Hope vs Experience On North Korea
Image Credit: John Pavelka

Hope vs Experience On North Korea


The best situation for the Korean Peninsula to be in has been clear for quite some time now—free of nuclear weapons, with a formal peace treaty and integrated into East Asian economic and diplomatic institutions. Sadly, 2010 was a bad year for progress on all three of these aspirations.

Three events were particularly troubling. In March, North Korea sank the ROKS Cheonan, a South Korean corvette, firing a torpedo from a submarine that killed 46 sailors. Then, in early November, North Korean officials showed visiting American scientists a new uranium enrichment facility, consisting of some 2000 recently constructed centrifuges. And finally, in late November, the North Koreans launched an artillery barrage against Yeonpyeong Island, a South Korean possession located in the disputed border region, which killed two South Korean soldiers and two civilians.

Needless to say, North Korea has excuses for all of these incidents. In the case of the Cheonan, Pyongyang consistently denied having anything to do with it, despite the findings of an international inquiry to the contrary. On the question of its nuclear programme, Kim Jong-il’s regime claims the facility is intended to manufacture fuel for nuclear power. However, uranium enrichment can also be used to make weapons-grade fissile material. (Until now, North Korea has used the plutonium produced by its Yongbyon nuclear facility to manufacture fissile material for its nuclear explosive devices, including those it detonated in 2006 and 2009).

As for the Yeonpyeong shelling, North Korea accepts responsibility for that attack, but claims it followed a South Korean military exercise that violated the Northern Limit Line, the maritime sea border in the Yellow Sea, as well as earlier provocative joint Korea-US military drills.

Meanwhile, the Six-Party Talks involving China, Japan, Russia, the two Koreas and the United States, which were established in 2003 to bring about North Korea’s de-nuclearization in return for various concessions, remain deadlocked over verification of Pyongyang’s claims. Talks haven’t taken place since December 2008, with Pyongyang formally withdrawing from them in April 2009, saying that it refused to participate further in the process. Admittedly, it has since offered to return, and most recently has dropped earlier demands for the lifting of UN sanctions and a US commitment to discuss a peace treaty. But South Korea and the United States, under its policy of ‘strategic patience,’have demanded that North Korea give some concrete indication that it will actually make major nuclear concessions.

It’s unclear what, exactly, prompted North Korea’s actions last year, although one likely explanation is that it was an effort by the regime to help demonstrate ‘toughness’ in the face of foreign pressure of Kim Jong-un—the youngest son of Kim Jong-il and his presumed successor.

USA Number 1!
February 11, 2011 at 00:06

I wonder what hope we can have while the jingoistic US government protected the Mubarak dynasty for 30 years, that starved 80 million of Egypt’s civilians because they think that they need an ally in the Middle East. Such relic from the cold war only can be needed if the US government is planing to take the US to war with the entire Middle East for Israel. Clinton said that the Mubarak regime is “stable”. “Stable” how? Wait and see Mubarak kill more Egyptians for boost the support of the military to the next king? Or watch how they continue to supress the people? The Mubarak regime is like a cancer in the Middle East and with time only get worst.

That German Dude
February 10, 2011 at 23:57

“In X you talk about idealism and in Y you talk about realism.”

I would argue the same applies to all countries. The Americans are idealistic when it comes to “liberating” the Iraqis and Afghanis, but retain their realpolitik stance towards pro-American dictators in Saudi Arabia and (previously) Egypt.

John Chan
February 5, 2011 at 00:01

@mareo2, Taiwan is an integral part of China, both Taiwan and China as well as the whole world say there is only one China and Taiwan is part of China. China practises ‘non-interference’ policy, therefore China does not allow other people interfere China’s internal affairs based on that non-interference principle. The basis of non-interference policy is equality and dignity for all nations. Don’t you think Korea should have the right of ‘non-interference’ i.e. its fate is not manipulated by the bullies like the US and Japan?

I think you are looking at issues as hegemony and its lackeys; your view is quite different from the people that seek equality and dignity for their nations.

John Chan
February 4, 2011 at 13:34

@John, why don’t you tell me what you are? You can do what I do, be up-front and open-minded. You do not need to hide behind an ambiguous screen name, make bias remakes and do not want to be accounted for it. You need not be scared, this is Internet, we are practising freedom of speech, nobody will be sent to jail because he so happen to have an opinion that is different from others.

Taiwan is an out of money option for the US. The US is hegemony, and it only practises financial egoism, so why should the US risk its own blood for Taiwan? I think your logic has some problem, how can you ask the US to do something that is self-incriminating and to admit what I exposed the US so clearly here. The US at least needs to keep its pretendence that it’s a civilized nation, although its behaviour is worst than mafia.

If you think my statement about Taiwan is funny, I think you are living in the cloud of Cuckoo Land too long.

BTW the US companies are not charities, they go to China for $ and a lot of $, e.g. an iPad made in China, China only takes $10 out of a $800 iPad, Apply makes $500, Japan, Korea and other US companies make rest of the money. You need to take a chill pill to face the reality of the world.

February 4, 2011 at 11:50

Realpolitik? Are you not the same person that said “China try a hands-of policy like Star Trek”? In Korea you talk about idealism and in Taiwan you talk about realism. The logic of your arguments seems to change depending of the subject.

John Chan
February 4, 2011 at 00:24

@mareo2, it is Realpolitik, not kindergarten play. While China is trying to win hearts and minds of Taiwanese, China has to make sure that its effort is not going to be undermined by hideous elements from outside and inside of Taiwan. Appropriate precaution has to be taken as insurance just like all businesses which take out insurance to avoid catastrophic losses. If you look at the military arrangement China took in light of business insurance, you won’t be that agitated, you would realize China is very reasonable in dealing with Taiwan. In fact if China does not take precaution, it will be viewed as fool which can be taken advantages of by those hideous elements.

February 3, 2011 at 18:49

John Chan wrote: “China tries to win over Taiwanese hearts and minds.Taiwan is only a bargaining chip for the US to squeeze China. Taiwan is an out of money option for the US.”

J.C. Are you sure you are not projecting?

I have never met an American or Taiwanese who sees thier relationship in that manner.

I mean take a chill pill, you are advocating stances that dont exist.

America supports Taiwan for a reason that maybe Mainland China doesn’t understand and its not because they dislike China.

If they did then why do so many US Companies support China?

Oh by the way John Chan I have a trick question for you – what nationality am I?

February 3, 2011 at 12:13

“Winning their hearts and their minds”? By aiming 1600 missiles to Taiwan? Is not that more like threatening Taiwan with war?

John Chan
February 2, 2011 at 23:48

China tries to win over Taiwanese hearts and minds. Taiwan is only a bargaining chip for the US to squeeze China. Taiwan is an out of money option for the US. Anyhow we are discussing Korea here, please do not change the subject to China bashing, otherwise it becomes boring, and it’s no good for the readership of this site.

John Chan
February 2, 2011 at 02:24

North Korean has a point. Their nuclear weapons are designed to defend their country against the US and therefore don’t threaten South Korea. At same time North Korea cannot use the nuclear weapons on South Korea, because the nuclear dust will kill North Korean too. So why S.Korean wants to ban a weapon system that is harmless to them as a pre-condition for inter-Korean peace deal talk is puzzling. Would it be a chip to qualify the S.Korea on the buyer list of F-35?

In the inter-Korean meeting, N.Korea should ask the S.Korea to show national pride and restore Korean dignity by get rid of foreign troop occupation on Korea soil. The humiliation is long enough for Korea under foreign troop occupation since 1895.

February 1, 2011 at 21:33

I wonder what hope we can have while the paranoid CCP protect the Kim dynasty that starve 23 million of north korean civilians because they think that they need a buffer state. Such relic from the cold war only can be needed if the CCP is planing to take China to war with the USA for Taiwan. The rulers of the CCP say “have patience”. “Patience” for what? Wait and see Kim kill more south koreans for boost the support of the military to the next king? Or watch how they unveil more WMDs related progress? The Kim regime is like a cancer in Korea and with time only get worst.

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