Korean Enigma

Thu, May 12, 2011

East Asia, Russia, United States

By Konstantin PENZEV (Russia)

Korean Enigma

In my opinion, there is no issue in modern-day international politics more enigmatic than North Korea’s military program—except possibly the international Masonic conspiracy and extraterrestrials in the World Government. No, I’m not claiming anything of the sort, but sometimes I’m inclined to believe that the actual masters of the White House are aliens from Sirius. Nevertheless, of all the issues of modern international life covered by the press, the North Korean issue is the most real and… the most mysterious.

During Soviet times, the international community saw everything that happened in the DPRK as being characteristic of the international socialist system as a whole, with a Korean twist. The North Korean people, who had chosen socialism like others, built their industry, developed their agriculture, cheerfully marched under red flags in demonstrations and delighted the country’s leadership with their achievements.

In 1989, the socialist world was rocked by an ideological plague, a political cholera and economic meningitis. As though at a signal, socialist governments fell one after the other; the Berlin wall came down; and that December Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev announced the end of the Cold War. Tiananmen Square also happened in 1989. Incidentally, our comrades in China remained in power, but the social changes they subsequently decided to implement had nothing to do with Marxism.

In short, during the late 1980s and early 1990s a bourgeois typhoon swept away all communist countries overnight, except for the island nation of Cuba and peninsular North Korea. The others were thrown into the abyss of the market economy, and some have even blossomed. That is where the mysterious phenomena began. Whereas the Berlin wall was knocked down in 1989 within a matter of days, the wall on the 38th parallel is magically still standing.

Could it be that the United States at that time, i.e., while it was dismantling the international system of socialism, was afraid of overstepping itself in solving the problem of the “two Koreas” because of the danger of North Korean nuclear retaliation? Not by a long shot. North Korea didn’t announce it had a nuclear weapon until February 2005, and it didn’t conduct what it called a nuclear test until 2006. Whether they actually produced a nuclear blast is difficult to say.

So why didn’t the United States kill the proverbial hydra of communism during one of its regular “crusades,” announced this time by President Ronald Reagan?

As for Cuba, Guantanamo Naval Base is located there, so the United States has some of its military-strategic interests covered in the Caribbean. The rest of Cuba could still have value as an area for recreation and cultivating sugarcane, but whether it would repay the costs of organizing a political revolt there is unknown. For the United States, the problem with Cuba was that it actually was Soviet. The problem ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Korea is a different matter.

Sign erected by 1st Cavalry Division at 38th Parallel showing where the Korean conflict began.

The 1950-1953 Korean War cost the United States almost as many service members killed and wounded as the 10-year Vietnam War, and it later found itself on the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis.[1] In 1952, President Harry Truman explained the reasons behind US involvement in the Korean War by saying: “We are fighting in Korea so we won’t have to fight in Wichita, or in Chicago, or in New Orleans, or on San Francisco Bay.” That was the only reason. So what happened?

Reagan’s “crusade” succeeded in overthrowing the socialist governments of Central Europe, among others, without the loss of a single American soldier, while at the same time the United States made no effort to get rid of the terrible and totalitarian regime that it had sacrificed tens of thousands of citizens fighting. Let me say it again: President Truman was convinced that those soldiers were defending the United States directly, not the unfortunate South Koreans who had chosen democracy and the free market.

It’s hard to say what the reason for its inaction has been. Maybe it’s because North Korean society is so tightly closed, and each Korean is followed by two state security officers. So there is little fertile soil in the DPRK for organizing internal strife, i.e., another color revolution. However, the Soviet regime also lacked transparency.

The US leadership has never been especially troubled by the lack of a base for insurrection in any country where the State Department decided to steer people onto the path of righteousness. In the final analysis, a new government can be brought to a liberated country by aircraft carrier or, in the extreme case, by armored personnel carrier. It’s also worth noting that interventions and bombings are tools that the United States regularly employs with great alacrity.

Meanwhile, events since 1991 give the impression that the United States has not tried very hard and is not seeking to destroy the stronghold of Juche and root out the last hotbed of communism on Korean soil. That is, the US president and State Department have made a lot of noise about the North Korean problem for 20 years, but they frankly have not taken any practical action. Could China be the obstacle? For all I know, the only reason China has not solved its Taiwan problem is that the United States stands in the way. North Korea is close to the Chinese Communist Party, of course, but not that much closer than Taiwan.

Let’s review some facts, beginning with the fact that the DPRK is an industrialized country and energy is extremely important to it. The DPRK has no known oil or gas deposits. It has some coal reserves (in Anju, Pukchang, and elsewhere.) and some hydraulic power resources (the Tae-chon Waterfall on the Terengan River, among others), The DPRK’s solution is nuclear power, which the North Koreans began developing jointly with the USSR as early as 1956, when a cooperation agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy was signed between the DPRK and the Soviet Union. North Korea established a scientific research center in Yongbyon with Soviet assistance in 1964 and started up a 5-MW nuclear reactor shortly afterwards. In the years following, the DPRK created a mature nuclear infrastructure consisting of several educational institutions, a research center, uranium mining and a uranium enrichment facility.

The DPRK’s development of a nuclear power industry concerns the United States because the North Korean gas graphite reactors can be used to produce fairly large quantities of weapons grade plutonium. Washington believes that such a capability in the hands of the North Korean communists could have only one purpose—a clear and direct threat to the United States. Light water reactors are the alternative to gas graphite reactors. They don’t produce weapons grade plutonium, just reactor grade. The odd thing is that the DPRK leadership shares the concern of the United States and has agreed to switch to light water reactors. However, the DPRK has limited resources and capabilities for making the transition, at least in the near-term.

What did Clinton’s administration do while it was in power? On March 15, 1995, South Korea, the United States and Japan formed the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization—KEDO. The European Union joined the organization in 1997. KEDO stated its main goal as the construction of two 1000-MW light water nuclear reactors in the DPRK. Under a North Korean-American agreement, the first reactor was to have come on line by 2003. The agreement also obligated the United States to supply 500,000 tonnes of fuel oil annually on a regular basis—40 tonnes of fuel per month—pending startup of the first of the two reactors (as compensation for freezing work on the graphite reactors). Thus, the actions of the US administration towards North Korea and its nuclear program during President Clinton’s administration look quite reasonable.

The George H. W. Bush administration took over in 2001. On November 14, 2002, the United States decided to halt deliveries of fuel oil to the DPRK beginning in December of that year. In addition to the United States’ violation of its commitments to the DPRK, it also accused North Korea of planning to “develop the most terrible offensive weapon in the world.”[2] If the Bush administration was referring to the nuclear bomb, the United States has more than enough of those. If it—the administration—meant something else, what could it have been? The Death Star, perhaps? On January 29, 2002, President Bush’s Report to Congress described North Korea as a member of an “Axis of Evil,” along with Iraq and Iran.

The DPRK’s leaders announced on December 13, 2003 that it was resuming its nuclear program and that it intended to again start building a nuclear reactor. They stressed that they were being forced to do so because the United States had stopped supplying fuel oil.

The first round of the six-party talks (Russia, DPRK, Japan, South Korea, the United States and China) was held in Beijing August 27-29, 2003 to seek ways of settling the crisis surrounding the DPRK’s nuclear program. Pyongyang agreed not to develop nuclear weapons if Washington met four demands. According to a KNCA report, North Korea demanded that the United States sign a nonaggression pact, establish diplomatic relations with the DPRK, facilitate economic cooperation between the DPRK and Japan and South Korea, and provide North Korea with light water reactors to meet its energy needs.

All construction on the light water nuclear power plant at Kumho was halted in November 2003 (however, construction efforts had been slow prior to that), and on May 31, 2006 KEDO announced that it was terminating the project and stopping work in the DPRK.

North Korea’s demands were entirely reasonable, especially its demand for a nonaggression pact; and beyond a doubt the responsibility for the disruption of the Korean Peninsula peace process lies with the United States.

And that gives rise to a very interesting question. Why does the United States do everything it can to keep tensions high on the Korean Peninsula but not go beyond hostile rhetoric and provocations?

To answer that question, let’s look at Europe. As we know, Germany was once divided into two parts like Korea. The West was supported by the United States and the East by Russia, as was the case with Korea. Decaying capitalism was victorious; communism collapsed; a joyful Germany reunited, and the bourgeois part naturally devoured the socialist. Do we remember now who was most concerned about German reunification? Could it have been the Russian Federation or maybe the State of Israel? Not at all.

Responding in 1969 to a question put to him by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger about how a united Germany could be prevented from dominating Europe, French president Charles de Gaulle joked: “Par la guerre”—through war. France was the country most concerned about the reunification of Germany in the late 1980s. More precisely, its political class was worried because that class better than anyone understood that the confrontation between France and Germany lay at the root of most major conflicts in Europe. While the United States is dominant in Europe, the might of a united Germany is restrained by American influence. But what will happen to Europe if the United States weakens?

Now let’s return to politics in Northeast Asia. Let’s assume the United States decides to dismantle the Axis of Evil in the region. Let’s also assume it succeeds, the DPRK’s communist regime is overthrown, and the joyful Korean people come together in a unified Korea. But is there any country in the world that would not be ecstatic over such a remarkable occurrence? As it happens, there is: Japan, which until recently was the second largest economy in the world after the United States, but which has now been overtaken by China.

A unified Korea will be anti-Japanese regardless of whether it is communist or bourgeois democratic. The roots of anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea are ancient; however, the greatest damage to Japanese-Korean relations was done while Korea was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.

And that leads us to a conclusion that is the key to understanding the political situation in Northeast Asia. We have to assume that the United States will keep the situation on the Korean Peninsula tense and foment dissension between the two Koreas for the sake of Japan, which is a loyal US vassal in East Asia.


1. During the Korean War, General MacArthur requested approval to use nuclear weapons against North Korea. However, Truman refused.

2. S. O. Kurbanov. The History of Korea from Ancient Times to the Beginning of the 21st Century. St. Petersburg, 2009, pp. 605 — 612.

Source: New Eastern Outlook

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