Posts Tagged ‘North Korea’

President Trump and his new axis of evil

September 20, 2017

President Donald Trump said this to say in his address to the United Nations yesterday—

We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions or even systems of government.  But we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.

He went on to say—

Rogue regimes represented in this body not only support terrorists but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity.

I think these would be excellent points, if only he had applied them to the United States as well as the rest of the world.

He called for an intensification of economic and diplomatic warfare against North Korea, Iran and Venezuela, his new axis of evil.

How is this in the interest of the American people?  How is this consistent with respecting national sovereignty?   Are not North Korea, Iran and Venezuela sovereign nations?

The United States has paid radical jihadist terrorists to overthrow the government of Libya and is attempting to use them to overthrow the government of Syria—two sovereign states that never have threatened the United States.   The result has been to reduce these two countries to chaos and misery, as the cost of thousands of innocent lives.

President Trump in that very speech threatened another nation with the most destructive weapons known to humanity—

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

He accused the North Korean government of starving and torturing its own people, and various other crimes, which were real though not necessarily current.  But then he threatened an even worse atrocity.

To be fair, it is not clear whether he is threatening North Korea with attack merely if it fails to disarm or whether he is threatening retaliation in the event of an attack, which is different.

This ambiguity may be deliberate on President Trump’s part; he may think keeping others guessing is a good negotiating strategy.   Where nuclear weapons are concerned, this is dangerous.  It may lead the other person to think he has nothing to lose by launching an attack.

(more…)

North Korea: totalitarianism in action

September 19, 2017

When I was young, I was haunted by the specter of totalitarianism—the idea of an all-powerful state that not only could regulate its subjects’ every action, but get inside their minds and convince them this was normal.

As a college student, I read Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, Erich Fromm’s Escape from Freedom, Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon and George Orwell’s 1984 and most of his essays.

I thought the future held three great perils: (1) the collapse of civilization due to overpopulation and resource exhaustion, (2) the destruction of civilization through nuclear war and (3) the triumph of totalitarianism, as manifested in Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s USSR and Mao’s China.

None of these fears came true, although the first two are still very much with us.   As for totalitarianism, there are many cruel and bloody governments in the world, but they are not, in the strict definition of the word, totalitarian.   Totalitarianism exists in only one place—North Korea—where it has endured for 70 years.

I got an inside view of North Korea by reading WITHOUT YOU THERE IS NO US: My Time With the Sons of North Korea’s Elite by Suki Kim.   She is an American of Korean heritage who taught English for six months in 2011 at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUSH).

The title of the book is taken from an anthem the students sang at different times each day.    The “you” was Kim Jong-il, then the ruler of North Korea, and the “us” is everyone else in North Korea.

Suki Kim said the whole idea of individual thinking was alien to her students.   For example, they found it incredibly difficult to write a five-paragraph essay, because this involved stating an argument and then presenting evidence in support of the argument.   What they were accustomed to writing was unstructured praise of their country, their leaders and the official Juche ideology.

PUSH was founded and financed by evangelical Christians, many of Korean extraction, who agreed to build and staff a university at no cost to the North Korean government, and to refrain from proselytizing.   Presumably their hope was that they could subtly plant the seeds of Christianity and that they would be on the scene when and if North Korea ever granted religious freedom.

(more…)

How strong is North Korea?

September 11, 2017

North Korea has the world’s fourth largest army.   It has nearly 1.2 million troops under arms, slightly less than the USA and behind India and China.

South Korea has about 655,000 active duty troops, more than Britain, France and Germany combined.  A war between North and South Korea would be catastrophic, even if the USA, China and Russia were not involved.

Click to enlarge

Some observers claim that South Korea is the stronger of the two, because, they say, North Korean troops are malnourished and South Korean troops are better trained and have better equipment.   I wouldn’t know.

(more…)

The shadow of the Korean War

September 11, 2017

Photo via The Intercept

We Americans remember and memorialize the Vietnam Conflict, and tend to forget the equally savage and lethal Korean Conflict.   I’m not sure why that is—maybe because the Vietnam fighting was stretched out over more years, maybe because Vietnam was the experience of the Baby Boom generation.

Be that as it may, the Korean War is not forgotten in Korea, and especially not in North Korea.   The North Koreans remember that they have endured the worst the United States and its allies could throw at them, short of attacks with nuclear weapons.   I think that if you remember this, it goes a long way to explaining why Kim Jong-un defies the United States.

For the record, it was the North Koreans, and not the Americans or their South Korean allies, who started the war in June 1950, when they crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded the south. Nevertheless, “What hardly any Americans know or remember,” University of Chicago historian Bruce Cumings writes in his book The Korean War: A History, “is that we carpet-bombed the north for three years with next to no concern for civilian casualties.”

How many Americans, for example, are aware of the fact that U.S. planes dropped on the Korean peninsula more bombs — 635,000 tons — and napalm — 32,557 tons — than during the entire Pacific campaign against the Japanese during World War II?

How many Americans know that “over a period of three years or so,” to quote Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, “we killed off … 20 percent of the population”?

Twenty.  Percent.  For a point of comparison, the Nazis exterminated 20 percent of Poland’s pre-World War II population. According to LeMay, “We went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea.”

Every. Town.  More than 3 million civilians are believed to have been killed in the fighting, the vast majority of them in the north.

Source: The Intercept.

The total population of Korea in 1950 was slightly over 20 million, with 9 million in North Korea.

(more…)

The US has tried negotiating with North Korea

September 10, 2017

The negotiations room at Panmunjom

North Korea is ruled by a murderous totalitarian government that has committed acts of terrorism.   But that government has been willing to make arms agreements with the United States in the past, and it is the U.S. government that has broken these agreements.

 The first agreement was the 1953 Armistice that ended the Korean Conflict.   Under this agreement, the two sides agreed to stop fighting, pull back, respect and demilitarized zone and not introduce any new weapons into the Korean peninsula, pending signing of a peace treaty.

That is, each side could replace weapons, rifle for rifle and tank for tank, but they couldn’t increase the total number of weapons or introduce new weapons.   The U.S. renounced that part of the treaty in 1958 by bringing atomic weapons to South Korea.

Now, you can make the argument that this action was necessary to preserve the balance of power.   And later on, the North Koreans were discovered to have dug tunnels under the DMZ for the purpose of sending spies and agents into South Korea.   But still: It was the United States, not North Korea, that broke the terms of the Armistice.

Sometime in the 1980s, North Korea began work on a nuclear bomb.  In 1994,  President Bill Clinton sent ex-President Jimmy Carter to North Korea, where he persuaded the North Korean government to shut down its plutonium test reactor and put it under the control of international inspectors.   In return, the North Koreans got shipments of oil for its power grid and two light water reactors built by an international consortium.   All this was supposed to lead to normal relations between the two countries—which didn’t happen.

In 2002, President George W. Bush canceled the agreement.   His administration claimed the North Koreans  were cheating, by working on a uranium bomb.   The evidence for this is unclear, and the North Koreans claimed that the U.S. hadn’t fulfilled its part of the agreement.

Be that as it may, the North Koreans sent the inspectors home and resumed their work on a plutonium bomb.   By 2007, they exploded their first nuclear device.   Ending the agreement accomplished nothing.

The Bush administration resumed negotiations and arrived at a new tentative agreement to freeze nuclear weapons development at the new level.   But President Barack Obama didn’t follow through.   Maybe he thought that he didn’t have enough political capital to try to make peace with Iran, Cuba and North Korea, too.

Instead the U.S. government tried to pressure North Korea by means of economic sanctions.   North Korea responded by doubling down on its nuclear weapons program.

Now President Donald Trump threatens “fire and fury”.   The government of North Korea says that it will never give up its nuclear weapons so long as the United States is hostile and threatens North Korea with its own nuclear weapons.   Which is a way of saying it might give up its nuclear weapons if the U.S. was genuinely willing to make peace.

(more…)

Why threatening Kim Jong-un is futile

September 7, 2017

Kim Jong-un tells the people of North Korea that they live in the most advanced and admired nation in the world, but that they are under threat by the United States.

Threatening North Korea reinforces the message that they have to unify behind their Supreme Leader.

Isolating North Korea helps shut out the knowledge that not everybody in the world is as regimented and poor as they area.

Recent history shows Kim that there is no safety in renouncing nuclear weapons.  Saddam Hussein renounced nuclear weapons,   Muammar Qaddafi renounced nuclear weapons.   That didn’t save them from being killed like animals following the U.S. invasion of Iraq and proxy invasion of Libya.

Kim Jong-un surely knows that a nuclear attack on the United States would be suicidal.   His nuclear weapons tests and missile demonstrations make sense as an attempt to deter attack.   Bear in mind that the United States  conducts military exercises in South Korea as if rehearsing for an attack on North Kora.

The real danger is if Kim Jong-un comes to believe that his country is going to be attacked, and that he has nothing to lose by firing nuclear missiles (assuming he actually has nuclear missiles).

(more…)

Can the U.S. make credible threats or promises?

April 19, 2017

President Trump reportedly hopes that cruise missile attack Syria and the 11-ton MOAB bomb dropped on Afghanistan will make American threats more credible when he deals with North Korea and other hostile countries.

But it is not enough for a leader of a great nation to be able to make credible threats.  He also has to be able to make credible promises.

It is not enough for foreign heads of state to feel in danger if they oppose the United States.  They have to be able to feel safe from U.S. wrath if they cooperate with the United States.

Otherwise the threats will make them redouble their efforts to be able to strike back.

Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi and Bashar al-Assad all found that appeasing the United States was more dangerous than defiance.

Unfortunately for President Trump, he—for reasons not of his own making—is in a situation in which neither his threats nor his promises are credible.

(more…)

US reserves right to ‘first use’ of N-weapons

May 16, 2016

Russia, China and now North Korea have renounced “first use” of nuclear weapons.   The United States has never done so.

I believe North Korea’s leaders because they would be fools to launch a nuclear attack, knowing that their nation would literally be obliterated by the USA in response.

They also would be fools to give up nuclear weapons so long as they are threatened by the USA.  Only possession of nuclear weapons prevents North Korea from meeting the fate if Iraq and Libya.

The United States has never renounced “first use” of nuclear weapons because US conventional forces are not a match for Russia’s in eastern Europe and possibly not for China’s in the South China Sea.

The U.S. government seeks to be the dominant military power in every region of the globe.  The tools for doing this are sea power, air power, flying killer drones, Special Operations troops and subsidized foreign fighters.

But the ultimate backup consists of nuclear weapons, and the power to make a credible threat to use them.  So long as this is U.S. policy, no other nation with nuclear weapons will disarm.  So long as this is U.S. policy, a global nuclear holocaust is still a possibility, just as in the days of the Cold War.

(more…)

The Pentagon’s new war plan for North Korea

March 16, 2016

China watcher Peter Lee reports that the Pentagon has adopted a new war policy toward North Korea—a policy based on pre-emptive war rather than mere deterrence.

130410174145-lead-inside-a-pentagon-war-game-00011026-horizontal-galleryThe policy is that if American generals determine that North Korea is about to launch a war, they will order “surgical” strikes against North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and send in special forces teams to assassination North Korea’s leaders.

The problem with that, as Lee noted, is that if Kim Jong Un determines the U.S. is about to destroy North Korea’s nuclear defense and kill its leaders, he would try to strike first.  This is a racheting-up process that makes war more and more likely.

The Pentagon’s larger purpose, in Lee’s opinion, is to deter China—to, as the Chinese say, “kill the chicken to frighten the monkey.”

What’s interesting about Lee’s articles is that nowhere to they mention President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter or Secretary of State John Kerry.   The Pentagon evidently has its own policy independent of the policy set by the President and the Cabinet.

This is a vital Constitutional question.  Where does the power in government really lie?

(more…)

Why North Korea clings to nuclear weapons

January 9, 2016

Question 1– How many governments has the United States overthrown or tried to overthrow since the Second World War?

Answer: 57 (See William Blum.)

Question 2– How many of those governments had nuclear weapons?

Answer— 0

Source: Mike Whitney for Counterpunch

Of course there are other reasons for not attacking North Korea, such as not wanting to take responsibility for taking care of more than 24 million desperate hungry people.

I think that the only alternative is to negotiate with the North Korean government, totalitarian though it might be, and to provide assurances that the United States will end sanctions and guarantee not to attack if North Korea gives up nuclear weapons.

Mike Whitney and Peter Lee both wrote recently that, in fact, the purpose of North Korea’s recent nuclear test is to force the U.S. government to the negotiating table.  Without an agreement, the North Korean nuclear weapons program will continue.

As Donald Rumsfeld is supposed to have said, if a problem cannot be solved, it might not be a problem, but a fact.

LINKS

Does North Korea need nukes to deter U.S. aggression? by Mike Whitney for Counterpunch.

North Korea’s “H Bomb”: No Ado About Something by Peter Lee for China Matters.

Weekend reading: Links & comments 10/23/2015

October 23, 2015

Iceland Just Jailed Dozens of Corrupt Bankers for 74 Years, The Opposite of What America Does by Jay Syrmopoulos of the Free Thought Project (via AlterNet)

Iceland sentences 26 bankers to a combined 74 years in prison by gjohnsit for Daily Kos (Hat tip to my expatriate friend Jack)

Icelandic courts have sentenced 26 bankers to prison terms for two to five years each—a total of 74 years—for financial fraud and manipulation leading up to the financial crash of 2008.

The important precedent here, and the great contrast with the United States, is that Iceland prosecuted individuals, not banks.  An organization structure cannot commit crimes, any more than a bank building can commit crimes.   It is the individuals within the structure who have criminal responsibility.

JADE: A Global Witness Investigation Into Myanmar’s Big “State Secret” (hat tip to Jack)

High-quality jade is the most valuable product of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.  But the government and people of the country get little benefit from it.  Instead the trade is controlled by military elites, corporate cronies and U.S.-sanctioned drug lords.

Nawal El Saadawi: ‘Do you feel you are liberated?  I feel I am not’ by Rachel Cooke for The Guardian (Hat tip to Jack)

An interview with the formidable 83-year-old Egyptian author, freethinker, feminist, medical doctor and campaigner against female genital mutilation.

(more…)

North Korea, the forgotten bombing

August 6, 2015

The North Korean government, as the above video shows, is a oppressive dictatorship based on a racist, totalitarian ideology.  But that’s not the only reason for North Korean anti-Americanism.

The US did in fact do something terrible, even evil to North Korea, and while that act does not explain, much less forgive, North Korea’s many abuses since, it is not totally irrelevant either.

That act was this: In the early 1950s, during the Korean War, the US dropped more bombs on North Korea than it had dropped in the entire Pacific theater during World War II.

This carpet bombing, which included 32,000 tons of napalm, often deliberately targeted civilian as well as military targets, devastating the country far beyond what was necessary to fight the war. Whole cities were destroyed, with many thousands of innocent civilians killed and many more left homeless and hungry.

via Vox.

“Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,” Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984.

Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops.

via The Washington Post.

(more…)

The passing scene: January 4, 2015

January 4, 2015

Scavengers by Adam Johnson for Granta.

Adam Johnson walked down the stairs of his North Korean tourist hotel because he did not trust the elevator, and discovered that most floors of were unoccupied and scavenged for furnishings in order to keep up appearances on the few floors on which the tourists stayed.  This is one of the glimpses his article provides of the reality of life in North Korea.

Remembering the Russian Orthodox Priest Who Fought the Orthodox Church by Cathy Young for the Daily Beast.

Father Gleb Yakunin, a Russian Orthodox priest who died on Christmas, fought for democracy, Christian values and freedom for all religions against Communist totalitarianism and Putinist corruption.  He was defrocked twice for protesting and exposing the ties of the Russian Orthodox church with the Soviet government.

Religion in Latin America by the Pew Research Center.

Pentecostalism is on the rise in a historically Roman Catholic region.  The worldwide spread of Pentecostalism may be the most significant religious development of our time.

Tayloring Christianity by Matthew Rose for First Things.

A Secular Age? by Patrick J. Dineen for The American Conservative.

Secularism in the USA does not war on religion, the way anti-clericalism has done in France, Mexico and other countries.  American secularists simply want religion to be an individual matter rather than the organizing principle of society.  In a way, American secular liberals are the ultimate Protestants.

(more…)

The foreign scene: November 4, 2014

November 4, 2014

EU unblocks ‘unprecedented levels’ of cash to secure gas for Ukraine on the EurActiv news site.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

Ukraine Dips Into Dwindling Reserves to Pay Gazprom by Kenneth Rapoza for Forbes.

The International Monetary Fund will lend Ukraine the money needed to buy gas from Russia’s Gazprom, which will continue to sell gas to Ukraine at a subsidized rate.  This means Ukrainians, but European Union members who depend on Russian gas, will get safely through the winter.

It also means Ukraine will be in hock to the IMF, which will have to impose austerity on the Ukrainian people and sell off national assets, such as agricultural land, to pay back the IMF loan.  It is a win-win deal for everyone except the unfortunate Ukrainian people.

Dr. Adadevoh

Dr. Adadevoh

Doctor Stella Adadevoh Isolated Ebola Case, Stopped Nigaria Outbreak by Jonathan Cohn for The New Republic.

Nigeria is free of new Ebola outbreaks, and has been for more than six weeks.   This is an important accomplishment.  It would not have been the case except for a brave Nigerian physician, Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, who acted promptly to isolate an Ebola carrier and lost her own life to infection.

North Korea’s Gulags: a horror “without any parallel in the contemporary world” by Max Fisher for Vox.

The biggest CIA-drug money scandal you never read by Mark Ames for Pando Daily.

 

Glimpses of Asia: the new, the old, the strange

November 5, 2013

The world is so full of a number of things
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.
==Robert Louis Stevenson

Refrigerator delivery to base camp on Everest

Refrigerator for Everest base camp

This collection of links, most of which I got from an American e-mail pen pal who lives in Asia, is a reminder that, despite all the awful things that happen, I live in a world that is so damn interesting.  

Inside Japan’s ‘Suicide Forest’

Gender bending in Japan

Countries within Nations.  The combined populations of China and India exceed the populations of North and South America plus western Europe.  Chinese provinces and Indian states are comparable to well-known sovereign nations, and are becoming increasingly independent.  This article includes interactive maps, on which you can click on an individual province or state and see which country it equals in population.

Chinese man finally meets his Internet crush—and she’s his daughter-in-law.

A festival of eagles in Mongolia

Kim Jong Un’s Luxurious ‘Seven-Star’ Lifestyle Of Yachts, Booze And Food

The highly unusual company behind Sriracha, the world’s coolest hot sauce.  I love Vietnamese hot sauce.

Sriracha chili sauce company under fire for spicing up air around factory. The City of Irwindale filed lawsuit after residents surrounding the California factory complained of burning eyes and headaches.

The Chile Pepper Institute.   Chile peppers originated in the New World, but they’ve become so much a part of the cuisine of many Asian countries that you wouldn’t think so.

The Weirdest and Most Revolting Foods That You Could Actually Eat.  Most of these are from Asia.

Malaysia court rules non-Muslims cannot use ‘Allah

Best places to retire abroad. These include Chiang Mai in Thailand and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Singapore Laws. Travelers beware.

Trick or Treat – A look at Indonesia’s horrifying masked monkey trade.

Anoman fight with the dragon Java.   A painter’s beautiful works based on traditional Javanese stories.

De-stressss with a snake massage.

Bizarre, hilarious, disgusting Thai bracelets from a bracelet vendor at the night market in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Thailand racism row reignited by Unilever ad for skin-whitening cream.

Kitchen of the Golden Temple.  This sacred shrine in India feeds up to 100,000 people a day regardless of race, religion and class.

Burka Avenger Episode 01 (w/ English Subtitles).  The Burka Avenger is a children’s cartoon show produced in Pakistan.

Obama’s Worst Pakistan Nightmare

Saudi comedian mocks ban on women driving with viral video

I don’t draw any bottom-line conclusion from all this, except an awareness of how limited my knowledge is, and a reminder to beware of sweeping generalizations about others nations and civilizations.

Glimpses of Asia: the good, the bad, the odd

November 5, 2013

.

.

.

.

.

.

The threats: Iran vs. North Korea

April 5, 2013

Which is the greater threat, North Korea or Iran?

Juan Cole, who teachers Middle East history at the University of Michigan, made an interesting comparison on his web log.

Another comparison. Click to enlarge.

Another comparison. Click to enlarge.

North Korea has eight nuclear weapons.  As Cole noted, its ruler, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un, has threatened to attack United States territory.  North Korea has 1,106,000 troops under arms, including 85,000 in its Air Force.   Its armed forces have 3,500 tanks and 8,500 artillery pieces

Iran has zero nuclear weapons.  As Cole pointed out, its ruler, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has stated that Iran will never use nuclear weapons because killing innocent civilians is contrary to Islam.  Iran has 585,000 troops under arms, including 30,000 in its Air Force.  Its armed forces have 1,613 tanks and 3,500 artillery pieces.

Why, then, does the United States treat North Korea’s government with such forbearance while threatening and waging economic warfare against Iran?  Part of the answer is that it is safer to threaten a nation that might someday get nuclear weapons than a country that already has nuclear weapons.  But I don’t think this is the main reason.   The North Korean government must know that the United States military has the power to obliterate its armed forces.

The main reason that the North Korean government has the power to engage in threats and blackmail is that it is perpetually on the brink of political and economic collapse, and that if that happened, the U.S., Chinese and South Korean governments would be faced with the question of how to deal with 25 million desperate starving people in a state of anarchy.  It is easier to tolerate provocations—up to a point—than to deal with that responsibility.   I wish I knew a better answer, but I don’t.

Click on If N. Korea Is the Threat, Why Is All the War Talk About a Weak Iran? for Prof. Cole’s post on his Informed Comment web log.

UN says North Korea aids Iran missile buildup

May 17, 2011

A leaked United Nations report says that North Korea, aided and abetted by China, is helping Iran develop its missile and nuclear programs, in violation of UN sanctions.

This is bad news.  The greater the number of countries that have nuclear weapons, the more additional countries will want nuclear weapons, to defend themselves against the existing nuclear powers.  Nuclear proliferation will snowball.

At the same time, if I were President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei of Iran, I would be doing my best to acquire nuclear weapons and missiles.  North Korea has arguably the most oppressive regime on the planet, but the United States does not dare attack it because of its nuclear weapons and missiles.  If the Iraqi or Libyan governments had possessed nuclear weapons, the United States would not have attacked those countries.  So when the Iranian rulers read discussion in Israel and the United States about attacking Iran, they draw the natural lesson.

An attack on Iran, besides being a crime against humanity, would not be a “solution” to the problem of Iranian nuclear weapons – not unless the attackers were prepared to invade and occupy Iran indefinitely.  Otherwise the likely result is to instill the Iranian population with a desire for revenge so that, in the course of time, the attack would bring about what it was supposed to prevent.

The only long-range answer to the problem of nuclear weapons is for all the countries that possess weapons to turn control over to a neutral international authority, and for credible guarantees to be given nations such as Israel and North Korea who think the need nuclear weapons for protection against attack.  I don’t think it likely that this will be done any time soon, but, if the world is to be safe from nuclear war,  it will have to happen sometime.  Nuclear deterrence has worked so far, but there will come a time when it doesn’t work.