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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.


    Regarding the NY Times report that the Bush Administration has given up trying to roll back NK nuclear weapons development and instead has tried to shift to blocking exports: Exports are impossible to block because nukes are so small. How would they detect it if North Korea tried to sell one to, say, Syria or Al Qaeda or Saudi Arabia? I do not see that as a workable strategy. I suspect it is a position that just one faction in the administration is pushing.

    Joe, You are absolutely right about South Korea's position. This is all the more reason to move our troops back from the DMZ to create better options for unilateral action.

    Does closing the barn door after the horse is out fit here? Just as we sold the WMD to Saddam years ago, it seems we sold the nuclear reactors to North Korea as well. The U.S. hasn't really stood for Democracy overseas, look at all the aid we've given to the right dictators. What we've tried to do in nationbuilding is buy our friends. Doesn't work for people, doesn't work for nations either. Eventualy when your gifts dry up they go back to hating you. And also like with people, it's hard to get the engagement ring back after you call the whole thing off.

    Unsurprisingly, South Korea is dragging its feet on troop relocation; they prefer to have the hostages American Army firmly in place within Seoul. Our best indication that blovkades or more serious actions are in the offing is If the USA pushes this issue or takes unilateral action.

    Randall: "This is all the more reason to move our troops back from the DMZ to create better options for unilateral action."

    Sounds like it's time to just pull our troops out of S. Korea, with the comment: Don't call us, we'll call you if it's in our own best interest! Nice knowing you.

    The blockade is not ment to stop nuclear smuggling, per se. Sure it may keep NK from loading a full missile onto a barge, which is a small blessing, but it certainly cant stop a thermas full of plutonium. The blockade is ment to choke off NKs normal trade, especially its narcotics. Its a nervy plan but just floating it puts pressure on NK. What we should do is go back to the Security Council and give them a chance to redeem themselves by condemning NK and imposing a total blockade. Either the SC will take the opportunity to try to spit back at the US (and put the final nail in their coffin) or it will manage to present something of a united front to Kim Il Jung. A multilateral embargo enforced by the US would starve NK literally to death. Il Jung will either be forced to make a deal, allow his nation to whither away, or go to war with the whole world. He might take door #3, but if thats the case we would have had to fight such a suicidal madman eventually and better to do it with an international cloak if possible.

    Mark, I agree with your thinking there about letting the UN SC redeem themselves, but do we want to give them the chance to put the last nail in the coffin? (spitting back at the US) They have certainly acted like spoiled children lately. I don't think we want them to do something we all may regret later. If we do have to put down Kim, it would be nice if, as suggested by someone else, China and Japan acted with that international cloak this time around.

    "Just as we sold the WMD to Saddam years ago, it seems we sold the nuclear reactors to North Korea as well."

    We didn't sell Saddam WMDs - where do you get that from? France sold him a nuclear reactor, not us.

    The South Koreans want us to help defend them and yet they are not willing to do anything to help defend us.

    This demonstrates how the threat of nuclear terrorism causes the divergence of interests of countries who were natural allies in wars carried out solely as state-to-state conflicts.

    Call me nuts, but moving troops out of the DMZ is exactly what one might expect before a series of air strikes. That is, there's no reason to put our troops in immediate harms way.

    Especially since we'd expect a strike on N. Korea's nuclear facilities to have military repercussions. I'm pretty certain that any military planners in N. Korea have thought about this situation already.

    I wouldn't bet that the Bush administration has necessarily thought this through.


    I'd also like to point out that US' involvement in Korea (and Europe, etc) have made the militaries of the countries we NEED to defend impotent. They haven't had to stand on their own before, why would we/they expect any different? Classic freeloader problem, not to be confused with free-rider.

    Yehudit -
    Go read "Saddam's Bombmaker." We sure as heck didn't do anything to stop it, nor did we have any real qualms about funding chem/bio weapons. More to the point, we all but gave them the documents to the Manhattan project, among other things, for free.

    Think Armand Hammer.

    Remember when Presidents would consult with Hammer on how to deal with the Soviet Union? They did because he had business ties to the them. I believe they both used him to pass info back and forth.

    There is someone with a lot more pull than that now, with NK. What is astounding is that NO ONE will talk about it.

    We have a man who has given billions to NK to help keep them afloat. He has bought, according to DIA documents, at least 12 submarines for NK. He has an auto plant in NK and has signed billions in business deals with them. This man, who owns millions of acres of South America, exchanges birthday greetings and gifts with Kim Jong Il and met with Kim's father, Kim Il Sung, before he passed.

    The good news is the Bushes, the Republican party and in particular the conservative theocratic movement have a long history of supporting and working with this man and his group. Bush's Dad has given numerous speeches on his behalf. Bush 41 called him 'the man with the vision." He gave Bush's father a million dollars for his presidential library. He was a VIP guest at the Reagan Bush inaugural in '81. The republican's worked with his group to push Bush's Faith Based Initiative. He owns the paper which is the voice of the conservative movement. Why he even sponsored W's inaugural prayer luncheon.

    Why doesn't anyone ask what advice Bush has asked for or received from this man on how to handle North Korea? Could it be that since this man had predicted in the 70's that presidents would come to him for advice and power and since that is true, Bush doesn't want us to know it? Could it be the conservatives are afraid to let people know about their benefactor? There 'go to' guy. He printed and distributed 30 million voter guides for Poppy in '88. No doubt that without his billions pumped into the conservative movement over the last couple decades, the election of 2000 wouldn't have been close enough to go to the Supremes. Without him Bush wouldn't be president. Heck, they are so close, Bush just named this man's long time operative to head VISTA.

    One problem is, we don't know who's side he is guess is he is all the way with NK. He has called America "Satan's harvest"...

    Check out the DIA documents after you read this...

    learn a little about his power...

    Play the Nov. 12, 2002 show here.

    Listen to what his daughter-in-law has to say about the republican go to guy.

    Here this tells about this man selling tickets to see George and Barbara Bush in Japan. He made millions from Bush's appearance, not to mention lots of face.

    Here you have the republicans working with and empowering him, surely he owes them a favor...maybe not he is the one who put THEM in power.

    learn how he is perverting the UN beyond what the Bircher's er a, Republicans think. They helped empower him, the conservative movement helped him.

    like they say here...It's your country, It's your faith, it's your choice

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