Tag Archives: DPRK

North Korea, the USA and a few thoughts from me.

This will be a blog post with a few bullet point lists. That is often a sign of not having fully absorbed the material or not being willing to aim it at a very particular audience or readership when one creates such a list. A well written prose paragraph has many advantages. The real lead in this story consists of a seven point bullet list below the big group of pictures. I have my reasons for burying it a little bit. But any reader may skip to it and find the points that I think I most have to offer this discussion of North Korea.

I realize that only the President of the United States can deal with the US foreign policy as regards North Korea. I also know that there have been many surprised by both the ICBM capacities of North Korea among those in intelligence and among media experts reporting on North Korea. Articles discussing this gap in knowledge and it meaning can be found here and here. beyond merely being an ICBM program the North Koreans of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea have demonstrated a mobile ICBM program. Mobile ICBMs are harder to wipe out completely as they can be continuously moved. In addition, North Korea has a network of fortified tunnels as a large part of it defense obsession — probably a tiny percentage of these can accommodate the huge trucks that carry these ICBMs,  but if they have 1,000s of miles of tunnels (and I have heard credible reports and seen images that make my believe that they do then perhaps they have a few hundred or even a hundred mile of key tunnels ready to accommodate these large vehicles and help them move in and out of air attacks and back and forth to different launch sites. Whether they can miniaturize atomic warheads, guide ICBMs to precise targets for small scale nukes and how long it will take them increase the range to affect not only Alaska but the rest of the United States — these are things we cannot now be sure about.

America has strong and historic interests and some or other treaty obligations in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan. None of these countries is in exactly the same state of being nor the same relationship with the United States. But they are real and important interests. President Donald James Trump is facing new challenges with North Korea as manifest in their ICBM test. His tweets on the occasion of the recent test do reveal something about what is on his mind.

 North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea….and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!

I think that there are lots of good reasons to seek to cooperate with China in meeting the North Korean threat, lots of great things about China generally and lots that the U.S.A. and China can do at people to people, business to business, military to military intelligence to intelligence, and  at the highest levels of government. But I also believe that while academic, religious and commercial outreach to China is in the interest of all Americans and of the Chinese we should remember that they see the Korean Peninsula and the Yellow Sea very differently than we do and that they are a very different country.

Yantai where I lived and taught in China was 258 miles from the Capital of North Korea and about 200 miles from the relevant part of the Korean coast for accessing North Korea. It was there that I lived and had a chance to observe the way that North Koreans interacted with their neighbors from China, South Korea and  Russia within the context of Chinese society. It also was a good place to observe how Chinese and China’s government viewed Korea. However, that was in 2004 and 2005 and so many things will have changed.  Most things have changed in ways that are less promising for the kinds of pro-American visions I could see as worth working for at the time. But some underlying conditions are the same.



However, I think that the main thing I learned from interacting with North Koreans and those who knew them when I lived in Yantai, China is that they are stuck in ways and to a degree that virtually non of our rhetoric allows for…
Public rhetoric and internal agency policy may be different but when rhetoric goes on for decades it is policy.
1.North Korea is a racially and ethnically hyper-conscious regime that sees in the mingling allowed in South Korea a kind of defeat that makes their regime superior. This is rooted in Korean history.
2. China and Russia both use North Korea as an actual and potential cat’s paw for confrontation with the United States. They wish a force to balance US interests in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines and North Korea fills that bill.
3.Korea’s economy is crippled in large part because it spends so much on defense — perhaps more as a percentage of GDP than any other country in the world. That is more of a factor than any other aspect of their many problems.
4.Their economic crisis and international sanction regimes which never ends keeps them dependent on private funds from all secret enemies of the USA, aid from China, aid from Russia (mostly employment and covert aid) and involvement in activities not allowed by international law .
5. The ongoing crisis keeps the centralization of power a practical arrangement and China will not easily allow a collapsed state with millions of refugees into China or an American led invasion of the north.
6. They do realize war with the USA could be as close to suicide as one can get but they hope to deter it without losing their position and they have made decades of preparations including very sophisticated worldwide networks of operative of many kinds, cyberwar capacity, a hope to blackmail key players in crucial Asian countries, networks of fortified tunnels, massive artillery arrayed against South Korea, propaganda assets ready to deploy misinformation and the cultivation of huge units prepared for suicide missions.
7. It is certain that we do not hear reporting here on there most unique human assets and whether that is good or bad I am not sure but the absence of such reporting makes those same assets more impressive to those with whom they interact daily. In another way of saying it, they seem like invisible supermen because nobody talks about them and when they show up in any setting that makes them more credible.

We think far too much of North Korea as isolated and its leadership as crazy. That is pleasant for us. But we have to tell our military that they may have to fight, kill and die for a conflict with a less isolated and crazy regime than they have been told they were fighting. Battle commanders can tell young infantry whatever it takes to get them fired up in the field  but North Korea is a regime supported by many in South Korea as an alternative to total American dominance int he region my guess is as many as 25% would rather have North Korea continue to exist than have a Western Dominated Korean Peninsula. The Chinese and the Russians will never really support a Greater South Korea solution. North Korea has support from terrorist networks, despots and isolated states who want their weapons and expertise and are willing to return favors for such help with their own problems. There are also many Koreans who would like to see a new kind of North Korea or united Korea more like the South Korean Republic of Korea but find almost nothing helpful from the West in that decades long struggle. I support with passion a US military presence in the Far East. As corrupt as I find our society to be it still offers some support to Christians, orderly world commerce, women’s institutions,  and Americans traveling abroad. Those are all things worth fighting for. But Korea is deeply rooted in a sense of its own Korean race, culture and tradition on both sides of the DMZ. They also have deep traditions of meaningful ties to China and Japan. Those relationships are ancient and profound and full of chapters of problems we can legitimately exploit to gain Korean support but most Koreans see their country in terms of being between those two countries in lots of meaningful ways.

So there is very little chance of mobilizing a sense of wiping out the crazy North Korean regime. The regime is often able to exploit our very poor understanding of the situation.    Their commitment involves millions of people including skilled linguists with athletic ability and cosmetic surgery planted across the world. It includes hundreds of thousands  perhaps even millions who are by Western standards chronically suicidal. In addition there are things they are right about and we are wrong about. They do some things well and cherish some great values. Yes they have a society of mass killings, brutal slavery, incredible militarism and other horrors but they are a society full of millions who love their country and culture and who see that that they have patiently worked for and waited for a process of peaceful unification. They are real people in a real country whom we will have to interact with as such.

The Boston Marathon Bombings and their Reporting

This is a time of crisis which cannot be reasonably compared to the events of September 11, 2001 in very many ways and yet inevitably it will be. In addition, the limited reportage of possible attributions for the attack has been led by those seeking to pin the responsibility on America’s far right. I do not know who is responsible and it could turn out to be anyone. There is a tendency to follow the patterns in which any given society reacts to crises when any new crisis occurs. Liberal ABC News has focused on the far right and possible connections to April and then has somehow jumbled that in with Virginia Tech’s huge killings in April. There is no connection to the American right ib that killing. Lies and propaganda continue full force.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that the FBI has a Saudi Arabian national in custody that they are looking at “as a possible suspect.”
Ruppersberger said he wants the FBI “to focus on what they do best and that’s getting the information and finding out who did this and what type of bomb it was.” Nobody sane could accuse me of being soft on Islamists, nor do they lack for Islamists in Saudi Arabia. In fact I distrust Islam as a whole and often write such things. Bad blood between my ancestors and Muslims goes back to the start of the religion and is enormous. Yet there is so little reason to go first to the Muslims for this attack.

But the far right and Al Quaeda are not the leading suspects the evidence would suggest. Yesterday was the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung. John Kerry our Secretary of State who is the former Senator from Massachusetts went on a campaign to ruin the rocket launches which were essential to the entire regime’s sense of worth and identity. Disrupting these launches resulted in a great loss of face and theses bombings are most likely a reprisal against Massachusetts by the DPRK. It could be anything or anyone but North Kores leadsa sane list of suspects.
Kim Il-Sung is very significant and his birthday can only be compared to Christmas for its significance in this country. There are over 500 large or life-size and prominent statues of Kim Il-sung in North Korea. The most prominent public places in the nation are marked by truly enormous statues in many cases. Some of these enormous statues are installed at Kim Il-Sung University, Kim Il-Sung Bridge and the Kim Il-Sung Stadium. In addition there is the near religious worship associated with the park surrounding the Immortal Statue of Kim Il-Sung . The Korean situation is characterized by huge amounts of lies on all sides and so it is hard to be sure of what is going on no matter who one is in the game but it seems to be true that some of these statues have been reported to have been destroyed by explosions or damaged with graffiti by North Korean activists. Whatever the opposition may be doing this cult is vital to the society as a whole. It is also traditional that North Korean newlyweds go to a near-by statue of Kim Il-sung to lay flowers at his feet.

The statues are joined by thousands of Yeong Saeng (“eternal life”) monuments have been erected throughout the country, each dedicated to the departed “Eternal Leader”, at which citizens are expected to pay annual tribute on his official birthday or the commemoration of his death. Kim Il-Sung’s image is prominent in places associated with public transportation, hanging at every North Korean train station and airport and are prominently displayed at the border crossings between China and North Korea. The same leader’s portrait is featured on the front of all recent DPRK banknotes and this cult is essential to being in negotiation with the country. That connection is made by the very numerous gifts to Kim Il-sung from foreign leaders which are housed in the DPRK’s International Friendship Exhibit.
The North Koreans of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have many real and at least somewhat valid reasons to hate and oppose the foreign power they see as having divided their country for generations. On the other hand we have many reasons to believe we have had an enemy worth opposing. Recent books about escapes from horrific labor camps and huge suffering of innocent people under the regime have joined the legacy of the man whose birthday we ruined. According to many experts in the lie infested environment of Korean geopolitics such as those in Korean Churches and Eastern province China watchers as well as scholars like R.J. Rummel, an analyst of political killings the horrors have gone on for decades and were well started under the Eternal Leader’s tenure. Kim Il-Sung’s regime itself perpetrated killings in the millions through concentration camps, forced labor, and executions.
America may have been hit by the DPRK five years ago today. Nobody takes seriously the possible DPRK connection to the Virginia Tech massacre that took place on April 16, 2007, on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, United States. Cho Seung-Hui or less Korean usage known Seung-Hui Cho was far from the American right to which ABC kinked his killings this morning, and last night with McVeigh and others. a Cho Seung-Hui was a Korean born senior at Virginia Tech who shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in two separate attacks, approximately two hours apart. He was diagnosed with Anxiety disorder but there was a real effort not to find that his anxiety could have been caused by pressures from DPRK operatives in the shadows of American life seeking to influence his conscience and life. In China I myself came into contact with a small piece of the DPRK’s enormous and sophisticated anti-American propaganda machine. Cho may have been exposed to it and we worked hard bot to see that connection. This Korean shooter before committing suicide left notes which if complete have many resonances to North Korean propaganda and which may be incomplete because of removal by our own falsifiers of real connecting papers. Cho’s massacre is the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in U.S. history. While our emphasis on the idea that only crazy people do not love us led the Virginia Tech Review Panel to conclude that because of Cho’s inability to handle stress and the “frightening prospect” of being “turned out into the world of work, finances, responsibilities, and a family,” Cho chose to engage in a fantasy in which “he would be remembered as the savior of the oppressed, the downtrodden, the poor, and the rejected” –a sane person can see that this not far from radical communist anti-Americanism of the type found in the DPRK. But the panel rejected this approach and went further down yellow brick road stating that, “His thought processes were so distorted that he began arguing to himself that his evil plan was actually doing good. His destructive fantasy was now becoming an obsession.” They refused to see the chances that he was buying into an ideology.

Cho’s suicide note follows below and it is easy to see in it connections to the rhetoric long used in the DPRK. Unification Church rhetoric about Jesus Christ, ethnic rhetoric about Cho’s suffering brothers and sisters and communist rhetoric about rich people. It is hard to read but here it is:
You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul, and torched my conscience. You thought it was one pathetic boy’s life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and defenseless people. Do you know what it feels to be spit on your face and to have trash shoved down your throat? Do you know what it feels like to dig your own grave? Do you know what it feels like to have your throat slashed from ear to ear? Do you know what it feels like to be torched alive? Do you know what it feels like to be humiliated and be impaled upon on a cross? And left to bleed to death for your amusement? You have never felt a single ounce of pain your whole life. Did you want to inject as much misery in our lives as you can just because you can?…I didn’t have to do this. I could have left. I could have fled. But no, I will no longer run. It’s not for me. For my children, for my brothers and sisters that you f***ed I did it for them… When the time came, I did it. I had to…You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today, but you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off. You had everything you wanted. Your Mercedes wasn’t enough, you brats. Your golden necklaces weren’t enough, you snobs. Your trust fund wasn’t enough. Your Vodka and Cognac weren’t enough. All your debaucheries weren’t enough. Those weren’t enough to fulfill your hedonistic needs. You had everything.

Not claiming responsibility is very North Korean and the sinking of ROKS Cheonan which occurred on 26 March 2010, should have made that clear to all of us. The South Korean Navy ship carrying 104 personnel was sunk off the country’s west coast in the Yellow Sea Killing 46 seamen. A panel of international experts concluded that the warship had been sunk by a North Korean torpedo fired by a midget submarine. However, the DPRK never took responsibility and managed to get China and Russia to support its refusal to do so – they are seen by both of those countries as a buffer to US regional power.

There have been countless small events such as the bombardment of Yeonpyeong was an artillery engagement between the North Korean military and South Korean forces stationed on Yeonpyeong Island on 23 November 2010. The prospects of all out war are really horrible but while it may be better to endure small evils than risk global nuclear war we may at least need to join consciously with those tied to the suffering the DPRK shelling caused in its widespread damage on that November Day in that fishing island, killing four South Koreans and injuring 19.
I have people I care about in East China and South Korea. I have no desire to see a total horrible war. But I do not believe hiding from the truth so completely serves our interest or world peace.