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North Korea Briefing: 2003-05-06

May 6/03: I'm trying not to disturb the applicants as they guest-blog Winds of War. Still, the North Korea situation has taken some turns lately that warrant serious coverage. Hence this major briefing with links from all over.

  • We'll start with Daniel Drezner's guest blog at the Volokh Conspiracy, as he explains "Why North Korea Should Scare You": reports from 2 sources that the Bush administration has given up trying to deter North Korea from making highly enriched uranium or plutonium. The focus has instead shifted to "blocking the sale of nuclear material to countries or terrorist groups."

  • On his own blog, Daniel Drezner has links to a couple of interesting pieces at Slate and Cardinal Collective. Both attempt to answer the question: What is Bush up to here?

  • "It's a fantasy to think you can put a hermetic seal around North Korea and keep them from getting a grapefruit-size piece of plutonium out of the country. To allow North Korea to go nuclear is a major defeat for U.S. security." (

    The speaker? Ashton Carter, a Harvard University professor who was involved in Korean issues during the Clinton administration. Wish you'd thought of that 10 years ago, professor.

  • Arms Control Today has a whole issue dedicated to the North Korean problem.

  • Calpundit succinctly describes why all options are bad.

  • A big complication, of course, is South Korea, who has ruled out support for any options other than diplomacy. In crude terms, they've decided they'd rather place Washington and Los Angeles at risk long term, to avoid placing Seoul at risk short term. Understandable in their position... but this creates an obvious dilemma for the United States.

  • Some on-the-ground observations on these developments from The Marmot's Hole, based at Kwangju University.

  • As Washington discusses its options without South Korean support, blockade options are high on their list. (Hat Tip: Oskar van Rijswijk, Command Post)

  • offers a wide selection of North Korea maps showing some of the key sites involved.

  • You think we've got problems with ideological educators here? "The [South] Korean Teacher's Union (KTU) has been getting quite a bit of press since a middle school teacher in South Chungcheong Province commited suicide on April 4, ostensibly because of pressure being applied on him by the union's members. They have added to their notoriety recently by holding special "anti-war/pro-peace education" classes which many have criticized as anti-American indoctrination."

    Reporting from South Korea, The Marmot's Hole offers translations and a conclusion: "...why they would now permit the KTU to engage in such hate-mongering now is anyone's guess. Whatever the reason, it doesn't bode well for the future of the US-ROK relationship when Korea's children are being taught that hating the United States is a patriotic duty."I'm going to leave you with 2 very different perspectives:

    One comes via Parapundit. Bill Keller has written a lengthy essay in The New York Times Magazine on the problems posed by nuclear weapons proliferation and it is entitled "The Thinkable." Here's an excerpt:

    "Long experience without catastrophic mishap has made us, perhaps, a little complacent about nuclear weapons. The Indian and Pakistani tests caused a media frisson and some halfhearted sanctions, but the sense of urgency quickly passed. They were just tests, after all, and half a world away, and everyone knows using nuclear weapons at war is -- the word is on every diplomat's save-get key -- unthinkable.

    But each new country that gets nuclear weapons multiplies the potential for a war involving a nuclear state. And numbers are not the worst of it. The original nuclear era was primarily a boxers' clinch of two great industrial powers, each claiming to represent an ideology of global appeal. The second is about insecure nations, most of them led by autocrats, most of them relatively poor, residing in rough neighborhoods, unaligned with and resentful of Western power."

    An excellent article that sketches out the present situation, brings in real experts, shows us the key variables and disagreements, and looks at what the future may bring.

    The second perspective comes from Rev. Donald Sensing, as he discusses what nonviolent resistance really looks like:

    "The photos below are from the web site of Yerang Mission, a South Korean Christian missionary and aid mission that smuggles Bibles, food and clothing into North Korea. It also helps establish churches in China. In addition to many photos of North Korean scenes (some are very beautiful) the site has an excellent glossary of North Korean terms.

    Pastor Youngsik Kim of Yerang Mission emailed me yesterday of a North Korean man who escaped from the north and became Christian in South Korea. He volunteered to work with Yerang Mission.

    While he was managing an underground church in North Korea, he brought Bibles and Christian books to North Korea, crossing over the Tumen River (the border line between China and North Korea) several times a year.

    I learned that he was executed, that he was shot in public after having gone through woeful tortures last winter. I heard that he chose the execution instead of revealing facts about his fellow missionaries and endangering their safety. Moreover, I heard that he cried out, "Believe in Jesus Christ! Only Jesus is the true God!" until he was executed in the field."

    His searching look at the nature of nonviolent resistance and the moral failing of Euro-American Christian churches is worth reading in full, as he heads toward his blog post's money line: "You see, governments will take causalities to achieve their aim. The Euro-American churches will not."

    The photos are also worth your time.

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