North Korea: Odious Diplomacy?

Reply Thu 3 Apr, 2003 02:32 pm
Not too long ago North Korea celebrated South Korea's new President's inauguration by firing their version of a silkworm missile into the Sea of Japan. A few weeks ago they attempted to kidnap a U.S. Recon Plane over international waters (Why not? It worked for China). In between they have made it a point to tell us they have restarted what we consider a breeder reactor thereby enabling them to make (more?) nuclear WMD. This is in clear violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty they signed with the Clinton Administration. Given this diplomatic nose thumbing, how is North Korea to be dealt with?

Should we in the U.S. affix a clothespin to our nose and sanction international black mail by unilaterally negotiating another non-proliferation treaty with them? (Strange, those same nations who hungered for multilateralism towards Iraq have no problem with the U.S. unilaterally buying off the North Koreans.)


Should we remove the 37,000 troops down range of North Korea's 11,000 artillery pieces, which the N. Koreans have effectively used as hostages by threatening all out war, and help resolve South Korean's concern about wayward U.S. military vehicles plowing into civilians?
Should we ask the UN to handle it (after we pull out our troops)? Since there is no longer a communist threat we need no longer concern ourselves with the domino theory. What are our options?


What effect would a successful military conflict, from a U.S. standpoint, with Iraq have on any diplomatic measures proffered by the U.S.?


P.S. There is, of course, a third option but in this era where heads are coming out of the sand I feel the "Saddam Hussein Doctrine", whereas one merely ignores the train barreling down the tracks towards oneself, seems to have been disproved.
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Reply Thu 3 Apr, 2003 04:54 pm
with the close proximity of guam to n. korea this situation has my attention.
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Reply Fri 18 Apr, 2003 09:42 am
Now North Korea must be invaded and liberated, for the sake of its people

When 200,000 people are released from a single gulag, it will be like the opening of the gates of Auschwitz
Johann Hari in The Independent
18 April 2003

The novelist Julian Barnes decided to create a little frisson of fear last week. In a newspaper article, he reminded readers that Tony Blair had explained to MPs that North Korea had to be "dealt with" after the Iraq conflict was over. Barnes then jibed, "Are you getting hot for the next one - the humanitarian attack on Pyongyang?" Oh, the very idea! The notion that any decent human being would want to act in North Korea! The subtext was: See, dear reader, how mad these politicians are compared to us sane, decent folk?

So let's look at North Korea. We imagine that the world has shrunk and even the worst places on earth are only a live broadcast away, yet the sole remaining fully Stalinist state is a dark abyss about which we know very little. There has been almost no access to the country for outsiders for 50 years. The juche ('self-reliance') ideology of the ruling élite has sealed the country off from the rest of the human race. This one, strange country of 22 million people was set up by Stalin. While the Soviet Union renounced Stalin in the Fifties and collapsed altogether in 1991, this nation persisted with Uncle Joe's policies for decade after decade while the world looked elsewhere.

But a crack in the seal of North Korean tyranny has opened, allowing us a glimpse into a world we had not imagined. Over 300,000 brave North Koreans have risked death and traversed dangerous mountains and jungles to flee to China, and are trying to tell the world about what they have escaped from. Aid agencies too have had a tiny glimpse of the country. Far too few of us have bothered to listen.

Terrified refugees have explained that the country is filled with "detention centres" - or, as they can more properly be described, gulags. Their prisoners are primarily homeless people who have fled their towns and villages in a desperate search for food. Amnesty International has described the conditions in these prisons for the non-criminal: "20 to 50 people are crammed into a small room and given a tiny amount of food each day. Many people are reported to have died of hunger and disease in such places... [There is] a detention place in Chongjin in the east of the country where the detainees were only fed once a day with cakes made out of corn stalks. They were forced to work all day and were held in such cramped conditions that they had to sleep standing up. [One former inmate] said that after one week at least three of his cell-mates had died."

Award-winning journalists at the NBC network have documented the existence of a gulag in the far north of the country which holds 200,000 men, women and children accused of "political crimes". At "Camp 22" in Haengyong, 50,000 prisoners toil every day - and a quarter of them die every year. Whole families are imprisoned for even the most bland political statements. Forced abortions - even in the eighth month of pregnancy - are common, according to Human Rights Without Frontiers, as is infanticide.

Many of the refugees had been so brainwashed by the regime that they believed the entire world looked up to Kim Jong Il as a hero and North Korea as a paradise. The psychosis of the leader cannot be overstated. Japanese film-makers who were kidnapped by Kim's security services and held as his prisoner for years explain that he appears to think that Western action films are an accurate representation of life in America. All baby triplets born in the country are seized from their parents and held in state orphanages because they are considered "lucky".

Starvation is endemic in North Korea because of the government's catastrophic economic system. Amnesty offers the conservative estimate that 10 per cent of the population - 2 million people - have died since 1994 from hunger. Many refugees argue that a quarter of the people they know (which would mean 5 million people) have starved to death. There are widespread reports that people have resorted to eating grass, the bark of trees, rats and even human flesh. (While this was happening, Kim Jong Il has spent over £300m on weaponry.)

It is tempting to argue that the solution to the horrific suffering in this country is to flood it with humanitarian aid - but the people who have tried that very tactic say that it does not work. Medicin Sans Frontières withdrew their aid efforts in 1998 when it became clear the regime was using their food supplies to prop up the regime and award its supporters. Most refugees say they never saw a drop of food aid - despite almost one million tonnes flooding into the country every year since 1994.

And aid, of course, cannot deal with the human rights abuses. The Clinton administration - in conjunction with the South Korean government - tried to engage the regime in dialogue in the hope that ending its isolation would cause it to liberalise. But the humanitarian situation deteriorated during engagement, and the North blatantly broke its agreement not to develop nuclear weapons. The diplomatic route - which Colin Powell is trying to relaunch next week when he meets with the North's neighbour, China - might deal with WMD, but would do nothing about the human rights abuses. Does anyone think in all conscience that we should deal only with the bomb factories, and ignore the human rights abuses? No, no, no. America's fear about WMD should be directed to do some wider good.

The nations of the world united through the UN (and we can all surely agree that Kim Jong Il is the last person alive who we'd like to have his finger on a nuclear button) must take out the North's nukes with a targeted use of special forces, intelligence and bombing. This is not as dangerous as it sounds. As Chris Bellamy, The Independent's military expert, explains, "A nuclear weapon won't detonate if bombed. If it goes off accidentally, the worst that will happen is that the conventional explosives will go off. The chances of a nuclear explosion are negligible."

North Korea - if the regime doesn't implode - can then be invaded and liberated. It should be pointed out that the British government is sceptical of this solution. A Downing Street source explains: "It is politically impossible for an American President to sell a military engagement in Asia after Vietnam. It can't be done, and we're not expecting an invasion of the North." But what better option is there for the people of North Korea? Doesn't anybody care about them?

When North Korea is eventually opened up - when 200,000 people are released from a single gulag - the effect on world opinion will be like the opening of the gates of Auschwitz. We will ask in agonised introspection how we could have stood by and done nothing while this level of suffering was inflicted on our fellow human beings. And we will look at articles like Julian Barnes's - which try to claim the moral high ground for smug inaction - with contempt. Any decision today to stand by while the people of North Korea are butchered, battered and starved will be - to coin a phrase - Not in My Name.
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Reply Fri 18 Apr, 2003 03:28 pm

Thanks for that article. Just saw a few interviews of " escaped" North Koreans on PBS's "Avoiding Armageddon"ast night. Not surprising they cite pervasive brain washing. Sample North Korean elementary school math problem:

375 American Tanks attack 20 DPRK tanks. The DPRK tanks destroy 371 American tanks. How many American tanks left?
(Really, no kidding!)

Do you have a link for The Independent ? I need many points of view and would like to add it to my Favorites.


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Reply Sat 19 Apr, 2003 01:41 am
link: Now North Korea must be invaded and liberated, for the sake of its people
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Reply Sat 26 May, 2018 07:55 am
Some voices from the past. Thinking it’s a good idea not to be fooled by ‘present-ism’, but to get a recall of facts on the ground as they were at various points in history.

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