M. Cronin and Marcel Angliviel de la Beaumelle, “How the Next US President Should Handle the South China Sea,” The Diplomat. May 2, 2016.

[19] “Foreign Assistance in Pakistan,”

Rama Lakshmi, “India and U.S. Deepen Defense Ties with Landmark Agreement,” Washington Post, August 30, 2016.

[20] “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel,”, December 22, 2016.

[21] U.S. Department of State, “World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 2016,” December 2016.

[22] Bradley O. Babson, “After the Party Congress: What to Make of North Korea’s Commitment to Economic Development?” 38 North, May 19, 2016.Elizabeth Shim, “Kim Jong Un’s Economic Plan Targets Foreign Investment,” UPI, May 19, 2015.

[23] “The Six-Party Talks and the North Korean Nuclear Issue: Old Wine in New Bottles?” Hearing Before the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, October 6, 2005.

[24] “Libya Nuclear Chronology,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, February 2011.

[25] U.S. Department of State cable, “U/S Bolton’s July 10 Meeting with Libyan Officials, August 11, 2004.

[26] William Tobey, “A Message from Tripoli, Part 4: How Libya Gave Up its WMD,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, December 7, 2014.

[27] U.S. Embassy Tripoli cable, “Libya/UNSC: 1267, Iran and Kosovo, July 1, 2008.

[28] U.S. Embassy Tripoli cable, “Kosovo ICJ Resolution at UNGA — Libya,” October 6, 2008.

[29] “Libya Nuclear Chronology,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, February 2011.


[31] Tim Beal, “The Korean Peninsula within the Framework of US Global Hegemony,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, November 15, 2016.

Posted in USA, North KoreaComments Off on US-North Korean Relations in a Time of Change

North Korea Pays Tribute to Anti-Imperialist Friend Fidel

  • North Korean flags fly at half-mast Monday, mourning the death of Fidel Castro.
    North Korean flags fly at half-mast Monday, mourning the death of Fidel Castro. Photo: AFP
Both countries joined forces against U.S. imperialism and anti-communist attacks.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is observing a three-day mourning to honor late Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, who died on Friday at 90 years old.

GALLERY: Havana Says Goodbye to Fidel

Fidel “made distinguished contributions to accomplishing the cause of independence against imperialism,” DPRK leader Kim Jong-Un said in a message posted by the country’s official news agency.

He “established the socialist system where the people became the genuine masters for the first time in the Western Hemisphere.”

Authorities kept flags at half mast as a tribute to the leader, who inspired the anti-imperialist struggle of the socialist country during the Cuban Revolution and was awarded as a national hero for “fighting in the outposts of the anti-U.S., anti-imperialist struggle.”

One station of the capital’s subway displayed an obituary tribute to Fidel published by the state newspaper Rodong Sinmun, recalling Fidel’s visit to the DPRK in 1986.

This tribute to a foreign political figure was reportedly the first since the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 2004.

Posted in CUBA, North KoreaComments Off on North Korea Pays Tribute to Anti-Imperialist Friend Fidel

Human Rights Violations: North Korea vs. the U.S.


UN Third Committee Resolution L.23 IN, Legitimizes Stranglehold Economic Sanctions., Used as a Means to “Obliterate” North Korea


On November 15, 2016 the United Nations Third Committee adopted the resolution:  “Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” 

Among the co-sponsors of the Resolution were United States, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, etc. 

Disassociating themselves from the resolution, which they denounced as invalid, were China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, and three other countries opposed to the biased character and double standards that typify “country-specific” resolutions.  The co-sponsors of this resolution are themselves guilty of  criminal human rights violations.

The very concept of human rights has been fraudulently used to such a degree that it bears no resemblance to Eleanor Roosevelt’s original inspiration for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Indeed, the term has become the antithesis of concern for human rights, and is now being used as yet another ploy, a Trojan Horse, to infiltrate, destabilize and ultimately overthrow independent governments which are anathema to Western Oligarchies

At the United Nations Third Committee meeting of November 15, 2016, an urgently needed “No-Action Motion” was introduced by Belarus, opposing the “country-specific” resolutions as “deeply flawed and arbitrary instruments of coercion.”

Agenda item L.23 on the Situation of Human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the most flagrant example of these resolutions which are being used as instruments of coercion, and an example of the scandalous double standards on human rights which have become a lethal excuse by which Western capitalist powers have corrupted the United Nations into becoming, itself, an instrument of coercion.

The destruction, by US-NATO military bombardment, of states independent of western oligarchic control, was endorsed by UN Security Council Resolutions 678 and 1973, which were used to violently impose regime change in Iraq and Libya.  “Human Rights” is the contemporary equivalent of the “White Man’s Burden” which was used, in earlier times, to justify imperialistic conquest.

Resolution L.23 on the DPRK is an intellectually and morally bankrupt piece of propaganda, so clumsily cobbled together that its accusations of human rights violations more conspicuously apply to its sponsors, including the US, and UK  than to the DPRK, and the contrivances of the resolution are intended to hasten the economic genocide being inflicted on the people of the DPRK, and which the UN, through its barbaric sanctions regime is dishonorably facilitating.

Resolution L.23 

“expresses its very serious concern at continuing reports of violations of human rights such as torture and other cruel, inhuman conditions of detention; rape, public execution; extrajudicial and arbitrary detention; the absence of due process and the rule of law; extensive use of forced labor..”

The resolution is intended to legitimize the sanctions stranglehold on North Korea, and increase the suffering of the people of the DPRK for the sinister purpose of inciting chaos and regime change in that tiny country, one of the few remaining socialist economies in the world.

This deceptive politicization of the concept of human rights for the nefarious purpose of facilitating an oligarchic geopolitical agenda is now debasing and discrediting the very concept itself.  In classic Orwellian style, the countries whose economic systems, based on profit maximization, most notoriously abuse human rights are condemning the countries whose socialist economies are founded on the most humanitarian principles and practice. That the UN tolerates this disgraceful  scam morally discredits the organization, and may lead to its ultimate demise.

Resolution L.23 on the DPRK may easily be refuted, almost line by line, with examples of barbaric human rights abuses systematically committed by the very same countries which co-sponsored the resolution, and these barbaric practices are documented in such pristine Western publications as  The New York Times, The New Yorker,  Harper’s, and numerous other publications which  catalogue human rights abuses over centuries, but an examination of the most recent decades will suffice.

US Human Rights Record. Recent History

In September, 1971, at the infamous Attica political prison  (described as a “correctional facility”) in New York,  1,300 political prisoners rebelled against the brutal treatment they were enduring during their incarceration.  This action symbolized a class revolution of mostly impoverished African Americans, and some white citizens, mostly destitute, arising from their enslavement and demanding human dignity.  Tragically, they had no weapons to defend themselves. Political prisoners in Attica included members of the Black Panther Party, the Puerto Rican Young Lords, the Weather Underground, and numerous other political organizations within the USA.

Four days after the uprising, Governor Rockefeller, in a notorious action typical of systemic capitalist repression and constituting a crime against humanity, ordered armed troopers to enter the prison, where they massacred and tortured the prisoners who had protested against the hellish conditions of their imprisonment .  The recently published masterpiece, entitled “Blood in the Water,” by United States historian Heather Ann Thompson documents the horrific tortures inflicted during the murderous repression of unarmed prisoners.  Among those slaughtered in the massacre ordered by Governor Rockefeller, was  “Kenny Malloy, His skull had been riddled with so many bullets that his eye sockets were shredded by the shards of his own bones.”

Invading with chemical poison CS gas, orthochlorobenzyldene, the heavily armed state troopers began murdering the unarmed prisoners.  The tortures to which the “surviving prisoners were subjected were described by victim Frank Smith:

Page 487:  “ He was chained to a table.  ‘They say you like to play football, we’re going to put this football into you nigger, and then we’re going to kill you.’  The torturers shoved a football under his chin, and told him if he let it drop, they would shoot him.  As recounted by Smith, the troopers kicked him ‘repeatedly in the testicles, and were spitting on me, dropping lit cigarettes on me…I would flex my body to make the cigarette fall off me, so it wouldn’t burn too long.’”  “ his legs hung over the edge of the table for six hours until they started to go numb.  ‘my head was hurting, my back was hurting, and the most excruciating pain I had was in my testicles.  It was a very excruciating pain in my genital area.’  He was then forced to run through a gauntlet with fifty armed officers on both sides, with broken glass on the floor.  Still completely naked, he endured the blows of ax handles and the baton with pig handles as he was forced to run this gauntlet.  The pain had been horrendous, ‘unbearable pain;  my testicles, my fingers gouged, and arms and back,’ accompanied by endless barrage of vile racial attacks, slurs.”

This was standard torture of the prisoners, including rape:

”An officer pulled out a Phillips screwdriver and told the naked inmate to get on his feet or he’d stab the screwdriver in his rectum…then he just started stabbing him.”

When the prisoners’ attorney, the great civil rights lawyer William Kunstler, witnessed the carnage of mangled dead bodies strewn everywhere on the ground,  Kunstler, who had grasped that this was a  legitimate political rebellion, wept uncontrollably at the sight of fascism’s  work.  And, of course, Governor Rockefeller, the man responsible for the massacre, was never held accountable, but history condemns him for perpetrating this infamous state terror.

The New Yorker, May 2, 2016 describes current torture and murder of mentally disabled prisoners in Florida prisons.  This is documented in an article by Eyal Press.  As prisoner Darren Rainey, diagnosed as schizophrenic, had defecated in his cell, after being tormented by his guards,  he was, as punishment, put in a “shower,”  “locked in a stall whose water supply was delivered through a hose controlled by the guards.  The water was over one hundred and eighty degrees, hot enough to brew a cup of tea…It was later revealed that Rainey had burns on more than ninety percent of his body, and that his skin fell off at the touch.”

Rainey was boiled to death in the shower, but it was learned that many other prisoners had been subjected to the same torture of being boiled alive.  None of the perpetrators of this torture were held accountable.  Prisoners were routinely beaten.  Other prisoners were starved, some starved to death.  Any witnesses who might have spoken against this abuse were threatened and silenced.

On May 15, 2016, the exact day on which Resolution L.23 against the DPRK was adopted at the UN Third Committee, The New York Times published a front page article describing the torture of prisoners in a jail in Utica, New York.  In addition to the usual tortures of defenseless prisoners, anal rape is common.

“Prisoner Raymond Broccoli recounted:  “as he lay on the floor an officer hissed, ‘You want to know what it feels like to feel weak?’ The guard then jammed something metal into his rectum.”  Other prisoners described being anally raped….  When a guard ordered Pablo Dones, 58 to stand up, Mr. Dones, who had recently undergone hernia surgery said he struggled to his feet. ‘I made it to one knee and the guard kicked me right where I had the operation.’  He screamed in pain, he said, but another guard grabbed him and began banging Dones’ head against the wall.  ‘He was hitting me against the wall so many times, my head went right through it.’”

Of course the recent historic record includes the famous cases of Abner Louima, raped in police custody with a broomstick rammed up his rectum, which perforated his intestines, necessitating surgery and months of hospitalization, and the case of the Amidou Diallo, an unarmed immigrant who stood in the vestibule of his own home, and was shot to death there 41 times by police officers.  The police who murdered him were acquitted of all charges.

Suffice to demonstrate that right up to the very moment at which the US hypocritically co-sponsored resolution L.23 condemning the DPRK, the heinous human rights abuses to which the US is subjecting its own citizens continue to be staggering.

Among its preposterous allegations,  Resolution L.23

“expresses  grave concern about the impact of diverting resources to advance nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programmes on the humanitarian and human rights situation of the citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

The worst offender of this criminal diversion of resources into nuclear weapons is the USA, which this year authorized expenditure of one trillion dollars in development of advanced nuclear weapons.  And a report by the New York based charity, “Meals on Wheels,” stated that 2 million elderly citizens in the United States must constantly choose between buying food or buying urgently needed medicines.  5 million Americans are deprived of adequate food altogether.  Almost 10 million Americans, and a vast number of elderly persons live below the poverty level.   The figures of the homeless and hungry in the United States are enormous, while the government neglects its own citizens, leaving many to starve, and beg, while squandering 1 trillion dollars on developing advanced nuclear weapons.

Resolution L.23 on the Human Rights Situation in the DPRK “underscores its very serious concern at the systematic abduction, denial of repatriation and subsequent enforced disappearance of persons, on a large scale and as a matter of state policy, including those from other countries…”

On November 14, 2016, in its report on Preliminary Examination Activities of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, prosecutor of the ICC is planning major investigation into war crimes tantamount to crimes against humanity committed by US soldiers in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The report states, section 211:

“Members of the US armed forces and CIA appear to have subjected numerous persons in Afghanistan, and others transported to secret prisons in Poland, Romania, Lithuania and elsewhere to torture, ‘outrages upon personal dignity and/or rape.”  The report states in section 212:  “These alleged crimes were not the abuses of a few isolated individuals,”  section 213 states:  “The office considers these alleged crimes were committed in furtherance of a policy or policies aimed at eliciting information through the use of interrogation techniques involving cruel or violent methods which would support US objectives.”  It is important to point out that Poland, Romania and Lithuania were among the co-sponsors of the resolution against the DPRK, and these  same countries were also the very sites of the notorious secret CIA prisons to which abducted prisoners were flown to be tortured.  These “co-sponsors” are accessories to war crimes.

L.23 accuses the DPRK of “all-pervasive and severe restrictions on freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief,…torture, imprisonment of individuals exercising their freedom of opinion, etc…”

The United Nations has imposed no sanctions against Saudi Arabia, which has inflicted a 10 year imprisonment and a punishment of 1,000 lashes upon journalist Raif Badawi, for criticizing Saudi Arabia’s hardline religious establishment.  Edward Snowden lives in exile for exercising his human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The UN has imposed no sanctions upon their countries which are violating the basic rights of their own citizens.

Resolution L.23 arbitrarily targets the DPRK in an attempt to fraudulently “justify” imposing further strangling sanctions on the DPRK, singled out for its nuclear program (though 9 other countries possess nuclear weapons, and one has already used them.)

It is therefore imperative to highlight the fact that the DPRK voted “Yes” on First Committee Resolution L.41:

“Taking Forward Multilateral Disarmament Negotiations,” which aims at the total prohibition of nuclear weapons.  This is indisputable evidence that the DPRK’s nuclear program is defensive, a protection against nuclear attack by the US.  It is also imperative to note that the US voted “No” on the very same resolution, again evidence that the US has no intention of giving up its own enormous and potentially world shattering nuclear arsenal, one of the most profitable industries, which essentially provokes and impels other nations to obtain nuclear weapons in defense against imminent or potential attack.

DPRK is a socialist country, and the ferocious determination of capitalist powers to obliterate socialism, despite strong evidence that capitalist economies are failing to provide the basic necessities of life for their citizens, is threatening world stability.  And despite the fact that the barbarous UN Security Council Resolution 2270 sanctions have inflicted enormous economic hardship and suffering on the people of the DPRK, their government remains committed to universal free medical care, free education, free housing and equality between men and women.

Resolution 2270 is based almost exclusively on the widely discredited Commission of Inquiry which contains statements by defectors, highly paid to concoct gruesome and false statements of human rights violations within the DPRK, statements refuted by the defector community itself, and the central statement on which the Commission of Inquiry report is based was later repudiated by the very defector himself, Shin Dong-hyuk , who admitted he had lied and falsified his statements.

Section 2 of L.23 expresses

“very serious concern about discrimination “which classifies people on the basis of assigned social class or birth…”

It is important here to mention the 2016 report by the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Global Justice Clinic, New York University School of Law.  The report is entitled:  “Excessive Use of Force By the Police Against Black Americans in the United States.  Page 23 of the report states:

“Police violence which disproportionately affects black Americans, also intersects with discrimination based on socio-economic status, gender, mental health and sexual orientation and gender identity, among other factors.  The cities where some of the highest profile police killings have occurred in the past two years – including Ferguson, Missouri (where Michael Brown was shot dead by a police officer) and Baltimore, Maryland (where Freddie Gray died in police custody) are marked by long histories of economic inequality drawn along racial lines.  These persistent inequalities stem from both explicit government policies and implicit social dynamics.”

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic admitted that the report by the Commission of Inquiry, (which was based on statements by defectors highly paid to provide the salacious fabrications they understood were sought by the “inquiry,”)  does not meet the standard of proof required for consideration in court.

And directly contradicting the report of the Commission of Inquiry are reports by Dr. Brandon K. Gauthier, an American historian who recently traveled within the DPRK, and favorably described his impressions and regular interactions with citizens living within North Korea.  He described these “normal people living normal lives, as quite comfortable within their nation, and revealing little distress or fear,” contrary to the portrayal of the DPRK by Western propaganda.  Dr. Gauthier described, in a recently published article, how, witnessing the US-NATO devastation of Iraq and the demolition of Libya, followed by the extrajudicial murder of Khadafy, after he had renounced efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, convinced Kim Jong Il that “only one weapon could prevent the chance of a foreign attack on North Korea”:  a nuclear weapon.

And as a famous American mainstream media reporter, accredited to the UN was overheard saying to Chinese Ambassador Liu at a reception:

“If I were Kim Jong-un witnessing the attack on Libya, and the torture-murder of Khadafy, after he had abandoned their nuclear program, I’d hold on to my nukes!!!”

And recalling the 80 million bombs which, according to CNN on September 6, 2016, the US dropped on tiny Laos during the Vietnam war, one can understand the constant terror of suffering such an attack which is endured daily by the DPRK.

It is a courageous small progressive nation trying to survive in a struggle where they are David confronting Goliath.

Posted in USA, North KoreaComments Off on Human Rights Violations: North Korea vs. the U.S.

The Korean Peninsula within the Framework of US Global Hegemony


On 8 July 2016 it was announced in Seoul that the US would, as had long been anticipated, deploy an initial unit of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea.1 The announcement was made at a press conference hosted by the South Korean Deputy Minister of Defense Ryu Je-seung and the Chief of Staff of US Forces in Korea (USFK) who has the significant, if unfortunate, name of General Vandal. The decision did not attract much attention in the international media being overshadowed by the Brexit drama in Europe, shootings and electioneering in the US, and Obama’s last NATO summit in Warsaw.

General Thomas Vandal, the Chief of Staff for the US Forces in Korea and South Korea’s Deputy Minister Of Defense Ryu Je-seung announce the decision to deploy the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, at the Ministry of National Defense in Seoul, July 8. (Yonhap News)

The limited coverage however was definitely ‘on message’:

  • US and South Korea agree THAAD missile defence deployment (BBC)2
  • South Korea and US agree to deploy THAAD missile defence system (Guardian)3
  • Pentagon to deploy anti-missile system in South Korea (Washington Post)4
  • South Korea and US Agree to Deploy Missile Defense System (New York Times)5

It was Reuters which delivered the whole message in the headline:

South Korea, US Agree to Deploy THAAD Missile Defense to Counter North Korea Threat6

So, the message goes, we have two equal allies–South Korea and the US (and that is often the order in which they are given) –who after much deliberation are stationing this segment of Missile Defense precisely to defend South Korea against a belligerent North Korea. It must be admitted that China7 and Russia8 are making a bit of a fuss although it has been patiently explained many times that the sole purpose of THAAD was, as Minister Yoo reiterated at the press conference “to guarantee the security of [South Korea] and its people from the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles” and is “not aimed at a third country”9. Indeed, Jane Perlez suggested in the New York Times, China was peeved because the deployment show that despite its attempts to woo Seoul ‘Ms. Park’s government showed that it was embracing its alliance with Washington more than ever, and that it would rely less on China to keep North Korea and its nuclear arsenal at bay.’10

However, a little burrowing beneath the surface reveals that the reality is very different from the official US and South Korean government line so assiduously reported by the media.

There are, for a start, serious doubts amongst experts that THAAD would in fact be effective against North Korean missiles. Even those in the military-industrial-security complex such as Michael Elleman formerly of the US Department of Defense and now with the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) who is, by profession, ‘pro-THAAD’ cautions that it would not offer complete protection.

Adding THAAD to missile-defense deployments that already include Patriot systems would likely substantially enhance South Korea’s capacity to minimize the damage caused by a large North Korean missile attack. However, it is important to note that a layered defense will not be able to completely block such an attack. As a result, missiles armed with nuclear weapons could cause significant casualties as well as damage in the South.11

A similar point is made by Garth McLennan, who refers to the technique of haystacking where a large number of missiles are fired, only a few of which have nuclear warheads (because they are in short supply). The nuclear component then becomes a needle in a haystack:

THAAD would not, however, serve as an effective tool in countering a North Korean nuclear strike if such an attack were haystacked among a barrage of conventional warheads.12

A more trenchant, and independent critic, is Theodore Postol, emeritus professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who is frequently cited by the liberal Seoul newspaper Hankyoreh.13 Postol argues that North Korea could make its missiles tumble or fragment in flight in order to confuse THAAD and hence penetrate defences.14

There appears to be a consensus amongst experts that despite claims by the South Korean Defense Minister a single THAAD unit would be ineffective against Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMS) because it only has a 120 degrees azimuth, or window, and since SLBMs can be launched from any direction it would be necessary to have at least three to cover the whole 360 degrees.15

THAAD on the Korean peninsula, used for detecting Chinese ICBM (hypothetical)16

Then there is the question of where the THAAD unit would be stationed. The right wing Chosun Ilbo has expressed concern that it would be positioned to protect US bases, rather than Seoul.17

Postol concludes, in a lengthy technical presentation given at Harvard, that “The claim that the US is aiming its missile defense at North Korea is simply nonsense.18

If THAAD offers little or no protection against North Korea’s missiles, why the deployment? The answer lies in THAAD’s AN/TPY-2 radar system which can penetrate deep into China, and Russia.19 Postol explains:

The Chinese are concerned about the THAAD radar because it was designed from its beginning to provide cuing information to the US National Missile Defense. The placement of a THAAD radar in South Korea has the unambiguous technical appearance of placing the radar in a location where it can provide track information on Chinese ICBMs before they rise over the curved earth-horizon and can be seen by the main radars of the US National Missile Defense in Alaska…

South Korea will get no military benefit from the THAAD defense system, and China will consider the radar‘s deployment to South Korea as a hostile act by South Korea against China. It therefore has a significant negative impact on South Korean/Chinese relations, with essentially no real benefit to South Korea.20

Russia has warned that it ‘could deploy missile bases to its Far East region that would be within reach of THAAD bases in South Korea’.21

China has gone further in an editorial in the authoritative Communist Party newspaper Global Times, which outlined a number of measures in response to the THAAD deployment:

We recommend China to take the following countermeasures.

  • China should cut off economic ties with companies involved with the system and ban their products from entering the Chinese market.
  • It could also implement sanctions on politicians who advocated the deployment, ban their entry into China as well as their family business.
  • In addition, the Chinese military could come up with a solution that minimizes the threat posed by the system, such as technical disturbances and targeting missiles toward the THAAD system.
  • Meanwhile, China should also re-evaluate the long-term impact in Northeast Asia of the sanctions on North Korea, concerning the link between the sanctions and the imbalance after the THAAD system is deployed.
  • China can also consider the possibility of joint actions with Russia with countermeasures. 22

The enormous implications of these measures are obvious. For one thing it seems likely that the deployment, combined with US containment of China in the South China Sea, will reinforce Chinese rethinking of its conciliatory policy over the Korean issue.

In South Korea there have been serious concerns raised about the commercial impact of the response from China, its major economic partner. The Korea Times, in an article entitled ‘Businesses fear backlash from China’ reported:

Company officials and analysts expressed concern that THAAD may stoke anti-Korean sentiment in the neighboring country.

They also said business ties with China could worsen, heightening uncertainties about the Korean economy.

“The THAAD issue is more about politics and diplomacy, but it could hurt Chinese consumer sentiment about Korean products,” Hyundai Securities analyst Kwak Byeong-yeol said.

Company officials expressed worries over retaliatory actions such as higher tariffs and stricter rules on some Korean products manufactured in China.23

South Korean companies exporting to, or producing in China, would not be the only casualties. There is also tourism. The Hankyoreh noted that

What the South Korean government and business are most concerned about in connection with the THAAD debate are economic sanctions. China is by far South Korea’s number one export market, accounting for 26% of exports as of 2015 – a figure that rises to 31.8% if Hong Kong (5.8%) is included.

Last year, 45% (6 million) of foreign visitors to South Korea were Chinese, and they are lavish consumers, spending five times more than the average foreign tourist’s expenditures (US$400). Chinese investors hold 17.5 trillion won (US$15.22 billion, 18.1%) in government bonds and other publicly traded securities in South Korea, more than any other country. Furthermore, around 23,000 South Korean companies were doing business in China as of 2013. Sanctions from China would deliver a body blow to the South Korean economy.24

So we have a situation where the South Korea government has, it claims, willingly agreed to the deployment of a weapon system which will afford it little or no protection against North Korea, but will exacerbate North-South tensions which are already at highest level in decades.25 THAAD will inevitably increase the danger of South Korea being a target of Chinese and Russia counterattack in the case of war.26 And in the meanwhile it is producing the likelihood of substantial damage to the South Korean economy as the relationship with China and Russia sours.27

The United States is inflaming the situation on the Korean peninsula, and worldwide. THAAD is clearly one part of a larger pattern. Obama at the NATO summit in Warsaw 8 July confirmed ‘Russia as implacable enemy No. 1, while Defense Secretary Carter’s recent campaign to up the military ante in the western Pacific casts China as a close No. 2.’28 At the same time Abe Shinzo, with another electoral victory under his belt continues his inexorable journey towards revision or ‘reinterpretation’ of the Japanese ‘peace constitution’ and the remilitarisation of Japan. 29 How do we explain the hysteria and the war-mongering? And, in the case of South Korea, the self-harm?

Choi Sun-sil depicted as a Shaman

A framework for analysis with the US at its core

In order to make sense of this and, lay the foundation for activism, as appropriate, we must contextualise and establish a framework for analysis. The starting point for this framework is that we must look in the right direction. Most writing and discussion on Korean peninsula issues focuses almost exclusively on North Korea. We are told of the North Korea problem, the North Korea threat, how North Korea, or the Kim family, is mad, bad, unpredictable, and so forth. The clue is to look at phrases such as the “Vietnam War”, the “Korean War”, “invasion of Afghanistan”, “invasion of Iraq”, and work out what they have in common; or rather what is left out that they have in common. The answer of course is the United States. The US is the common denominator.

No doubt some wise person thousands of years ago pointed out that we will not see the mountain, however high it may be, if we are looking in the wrong direction. And the American mountain is very high indeed. The US is the global colossus. It is the world’s major economy (although now overtaken in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms by China) and one relevant consequence of that has been its fondness for economic warfare. Physical sanctions may devastate a target economy without impinging on the far larger American one. The US had an embargo against China for 25 years without American business protesting; mind you they didn’t realise what they were missing out on. Sanctions on North Korea have been in place for some 70 years, with no apparent protest from American business. The US dominance in the international business and banking architecture makes financial sanctions very appealing; again they cause great damage without much cost to the US. 30American economic might means there is plenty of cash to buy friends and influence people. General David Petraeus claimed that ‘money is my most important ammunition in this [Iraq] war’ and this insight led to a US Army manual entitled Commander’s Guide to Money as a Weapons System.31 Vicky Nuland’s boast, in December 2013, just before the coup in the Ukraine, that they had ‘invested’ $5 billion in the Ukraine is one example; then there are all the stories of CIA operatives sashaying through Afghanistan and Iraq with dollars, not in fistfuls but in suitcases. 32

The US is uniquely blessed by nature, with extensive agricultural and mineral resources meaning it cannot be blockaded into submission, however strong a future enemy might be. It is protected by vast oceans east and west and bordered by small, non-threatening countries north and south and surrounded by a huge network of overseas bases.33 Despite this geographical invulnerability, the US spends on its military nearly as much as the rest of the world put together. If one adds to its military budget that of its ‘allies’ and compares that to the military wherewithal of potential adversaries the disproportion is staggering. At a rough calculation using data from the latest Military Balance assessment from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the military expenditure of US and its ‘allies’ is about $1 trillion a year. 34They outspend China seven times, Russia 15 times and North Korea somewhere between 100 times and, if one accepts the estimate of Pyongyang’s military budget made by the director of the South Korean Defence Intelligence Agency back in 2013, 1000 times.35

The United States also has immense Soft Power which includes diplomatic power and its domination of the global intellectual space which are linked together, the one feeding off the other.

The US has immense diplomatic power. Hence for instance all those dubious UN Security Council resolutions censuring North Korea, and violating the sovereignty of Libya, Yugoslavia, Iraq, or Iran.36 The US is able to bully, cajole or perhaps just instruct permanent and non-permanent members of the UNSC to commit egregious violations of the UN Charter, damaging its enemies and protecting its friends, such as Israel, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, and of course itself. Again its power is not absolute, but it is extraordinary.

The official US narrative not merely fashions Western media and academia but also much of that in Russia and China. If you look at Russian or Chinese media, in English at least, you will see that unless national interests are directly challenged – in Ukraine and Eastern Europe for the Russians and the South China Sea for the Chinese, the default position is to accept uncritically what the Western news agencies, and hence Western officials, portray. This, needless to say, only works one way. No Western newspaper would ever regurgitate a statement from Tass or Xinhua without inserting it in a political envelope telling the reader not to believe it.

As a result of this domination of the international intellectual space no one seems to blink when the US, with its thousand nuclear tests, fulminates against North Korea’s five, or with its myriad nuclear and conventional missiles, bombers, fighters, aircraft carriers, and submarines claims that it is being threatened by North Korea with its very limited and uncertain ability to project power far beyond its borders. This goes beyond hypocrisy and double standards into the construction of a special sort of unreality.

Of all countries in the world North Korea alone has been censured by the UNSC for launching satellites, and that on the strange ground that they utilised ballistic missile technology. Strange because not merely are all satellites launched by ballistic rockets, but ballistic missiles are not themselves illegal.37 How could they be when the US has so many of them?

There are various bilateral and multilateral agreements by which the US attempts to fortify its hegemony by managing the utilisation of missiles by other countries – there is, for instance, the limitation it has imposed on South Korean missiles (they don’t want Seoul attacking China without permission) but missiles per se are not prohibited Similarly for nuclear tests and weapons. There are various ‘voluntary’ agreements – the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the Non-Proliferation Treaty – but these are different in nature from, for instance, the prohibition on invading other countries which is enshrined in the United Nations Charter, and dates back to the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.38 In this regard the construction of North Korea as an international pariah is an expression of American power rather than, as is usually claimed, a result of the infringement of international law. In fact, the discriminatory charges against North Korea are themselves a violation of the norms of international law and the equal sovereignty of states.

American power means that nothing much happens in the world without the US being involved although that is frequently hidden. Sometimes it is the dominant actor, sometimes just an endorser, but the US is always there. This does not mean that the US is omnipotent. Indeed it is intriguing the way that clients sometimes have surprising leverage against the US One thinks of Syngman Rhee in South Korea the 1950s, or more recently Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. These are people who were installed by the US, had not much popular support and many domestic enemies, but nevertheless at times could disobey orders quite flagrantly. The client/master relationship is constantly being negotiated and is complex. However, if push comes to shove the master prevails, as Rhee found out in 1960.

Deciphering US global strategy

So, in analysing world affairs the starting point must be the US What does America want? That, needless to say, often bears little connection with what it proclaims as its objective. Analysis must be hard-nosed looking beyond the spin and rhetoric, focussing on actions and seeking real explanations. When we have some idea of America’s position we can start looking at the other players, in descending order of importance. For most countries, most of the time, the United States is their major strategic partner-cum-adversary. They tend to tailor their policy in relation to third countries in the light of their political relationship with the United States. However for many countries, and South Korea is by no means alone, there is the dilemma of reconciling the economic importance of China with the relationship with the US.39 At the same time we must presume that Washington has a global grand strategy (however incoherent and subject to various factions that may be) and that this strategy prioritises and subordinates the part to the whole.

US Vice President Joe Biden clasps hands with President Park Geun-hye at the Blue House before Biden signs the visitor’s book, Dec. 6. (Blue House photo pool)40

The failure to put the US at the core of geopolitical analysis is a fundamental reason why so much writing on the Korean peninsula is usually off the mark. We have innumerable websites and NGOs, books and articles focusing on North Korea, often with little attention paid to the US, other than considering what effect North Korea, and often ‘the North Korean threat’ has on America. Looking in the wrong direction, asking the wrong questions, they get misleading or meaningless answers. Associated with this, and arguably a result of it, is the fact that virtually all the experts, all the pundits we hear from are, to use Perry Anderson’s term ‘state functionaries’. 41He was talking about American experts on China but the same term can be applied to American experts on Korea, and much the same holds for experts from Britain, Russia, and China. Most of these experts either currently work for the US government or have in the past – in the CIA, Defence, or State usually. If they are former employees they now work for think tanks or NGOs which are, to put it politely, state-aligned. Even academics are constrained by the desire for research funding. There are very few neutral, dispassionate, disinterested (in the proper meaning of the term) voices. One simpler indicator is that virtually all of them express horror at the idea of North Korea having nuclear weapons but few have any qualms about the US and its arsenal. They tend to view the prospect of the US attacking North Korea with moral equanimity. There are, of course, honourable exceptions. Donald Gregg, former CIA operative and George H. Bush’s ambassador to South Korea has become a leading advocate of engagement, as well as offering a critical perspective on US policy.42 James Hoare, the British diplomat (and Korean scholar) who opened the British mission in Pyongyang.43 Robert Carlin, with a background in the CIA and State Department, who offers such interesting insights into US negotiations with North Korea.44

The Korean peninsula in US strategy

Why is the US interested in the Korean peninsula? The answer is location. Korea is the most valuable piece of geopolitical real estate in the world. It is the nexus where most of the great powers meet and contend. China and Russia share a land border with Korea, Japan is separated by a small sea, and although the Pacific is a large ocean it is also ‘the American lake’. None of these powers want a unified Korea subservient to any of the others and since the US is by far the most powerful it has the most pro-active policy. The US is also different in that it alone, at the moment, has aspirations for global hegemony. This means keeping Japan subservient, and containing China and Russia with the longer term aim of fragmenting them so that they are no longer competitors. It is easy to see how Korea fits in with these strategic objectives. As a physical location it provides bases adjacent to China and Russia and whilst the number of troops permanently deployed in South Korea is small, one of the functions of the joint exercises with the ROK is to practice the rapid influx of massive reinforcements. Japan fulfils the same role.

As an aside it might be noted that Korea also provides a base for keeping an eye on Japan. Whilst the US has been an enthusiastic supporter of Japanese remilitarisation, thinking in terms of the containment of China, it is possible this may change. A remilitarised Japan (and it should be remembered that Japan has the expertise to rapidly develop nuclear weapons and delivery systems that might well be superior to China’s), made a ‘normal’ country again, may want to assert its independence from the US. As Palmerston remarked, back in the nineteenth century, countries don’t have perpetual friends and enemies, merely perpetual interests.45

In the meantime Japan remains America’s main asset in East Asia and an important aspect of the US presence in the southern part of the Korean peninsula, dating from 1945, is its function as a bulwark protecting Japan from any military threat from the Asian mainland. In 1945 that meant the Soviet Union but as time passed China has been perceived as the bigger threat. However the military facet is less important than the political one. The US has to be concerned that Japan does not become too friendly with its Asian neighbours, South Korea and Taiwan being obvious, but ultimately perhaps partial, exceptions. This concern was well illustrated by the ‘Dulles Warning’ of 1956 when Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, alarmed at peace treaty negotiations between Japan and the Soviet Union, threatened that the US would not relinquish Okinawa if Japan went ahead by agreeing to a Soviet proposal for a compromise solution to the territorial dispute (Kurils/Northern Territories) between the two countries. Dulles was also worried that if Japan concluded a peace treaty with the Soviet Union this might lead to a normalisation of relations with China.46 Dulles got his way and relations between Japan and Russia are still bedevilled by territorial disputes, as are Japan’s relations with China.47 Fears that Prime Minister Koizumi’s visit to Pyongyang in 2002 might lead to a rapprochement with North Korea may have been the trigger that led to the Bush administration’s abrogation of the Agreed Framework.48 Japan is the jewel in America’s East Asian crown, but the Korean peninsula has been regarded as essential to its protection.

The Korean peninsula not merely provides the US with physical bases for its military; it provides access to a huge reservoir of Korean military assets. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies( IISS) report, Military Balance 2016, South Korea has a total troop complement – that is the combination of service personnel and reserves – of about 5.1 million. For comparison this is 2.6 times as much as that of North Korea’s ostensible 2 million, considerably more than America’s 2.2 million and quite a bit more than China’s 3.5 million.49 As an aside it might be noted that South Korean scholars using census data estimate the North Korean armed forces at about 700,000.50 In addition, it is claimed that 400,000 are engaged full time in construction. 51 Which leaves about 300,000 for ordinary soldiering, rather less that the IISS estimate of 1.19 million.

Because of interoperability, these South Korean troops can fight alongside America, under American command, but probably can’t operate on their own in a major war. The Joint military exercises such as Key Resolve, Foal Eagle and Ssang Yong are described as defensive to deter North Korean aggression. Given North Korea’s incredible military inferiority against the US-led forces this is obviously a pretext. The exercises practise more than the invasion of the North. The Chosun Ilbo which, like Donald Trump sometimes blurts out an inconvenient truth, recently made this comment about the exercises:

The underlying aim is to bring South Korea, Australia, Japan and the US closer together to thwart China’s military expansion in the Pacific.52

When the United States looks at Korea, it sees China.

The 20th CBRNE Command (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives) is participating in Exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian in South Korea, Aug. 17 – 28. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Antwaun J. Parrish, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)53

So it is clear that for the Unites States the Korean peninsula is hugely important. This is partly in its own right – its 75 million people put it on a par with Germany or France. However its main significance to the US is that it is a strategic asset in its confrontation with China, and to a lesser extent, Russia. If the peninsula could be detached from the Asian mainland, towed down to the South Pacific and parked near New Zealand, then the US would be far less interested. We would not have had the division of Korea, the war, or the militarisation of the peninsula and of Japan.54

All this means that the US’s North Korea policy, and hence its South Korea policy, must be seen within the context of its struggle with China, and Russia. In 1945 when the US had the peninsula divided its main concern was the Soviet Union. At that time the US ‘owned’ China, through Chiang Kai-shek. This changed over time and now China is the major component in its East Asia strategy. However Russia should not be overlooked. The US is a global power, and Russia straddles Europe and Asia, and although it is the European face of Russia which concerns the US, it is its Asian side which is most vulnerable.

To recap, the US’s Korea strategy is a component of its global strategy, and China is the major focus of that, with Russia coming in behind. North Korea is important because of the role it has in that strategy; it is not really important in itself. So, if for instance, the US decided that good relations with North Korea would better serve its containment of China than the present hostility – by no means a foolish idea – then its Korea policy would change, whatever the screams in Seoul.

US North Korea policy

What, then, is the US’s North Korea policy? Most people, left or right, find that easy to answer. It sees North Korea’s nuclear programme threatening and its focus is the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. The reality is not quite so straightforward. For one thing US hostility long preceded North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons. More important and telling is the fact that there has never been a serious, bipartisan, and sustained attempt to negotiate with Pyongyang on the issue. There was, indeed, the Agreed Framework of 1994 but that was sabotaged by the Republicans while out of the White House, and torn up by them, by George W Bush, when they did hold the presidency. Bush did go through the motions of negotiating for some years, but despite North Korean gestures such as blowing up the cooling tower of its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon in 2008, these came to naught. Obama, under the rubric of ‘strategic patience’ has refused to negotiate. To some extent this history can be ascribed to infighting within the power elite, and between government agencies; for instance Treasury’s actions against Banca Delta Asia which scuttled the negotiations for some time. American governments are also reluctant to negotiate with adversaries because negotiation implies compromise, thus exposing themselves to charges of being soft and unpatriotic by opponents – Trump, Cruz, Rubio, et al. However, underlying this is a fundamental strategic dilemma.

Some argue that the US could easily negotiate a deal by offering a grand bargain where it guaranteed North Korea’s security with perhaps the concession of allowing Pyongyang to retain its present, probably inoperable and certainly tiny, nuclear deterrent. Sig Hecker’s ‘The Three No’s’ is an example of this – ‘no new weapons, no better weapons, no transfer of nuclear technology.’ 55 With Libya in mind, let alone the abrogation of the Agreed Framework, it is difficult to see how the US could offer credible guarantees, even if it wanted to. But it is scarcely likely that it wants to. North Korea’s major threat to the US is not its nuclear weapons but its proposal for a peace treaty. If North Korea, by developing a nuclear deterrent, by building a formidable, but primarily defensive, military, by refusing to buckle down under sanctions and having the temerity to launch satellites – if North Korea by doing all this is able to force the US into accepting peaceful coexistence then its example might be followed by others. The one thing empires detest above all else is independence; that and its brother, rebellion. It was for this crime that the Roman Empire reserved crucifixion. 56North Korea’s success would also have implications for China and Russia in their struggle with the US

Having said that, the US would probably negotiate if it were genuinely concerned that North Korea’s nuclear weapons presented a serious threat. It seems that despite the posturing, they do not. Firstly it is a deterrent, not an offensive weapon, so if North Korea is not attacked then it does not come into play. Barring accidents, the initiative lies with Washington. Secondly, there is no evidence that North Korea can actually deliver a nuclear weapon, certainly not to substantial US territory. This may change; miniaturization may proceed beyond photo opportunities, and an ICBM may someday be tested. Thirdly, the US, bolstered by its allies, has overwhelming military superiority. For the moment there is no pressing need to negotiate.

This brings us back to China policy. If the US did negotiate a peace treaty, or if it were able to invade and conquer North Korea and extend Seoul’s administration up towards the Yalu (under an American general of course) without provoking a Chinese intervention, what would this do to its China policy? If China did intervene then we would have a second Sino-American war, with all that might entail. But leaving aside that possibility and just considering the implications of a peaceful Korean peninsula we immediately see problems in justifying the US military presence, and missile defences. How would the US keep South Korea cooperating with the containment of China at great cost to itself without a North Korean threat? 57

It seems that the present situation of managed tension serves US policy towards China (and towards Russia) very well. Going to war to remove North Korea’s nuclear weapons would be perilous, negotiating them away by accepting peaceful coexistence might be even more problematic for US global interests should other small countries follow North Korea’s example.

China and Russia – shared predicaments, common strategies

There are considerable differences between China and Russia but the most relevant in this context is the huge economic interpenetration of the Chinese and US economies. The US, and in particular Hillary Clinton appear to contemplate the economic consequences of war with Russia with so little concern that it seems never to be mentioned.58 China is different. It is plausibly argued that for various geo-economic and geopolitical reasons China would suffer much more than the US in the event of war. Much of US trade would be impervious to Chinese action while Chinese trade, especially imports of oil, are vulnerable to US interdiction.59 These are the strategic reasons behind China’s drive to develop rail and road links across Eurasia; the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to provide a more secure gateway for Middle East Oil, and rail links to the European market.60 They also underlay America’s interest in the South China Sea.61

Whilst economic considerations may be a restraint, especially in respect of China, it would be foolish to lay too much hope on economic rationality. Norma Angell famously argued in The Great Illusion that the consequences of ripping up the economic interdependence that by then existed between states made war obsolete. That book was published in 1910, on the eve of the Great War’.62

Despite their differences what China and Russia have in common is more relevant in this context. Both are competitors to the Unites States and so both are targets of US global strategy. In addition, both are resurgent states. Russia is recovering from the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the Yeltsin years, and China from the 19th century meltdown of the Qing dynasty. Other things being equal, this means that both are getting stronger relative to the US, but both are currently very much weaker, Russia of course more than China.63But the shift in relative power means that the US has an incentive to go to war earlier rather than later, while for China and Russia the longer they can delay any such clash the better. This in itself does not mean that the US will attack either of them, although there is plenty of conjecture from all quarters on that. However, current weakness combined with the likelihood of greater security in the future, as the balance of military power moves against the US does present both China and Russia with a shared predicament.64 How do they cope with an America in relative decline, but which is still very strong, has a history of aggressiveness and, the current presidential campaign suggests, may be more adventurist in the future.65

This surely is no easy matter. It requires cool and calm judgement in balancing the need to be firm on core issues while giving the United States neither cause nor pretext to attack on more peripheral ones. But what is core and what is peripheral? And where does Korea fit in?

It is often said that the Korean peninsula is the most likely place for conflict between the United States and China (though the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea are also candidates). For Russia it is more likely to be Eastern Europe or Syria, but a war in Korea would involve Russia to some degree. It is also the place where Russia is most vulnerable. Whilst the US keeps a pretty firm grip on South Korea (it does have wartime control of its military for example66) China has little leverage over North Korea and Russia even less. So while the US can ratchet tension up and down as it requires, neither China nor Russia have much control over Korean events; an unenviable strategic position to be in.67

However, whilst recognising the dilemma they face it can be argued that they have erred on the side of timidity, even perhaps appeasement, especially in relation to the UN Security Council. They were both complicit in voting for UNSC resolutions censuring North Korea for actions which were quite legal such as attempting to launch a satellite.68 They have done this on other occasions; Libya comes to mind, but they seem to have learnt a lesson from that and have stood firmer on the issue of Syria. UNSC resolutions against North Korea stretch back to 1950, when unfortunately the Soviet Union absented itself and was not in a position to utilise its veto to defeat the US’s resolution to go to war in Korea, but the modern series of resolutions date from an attempted satellite launch in 2006.69Once having accepted that a satellite launch by North Korea was sui generis and uniquely a violation of the UN Charter they have been on a slippery slope with no way back.

The word ‘appeasement’ is often used loosely in order to condemn compromises which are the natural consequence of negotiations between adversaries of some degree of equality. Country A makes a demand of country B. If country B complies will that be the end of the matter; indeed will A reciprocate with a gesture of good faith? If so, well and good. However, if country A’s demands are really stepping stones on the way to an objective – perhaps the enfeeblement or destruction of B – then giving way only whets its appetite.

The problem for China is that America’s North Korea policy is really aimed at it itself. As Kim Ji-suk puts it ’Even when the US points at North Korea, we should understand that it is really aiming at China’.70 This means that concession does not solve the problem, but probably exacerbates it. The same, with obvious differences, applies to Russia.

It might be argued that China, and Russia, have followed a strategy in the UNSC of conciliation rather than confrontation. Given that the present composition of the Council automatically favours the United States they would have either been defeated or forced to use the veto which both, though China more than Russia, have been loath to do. Instead they have negotiated a softening of the resolutions and then not implemented them vigorously. 71 This has not been a wise strategy because it means they are constantly on the defensive. North Korea will remain intransigent, because it has no choice, and the US will continue its pressure. Putin’s response to the US-assisted coup in Ukraine and the US-assisted crisis in Syria offers lessons. Nimble footwork and countermeasures, a judicious amount of military intervention, both in quantity and duration, while at the same time restraining criticism of America with plenty of face-saving gestures.72 Even so it is reported that he is coming under pressure to take a firmer stand against the US.73

China, supported by Russia, calls for the resurrection of the Six Party Talks as a solution to the problem. 74 However, the Six Party Talks are probably dead, partly because as explained above the US has little interest in negotiating with North Korea but also because the Obama administration concluded that Bush had made a strategic mistake in agreeing to them in the first place. Allowing China, your main competitor, to chair and host the major security forum in East Asia while you, and your allies Japan and South Korea, sit on the second tier with North Korea and Russia was not a smart move. The US can go in either of two directions. One is to expand the number of countries in the talks to dilute China’s role.75 The other direction is the bilateral one, which has been much discussed over the years.76

China’s contortions, and those of Russia, have been painful to watch. They have condemned North Korea for its violations of the UNSC resolutions forbidding satellite launches and nuclear tests, but they are partly responsible for the resolutions in the first place. They are also partly responsible for the nuclear tests. The United States does provide security and a nuclear umbrella for South Korea. Because it is a master-client relationship it has been able to prevent the South developing nuclear weapons in the past, during Park Chung-Hee’s time, and will surely do so in the future despite Trump’s comments during the election campaign.77 Neither China nor Russia provides real security assurances, or a nuclear umbrella, to North Korea, so they can scarcely be surprised if it attempts to look after itself. To be fair, the United States is far superior in military terms and they perhaps cannot be expected to match America’s muscular approach. This leaves China in particular in a vulnerable, defensive position where the initiative is in America’s hands. Foreign Minister Wang Yi has warned that “As the largest neighbour of the peninsula, China will not sit by and see a fundamental disruption to stability [there], and will not sit by and see unwarranted damages to China’s security interests.” 78.

But what does this mean in practice? Is he saying that if the US does invade North Korea, China will intervene? If so, surely it would be wise for China to be more explicit. It should be recalled that in 1950, with no direct communication with the US, China conveyed a message through Indian Ambassador K. M. Panikkar that it would intervene if US forces invaded the North and moved towards the Yalu. Washington did not hear, did not listen, or just ignored that warning.79 The first Sino-American War ensued. Will history repeat itself for a lack of a clear understanding of the consequences of invasion?

If, however, the U S decides that now is the time to give resurgent China a bloody nose, explicit warnings will be irrelevant. Starting the conflict in Korea would give the US signal advantages, not available elsewhere. It would automatically bring in the formidable South Korean military, with the world’s largest reservoir of military manpower. It would certainly utilise Japan, whose military budget is 25% higher that South Korea’s and whose air and seapower is reputedly superior to China’s.80

Japan – leveraging the Korean situation for remilitarisation

Japan’s position in all this is relatively straightforward. The conservative Liberal Democratic Party has long sought to remilitarise, to shed itself of the constraints of Article 9 of the ‘Peace Constitution’ imposed by the US after its defeat in 1945, and so become a ‘normal’ nation again. This process has accelerated under Abe Shinzo.81 It has used the Korean situation, and the perceived ‘North Korean threat,’ buttressed by a good dose of Japanese colonial racism as a pretext for remilitarisation.82 This has been supported by the US, not in respect of North Korea, where it is scarcely needed except as a place for bases, but as a bulwark against China.83 Japan’s recent eagerness to join in conflict on the Korean peninsula, however, has caused considerable anguish in Seoul.84 Fighting fellow Koreans under an American general is bad enough, but for South Korea soldiers to fight alongside Japanese troops would be a public relations disaster.

South Korea – the pivot which did not turn

When Lee Myung-bak’s term of office came to an end in 2013 it seem reasonable to suppose that whoever succeeded him there would be a shift in North Korea policy. His policy had been such a disaster that it seemed that the new president would move in some ways to correct things. Lee had increased the danger of war, and his sanctions had damaged the South Korean economy while pushing the North’s into the hands of China. Even on his own terms nothing had been achieved.

Whilst Park was less likely than a progressive to want to improve the relationship with the North she has a distinct advantage in being able to do so, if she wishes. Just as Nixon, with his anti-Communist reputation could go to Beijing and play the ‘China card’ against the Soviet Union without being accused of being ‘soft on Commies’ so too could Park, as the daughter of the late anti-Communist dictator, Park Chung Hee, engage Pyongyang in ways that the more liberal Moon Jae-in (her opponent in the 2012 presidential election) could not.

Back in 2011, before the election President Park published an article in Foreign Affairs entitled ‘A new kind of Korea: building trust between Seoul and Pyongyang’ where she talked about ‘Trustpolitik.’85 That, and the phrase ‘peaceful unification’ was often on her lips; a notable occasion being her speech in Dresden in 2014.86 She described unification as a ‘bonanza’ and described her dream, stolen in fact from Kim Dae-jung, of a Eurasian land bridge through the Koreas and Russia through to Western Europe. 87The words still live on. Yet her actions have always belied her words.

Obviously, if she had been serious about building trust she would have cancelled the May 24 Sanctions, have built economic and social links between South and North, and have at least attempted to curtail the joint military exercises88. She did none of those things. On the contrary, she has now done what Lee couldn’t do, and closed down the Kaesong industrial Park, and the current exercises are larger than ever. It is commonly agreed that she has brought inter-Korean relations to a nadir. The Cheonan and Yeonpyeong incidents of 2010 were spurious but they did provide Lee with an alleged justification for his actions.89 Nothing comparable has happened during Park’s term of office. The things that did happen, and were seized upon by her to escalate tension with the North, related primarily not to South Korea but to the United States. Long range missile development and nuclear tests were a response to US policy and had little to do with South Korea in itself. The exception was the satellite launch programme which was in fact part of North-South competition. 90But even this was construed, incorrectly, as the development of an ICBM aimed at the United States.91 And an ICBM, by definition, was not relevant to inter-Korean combat.

Park Geun-hye aside South Korea remains what might be called a ‘pivot state’. All the other actors in this drama, from the US through to North Korea, have their lines written for them. The United States is an empire and will do what empires do. It has many options within that characterisation but the general thrust is fairly ineluctable. Mao Zedong once said that we shouldn’t expect imperialism to put down its butcher’s knife and become a Buddha. Conceivably it could, but it won’t. North Korea is a vulnerable target state and will do what it can to defend itself, wisely or unwisely. It has few options and cannot avoid the role it has to play.

South Korea is different. Born as a client state of the US from the ruins of the Japanese empire it now has considerable economic and social strength. It has options. It can make choices. It can, at its most brutal, choose between putting Korea first or serving the US. Roh Moo-hyun, in a rather sad exchange with Kim Jong Il at their 2007 summit described how he was attempting to make gradual moves towards autonomy from the US. 92 He did not succeed but the challenge is still on the agenda.

Park Geun-hye’s administration has not been a happy or successful one. South Korea is beset with economic problems, due in part to encroaching Chinese competition. 93 It is reported that ‘Most Koreans Feel Economy Is in Crisis’.94 There is a general lack of manufacturing competitiveness against Japan and China.95 Key South Korean industries such as shipbuilding96, shipping97, automobiles98, and overseas construction99 are faltering, with some top companies going into receivership. Dreams of Seoul becoming an East Asian financial hub are fading.100 Samsung’s woes with its ‘exploding’ Galaxy Note 7 smartphone have captured headlines around the world but an editorial in the Chosun Ilbo suggested that the problems lie deep and are symptomatic of much of the South Korean economy – 3rd generation chaebols which cannot cope with competition from China, and a political class so entangled with them that it cannot seek solutions.

South Korea has social problems common to many countries – corruption, ageing society, lack of meaningful employment, nepotism, and limited social mobility.101 However the problems are felt to be so pressing and intractable that young people have coined a term for their country: ‘Hell Joseon’ (variously ‘Hell Chosun’ and ‘Hell Korea’).102

All countries tend to utilise foreign threat – real , imagined, or exaggerated- to divert attention from domestic problems but for South Korea this has been so inbuilt by historical circumstance that it is more part of the political fabric than is the case in most other places. Conservative politicians, and Park Geun-hye, is no exception are prone to use the ‘North Wind’ – the perceived threat from North Korea – both for electoral advantage and for diversion.

Under Park Geun-hye South Korea’s foreign relations have followed a distinct pattern, reminiscent of the Cold War and a definite regression since the days of Roh Moo-hyun’s attempt to position the country as a ‘balancer’.103 The relationship with North Korea is the worst it has been in decades. That with Japan is bedevilled by the ghost of Japanese colonialism, exemplified by the ‘comfort women’ issue, territorial disputes and lingering mutual antipathy. Park Geun-hye, under American pressure, has given into Japan over the comfort women issue.104 That, though galling, is mainly symbolic. More important she has antagonised China, and Russia, over the proposed deployment of THAAD missiles in South Korea. This is not a temporary irritant because THAAD is just a stage in the incorporation of South Korea into the US missile defense architecture, so the problem will not fade away, but rather grow.105 This in itself is important, but it is also a symbol of a deeper and continuing dilemma. The United States sees South Korea as a pawn in its struggle against China, and Russia. Pawns, as we know, sometimes survive but are often sacrificed.

The one country with whom relations have blossomed during her tenure in office is the United States, and therein lies the root of Park’s failure. She has shown herself willing to sacrifice the interests of Korea to those of the United States, with THAAD being the most prominent recent example.

Early revelations, with presumably more to come, on the role played by Choi Sun-sil (also transliterated Choi Soon-sil), Park Geun-hye’s ‘Shaman confidante’ in influencing policy towards North Korea are shedding new light on this strange, rather dysfunctional administration.106 Choi Sun-sil inherited her relationship with the Park family, father and daughter, from her father Choi Tae-min, who was labelled in State Department cable, Korea’s Rasputin.107

President Park Geun-hye, center, who served as first lady for her father President Park Chung-hee, left, after her mother was assassinated, speaks to Choi Tae-min, her mentor and the father of Choi Soon-sil, at a hospital owned by Guguk (save-the-nation) missionary group, set up by the senior Choi, in 1976. / Korea Times file

In particular it is alleged that Choi Sun-sil was instrumental in the closure of the Kaesong Industrial Park, and propagated the myth of North Korea’s imminent collapse.108 Obama’s policy of ‘Strategic Patience’ is widely supposed to have been based on the collapse myth – no negotiations with North Korea were necessary because collapse was just around the corner.109 We are left with the intriguing possibility that recent US policy towards North Korea has been based on Shamanistic prediction, unconsciously echoing the Reagans’ predilection for astrology.110

North Korea – limited options of a target state

Most writers put North Korea first; here it is last because there is less to say. There are few options to discuss.

Militarily speaking, as we have seen, North Korea is vulnerable and far inferior to its adversaries who outspend it from a hundred to a thousand times. It has survived sanctions so far – some 70 years and counting – but that is to a large degree due to uncertain and undependable Chinese policy.

There are many things about North Korea policy that are difficult to fathom. It is unclear, for instance, why Kim Jong Un has not worked harder at relations with China and Russia. There may be good, but unknown reasons, why he did not attend the anniversary celebrations in Moscow and Beijing in 2015, leaving the stage to Park Geun-hye.111Why, with his overseas education did he not do anything to reform North Korea’s notoriously dysfunctional foreign communications/propaganda apparatus? Having lived in Switzerland he must have been aware of how superbly the Americans do these sorts of things. Lack of resources is clearly an issue and frankly however sophisticated and adroit the communications became it would not make much difference to the way that North Korea is portrayed in the mainstream Western media.112 The Russians run a pretty sophisticated show but that has not stopped the demonization of Putin and the vilification of Russia. But it would help on the margins. Then there are the ridiculously excessive prison sentences imposed on foreigners, most of whom are seemingly mentally unstable or pawns, for petty crimes.113 There is a long list.

Nevertheless these are relatively minor matters compared with the overriding reality of the problems that North Korea faces, circumstances forged by geography and history, and forged primarily, but not exclusively, by US policy. If South Korea can be seen as a pivot state with some freedom of action to develop autonomy, North Korea can be thought of as a responsive state whose main challenge is how to cope with the United States. It cannot deflect or ignore American hostility, but it must respond to it.

North Korea is constantly portrayed as a threat to the United States.114 In military terms it could conceivably be considered as a threat to South Korea on its own (but not in alliance with the US), although the South is very much stronger. However given the huge disparity in power between the US, buttressed by its allies, its bases, and with its geographic invulnerability the assertion of a North Korea threat is nonsense. It is a belief produced by unrelenting propaganda and indoctrination which even a cursory examination of reality should dispel. It is part of a pattern in which the US is depicted as threatened by countries which are far weaker and have absolutely no ability to project power to attack it – Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Iran come immediately to mind.

North Korea cannot threaten the US, but the US certainly does threaten North Korea and has waged war against it since the late 1940s.

First of all North Korea is constantly under military threat – the frequent joint military exercises with South Korea, increasingly involving Japan,115 are just one example – and is subject to continual economic, propaganda, and psychological warfare.116 Sometimes this is relatively straightforward with physical and financial sanctions. Occasionally it is very petty as illustrated by a couple of stories from Japan, one of a South Korean who was arrested for sending sweets, garments, dishes, spoons and forks to North Korea and another of the Chinese woman arrested for selling knitwear.117 Sometimes the warfare is more invidious. Recently there were media stories from Australia of goods for the sports clothing company Rip Curl being made in Pyongyang by ‘slave labour’.118 Unnerved by the hype, Rip Curl apologised and cancelled the contract. Perhaps the unfortunate textile workers in Pyongyang lost their jobs – which were probably highly prized – just like those of their compatriots in Kaesong.

‘Slave labour’ is also a term used in respect of North Koreans working abroad and whilst the propaganda has been around for some time, 2016 has seen a concerted push by the US. The intention is to dissuade countries from permitting the employment of North Korea citizens by a mix of bilateral pressure and action through the United Nations.119 It is unclear how much remittances from overseas workers contribute to the North Korean economy. The South Korean Ministry of Unification estimates $200-300 million a year.120Others suggest $500million.121 The Chosun Ilbo goes up to $1billion and an article in Foreign Affairs came up with a high of $2.3 billion. 122 In the other direction Yonhap, perhaps drawing on US estimates quotes ”low $100s of millions” a year.123 Remittances from overseas workers (and migrants) are an important part of the global economy. In 2015 it was estimated that China would receive $66billion in remittances, continuing a trend stretching back centuries.124 Remittances to lower and middle income countries in 2016 were projected to reach $422billion.125 The Philippines has some 10million overseas workers ‘often employed in low-paying service jobs and under harsh working conditions. Stories of maltreatment and abuse are …common’.126 In fact the global migrant worker industry is often revealed as scandalous, with stories about Qatar being just a recent example.127 Ironically in this context, South Korea has a particularly bad reputation in respect of migrant (i.e. non-Korean) workers, both at home and abroad.128

There is no credible evidence that North Korean workers overseas in general fare any worse than others. Plenty of lurid stories from the propaganda mills of course but nothing substantial. It was reported in August 2016 that the State Department had issued a report to Congress on the subject and it might perhaps have been expected that it would contain some solid evidence. However the South Korean state news agency Yonhap admitted that ‘Details of the latest report were not immediately available’.129 That was August; the report had not appeared on the State Department website by the end of October, suggesting that something was amiss. Many of the stories about North Korean overseas workers revolve around allegations that they are left with little disposable income after deductions by North Korean government agencies. 130 There is no rigorous evidence on the level of deductions but it appears that they escape the fate of so many migrant workers who fall into a debt trap in which they find it very difficult to repay their debt to the recruitment agency. One estimate has 21 million people worldwide trapped in this ‘modern-day slavery’. 131 Are North Koreans to be counted amongst them? Andrei Lankov, the Seoul-based Russian academic who is certainly no friend of the North Korean government, is scathing:

But are these people actually “modern day slaves?” Well, they certainly do not see themselves as such, and not because they have been brainwashed by North Korean propaganda, but rather because they are doing what they and their compatriots overwhelmingly see as a prestigious and exceptionally [well] paid job. Indeed, the selection process is highly competitive, and nearly all those who make it have to make use of family connections and/or bribes to get selected.132

Most discussion about North Korea are infused with hypocrisy – for a country which has conducted over a 1000 nuclear tests, many atmospheric with damage to both humans and the environment, to express such indignation over a country that has conducted just five underground tests requires considerable chutzpah. The subject of overseas labour is no exception, providing fruitful ground for displays of insincerity and historical amnesia. The United States was founded to some extent on slave labour and, more relevant, the economic development of South Korea was due in large part to the export of labour. Park Chung-hee sent over 300,000 troops to Vietnam between 1964 and 1973, which provided a great stimulus to the economy, and foreign exchange133. Then the ‘Middle East Boom’ of the 1970s provided a further opportunity. Between 1975 and 1985 nearly one million labourers were sent to the Middle East to work mainly in construction, often for Korean chaebol, providing profit and foreign exchange. In the peak year of 1982 Middle East construction constituted 6.6 percent of South Korea’s GDP.134 By comparison North Korea’s overseas labour is small beer, but it does provide a useful source of foreign exchange, where such opportunities are much constrained by sanctions, as well as income for the workers and their families.

The ostensible rationale given for trying to stop North Koreans working overseas, and for sanctions on exports – from coal to fish – is that the foreign revenue is used for nuclear weapons. We are told that North Korea ‘ is likely to expand the export of fish to continue pursuing development of nuclear weapons.135 So, the argument goes, if foreign exchange is cut off then spending on weapons will go down. This is both untrue and masks the strategy behind sanctions. Since money is fungible and the North Korean government, like others, spends its revenue on a wide variety of activities from defense through to importing grain for domestic consumption, building hospitals and schools, agricultural and industrial development and so on, then constraining revenue streams does not necessarily impact on expenditure of a certain type.136 In fact any government faced with an existential threat will prioritise national defence so if sanctions impose constraints they are more likely to impact on general, civilian expenditure. Moreover, as noted below, since a nuclear deterrent is cheaper than a conventional one, the nuclear weapons programme is unlikely to suffer from sanctions, and may even get a boost.

If sanctions cannot stop North Korea’s development of a nuclear deterrent, what is their purpose and strategy? Here we might go back to the classic studies of US sanctions conducted by Gary Hufbauer and colleagues who describe the objective of sanctions against North Korea, stretching back to 1950 as ‘1) impair military potential 2) destabilize communist government’.137’Destabilisation’ covers a range of objectives from creating a dysfunctional ’failed state’, with impaired military potential to the replacement of a hostile or independent regime with something more compliant. Sanctions are one way of achieving such objectives – propaganda campaigns and funding opposition movements – being alternative or complementary mechanisms. By creating economic distress which is blamed on the government, rather than the sanctioner, they seek to create an environment in which the victims try to escape (as refugees or, or in South Korean parlance, ‘defectors’) or rebel in some way against the government. No doubt there are those in Washington, and Seoul, who hope that sanctions will produce food riots in Pyongyang which would provide a justification for a ‘humanitarian intervention’. However, sanctions tend not to be very effective in achieving these objectives. Famine in the 1990s did not lead to massive protest against the government and realistic observers see no likelihood of that happening today even if increased sanctions were to result in similar food shortages.138 Hufbauer tends to be sceptical about them and as we have seen in the recent case of sanctions against Russia they may have the opposite effect, of actually increasing the popularity of the government.139 Nevertheless they can cause immense suffering and damage. One North Korean source estimates the damage done by ‘economic sanctions and blockade, the products of the US hostile policy toward the DPRK….for six decades up to 2005 to 13,729,964 million US dollars’.140

North Korea has sought to counter American hostility by a dual strategy. It has basically been open to genuine negotiations with the US. ‘Genuine’ primarily revolving around negotiations without preconditions that would deliver to the US its objectives without concessions on its part.141 The conventional wisdom is that the US honestly has tried over the years to negotiate with North Korea but has not got anywhere because Pyongyang is untrustworthy and ‘cheats’.142 The logic of the situation suggests that the reverse is more likely. North Korea is a small, tightly controlled state for whom these negotiations are of huge, existential importance. It has a strong incentive to honour an agreement. The US is very different. It is the global hegemon with many choices to make and is run by a large fractious elite within which foreign policy is contested between cliques, institutions, personalities and of course succeeding administrations. The US finds it very difficult to honour its commitments.143 For North Korea Hillary Clinton’s destruction of the Gadhafi government in Libya in contravention of Condoleezza Rice’s assurances must be the outstanding example.144

The other side of this dual strategy is the development of defensive and deterrent capability, culminating in Kim Jong Un’s Byungjinpolicy. This strategy of a simultaneous development of a nuclear deterrent with economic development is sensible and perhaps inevitable although it has often been pilloried as evidence of economic mismanagement and irrationality.145 It is really merely a special variant of the guns and butter dilemma that all governments face and can be analysed dispassionately.146

There is clearly no easy way for North Korea to counter what it rightly calls the ‘hostility policy’ of the US except with nuclear weapons. For all their direct and indirect costs, they do make sense. They are cheaper than conventional arms.147 Although the long-term development costs, which crucially must include delivery systems, are considerable, some costs are surprisingly modest. For instance the South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) estimated that the fifth nuclear test on 9 September 2016 ‘Only Cost $5 Million’.148 Moreover, even if it suddenly acquired huge wealth North Korea could never match the conventional military power of the US and its allies. It may be the best option for North Korea in the circumstances, but it does have its drawbacks. ‘Best option’ of course does not mean that something is desirable, merely that of all of the possible options it is the best choice. This obvious point is often avoided or obscured by people who do not recognise the predicament that North Korea is in; a predicament produced by geographical location, by history and by US global strategy. It was the US that divided the Korean peninsula; it is the US that is hostile to North Korea. This is not a situation that North Korea can avoid, but only seek to cope with.

Being cheaper than conventional weapons means that more resources can be devoted to the economy. There are indications that this is happening.149 The March 2016 budget showed a small decrease in the proportion devoted to national defense.150

As a corollary, it should be remembered that one function of the military threat, as exemplified by the invasion exercises, is to force North Korea to divert resources from the productive economy into defence. ‘Going nuclear’ offers a way of avoiding that trap.

The most authoritative assessment of the Byungjin policy comes from the Russian Koreanologist Georgy Toloraya. Writing in 38 North,the Washington website set up by former US official Joel Wit, he noted that he saw evidence in his recent trips to North Korea substantial (though constrained) economic growth and pronounced the Byungjin policy a success:

Despite all the mockery, North Korea’s Byungjin policy seems to have proven more effective than foreign critics expected. This is evidenced by empirical data I have collected during recent visits to North Korea…

What are the sources of this [economic] growth? One explanation might be that less is now spent on the conventional military sector, while nuclear development at this stage is cheaper—it may only cost 2 to 3 percent of GNP, according to some estimates.151

There are however three major disadvantages of the nuclear weapons option.

Firstly the early stage of nuclear weapons requires physical testing. The US no longer needs that, because it already has under its belt those 1000 physical tests in the past that brought it to this position. Unlike, for instance, acquiring an F-35 fighter or an Aegis destroyer nuclear tests are obvious and newsworthy and attract much opprobrium, hypocritical though most of that is. One of the great successes of American propaganda has been to attach to non-proliferation the assumption of peace and disarmament. In fact it has nothing to do with that, it is merely preserving the monopoly of nuclear weapons states. The authoritative US political scientist Kenneth Waltz argued that proliferation is peace-enhancing because it provides protection to small states that that they would not otherwise have.152

Secondly, nuclear weapons for North Korea can only be used as a deterrent. However unlike the prospect of mutually assured destruction (MAD) of the US-Soviet Cold War, North Korea’s deterrent is rather like the ‘Sampson Option’ described by Seymour Hersh in respect of Israel.153 It is similar to a suicide bomber who kills himself, and in the process some, but not all, of the enemy.

In any case deterrence is a matter of convincing the other side that attacking you would result in intolerable damage to them, and that it is not worth the risk. So it is a matter of perception rather than reality. You may be bluffing – and bluff is an inherent aspect of deterrence – and your defences may in reality be weak, but that is irrelevant.

North Korea is often mocked for making extravagant claims about its military capabilities and accused of being crazy for threatening to attack the US. That is a misunderstanding of what it is all about. North Korean threats are always essentially conditional. For instance the warning by the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Supreme Command regarding stories that the US was preparing to launch a ‘decapitation’ attack:

…all the powerful strategic and tactical strike means of our revolutionary armed forces will go into pre-emptive and just operation to beat back the enemy forces to the last man if there is a slight sign of their special operation forces and equipment moving to carry out the so-called “beheading operation” and “high-density strike.”[Emphasis added] 154

The media often, especially in headings, leaves out the crucial little word ‘if’ thereby creating the false impression that North Korea is being threatening and bellicose, when in reality it is the other way round. The military exercises, the practising of decapitation and amphibious landings, and of the invasion of North Korea are surely threatening and belligerent – one can well imagine the uproar in the West if it were Chinese and North Korean forces practising to invade the South. North Korean statements therefore are not a matter of threat, but of deterrence.

However, the third problem for North Korea is that its deterrent in respect of the US is a nuclear one. If the US were not involved and it were merely a matter of deterring the South then North Korea’s artillery, which it claims can turn Seoul into a sea of flames, would be sufficient. 155 But it is the US that must be deterred and the only feasible way to do that is to convince American leaders that there is a real chance that America itself might be damaged in a counterattack and that means nuclear weapons. In this context bluff is quite reasonable since it is a matter of instilling doubt in the minds of the other side. North Korea almost certainly can’t deliver a nuclear warhead on the US at the moment but it just might.156

The phrase used above -not worth the risk- is relevant here. From the point of view of the US it is a matter of risk-benefit analysis. The amount of risk must be related to the amount of benefit. We might image some megalomaniac strategist sitting in Washington and calculating that it might be worthwhile losing the West Coast if it meant destroying China. With China out of the way the US would have no challengers for generations. The world would be at its feet. It would be a big prize.157 North Korea is quite a different matter. It is a very small prize and as discussed above removing it through war, or indeed peace, would cause problems for the containment of China.

Moreover a nuclear deterrent is a blunt instrument. For a small country like North Korea, faced by vastly more powerful adversaries, a retaliatory attack has to be all out, no holds barred. No calibrated response, no escalation such as a powerful country might apply to a weak one – Vietnam comes to mind. But, as noted above, this is the Samson option, one that could result in the devastation of North Korea.

This brings us to the word ‘pre-emptive.’ This was misconstrued by George W. Bush to mean unprovoked. A simple dictionary definition is an action to prevent attack by disabling the enemy. Since Iraq was in no position to attack the US, the invasion was clearly not pre-emptive. Pre-emption is normally associated with the action of a weaker person or country faced with what is perceived as an imminent attack by a stronger adversary. This is probably what would happen in a conflict between the US and China, apart from the scenario of China intervening, as in 1950, in response to a US invasion of North Korea.158 The US would force China into a situation, say in the South China Sea or Taiwan Straits, in which it felt it was compelled to make a pre-emptive strike.159 Being by far the stronger combatant the US would absorb this strike, and then having gained the moral high ground would launch the attack, now a counter-attack, that it had planned; a variant on Pearl Harbour.160

Leaving aside the moral deception involved in shifting blame there is the danger that the weaker party might misinterpret the actions of the stronger and launch a pre-emptive strike unnecessarily. This is particularly plausible in the case of North Korea which has very limited surveillance and intelligence capabilities compared with the US (North Korea’s satellite programme is an attempt to remedy this deficiency).161 The US makes a feint which North Korea interprets as presaging, say, a decapitation strike and launches a pre-emptive all-out attack. The war, so long desired in certain quarters, comes about.

It might well be argued that for North Korea nuclear deterrence is unwise and might in fact incite the US to attack now, before it is too late. If tomorrow the enemy will be invulnerable, better to attack today. This is the inevitable predicament in developing a deterrent. Certainly to do so is to enter a dangerous period, as Stratfor explains:

As Pyongyang approaches a viable nuclear weapon and delivery system, the pressure is rising for the United States and other countries to pre-empt it. Consequently, the final moments of North Korea’s transition from a working program to a demonstrated system are the most dangerous, providing a last chance to stop the country from becoming a nuclear weapons state. For North Korea, then, these final steps must happen quickly.162

This is probably the explanation for the frenetic pace of North Korea nuclear and missile tests in 2016. 163 The US is unlikely to attack during a presidential election year, but 2017 is different. It is probable that the bellicose Hillary Clinton will be in her first year of office, and Park Geun-hye in her final full year.164 It might be that Clinton will be less of a hawk than most observers expect or too occupied with Russia to embark on a potential war with China.165 It might be that Park Geun-hye will be impeached or her political power fatally wounded by the Choi Sun-sil affair.166 However at this stage it would be prudent to assume that 2017 will be a particularly dangerous year for North Korea. Indeed, Josh Rogin, writing in the Washington Post on the eve of the 2016 election in an article entitled ‘The coming clash with China over North Korea’ concluded that:

…the North Korea issue could mean that the first foreign crisis of a potential Clinton presidency will come not in the Middle East or with Russia, but in northeast Asia.167

The report that the US command in Korea (United States Forces Kores, USFK) has begun to practice the evacuation of US civilians is surely a better indicator than any article of speech that the US military is anticipating that conflict is likely under the incoming administration.168

North Korea could say ‘if you invade we will unleash a people’s war – remember the 1950s, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan.’ The problem with that is what might be called the ‘Stalingrad factor’. Stalingrad, it has been said, was easier to defend against the Germans when it had been reduced to rubble. But who wants their cities reduced to rubble?

North Korea’s nuclear deterrent also have the potential to force the US into some sort of peace agreement in a way that a conventional defence, which by its nature would pose little danger to the US, ever could. Whether that might come to pass is another matter but since peace with America must remain North Korea’s major foreign policy goal, it will always be on the agenda even if denied. 169


The American empire is a curious one, rather different to the ones with which most of us are familiar – the Roman, the British, or the French. It is an empire which does not proclaim itself; indeed it denies its existence, to the condescending amusement of admirers such as Niall Ferguson. 170It often names its weapon systems after vanquished peoples – Apache and Iroquois –perhaps in a somewhat cannibalistic attempt to acquire their fruitless valour and to deny their subjugation. Denial goes a long way back; what other group of slave owners would have written in their declaration of independence that ‘all men are created equal’? The United States does not erect statues of its presidents in its foreign possessions. Its imperial forces in Europe are described as those of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and those in South Korea, in the ‘Republic of Korea’ are called the United Nations Command. There is little doubt where the power really lies; an American general is in command of both. Indeed, General Curtis M. Scaparrotti the commander of the US forces in South Korea, and hence of the United Nations Command, and the ROK army, was transferred to Brussels in March 2016 to become NATO commander, in a career move which would have been familiar in the Roman Empire.171 Despite its relative invisibility the American empire is the greatest in history and the salient reality of contemporary geopolitics. Any analysis of a geopolitical situation must start with the US, though not end there.

The US is by no means omniscient or strategically coherent, and it is certainly not omnipotent; the relationship with ‘allies’ and adversaries is under constant negotiation. This means the relationships have to be carefully scrutinised, avoiding simplistic narratives. Nevertheless it is the dominant factor in most circumstances and in general, and in the long term (though not necessarily in the short term) it is the initiator to which other countries respond. The US divided Korea in 1945 as part of its strategy of containing the Soviet Union and protecting its war booty of Japan. The focus has now shifted to China but the basic thrust is the same. The US has a necessary and crucial interest in Korea because of its strategic location and this situation informs its Korea policy. North Korea is far too small to threaten the US, but the US does threaten North Korea and has conducted economic and diplomatic war against it since the late 1940s. The Korean War itself had its own specific causes and effects but it was one episode in a longer historical struggle. This hostility has moulded North Korean politics into a particular defensive and distorted configuration, and has produced, amongst other things, the putative nuclear deterrent. North Korea has long proposed a peaceful coexistence in the form of a peace treaty to the US, and the US has refused out of concerns about the impact on its global strategy of preserving nuclear superiority (‘non-proliferation’) and its containment of China, and Russia.172North Korea’s commitment to a peace treaty is likely to endure because it is the gateway to survival and prosperity. American policy on that may conceivably change as it attempts to cope with shifts in the international landscape. In order to understand what is going on, and attempt to anticipate future developments, it is essential to start with the US and move out from there.

This is a revised and updated version of a paper prepared for webinar Crisis in Korea – Causes/aftermaths of 2016 H-bomb test and Satellite Launch, 19 March (US/Canada) 20 March (Korea/New Zealand) 2016 organised by the Korea Policy Institute, Los Angeles.


Editorial, “THAAD deployment on the Korean Peninsula opens Pandora’s box,” Hankyoreh, 9 July 2016.

“US and South Korea agree THAAD missile defence deployment,” BBC, 8 July 2016.

“South Korea and US agree to deploy THAAD missile defence system,” Guardian, 8 July 2016.

Missy Ryan, “Pentagon to deploy anti-missile system in South Korea,” Washington Post, 7 July 2016.

Sang-Hun Choe, “South Korea and U.S. Agree to Deploy Missile Defense System,” New York Times, 8 July 2016.

Jack Kim, “South Korea, U.S. Agree to Deploy THAAD Missile Defense to Counter North Korea Threat,” Reuters, 7 July 2016.

Shinhye Kang, “China Blasts U.S., South Korea Missile Defense Deployment,” Bloomberg, 8 July 2016.

David R. Sands, “Russia, China react angrily as U.S. to put anti-missile THAAD system in South Korea,” Washington Times, 8 July 2016.

“S.Korea, U.S. Agree THAAD Deployment,” Chosun Ilbo, 11 July 2016.

10 Jane Perlez, “For China, a Missile Defense System in South Korea Spells a Failed Courtship,” New York Times, 8 July 2016.®ion=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0

11 Michael Elleman and Michael J. Zagurek Jr., “THAAD: What It Can and Can’t Do,” 38 North, 10 March 2016.

12 Garth McLennan, “Needle in a Haystack: How North Korea Could Fight a Nuclear War,” 38 North, 13 June 2016.

13 Yong-in Yi, “Critic of THAAD wins prestigious award for scientific contribution,” Hankyoreh, 24 Februrary 2016.

14 Yong-in Yi “Expert rebuts Defense Ministry’s claims about THAAD missile interception “ Hankyoreh, 17 February 2016.; Yi Yong-in, “Expert says S. Korean government has overstated THAAD’s efficacy,” Hankyoreh, 17 February 2016.

15 Seung-woo Kang, “Defense chief’s SLBM claims doubted,” Korea Times, 11 July 2016.; Whan-woo Yi, “THAAD can destroy SLBMs: defense chief,” Korea Times, 10 July 2016.

16 Hyun Park and Byong-su Park, “THAAD missile defense system could be used to defend against Chinese attack on US,” Hankyoreh, 2 June 2015.

17 “Can THAAD Batteries Protect Seoul?,” Chosun Ilbo, 11 July 2016.

18 Theodore Postol, “How the US Nuclear Weapons Modernization Program Is Increasing the Chances of Accidental Nuclear War with Russia,” Harvard College Peace Action, 25 February 2016.

19 Hyun Park, “AN/TPY-2 radar could track any Chinese ICBMs as they pass over the Korean peninsula,” Hankyoreh, 2 June 2015.

20 Yong-in Yi, “Expert says THAAD needlessly raises tension, hurts security,” Hankyoreh, 11 July 2016.

21 Byong-su Park and Oi-hyun Kim, “South Korea and US officially announce deployment of THAAD missile defense system,” Hankyoreh, 9 July 2016.

22 Editorial, “China can counter THAAD deployment,” Global Times, 9 July 2016.

23 Yoo-chul Kim, “Businesses fear backlash from China,” Korea Times, 11 July 2016.

24 Oi-hyun Kim, “After THAAD deployment decision, a backlash from China,” Hankyoreh, 11 July 2016.[24]

25 ibid; “Poll: fears of war in Korea have increased since Park gov’t took office,” Hankyoreh, 24 June 2016.

26 Yong-in Yi, “How a beefed-up military actually raises security risks,” Hankyoreh, 26 August 2016.

27 Sung-jin Choi, “Tourism industry will feel pain of Chinese visitor cut,” Korea Times, 26 October 2016.

28 Patrick L. Smith, “Disarray in NATO Completes Obama’s Foreign Policy Legacy,” Fiscal Times, 11 July 2016.

29 Motoko Rich, “Japan Election, a Landslide for Abe, Could Allow a Bolder Military,” New York Times, 11 July 2016.

30 A recent Cuban estimate is $126billion; Nelson Acosta, “Cuba launches new international campaign against U.S. embargo,” Reuters, 10 September 2016.

31 Commander’s Guide to Money as a Weapons System, (Fort Leavenworth, KS US Army [Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL), US Army Combined Arms Center], 2009).

32 Victoria Nuland, “Address by Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland,” US-Ukraine Foundation, 13 December 2013. Keith Wagstaff, “The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan: The United States?,” TheWeek, 29 April 2013.

33 Nick Turse, “Black sites in the empire of bases “ Asia Times online, 11 February 2010.

34 “Military Balance 2016,” International Institute for Strategic Studies, February 2015.

35 Kyu-won Kim, “Defense intelligence director says N. Korea would win in a one-on-one war,” Hankyoreh, 6 November 2013.

36 Vitaly Churkin (Interviewee) and Sophie Shevardnadze: (Interviewer), “Russia’s UN envoy: Without veto power, UNSC would become America’s mouthpiece,” RT, 16 September 2016.

37 Tim Beal, “Satellites, Missiles and the Geopolitics of East Asia,” in North Korea: Political, Economic and Social Issues, ed. Marvin Harrison (New York: Nova Publishers, 2016).

38 “Charter of the United Nations,” United Nations,; Derek Croxton, “The Peace of Westphalia of 1648 and the Origins of Sovereignty,” The International History Review 21, no. 3 (1999).

39 Benjamin Lee, “THAAD and the Sino-South Korean Strategic Dilemma,” Diplomat, 7 October 2016.

40 Jin-hwan Seok, “Biden seeks Seoul’s support on US ‘rebalancing to Asia’ policy,” Hankyoreh, 7 December 2013.

41 Perry Anderson, “Sino-Americana,” London Review of Books 34, no. 3 (2012).

42 Donald P. Gregg, “Changing U.S. Views of North Korea,” East Asia Foundation, 12 January 2016.

43 J E Hoare, “Potboiler Press: British Media and North Korea,” 38 North, 5 October 2016.

44 Robert Carlin and John W. Lewis, “Negotiating with North Korea: 1992–2007,” Center for International Security and Cooperation, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University, January 2008.

45 World War, disagreed with Palmerston: Condoleezza Rice, “Rethinking the National Interest: American Realism for a New World,” Foreign Affairs (2008).

46 Kimie Hara, “50 Years from San Francisco: Re-Examining the Peace Treaty and Japan’s Territorial Problems “ Pacific Affairs, Autumn 2001.

47 Akiyoshi Komaki, “Russia refuses to budge on stance on Northern Territories,” Asahi Shimbun, 13 April 2016.

48 Jonathan D. Pollack, “The United States, North Korea, and the end of the Agreed Framework,” Naval War College Review LVI, no. 3 (2003).

49 “Military Balance 2016.”

50 Ho Il Moon, “How big is the North Korean army? Evidence from missing population,” VoxEU, 13 December 2011.; Je-hun Lee, “Debate over size of North Korea’s army reignites,” Hankyoreh, 25 December 2015.

51 Jin-myung Kim, “400,000 N.Korean Soldiers Forced to Labor for 10 Years,” Chosun Ilbo, 6 October 2016.; Whan-woo Yi, “N. Korea has up to 400,000 slave workers,” Korea Times, 15 October 2016.; Steven Borowiec, “North Koreans perform $975 million worth of forced labor each year “ Los Angeles Times, 6 October 2016.

52 “Korea, U.S. to Stage Drills with Commonwealth Countries,” Chosun Ilbo, 11 March 2016.

53 19 August 2015.

54 Mark Selden, “The Future of Korea: An Asia-Pacific Perspective,” Japan Focus, 14 August 2006.

55 Joe Cirincione, “How to stop North Korea’s bomb,”, 26 January 2016.

56 Johnna Rizzo, “How the Romans Used Crucifixion—Including Jesus’s—as a Political Weapon,” Newsweek, 4 April 2015.

57 Suk-koo Jung, “Ironically, N. Korea’s nuclear program serves the US’s interests,” Hankyoreh, 28 May 2015.

58 Clinton Ehrlich, “The Kremlin Really Believes That Hillary Wants to Start a War With Russia,” Foreign Policy, 7 September 2016.

59 David C. Gompert, Astrid Stuth Cevallos, and Cristina L. Garafola, “War with China: Thinking through the Unthinkable,” RAND, 28 July 2016.; Mike Pietrucha, “The Economics of War with China: This Will Hurt You More than It Hurts Me,” WarontheRocks, 4 November 2015.

60 Daniel Twining, “As the US pivots away, China bets on Pakistan,” PACNet Newsletter, 23 April 2015. “China-Europe fast rail brings mutual benefit “, Xinhua, 2 January 2016.

61 Tim Beal, “Shenanigans in the South China Sea – Implications for Korea,” Zoom in Korea, 16 August 2016.

62 Norman Angell, The Great Illusion (London; New York: Heinemann; Putnam, 1910).

63 Vladimir Isachenkov, “New Russian military might on full display in Syria,” Washington Post, 24 October 2015. Eric Heginbotham et al., “Tallying the U.S.-China Military Scorecard: Relative Capabilities and the Evolving Balance of Power, 1996–2017,” RAND Corporation, 14 September 2015.

64 David Smith, “Military power in Asia ‘shifting against’ the US, major report warns,” GUardian, 20 January 2016.; Michael J. Green et al., “Asia-Pacific Rebalance 2025: Capabilities, Presence, and Partnerships,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 19 January 2016.

65 “China fears Hillary Clinton far more than it does Donald Trump,” Reuters, 11 July 2016.; Molly O’Toole, “From Reset to Realpolitik, Clinton’s New Hard Line on Moscow,” Foreign Policy, 22 September 2016.

66 Won-je Son, “The “most remarkable concession of sovereignty in the entire world”,” Hankyoreh, 4 November 2014.

67 Daniel W. Drezner, “Let’s dispense with the fiction that China will solve the North Korea problem,” Washington Post, 11 February 2016.

68 Chol Min Kim, “North Korea has legitimate right to satellite launches,” NK News, 6 April 2016.

69 Tim Beal, “The United Nations and the North Korean missile and nuclear tests “ NZ Journal of Asian Studies 9, no. 2 (2007).

70 Ji-suk Kim, “The Korean peninsula amid US-China confrontation,” Hankyoreh, 15 October 2015.

71 David Feith, “China’s Proliferation Rap Sheet,” Wall Street Journal, 25 February 2016.; Jane Perlez and Hufan Huang, “A Hole in North Korean Sanctions Big Enough for Coal, Oil and Used Pianos,” New York Times, 31 March 2016.

72 Mark Landler, “What Quagmire? Even in Withdrawal, Russia Stays a Step Ahead,” New York Times, 15 March 2016.®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

73 Alastair Crooke, “Putin Is Being Pushed to Abandon His Conciliatory Approach to the West and Prepare for War,” Huffington Post, 17 May 2016.

74 “China urges for early resumption of six-party talks,” Xinhua, 24 June 2016.

75 Leszek Buszynski, “The Six-Party Talks have had their day: time for an expanded dialogue,” East Asia Forum, 6 August 2013.

76 Sung-jin Choi, “US experts on N. Korea call for direct dialogue, reciprocity,” Korea Times, 4 October 2016.; Charles “Jack” Pritchard, “The Korean Peninsula and the role of multilateral talks,” Brookings Institution, 1 March 2005.

77 Yong-in Yi, “Senior White House official decries calls for South Korea to get nuclear weapons,” Hankyoreh, 23 September 2016.

78 Liu Zhen and Pinghui Zhuang, “We Won’t Tolerate Instability: Beijing’s Warning to Washington and Pyongyang,” South China Morning Post, 8 March 2016.

79 Thomas J. Christensen, “Threats, Assurances, and the Last Chance for Peace: The Lessons of Mao’s Korean War Telegrams,” International Security 17, no. 1 (1992).

80 Jeremy Bender and Gus Lubin, “Why Japan’s Smaller Military Could Hold Its Own Against China,” Business Insider, 5 May 2014.; Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “China’s Dangerous Weakness, Part 1: Beijing’s Aggressive ‘Self-Defense’ “ Breaking Defense, 26 September 2013.

81 Alexis Dudden, “The Nomination of Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution for a Nobel Peace Prize,” The Asia Pacific Journal Japan Focus, 20 April 2014. Gavan McCormack, “Abe Days Are Here Again: Japan in the World,” The Asia Pacific Journal, 1 December 2012.; Ichiyo Muto, “Retaking Japan: The Abe Administration’s Campaign to Overturn the Postwar Constitution “ The Asia Pacific Journal, 4-5 August 2015.

82 Yonhap, “Japan could go nuclear in 10 years to contain N. Korea provocations: study,” Korea Times, 8 October 2016.; Nobuhiro Kubo and Tim Kelly, “North Korean missile advances expose Japan in two-decade arms race: sources,” Reuters, 3 October 2016.; Ayako Mie, “Defense Ministry requests ¥5.1 trillion for fiscal 2017 to address new threats,” Japan Times, 31 August 2016.

83 Lawrence Repeta, “Japan’s Proposed National Security Legislation — Will This Be the End of Article 9?,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, 22 June 2015.

84 “Defense Ministry in Deepening Mire Over Japanese Troops,” Chosun Ilbo, 23 October 2015.; Yun-hyung Gil and Byong-su Park, “Could Japan intervene militarily on the Korean peninsula?,” Hankyoreh, 22 September 2015.

85 Geun-hye Park, “A new kind of Korea: building trust between Seoul and Pyongyang,” Foreign Affairs 90, no. 5 (2011).

86 , 28 March 2014.

87 ———, “Remarks by President Park Geun-hye at the 2013 International Conference on Global Cooperation in the Era of Eurasia,” Cheong Wa Dae, 18 October 2013.

88 Editorial, “Sanctions on N. Korea,” Korea Times, 22 May 2015.

89 Tim Beal, Crisis in Korea: America, China, and the risk of war (London: Pluto, 2011); ———, “Korean Brinkmanship, American Provocation, and the Road to War: the manufacturing of a crisis,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, 20 December 2010.

90 ———, “Satellites, Missiles and the Geopolitics of East Asia.”

91 Whan-woo Yi and Ji-hye Jun, “N. Korea fires long-range rocket,” Korea Times, 7 February 2016.; John Schilling, “Satellites, Warheads and Rockets: Is North Korea’s Space Program Really about Missile Development?,” 38 North, 28 September 2015.

92 Kyu-won Kim, “At 2007 inter-Korean summit, then-Pres. Roh discussed autonomy “ Hankyoreh, 26 June 2013.

93 “For S. Korean businesses, China patent blitz is a clear and present danger “, Hankyoreh, 2 April 2015.; “Chinese Manufacturers Threaten Korean Rivals,” Chosun Ilbo, 7 May 2016.

94 Hyeon-cheol Bang, “Most Koreans Feel Economy Is in Crisis,” Chosun Ilbo, 24 October 2016.

95 Sung-jin Choi, “Korea’s manufacturing competitiveness behind Japan, China “ Korea Times, 12 March 2016.

96 “Korea Plummets to 6th in Global Shipbuilding Orders,” Chosun Ilbo, 3 June 2016.

97 Hyun-woo Nam, “Hanjin Shipping files for court receivership “ Korea Times, 1 September 2016.

98 Seung-bum Kim and Eun-jin Shin, “Fresh Woes for Hyundai Crisis as Exports Plunge by Half,” Chosun Ilbo, 13 October 2016.

99 Ki-hong Kim, “Shipbuilding, Construction Orders from Overseas Plummet,” Chosun Ilbo, 21 July 2016.

100 Jae-won Kim, “Seoul’s dream to become financial hub evaporating,” Korea Times, 22 January 2016.

101 Jun-beom Hwang, “Less than 1.5 years left, more corruption bombs expected in Park government,” Hankyoreh, 24 September 2016. Hwangbo Yon, “Due to aging, South Korean population headed for structural reversal,” Hankyoreh, 20 October 2016. Park. Hyong-ki, “Inequality concerns grow amid increased income distribution to rich,” Korea Times, 16 October 2016.

102 Se-Woong Koo, “Korea, Thy Name is Hell Joseon,” Korea Expose, 22 September 2015.; No-ja Park, ““Hell Joseon” — a country where sleepless toil brings no mobility,” Hankyoreh, 6 October 2015.

103 Emanuel Pastreich, “The Balancer: Roh Moo-hyun’s Vision of Korean Politics and the Future of Northeast Asia,” The Asia Pacific Journal Japan Focus, 1 August 2005.

104 Editorial, “Humiliating comfort women settlement incurs fierce backlash,” Hankyoreh, 5 January 2016.

105 Seong-hun Park and Sarah Kim, “U.S. Defense Department is developing Thaad 2.0,” JoongAng Ilbo, 19 July 2016.

106 Young-jin Oh, “Choi Soon-sil – Shaman or con artist?,” Korea Times, 6 November 2016.; Ha-young Choi, “Don’t call Choi a shaman, it’s disgrace to shamans,” Korea Times, 8 November 2016.; Ye-rin Choi, “Park Geun-hye believed in Choi Tae-min after he predicted her father’s death,” Hankyoreh, 6 November 2016.

107 Aidan Foster-Carter, “Did Park Geun-hye’s Rasputin run her North Korea policy?,” NK News, 28 October 2016.; Min-hyuk Lim, “Leaked U.S. Embassy Cable Warned of ‘Rasputin’ Behind Park,” Chosun Ilbo, 28 October 2016.

108 Sang-hun Choe, “A Presidential Friendship Has Many South Koreans Crying Foul,” New York Times, 27 October 2016.; Yong-in Yi, “Strange memories of a President’s late and ambiguous decisions,” Hankyoreh, 4 November 2016.; Jin-cheol Kim and Eui-gyum Kim, “Was Choi Sun-sil behind the closing of the Kaesong Industrial Complex? ,” Hankyoreh, 27 October 2016.

109 John Delury, “The Urgency of Now: Why Obama Needs to Take the Lead on North Korea,” 38 North, 9 December 2014.; Aidan Foster-Carter, “Obama Comes Out as an NK Collapsist,” 38 North, 27 January 2015.

110 Steven V. Roberts, “White House Confirms Reagans Follow Astrology, Up to a Point,” New York Times, 4 May 1988.

111 “N.Korea Mum Over China Parade,” Chosun Ilbo, 4 September 2015. “Park Attends China Parade,” Chosun Ilbo, 4 September 2015.

112 Hoare, “Potboiler Press: British Media and North Korea.”

113 Nate Thayer, “Freed American Matthew Miller: ‘I wanted to stay in North Korea’,” Guardian, 20 November 2014. Konstantin Asmolov, “Fifteen Year’s Sentence for a Motto Torn Off,” New Eastern Outlook, 17 April 2016.

114 David Ignatius, “North Korea is scarier than ever,” Washington Post, 13 October 2016.

115 Yonhap, “S. Korea, US, Japan to conduct joint military exercise against N. Korea,” Korea Times, 14 May 2016.

116 Ji-hye Jun, “Tensions grow as joint drills begin,” Korea Times, 7 March 2016.; Alexander Vorontsov, “War Games: who is responsible for tension on the Korean peninsula?,” NK News, 15 September 2016.

117 Jiwon Song, “Chinese woman arrested in Japan for selling knitwear to N.Korea,” NK News, 2 March 2016.; Jiwon Song, “S.Korean arrested in Japan for export to N.Korea through Singapore,” NK News, 26 February 2016.

118 Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker, “Surf clothing label Rip Curl using ‘slave labour’ to manufacture clothes in North Korea,” Sydney Morning Herald, 21 February 2016.

119 Whan-woo Yi, “UN rights resolution may include N. Korea workers,” Korea Times, 16 October 2016.; Yi-jun Cho, “Seoul, Washington to Push on N.Korean Slave Labor at UN,” Chosun Ilbo, 17 October 2016.; Yong-in Yi, “UN seeking to fill few existing loopholes with additional sanctions on North Korea,” Hankyoreh, 13 September 2016.

120 “Up to 100,000 N.Koreans Labor Abroad,” Chosun Ilbo, 18 March 2016.

121 ———, “UN seeking to fill few existing loopholes with additional sanctions on North Korea.”

122 Cho, “Seoul, Washington to Push on N.Korean Slave Labor at UN; Sarah E. Mendelson, “Outsourcing Oppression: Trafficked Labor from North Korea,” Foreign Affairs, 28 May 2015.

123 “U.S. State Department to release report on N. Korea’s labor exports this week “, Yonhap, 15 August 2016.

124 “Overseas Chinese to send home US$66 bln this year,” China Daily, 22 June 2015. Mark Selden, “East Asian Regionalism and its Enemies in Three Epochs: Political Economy and Geopolitics, 16th to 21st Centuries,” Japan Focus, 25 February 2009.

125 Dilip Ratha, “Trends in Remittances, 2016: A New Normal of Slow Growth,” World Bank, 6 October 2016.

126 Ana P. Santos, “Why is Duterte so popular in the Philippines?,” DW, 9 September 2016.

127 Pete Pattisson, “Revealed: Qatar’s World Cup ‘slaves’,” Guardian, 25 September 2013.

128 Michael Field, “Slave fishing in NZ waters exposed,” Sunday Star-Times, 8 November 2011.; Hyun-woong Noh, “Government investigation finds foreign workers on Korean vessels were abused,” Hankyoreh, 11 June 2012. “South Korea: End rampant abuse of migrant farm workers,” Amnesty International, 19 October 2014. Ko, “In the hurt of the sea,” Korea Times, 20 October 2016.

129 Yonhap, “US State Department submits report on N. Korea’s labor exports to Congress,” Korea Times, 30 August 2016.

130 Greg Scarlatoiu, “Testimony to Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission entitled “North Korea’s Forced Labor Enterprise: A State-Sponsored Marketplace in Human Trafficking”,” Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, 29 April 2015.

131 Pattisson, “Revealed: Qatar’s World Cup ‘slaves’.”

132 Andrei Lankov, “North Korean workers abroad aren’t slaves,” NK News, 27 November 2014.

133 “60 Years of the Republic: Troop Dispatch to Vietnam “, Chosun Ilbo, 23 July 2008.; Charles Armstrong, “America’s Korea, Korea’s Vietnam,” Critical Asian Studies 33, no. 4 (2001).

134 Editorial, “Second Middle East boom,” Korea Herald, 3 March 2015.; Alon Levkowitz, “The Republic of Korea and the Middle East: Economics, Diplomacy, and Security,” Korea Economic Institute, Academic Papers Series, August 2010.

135 Whan-woo Yi, “North Korea earning currency through fish sales,” Korea Times, 19 October 2016.

136 Leo Byrne, “North Korea quadruples rice imports after flood,” NK Pro, 3 November 2016.

137 Gary Clyde Hufbauer et al., Economic Sanctions Reconsidered, 3rd ed. (Washington DC: Peterson Institute for International Economics, 2007). (Case 50-1)

138 Andrei Lankov, “North Korea: Don’t dream the impossible,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1 June 2016. Georgiy D. Toloraya, “Byungjin vs the Sanctions Regime: Which Works Better?,” 38 North, 20 October 2016.

139 Gary Clyde Hufbauer, “Sanctions-Happy USA,” Washington Post, 12 July 1998. Andrew Osborn and Maria Tsvetkova, “Putin firms control with big win for Russia’s ruling party,” Reuters, 19 September 2016.

140 “KCNA on Tremendous Damage Done to DPRK by US “, KCNA, 24 June 2010. For comparison a Cuban estimate of the damage caused by the US embargo was $125.9 billion;

141 Ji-hye Jun, “NK-US thaw unlikely under Obama,” Korea Times, 20 December 2015.; Alexander Vorontsov, “The reasons for the crisis on the Korean Peninsula,” Strategic Culture Foundation, 12 April 2013.

142 Michael Auslin, “Kim Jong Untrustworthy,” Foreign Policy, 11 January 2016.; Michael Green, “Six Reasons Why Trump Meeting With Kim Jong Un Is a Very Bad Idea,” Foreign Policy, 18 May 2016. Robert A. Manning and James Przystup, “What’s Wrong with Both Sides of the North Korea Debate,” National Interest, 9 October 2016.

143 Babak Dehghanpisheh, “Iran’s Khamenei: Nuclear Deal Proves Pointlessness of Negotiating With U.S.,” Haaretz, 2 August 2016.; Tim Arango, “Kurds Fear the U.S. Will Again Betray Them, in Syria,” New York Times, 1 September 2016.; Andrew C. Kuchins, “That brief U.S.-Russia strategic partnership 15 years ago? New interviews reveal why it derailed.,” Washington Post, 23 September 2016.

144 In-sun Kang, “Libya Intervention Makes It Harder to Denuclearize N.Korea,” Chosun Ilbo, 30 March 2011.; Christine Kim, “Libyans should have kept nukes, says Pyongyang,” Joongang Ilbo, 24 March 2011.

145 Scott Snyder, “The Economic Costs of North Korean Nuclear Development,” Council on Foreign Relations, 25 November 2013.; Joseph R. DeTrani, “North Korea’s Irrational Approach to Diplomacy—Is There Any Hope?,” 38 North, 17 December 2013.

146 Jeffrey Sachs, “The fatal expense of American imperialism,” Boston Globe, 30 October 2016.

147 Dingli Shen, “What’s Behind the North Korea Nuclear Test? ,”, 20 January 2013.

148 Seung-sik Yang, “N.Korea’s Nuke Test ‘Only Cost $5 Million’,” Chosun Ilbo, 12 September 2016.

149 Tim Beal, “The transformation of the nuclear weapons calculus,” NK News, 19 June 2014.

150 Ha-young Choi, “North Korea to decrease national defense proportion this year,” NK News, 31 March 2016.

151 Toloraya, “Byungjin vs the Sanctions Regime: Which Works Better?.”

152 Kenneth N. Waltz, “The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Better,” International Institute for Strategic Studies: Adelpi Papers171(1981).

153 Simon Shen, “Have Nuclear Weapons Made the DPRK a Rogue State? Studying the Korean Peninsula Crisis from the Waltzian Theory,” Journal of Comparative Asian Development 10, no. 2 (2011). Seymour M. Hersh, The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy (New York: Random House, 1991).

154 “Crucial Statement of KPA Supreme Command,” KCNA, 24 February 2016.

155 “KPA Mission Statement on US-S. Korea Joint Military Exercises,” KCNA, 27 February 2011.

156 James R. Clapper, “A Conversation With James Clapper,” Council on Foreign Relations, 25 October 2016.

157 Gompert, Cevallos, and Garafola, “War with China: Thinking through the Unthinkable; Peter Apps, “Commentary: Here’s how a U.S.-China war could play out,” Reuters, 9 August 2016.

158 Robert Farley, “Asia’s Greatest Fear: A U.S.-China War,” National Interest, 9 June 2014.

159 Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “China’s Fear Of US May Tempt Them To Preempt: Sinologists “ Breaking Defense, 1 October 2013.

160 Richard Sanders, “How to Start a War: The American Use of War Pretext Incidents,” Global Research, 2 May 2002.

161 Tim Beal, “North Korean satellites and rocket science,” NK News, 3 February 2016.

162 “A Rare Congress and Mixed Signals in North Korea,” STRTFOR, 5 May 2016.

163 John Schilling, “Musudan Could Be Operational Sooner Than Expected,” 38 North, 17 October 2016.

164 Tim Beal, “The Dangerous Year, 2017 – Part 1,” Zoom in Korea, 20 July 2016.; ———, “The Dangerous Year, 2017 – Part 2,” Zoom in Korea, 28 July 2016.

165 Michael Kranish, “Hillary Clinton regrets her Iraq vote. But opting for intervention was a pattern,” Washington Post, 15 September 2016.; “‘Surgical’ U.S. strike on N. Korea would lead to ‘bloodbath,’ war with China: expert warns,” Yonhap, 1 November 2016.

166 Anna Fifield and Yoonjung Seo, “South Korea’s presidency ‘on the brink of collapse’ as scandal grows,” Washington Post, 29 October 2016.; Hyo-jin Kim, “Hard-line N. Korea policy put on line,” Korea Times, 30 October 2016.

167 Josh Rogin, “The coming clash with China over North Korea,” Washington Post, 6 November 2016.

168 Yong-weon Yu, “USFK Practices Evacuating American Civilians,” Chosun Ilbo, 8 November 2016.

169 Robert Carlin, “Paying Attention Helps: Pondering North Korean Signals,” 38 North, 6 September 2016.

170 Niall Ferguson, “Is the U.S. an Empire in Denial? A Lecture by Niall Ferguson,” Foreign Policy Association, 17 September 2003.

171 “NATO announces nomination of General Curtis M. Scaparrotti as Supreme Allied Commander Europe,” NATO Press Release, 11 March 2016.

172 Christine Ahn, “To End North Korea’s Nuclear Program, End the Korean War,” Foreign Policy in Focus & The Nation, 7 January 2016.; Nam Hyok Jong, “Replacing Armistice Agreement with Peace Agreement is the best way for ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula and the rest of the northeast Asian region,” PacNet Newsletter, 10 March 2016.; Mike Mullen and Sam Nunn, “How to deal with North Korea,” Washington Post, 15 September 2016.

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