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145 responses to “Roundtable: Korean crisis”

  1. Katz

    Ah yes. North Korea. The Chance Card pile in the great Monopoly Game of geopolitics.

    “Kim Jong-il installs nuclear button on his desk. Lose one turn.”

  2. Paul Burns

    Seems to me its most likely N. Korea is the aggressor with this particular action, though they did warn the South Korean navy to keep away from the area with their current exercises or else (which they don’t seem to have had the right to do. What is unique about this particular attack is that its a land-based attack, as opposed to the recent naval clashes. Its hard to say if that in itself means anything or not – trying to read North Korea is almost impossible, like Rudd said, the Hermit Kingdom. However, there appear to be two scenarios, either one of which may be right or wrong. 1) the North Korean Army has got the shits with the the promotion of Kim the Younger to Army C-in-C and are acting independently – which is really, really scary or 2)Kim the Younger is flexing some muscle and trying to prove he’s top dog in the Army, which is also scary, but not so scary.
    Then you have the geopolitical level – the Six Party Talks have come to a grinding halt, with everybody, including China, ganging up on North Korea. N. Korea is still stuck with grinding sanctions (and given the recent revelation of centrifuges for uranium enrichment are likely to continue to have the sanctions imposed for some time) and they are using this particular act of bad behaviour as pressure to have the sanctions lifted. The other five parties to the Six Party talks, which include the US and South Korea seem determined not to reward bad behaviour but only time will tell.
    This could get a lot worse. South Korea could shell the North Korean missile sites for example. North Korea would react to that with further aggression. It my guess that its about this point everybody else might get drawn in including us.
    Anyway, FWIW, that’s my take on the whole thing so far.

  3. Paul Norton

    There will never be a good time for a war on the Korean Peninsula to break out, but now and the near future may be a particularly bad time.

  4. Debbieanne

    Paul@3 that is absolutley terrifying!

  5. Paul Norton

    Debbieanne, the author of the message, Sarah Roy, did add the caveat that she wasn’t going to comment on the accuracy of the information she’d been given, but she’s a very knowledgable and well-connected authority on Middle East affairs and her source sounds like someone who’s in a position to know things.

  6. Robert Merkel

    Thanks tigtog for putting up a post.

    My take there’s a whole lot of No F*&^%g Idea about what the North Koreans are up to, and why – certainly in the public domain, and probably even on the other side of the classification fence.

    For background, the islands concerned are very close to the Northern Limit Line, which represents South Korea’s take on where the maritime border is, but has never been officially recognized by the North. There have been a number of incidents along this border over the last decade.

    The other piece of background is that the North Koreans have (at least according to Western media) been rather provocative over the last year. There was the sinking of the Cheonan, which the US and ROK claim was the result of North Korean military action (though Russian and Chinese official investigations dispute this). Meanwhile, they’ve given an American scientist a tour of their shiny new uranium enrichment facility which they apparently hid in plain sight.

    Daniel Flitton seems to think that this was attention-seeking and chest-beating, particularly in the context of the handover of power from Kim Jong-Il to his son. Simon Tisdall thinks similarly.

    Personally, I wouldn’t discount Hanlon’s Razor, on either or both sides of the border, as a strong possibility.

    Finally, it’s important to remember we’re dealing with a variant of a MAD standoff here. Even leaving North Korea’s nuclear capabilities out of it (and there are good reasons to doubt that they have the ability to deliver them) they have a considerable number of very heavy self-propelled guns with the range to hit downtown Seoul from the other side of the DMZ. Load those with chemical weapons (which they also possess) and it could be a bloodbath. Very soon afterward, the North Korean military would be a pile of twisted metal, and with it the regime.

  7. Paul Norton

    Finally, it’s important to remember we’re dealing with a variant of a MAD standoff here. Even leaving North Korea’s nuclear capabilities out of it (and there are good reasons to doubt that they have the ability to deliver them) they have a considerable number of very heavy self-propelled guns with the range to hit downtown Seoul from the other side of the DMZ. Load those with chemical weapons (which they also possess) and it could be a bloodbath. Very soon afterward, the North Korean military would be a pile of twisted metal, and with it the regime.

    Which then raises questions about what the US and China would think they had to do in the ensuing human offal ground and political vacuum – and what other mischief other states might judge they could get away with while the US and China were thus occupied.

  8. Robert Merkel

    Paul, I’m doubtful to say the least.

    The Israelis don’t need French combat planes to pull off an attack like this; they have F-15E Strike Eagles, which are frankly much better suited for the job given their much longer range.

    Israel also has quite sufficient air-to-air refuelling for such a strike.

    Finally, the use even a low-fallout, low-yield nuclear weapon in an unprovoked attack would turn Israel into an international pariah state. It would be suicidal. Netanyahu is nuts, but he’s not that nuts.

  9. Liam

    Not to mention that even if they were to do the long-distance refuelling they’d have to fly over Iraq, Turkey, or Saudi Arabia to get to Iran. Eventually you always have to come back to US approval or complicity.

  10. j_p_z

    from next week’s headlines…

    SCIENTISTS UNVEIL CATAPULT
    LARGE ENOUGH TO HURL
    NORTH KOREA INTO SPACE

    In an Unrelated Development,
    Champagne Prices Spike Worldwide

  11. Lefty E

    Agree: this alleged IDF plan is going nowhere without US support.

    Meanwhile, back in Mr. Il’s Psychotic Disneyland, I agree with Flitton: its a classic attention-seeking tantrum of the sort that generally precedes six-party talks. North Korea apparently sees it as bargianing chip to come in frothing at the mouth, and then agree to take their meds in return for food.

  12. Fran Barlow

    While I can certainly understand China’s desire for a “buffer state” I do find it hard to come up with a rationale for China to allow the DPRK to get as far off the reservation as it is.

    As the DPRK is totallly dependent on China, you might think that the Chinese would have an interestes in moving the DPRK to adopt usages a lot more like those that operate within China itself.

    I note Hanlon’s Razor above, but I just don’t see the Chinese as all that stupid. Accordingly, the conclusion is urged that they are at least comnfortable with the DPRK operating in this way. I’d like someone more knowledgeable than I am in this area (that would be almost any Asia-focused foreign affairs wonk) to outline a plausible reason for such a policy by China.

  13. Razor

    Ony two reasons to go on an Offensive War is you think there is an existential threat to your existence or you really think you will win. Until the DPRK conduct a succesful nuclear weapons test the existential threat doesn’t really exist for South Korea. With China as the wild card it makes any action by South Korea very uncertain.

    So, if we assume that there isn’t anymore that can be done on the diplomacy front and any military action doesn’t meet a threshold condition fo r invding the DPRK, then South Korea has to keep on taking it.

  14. wilful

    yes, reiterating Fran’s call, any actual expert who could shed light on China’s position vis a vis all of this would be interesting to me.

  15. Robert Merkel

    Sam Rogeeveen at the Lowy Interpreter has a post up, in which he makes the following interesting point:

    It may not be very emotionally satisfying to turn the other cheek, but while no outside force (not even China) seems to have much influence on Pyongyang…

  16. Paul Burns

    Well, I’m not a China expert, or despite my interest about finding out information about the impossible, which is the source of my fascination with N. korea, any kind of an expert on N. Korea.
    But, this bloke appears to be, and he sorta answers why North Korea and China,
    http://www.cfr.org/publication/11097/chinanorth_korea_relationship.html

  17. Katz

    Blame Bush.

    His ham-fisted Axis of Evil fantasies, followed by his invasion of Iraq, persuaded both Iran and North Korea that their only salvation was to go nuclear.

    Instead of being a paranoid, isolated, impoverished starveling, North Korea is a paranoid, isolated, impoverished starveling with an unknown number of nukes.

    Thanks, Halfwit.

  18. Paul Burns

    Have tried several times to put up a link to a good article about the China/N. Korean relationship, but it keeps on disappearing into cyberspace.

  19. Lefty E

    I’m no Sinologist, but Ive always assumed the Chinese like having the North Koreans around, simply cos it makes their own one-party state look good.

  20. Paul Burns
  21. Paul Burns

    Lefty E,
    I think the relationship goes back at least to the first century AD, and there are a series of invasions of various Chinese dynasties, notably the Tang some time in the 660s. Its a very long time since I’ve studied Chinese history in any detail, but the China/North Korea relationship certainly didn’t happen overnight, I do know that.

  22. jim sharp

    so far all we see here; is western centric status-quo views. some asia cented views might give some more balance

    Young general has got what it takes
    By Kim Myong Chol

    The population of North Korea has been in a state of euphoria since the “young general” Kim Jong-eun was anointed as heir apparent to legendary peerless leader Kim Jong-il. His anointment guarantees a bright and rosy future for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/LK23Dg01.html

  23. Robert Merkel

    The American scum psy-ops goons will be quaking in their imperialist boots at the leet skills of Kim Myong Chol :)

  24. Paul Burns

    has turned into a stunned mullet in front of his computer after reading link @ 22.

  25. Katz

    No shortage of Kool-Aid in Pyongyang.

  26. rumrebellious

    Well I thought this Xinhua comment was interesting…

    “We have noticed related reports and are concerned about the issue. The real situation needs to be confirmed,” said spokesman Hong Lei at a regular briefing Tuesday in Beijing.

    “We hope related parties do things conducive to peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula,” Hong said.

    Sounds to me China was not expecting this development.

  27. Robert Merkel

    “We hope related parties do things conducive to peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula,”

    The Chinese government is always concerned about peace and stability. It appears in everything they ever say in public.

  28. Peter Kemp

    Christopher Hitchens always had the best pithy explanation of North Korea:

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Christopher_Hitchens

    I’ve been to North Korea. It has a dead man as its president, Kim Jong-Il is only head of the party and head of the army. He’s not head of the state. That office belongs to his deceased father, Kim Il-Sung. It’s a necrocracy, a thanatocracy. It’s one short of a trinity I might add. The son is the reincarnation of the father. It is the most revolting and utter and absolute and heartless tyranny the human species has ever evolved. But at least you can fucking die and leave North Korea!

    Now with the grandson, they have the trinity, with another reincarnation it seems.

    Re j_p_z @ 10
    NORTH KOREA UNVEILS ANTI-GRAVITY UNDERWEAR
    SUFFICIENT TO SUPPORT KIM JONG-UN
    (ALIAS WUN HUNG LO)

  29. jim sharp

    paul b 24
    then let’s throw you back in the water & oxygenate your cerebrals

    Power Restructuring in North Korea: Annointing Kim Jong Il’s Successor
    one is tempted to say. The years of speculation and half-baked news from dubious sources are over. The leadership issue in North Korea has been officially resolved. Or has it?
    source >> http://www.japanfocus.org/-Ruediger-Frank/3429

    Ruediger Frank, “Power Restructuring in North Korea: Annointing Kim Jong Il’s Successor,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, 42-2-10, October 18, 2010.

  30. quokka

    More commentary from atimes, suggesting that Nth Korea may be trying to force a resumption of the six party talks – and not from a position of weakness. Could well be true. Especially the revelation of the uranium centrifuges.

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/LK24Dg01.html

    I’m surprised that nobody here has mentioned that the Sth Korean military exercises were right on the edge of the disputed border and fired live ammunition into the disputed sea area. Somewhat provocative. Apparently the US withdrew from these exercises for some reason. Hmmm… maybe the shelling was the desired outcome.

  31. Arjay

    The neo-con war mongerers are trying hard to sniff out conflict.We have all the conditions for war.A failed western economy and greedy elites ready to collapse our economies by restricting the money supply and presenting us with war as the remedy.They did it in both world wars and financed both sides of the conflict.

  32. jim sharp

    quokka @30
    like wise nobody here seems bethink & or remember that it was world war2 which got the u.s. & all others out of the last great depression!
    & methinks that the neocon faction of the ruling boozh-wah-zie have a keen awareness of that fact.
    & to save their system will not hesitate one sec.to use whatever they deem…

  33. dave

    That’s a very depressing thought Arjay, moreso given the history of war as a means of solving social and economic problems since the romans. A totally depressed cynic might also note that the size of the conflict is proportional to the level of technical “achievements” in the field of military “science”.

  34. PeterTB

    RM:with a variant of a MAD standoff here

    The Mutually Assured Destruction scenario only acts as a deterrent to sane adversaries, and I don’t think that applies to the DPRK.

    Katz:His ham-fisted Axis of Evil fantasies, followed by his invasion of Iraq, persuaded both Iran and North Korea that their only salvation was to go nuclear.

    You seem to be suggesting that his assessment of those country’s benevolence credentials was inaccurate, and further that neither Iran nor NK had nuclear ambitions before Bush called them out. I don’t think that’s a sustainable position.

  35. quokka

    34 PeterTB,

    That nuclear weapons or potential nuclear weapons are not being developed in secret in Nth Korea, is fair evidence that they are considered as a bargaining chip and NOT part of a plan by an insane Dr Evil to nuke Los Angeles on whim.

    Why else would they have a US expert tour their uranium centrifuge facility?

    Yes, MAD still applies.

  36. PeterTB

    NOT part of a plan by an insane Dr Evil to nuke Los Angeles on whim.
    Because that would be mad – right? Whereas starving one’s own population is perfectly sane?

    Why else would they have a US expert tour their uranium centrifuge facility?

    I assumed that was to convince the rest of us that their nuclear ambitions were credible. Oh, and as a morale booster for their own people.

  37. Razor

    I beleive that due to the economic development of China over the last few decades and it’s now global economic interests, it probably wouldn’t help the DPRK if push came to shove with the South.

  38. PeterTB

    That nuclear weapons or potential nuclear weapons are not being developed in secret in Nth Korea, is fair evidencespeculation

  39. Robert Merkel

    Arjay and others, war on the Korean peninsula would be very bad for business.

    Which is one reason why it hasn’t happened.

  40. Robert Merkel

    The second thing is that the North Korean regime has managed to perpetuate itself for 50 years, through a generational change. Their morality may be questionable, but it hardly implies that they’re insane.

    As far as their nuclear capabilities are concerned, as far as squishing a piece of plutonium together into a supercritical mass, that’s done and dusted. The open question is whether they can make’em sufficiently small to put on a missile.

    Which is, incidentally, a potential advantage of a HEU-based uranium program. There are a number of relatively simple ways to build a reliable uranium-based bomb that could fit on a missile (even though, ultimately, with advanced technology plutonium-based and/or hybrid bombs can be made smaller still).

  41. p.a.travers

    Much bullshit has already been expressed about this small engagement of weapons use across spaces of two countries in truce.The Third World War did not happen and ,whilst,I feel for those who lost loved ones and housing etc. only two killed.So, the North Koreans may have started this,but the extra-curricula activities of Allies like the U.S.A. combining the uranium enrichment thingo as a propaganda tool against the North talk up the humbug of U.S.A. reliability and Friendship,whilst China has copped criticism for North Korean Behaviour. Fancy that!? A few rounds of Artillery and the Chinese are to blame!? So the easy solution is as analysis this build up of the fear of North Korea is suiting a lot of interests right now,and a pathetic war game off the coast line,really means again a heap of countries taxpayers are being ripped off.Government doesn’t want to do any better. If countries like North and South Korea can hold a truce for so long,they could also say, “We need to test our military options against each other”. Plan to do so,as weaponry and skill, and, avoid human carnage,and major property damage,and the rest of humanity could mind our own business.Happy,that skills attained are being put to use.Stop the blather… Now.I say.

  42. Fascinated

    I am with M.Merkel. Tread carefully across this particular stage fellow thespians.

  43. PeterTB

    Their morality may be questionable

    No need for euphemisms, RM, you can speak plainly here.

  44. Wozza

    Jesus wept.

    This is a post about North Korea attacking South Korea. The LP reaction? Within three comments we have a “don’t worry about this, it’s the Israelis that are the problem”, by comment 17 we have an explicit “blame Bush”, and shortly thereafter it is a generalised “neo-con warmongers” and “greedy elites” in failed western economies trying to start a war.

    Listen up guys. This is aggression by one communist state – and a vastly greater economic failure than anything in the derided West – aided and abetted to at least some degree by another. Deal with it, don’t make comforting progressive shit up about your usual suspects.

  45. Paul Burns

    I thought that was a bit weird, too, Wozza, a strange deflecting of attention from the North Korean crisis for which it may be both Koreas are responsible for starting. Not that I blame either side for getting pissed off with the other.
    OTOH, I suppose it was a useful reminder that some right wing Israelis are just as mad as totalitarian North Koreans – irrelevant, but nevertheless, useful/

  46. Katz

    Listen up guys. This is aggression by one communist state – and a vastly greater economic failure than anything in the derided West – aided and abetted to at least some degree by another.

    Classic RWDB smear tactics.

    Please try to concentrate on what follows.

    No one here has condoned what North Korea has done. It is a given that the regime is driven by madness. The larger structural question is what should be done about it.

    Once upon a time North Korea would not have dared to do what it is doing because the regime is friendless in the world and it was without military resource to cope with the consequences of its aggression and blatant breach of international law.

    But those days have passed. Why? Because the regime is in possession of nuclear weapons.

    How did that happen? Bush isolated the regime and terrified the regime into a crash program of nuclear weaponry. Bush provoked this program and now the world has to live with it.

    Bush blustered and threatened but failed to follow through on his threats until it was too late.

    So, what is to be done? How close is North Korea to exercising a nuclear option that might kill millions of innocent North Koreans, South Koreans and perhaps tens of thousands of US troops stationed in South Korea? We just don’t know. and probably no one knows. This is a nightmare scenario.

    And this is a horrible situation of Bush’s making.

    Blame Bush.

    And PS, what has the economic failure of North Korea got to do with this issue? Can’t you RWDBs see beyond economics?

  47. Paul Norton

    As the author of comment #3, I must point out that the comment was not saying “don’t worry about North Korea”. It was pointing out the possibility of having two highly flammable geopolitical crises running in parallel, if Sara Roy’s information was accurate (and both she and I acknowledged the possibility that it wasn’t).

    Also, as Katz pointed out #17, and as Greg Sheridan points out from another direction, the nuclear ambitions of North Korea are not a million miles removed from those of Iran.

  48. Brett

    The neo-con war mongerers are trying hard to sniff out conflict.We have all the conditions for war.A failed western economy and greedy elites ready to collapse our economies by restricting the money supply and presenting us with war as the remedy.They did it in both world wars and financed both sides of the conflict.

    Speaking as a historian, this comment makes me very sad.

  49. Wozza

    Oh, I see Katz, the slightly more detailed form of the argument is that the North Koreans are mad but it’s still all George Bush’s fault. That makes a whole lot more sense then.

    If you want to believe that North Korea would not have developed nuclear weapons in the absence of a Dubya presidency, I can’t stop you. Since they’re mad, their reasoning is somewhat difficult for either of us to divine. You do know, of course, though, that the Yongbyon complex, on which the nuclear program is based, has existed since at least 1989?

    I have not suggested that US policy on North Korea has been a raging success, but that is a somewhat different, or at least larger, question than the current crisis, and the failure has been bipartisan. The problem has been over-reliance on cuddling up to China in the hope that it will rein its protégé in, when China has good reasons for a loose rein (see Greg Sheridan in this morning’s Oz, for example. Oh sorry he’s an RWDB and thus to be ignored isn’t he?). I have only suggested that a kneejerk blame Bush, the Israelis, neocon warmongers, it can’t possibly be the DPRK’s fault, reaction, if predictable from some around here, is facile nonsense.

    As for why I referred to North Korea’s economic failure, take your querulousness out on Arjay, who originally dragged failed western economies into the list of excuses for aggression. If you don’t believe the DPRK’s destruction of its own economy is relevant, though, you are even less informed about this situation than I had thought. Much of the North Korean brinkmanship for years has been aimed in large part at extracting economic aid from the South and the US.

    I can’t believe I am even bothering to engage in this. It is obviously futile.

  50. Katz

    Wozza, you are clearly ignorant of the Agreed Framework between the United States of America and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea signed in 1994 and its breakdown under Bush in 2003.

    I’ll give you a chance to rectify your ignorance.

    I’m a patient person.

    When I suggested that the Pyongyang regime was “driven by madness”, it it important to recognise the difference between ends and means.

    Its ends are mad.

    However, its means are quite understandable in the context of the threats it perceives from the US. And, though reckless, the means used by Pyongyang have been more or less in line with their capabilities, which have been much augmented by their acquisition of nukes, a direct result of the collapse of the above mentioned Agreed Framework between the United States of America and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

    Whereas, Bush’s means were mad.

  51. Wozza

    Just one question Katz. What do you think was happening at Yongbyon before 2003?

    FFS, what North Korea has signed by way of agreements is utterly irrelevant. They have ignored so many international agreements and treaty obligations over the years that no-one – except perhaps Katz – could possibly regard what they have signed and when as having any necessary bearing on what they have actually done. Not least in this context their well documented defiance of the NPT from years before they formally withdrew.

    But if you wish to believe lawyers rule, as long as the paperwork’s right it must be Bush’s fault, go for it. As the man said, you can’t reason someone out of a position they clearly never reasoned themselves into in the first place.

  52. Katz

    Just one question Katz. What do you think was happening at Yongbyon before 2003?

    Are you under the misapprehension that what I think is different from the truth?

    Here is what Wiki says was happening before 2003. Do I have to do all your research. You could have found this yourself, with a bit of effort:

    Construction of the 5 MWe experimental reactor began in 1980, and the reactor first went critical in August 1985. This reactor was an initial small technology proving reactor for a following development program of larger Magnox reactors. It operated intermittently until 1994 when it was shut down in accordance with the U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework. Following the breakdown of the Agreed Framework in 2002, operation restarted in February 2003

    To spell it out, nothing “was happening” between 1994 and 2003.

    So what I thought was happening before 2003 (i.e., “nothing”) is what was actually happening before 2003. On the other hand Wozza, you appear to “think” that “something else” was “happening” “before 2003″.

    Do you have any “evidence” for this?

    Of course not.

  53. Paul Burns

    Wozza, I hate to tell you this but signed treaties and agreements even when signed by rogue states are not just pieces of paper. They actually mean something and there is an expectation on both sides that they will be observed as agreed. That’s why the Us North Korea Agreed Framework worked from 1994 to c. 2002. (Its also why there has been a relatively successful Ceasefire Agreement between N. and S. Korea since the end of the Korean war.
    And some states do ignore the UN resolutions just as some states ignored the League of Nations, but the system somewhow keeps creaking along. The fact that it does creak along shows that for the most part, unless you’re faced with a peculiar non-state entity like al Quaeda, it does in general work.

  54. Hal9000

    What do you think was happening at Yongbyon before 2003?

    It was a nuclear reactor allowed under the NPT. The Agreed Framework was negotiated when North Korea announced its intention to withdraw from the NPT, using the mechanism for withdrawal contained in the NPT. When the US reneged on the deal, North Korea recommenced its withdrawal process, with results we can now all see. It’s all quite straightforward and not at all mad, at least on the North Korean side. For true madness, check out the statements of Republican congressional leaders from 1994 on, demanding that the Agreed Framework be reneged on.

    From the North Korean point of view, the US and its vassals only come to the negotiating table to discuss things like trade and technology transfer when there is a security threat. As a corrollary, whenever North Korea attempts to normalise relations by normal means, they are rebuffed. Why on earth would they do otherwise than what they have done? All entirely rational, it seems to me.

    There has been a constant game of military provocation and reaction by both sides on the Korean peninsula since the armistice was implemented at the end of the Korean War. Sure the North Koreans are paranoid, but no more so than the US (elevating AQ to the status of military enemy formerly occupied by the Soviet Union, anyone?) and with better reason.

    If the US and RoK military commanders had no idea that North Korea would respond violently to its military exercises right on the border in disputed territory, then they are clearly incompetent should follow former Korean Peninsula military supremo Douglas Macarthur into early retirement. More likely the reaction was just what was intended.

  55. Wozza

    Yeah, right, Katz. It was only a small harmless nuclear reactor prior to 2003. No plutonium extraction. No enrichment. The uranium hexafluoride exported from North Korea to Libya in 2001 was just pulled out of Kim Jong Il’s arse, after all he’s superman and can fart the stuff. The entire DPRK nuclear weapons program went from scratch in 2003 in only 3 years to a nuclear test in 2006. Superman strikes again.

    You’re joking.

    As for North Korea taking treaty obligations seriously, look at its history with the NPT. Acceded in 1985, but refused to sign a safeguards agreement with the IAEA – an obligation of the Treaty. Finally dragooned into a safeguards agreement in 1992 – then in January 1993 reneged by refusing to allow IAEA inspections of unreported facilities holding nuclear waste. Acknowledged in 2002 that that it had a clandestine enrichment program, despite remaining a member of the NPT, while flouting that and other obligations under the Treaty, until 2003.(that also violated of course Katz’s vaunted agreed framework with the US, though in la-la land the collapse of that framework was entirely due to the evil Dubya).

    Wikipedia does not actually constitute research in the usual sense of the word, you know.

  56. Wozza

    Hal, I’m afraid debating Katz, who on his good days has at least one foot on the planet, is enough for me; I just haven’t got it in me to waste time on someone who can write “the US and irs vassals” with every evidence of seriousness.

  57. Katz

    The entire DPRK nuclear weapons program went from scratch in 2003 in only 3 years to a nuclear test in 2006.

    You have evidence for this? Thought not.

    The evidence is by no means conclusive that NK supplied Libya with uranium hexafluoride. Moreover, even if NK did supply this material, there is no reason to conclude that it happened between 1994 and 2001, or indeed that the material wasn’t manufactured before 1994.

    Indeed, Libya had been sourcing nuclear materials and technology of many countries since the 1970s.

    But feel free to leap to conclusions that suit your position.

  58. Wozza

    Katz, FFS, this is getting ridiculous. The meaning of my comment that “the entire DPRK nuclear weapons program went from scratch in 2003 in only 3 years to a nuclear test in 2006″ was that this was a necessary corollary to your thesis that the Norks had been good little non-proliferationists until provoked by Dubya in 2003. And is patently impossible, hence so is the Katz story of the universe. Get it?

    A Q Khan had a few things to say about the NK nuclear program, and given his part in it they are at least plausible. If you want to do some real research, try him.

  59. Katz

    You are a literalist fellow aren’t you? I understood your point perfectly.

    Yes, of course the NKs had technical knowledge that predated 2003. their program had been up and running since the 1980s. No doubt, theoretical work continued after 1994. You don’t need a reactor to do some of that.

    So your paraphrase of my alleged comments is yet another misconstruction by you.

    Regarding the Hex story, even the South Koreans didn’t but it.

  60. Wozza

    I’m not entirely sure how I should have taken a blunt statement and accusation of lack of evidence except literally, Katz. However, maybe I have misjudged you throughout, and your entire case has been intended as irony. It would certainly make more sense that way.

    You will have considered of course that your now-revealed belief that NK was running a nuclear weapons program from the 1980s through to 2003 means that they spent all those years flouting the NPT, which they acceded to in 1985 and exited from in 2003. But, hey, that’s OK, it’s that Dubya fellow who was responsible for breaking all the agreements, not our little mates.

  61. Katz

    But the central problem isn’t how the world got to the situation it is in today, surely the issue is how an acceptable outcome can be achieved.

    Bush’s past mistakes must be taken as a given.

    Presumably, the US does not want a nuclear resolution to this confrontation. And short of that, there is no chance for a military resolution.

    Perhaps, some form of internal regime change may be possible, but given the hamfistedness of the US in these matters in the past, there is a real likelihood that the whole thing could blow up in the worst possible way in the face of the world.

    That leaves diplomacy.

    The questions are: who, how, what and when?

  62. Katz

    More ignorance from Wozza.

    Do you have any idea about what exactly is banned under the NPT?

  63. Wozza

    Manufacturing nuclear weapons for starters Katz, and that I believe is what we have been talking about.

    And no semantics about what the NPT allows nuclear weapons states to do please. It mightn’t be fair, but there are two classes of signatories defined in the Treaty.

    I think I know a bit more about it than you do.

  64. Wozza

    And by the way, I actually agree with your 60, at least in regard to the need to take where we are as a given and look forward.

  65. Katz

    Article I: Each nuclear-weapons state (NWS) undertakes not to transfer, to any recipient, nuclear weapons, or other nuclear explosive devices, and not to assist any non-nuclear weapon state to manufacture or acquire such weapons or devices.

    Article II: Each non-NWS party undertakes not to receive, from any source, nuclear weapons, or other nuclear explosive devices; not to manufacture or acquire such weapons or devices; and not to receive any assistance in their manufacture.

    Article I clearly never applied to NK.

    Between December 12, 1985, when NK signed the NPT and January 10, 2003 when, according to its rights under the Treaty, NK withdrew from the NPT, clearly NK was engaging in actions that aided the production of nuclear weapons. Whether or not those actions were prohibited under Article II is another question. For surely there are activities that may assist in the production of weapons, and at the same time assist in the achievement of ambitions that are not prohibited under the NPT.

    If NK did not care about that distinction, then they would not have bothered to withdraw formally from the Treaty in 2003. Instead, they would have gone on doing exactly what Wozza alleges they were doing illegally before that date.

    Yet, despite the trouble that formal withdrawal caused, that is exactly what NK did in 2003.

    This may seem strange if you think that the NK regime is nothing but a pack of mad dogs. But that analysis does not hold water. Clearly, the NK regime was attempting to send a message to the world community. It is reasonable to conclude that they were expressing their concern and fear at the bellicosity of the US, especially in relation to Bush’s concoction of the “Axis of Evil” of which NK was one alleged part, and in relation to the fact that Bush was determined to go to war against at least one of the other members of the “Axis”.

    Who is to deny that NK’s nuke may have spared them from the same treatment handed out to Saddam Hussein?

    The right to self-defence cannot be denied.

  66. jim sharp

    & from the belly of the imperiuum we read….
    Why North Korea Attacked
    Gus Lubin | Nov. 23, 2010, 5:18 AM | 13,144 | comment 84

    korea island

    The island that was attacked

    Image: JoongAng Daily
    North Korea’s reason for going on the offensive seems to be anger over a military drill it said was “simulating an invasion of the North,” according to the NYT.

    The military drill, called Safeguarding The Nation, is a annual exercise involving 70,000 troops along with some American forces.

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-north-korean-attacked-2010-11##ixzz16GVf8ZF0

  67. Wozza

    If you can work your way through its length and turgidity, this is actual DPRK statement (in translation) justifying its withdrawal from the NPT.

    It is mostly a huge whinge about IAEA inspections which it purports to believe should not apply to the DPRK, though a safeguards agreement allowing them had been signed. What interpretation one puts on it will depend on many things, not least whether one shares North Korean views about the US as the Great Satan manipulating the IAEA.

    Mine is that acceding to the NPT had just about outlived its usefulness as a device to extract outside assistance – the reward for being in and staying in; remember it first threatened to withdraw in 1993 and then did a 10 year, will we, won’t we, act. And besides, it was close to bomb testing time, after which the façade would have had to be abandoned anyway. So it was cynically discarded as it was cynically entered into, and other manipulatory devices for extracting aid substituted.

    I don’t expect you to share that view, but given that interpreting the DPRK is all about inspecting entrails, neither of us will ever know for sure.

    http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/dprk/nuke/dprk012203.html

  68. Katz

    It is mostly a huge whinge about IAEA inspections which it purports to believe should not apply to the DPRK, though a safeguards agreement allowing them had been signed. What interpretation one puts on it will depend on many things, not least whether one shares North Korean views about the US as the Great Satan manipulating the IAEA.

    A bigger caveat than that applies. The DPRK was not the first nation to be less than frank in a diplomatic communique.

    Apply Occam’s Razor. The IAEA regime had not suddenly changed in 2002-2003. But the level of bellicosity of the Bush administration had.

    Perhaps there does exist a diplomatic communique in which a nation openly admits to fear of an aggressor but I can’t immediately bring one to mind.

    While looking at the reply of Serbia to the Austrian ultimatum of July 1914 to see whether Serbia expressed any fear of the dire fate that was looming over them (Serbia didn’t), I found this:

    When [British Foreign Secretary] Grey told his friend [German Ambassador to London] Lichnowsky that “Any nation that accepted conditions like that [demanded by Austria of Serbia] would really cease to count as an independent nation”, Wilhelm wrote on the margin of Lichnowsky’s report “That would be very desirable. It [Serbia] is not a nation in the European sense, but a band of robbers!”

    Wilhelm’s cavalier attitude to the status of national sovereignty was one of the triggers for a cataclysmic war. Bush’s attitude to national sovereignty was no less cavalier. I certainly hope that Obama treads more carefully in the present crisis than Bush did in 2001-2005. This Korean situation is truly dangerous.

  69. PeterTB

    Apply Occam’s Razor. The IAEA regime had not suddenly changed in 2002-2003. But the level of bellicosity of the Bush administration had.

    In similar circumstances, I note that Taiwan has not gone nuclear despite China increasingly flexing its muscles in recent times.

    Katz, you really must get over your Bush obsession, and look for the root causes of NK nuclear ambitions – which I can only ascribe to paranoia. I think it is clear that a real sickness exists in NK – all this “Dear Leader” nonsense is just not healthy. Face it.

  70. Katz

    In similar circumstances, I note that Taiwan has not gone nuclear despite China increasingly flexing its muscles in recent times.

    But Israel did.

    What do either of these two facts prove about North Korea?

    Your comment is plain stupid.

  71. PeterTB

    Israel went nuclear many years ago when confronted with a real and present existential danger of a united arab front determined to destroy it.

    NK has no realistic reason to fear for its existence while China remains close.

    I choose not to respond to your churlish and childish final remark.

  72. Katz

    North Korea is still at war, as it has been since a truce was called at the 38th parallel.

    Are Taiwan or Israel at war at the moment?

    I choose not to iterate how apposite was my description of your previous comment.

  73. Katz

    NK has no realistic reason to fear for its existence while China remains close.

    Ha! Here is a list of countries sharing a land border with China.

    The asterisks indicate those countries that have been bombed and/or invaded by the US since 1945:

    Afghanistan*
    Burma
    India
    Kazakhstan
    North Korea*
    Kyrgyzstan
    Laos*
    Mongolia
    Nepal
    Pakistan*
    Russia
    Tajikistan
    Vietnam*

    Being next door to China does not appear to be a very good guarantee of immunity from US bellicosity.

  74. PeterTB

    Wozza! I am talking to you!

    Get back here and clean up this mess.

    There are shredded pieces of Katz all over the floor and walls and roof – and if you don’t clean them up, they will soon start to smell.

    Get scrubbing son

  75. FDB

    Those invasions were primarily because of Chinese influence and an attempt to contain it though Katz. That’s no longer such a powerful argument for going to war, for various reasons. ;)

  76. PeterTB

    Pakistan*

    …and the US attack on Pakistan ocurred when, exactly?

  77. PeterTB

    North Korea is still at war, as it has been since a truce was called at the 38th parallel

    Straws. Clutching.

  78. j_p_z

    #’s 72/73 are truly impressive.

    Sort of a double-A-side single of stupid.

    The “Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever” of stupid, if you will.

    A genuine achievement.

    Somebody get Tommy on the phone.

  79. Katz

    Pakistan*

    …and the US attack on Pakistan ocurred when, exactly?

    Shorter PeterTB: “I can’t read.”

    The asterisks indicate those countries that have been bombed and/or invaded by the US since 1945:[my emphasis]

    I’ll also ignore your jejune and quite counterproductive triumphing, and allow others to speculate as to why you felt it would enhance your reputation to thus indulge yourself.

  80. Katz

    Japerz, if you don’t understand what “truce” means”, all you need to do is look it up in the dictionary.

  81. j_p_z

    “all you need to do is look it up in the dictionary.”

    Kids, this is what happens to your brain when you try to substitute “research” for “thinking”.

    Don’t try this at home.

    Or do, actually, now that I think of it.

    More power for me that way…

  82. Joe

    I still don’t really know, what this conflict is about. And I guess I mean both the big reasons and the reason for this apparently sudden flairup.

    One of the problems though seems to be how to respond. If North Korea responds aggressively, that will probably on lead to a further escalation, but OTOH they just can’t sit on their hands, while their citizen’s are being killed and their property destroyed.

    It is a nightmare that countries like North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, India etc. have nuclear weapons. Unfortunatley it was inevitable (it was a great achievement of the US and the USSR that the proliferation of these weapons was contained for as long as it was.) We have to live with the almost certain knowledge that these weapons are going to be used for the purpose for which they were made. Their development was a great desaster for humanity.

    The only other question I have is how a real conflict in Korea would effect the US atm? They are already stretched militarily and particularly, financialy. The major US creditor is China. Not a good place to be in, I would think. Especially when you have an administration which is unpopular and arguably not very effective.

    [As a pretty naiive observation, I find it a bit strange, when you see images of the South Korean response and you see a room full of non-smiling males, all bowing in unison. Is the only difference between North and South the suits and ties?]

  83. FDB

    “Is the only difference between North and South the suits and ties?”

    Naiive?

    Barking mad more like

  84. Joe

    Roooby Roooby Rooooo!

    Shared a flat with a girl who taught some English in South Korea and she said it’s a very macho place, where women have got nothing. Lot of drinking, smoking and violence. But not all bad– an interesting experience, apparently, just rather traditional.

    Oh, and a South Korean artist, who I met in Stuttgart told me of his adventures in the SK military which is 3 years, I believe and compulsory. Rapes and locked up in cages is the norm, apparently. Toughens you up, hey?!

  85. Katz

    North Korea’s objectives are indeed mad.

    Interestingly, rightist opinion expressed on this thread is sufficiently perfervid almost to crowd out the madness of the NK regime itself.

    When the rest of us froth insufficiently at the mouth at the mention of NK, this is interpreted by rightists as support for NK, its objectives and its methods.

    The objective here surely is to end this regime peacefully if possible and certainly without blowing up a large part of North Asia.

    Rhetorical overkill would appear to be counterproductive.

    Instead, what do the Right do? Add their voices to the Bushite chorus?

    Hasn’t this approach done enough damage already?

  86. j_p_z

    “rightist opinion expressed on this thread is sufficiently perfervid”

    “rightist”. Really. Rightist. With respect to, um, oh, what’s the place I’m thinking of again? Oh yeah, that’s right…. (SAM KINISON HOWL) North Korea!!!!!

    I’m just, um, gonna let that one tumble harmlessly through the air for a while… attracting points, as it were.

    “sufficiently perfervid”

    Or, in another version of English, non-stupid.

    “The objective here surely is to end this regime peacefully if possible…”

    Shorter (but not really) Katz: “my objective here surely is to minimize the damage from my ‘objectively’ stupid defenses of the most indefensible regime on planet earth, so it won’t seep into damage to the rest of my also-absurd world-view.”

    I gotta hand it to you for sticking up for underdogs, though — an urge that this scion of the long-defunct Brooklyn Dodgers would understand.

    So you got that goin’ for ya.*

    * — let the reader who knows, understand!

  87. PeterTB

    North Korea’s objectives are indeed mad.

    Yes

    Interestingly, rightist opinion expressed on this thread is sufficiently perfervid almost to crowd out the madness of the NK regime itself.

    When the rest of us froth insufficiently at the mouth at the mention of NK, this is interpreted by rightists as support for NK, its objectives and its methods.

    Blah blah blah

    The objective here surely is to end this regime peacefully if possible and certainly without blowing up a large part of North Asia.

    Yes

    Rhetorical overkill would appear to be counterproductive

    Instead, what do the Right do? Add their voices to the Bushite chorus?

    Hasn’t this approach done enough damage already?

    Katz: Blame Bush

    Bwahahahaha

  88. Katz

    Bwahahahaha

    Here is a simple task.

    Think about NK on the day of Bush’s first inauguration in 2001.

    Now think about NK on the day Bush shambled for the last time out of the Oval Office.

    Which NK was stronger?

    What role did Bush play in this change in strength?

  89. paul walter

    Bwaaahhaahhaa’s all around, feel like am witness to an elephant seal colony during mating season.
    It never ceases to amaze how the Giant Western Empire, pity ltd, always manages to get its balls in a knot over little peripheral places in the Balkans or Caucasus, or the likes of Afghanistan, Sudan, Afghanistan, Korea, etc.
    Yes, I agree the NK regime is disastrous at worst, comical at best.
    But ain’t it the case, the world over?
    And let’s dare not have any attempt at historical contextuality when we attempt to understand situatons like the Korea one, btw.

  90. PeterTB

    Which NK was stronger?

    Presumably you think that the present day NK is stronger than that of a decade ago.

    We differ on that point

  91. sg

    PeterTB, that Taiwan remark is really idiotic.

    Taiwan hasn’t gone nuclear because it has the US nuclear umbrella to protect it. I bet I can struggle back through LP threads and find you dismissively referring to the Japanese constitution in light of the US umbrella. Suddenly you think this doesn’t apply to Taiwan?

    Seven shades of stupid. As is Wozza’s attempt to exempt NK from the laws of realpolitik. They have the bomb, now they’re safe from a lot of security threats that they weren’t safe from before. They got the bomb after Bush declared them a member of an “axis of evil,” and invaded one of the members of said axis. You don’t have to be stupid to see what that means.

    Not that their possession of the bomb matters, since they can destroy seoul without it. But it helps in regional posturing, and it appears it keeps the US off your back.

  92. Katz

    Welcome to the turkey shoot, sg.

    PeterTB: “We differ on that point [of the relative strength of NK today with 10 years ago].”

    I suppose it was too much to expect some actual evidence and argument to support this admittedly impossible assertion.

    Oh wait, you did provide some evidence upthread:

    NK has no realistic reason to fear for its existence while China remains close.

    Pity is, this evidence contradicts your threadbare assertion.

    Please feel free to continue to make a fool of yourself.

  93. PeterTB

    sg, Katz.

    NK is a failed Communist state – which is exactly how we should expect things to turn out. They have lived under the Chinese umbrella of protection since the fifties – just as Taiwan has done with the USA – and yet thise country’s responses responses have been quite different.

    Your attempt to blame Bush for their behaviour is ridiculous, and your rude attacks on me reveal the paucity of your arguements.

    As for Katz demanding evidence of me – when I am simply responding to his unsubstantiated claims that somehow NK is stronger now than it used to be – doubly ridiculous.

    Far from being stronger, I think that what we are witnessing is the death throes of another failed commmunist state. We just need to avoid anyone getting killed while the process proceeds to its conclusion.

    Now can’t we just be friends?

  94. Paul Burns

    This just goes to prove that you learn something new every day:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11840828

  95. Katz

    Far from being stronger, I think that what we are witnessing is the death throes of another failed commmunist state.

    Yet another vapid “thought” bubble.

    Your attempt to blame Bush for their behaviour is ridiculous, and your rude attacks on me reveal the paucity of your arguements.

    More evidence of your inability to read for meaning. I never blamed Bush for the “behaviour” of NK. I blame Bush for allowing NK to develop the power to act in that way that they have.

    Only a halfwit could fail to understand the important distinction between those two positions.

    Oh, wait…

  96. Paul Norton

    Peter TB #71:

    NK has no realistic reason to fear for its existence while China remains close.

    Peter TB #93:

    I think that what we are witnessing is the death throes of another failed commmunist state.

    These statements can’t both be right.

  97. Katz

    The turkey shoot continues.

  98. murph the surf.

    On other blogs you can read the conspiracy theorists trying to tie in the sinking of the South Korean naval vessel with an attempt by the US to provoke the North into military action.
    It isn’t disputed that the North fired off the 200 odd artillary rounds a few days ago but are those familiar with the sinking convinced it was an act of aggression by the North?

  99. paul walter

    #94, at least the consolation there of Barbara Bush’s comment. The more that emerges about this woman, the more I wonder.
    As also Hillary
    Clinton and the deaded Sarah Palin. “Lord, deliver us from the Norse”.
    But the NK’s: all that bluster and the Chinese are apparently getting fed up with Beloved Leader’s enfant terrible antics.

  100. Robert Merkel

    Not entirely, murph. Gulf of Tonkin and all that.

  101. Katz

    Interesting question Murph.

    NK’s artillery barrage was certainly blatant.

    If NK doesn’t care how blatant it is, why deny the alleged sub attack?

    Then again, the orders for these events may have come from different sources inside NK, which suggests instability and a power struggle.

    Interestingly, on Lateline last night a photo of Kim Jong Il, his appointive heir, some female relative and a general was referred to. Apparently, this photo was taken at a location close to the source of the NK barrage.

    Coincidence? Who knows? But suddenly the movements of a plump little fellow wearing pomade and platform shoes becomes a talking point around the world.

  102. murph the surf.

    @100- does this then flow back to a miscreant part of the US defence establishment?
    Weird thing to contemplate from somewhere within the Obama administration.

  103. sg

    North Korea is not a failed state. Failed states are actually definable entities (the Australian government calls them “fragile states”) and NK doesn’t fit the bill. It has a strong central state, control over its regions, no internal conflict, and it’s not exactly beset by social problems in the sense that most failed states are.

    Failed states are countries like Afghanistan and Somalia, with no central authority and balkanized tribal rule, where the strongest rule the weakest and the rule of law doesn’t apply. Failed states don’t have functioning nuclear weapons programs or huge conscript armies, and they can’t shell the military of a robust nearby nation-state with impunity. Were NK a failed state, its actions last week would see it now the victim of a full-scale invasion and stomping.

  104. adrian

    Interestingly under sg’s logical definition, Iraq wasn’t a failed state until we went in and saved it.

  105. sg

    and now it is…

  106. adrian

    Note the word ‘until’.

  107. Fran Barlow

    The DPRK certainly doesn’t tick the one essential box for a failed state — the absence of a functioning authority. There is no paralysing competition for power. Indeed, the authority is so strong that we know almost nothing about the political processes within the jursidiction.

    Of course “failed state” is used in a much more general sense to describe states that fail to meet the basic needs of their populations. On the best evidence available, the citizenry of North Korea live a poorer existence not only than their counterparts in the south but than is consistent with adequate health. Malnutrition and stunted growth are very common. Sexual-trafficking of women and girls between the DPRK and China is well-documented and of course, the population has, as far as any can tell, almost none of the discretion over their personal lives that even equally poor people have even in states regarded as failed in Africa. Children are force-fed a diet of xenophobic angst and animus as part of the “Juche” national ethos. Worse still, there is no currently plausible line of development in which this situation might be relieved in the foreseeable future.

    Failed state might not be the best term for the DPRK, but whatever term one did use would not flatter the regime. I see them as a dynastic criminal cult in possession of a state, not radically unlike the Khmer Rouge, but that’s not something used in foreign policy circles.

  108. adrian

    Maybe a better term would be dysfunctional state.

  109. Paul Burns

    Apparently the appointed heir visited the artillery park several days before the attack. As I mentioned way back there is some sort of power struggle going on between the higher echelons of the army who are not happy about the appointed heir and company being, well appointed. Or not. Who the hell knows with NK?

  110. Hal9000

    In response to my

    From the North Korean point of view, the US and its vassals only come to the negotiating table to discuss things like trade and technology transfer when there is a security threat.

    @54, Wozza responded @56

    I just haven’t got it in me to waste time on someone who can write “the US and irs vassals” with every evidence of seriousness.

    As can be clearly seen by a literate person, I was attempting to characterise how the North Korean leadership sees things. Wozza’s contemptuous dismissal of such an attempt as sharing the subject’s views is actually quite illustrative of the loony right’s mental m.o. Rather than attempt to engage with the other side’s mental universe, just dismiss them as rabid dogs. This was the Bush regime’s strategy in all its wars, and didn’t that work out well? The Agreed Framework was an attempt by a more enlightened US administration to engage with North Korea based on a view that the regime would pursue rational self interest. It was not North Korea that welshed on the deal, nor was the welshing done on the basis of any coherent strategy on the part of the US.

    Both the US and North Korea have lots of form in provoking and staging violent incidents to serve as pretexts for domestic as well as foreign political agenda items. This would suggest deploying skepticism about any claims made by either side. In the Manichaean Wozza universe, however, to do so is to become a partisan of the Axis of Evil. In the longer run, while such bone-headedness prevails, the mighty West will continue to be humiliated by puny foes whose motivations it refuses to contemplate analysing.

  111. PeterTB

    Katz @17: Blame Bush.

    His ham-fisted Axis of Evil fantasies, followed by his invasion of Iraq, persuaded both Iran and North Korea that their only salvation was to go nuclear.

    Katz @95: I never blamed Bush for the “behaviour” of NK. I blame Bush for allowing NK to develop the power to act in that way that they have.

    Hmmmnnn

  112. Brett

    As I mentioned way back there is some sort of power struggle going on between the higher echelons of the army who are not happy about the appointed heir and company being, well appointed. Or not. Who the hell knows with NK?

    Can’t you read, Paul? As the link jim sharp posted at 22 explains, ‘the young general shines with such virtue and magnetic appeal that he fascinates the elder, more experienced leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), as well as the Korean People’s Army commanding generals, their rank-and-file members and the masses.’ So there’s no power struggle, and it’s hard to see how there could be given Jong-eun’s ‘total revolutionary dedication to Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il, limitless love for the people and irresistible magnetic charm, charisma and personal appeal.’

  113. PeterTB

    Katz: Think about NK on the day of Bush’s first inauguration in 2001.

    Now think about NK on the day Bush shambled for the last time out of the Oval Office.

    Which NK was stronger?

    What role did Bush play in this change in strength?

    Come up with any, you know, evidence for your assertion yet? That NK is stronger now than a decade ago, I mean.

  114. sg

    I dunno PeterTB, does possession of nuclear weapons count as evidence?

  115. Katz

    Katz @17: Blame Bush.

    His ham-fisted Axis of Evil fantasies, followed by his invasion of Iraq, persuaded both Iran and North Korea that their only salvation was to go nuclear.

    Katz @95: I never blamed Bush for the “behaviour” of NK. I blame Bush for allowing NK to develop the power to act in that way that they have.

    Hmmmnnn

    TURKEY SHOOTS SELF!

  116. Katz

    sg says:
    November 26, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I dunno PeterTB, does possession of nuclear weapons count as evidence?

    Quite right sg.

    TURKEY SHOOTS SELF AGAIN!

  117. jim sharp

    paulb@ 94 “This just goes to prove that you learn something new every day”:

    nay lad! theirs nowt new here. only that … as president in those 8 seconds she wud have pressed the nuke button!& we’d all be kisssing our arses goodbye.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11840828

  118. PeterTB

    sg: “North Korea is not a failed state.

    I’m so relieved sg, here was I thinking all along that NK was a failed communist state, but I see from your comment that it is, in fact, a successful communist state. You just can’t trust these Wiki definitions, can you?

    Thank you for making me a little bit wiser today.

  119. PeterTB

    sg: “I dunno PeterTB, does possession of nuclear weapons count as evidence?”

    I think that needs to be weighed against other factors such as thier imploding economy, and their progressive alienation of China.

  120. PeterTB

    ..but thanks for at least putting something forward – which Katz was apparently unable to do

  121. Joe

    Here’s a cool conspiracy theory for you all:

    It would seem, that the US would not want another war:
    Iraq –> Afghanistan –> Korea = Desaster. (And is probably the reason why North Korea is even doing what it’s doing atm.)

    BUT, could a war in Korea be the end of China’s economic ascension? How would the Chinese/ NKorea alliance play out, when Chinese business interests could be significantly damaged? Would Australia supply resources to China, if China were at war with a major Allie?

    Yep – That must be the reason.

  122. Graham Bell

    My own take on the situation is;
    (A). China needs a war so as to [1] Assert its own position as the new (or re-newed) Master Of the World. [2] “Recover” those parts of the Russian Federation it always claims were taken from it by the Tsars. [3] Reduce the United States and its followers to tributary/colonial status so as to achieve [1] above. [4] Dispose of its “bachelor army” – that is the tens of millions of excess males – either through death in war or by marrying them off to the women of the conquered countries.

    (B). The United States needs a war somewhere, anywhere else so that it can extract itself with honour intact (at home in the U.S.) from George Bush’s Merry Follies.

    (C). The two Koreas neither want nor need a war …. bad luck, fellas.

  123. sg

    PeterTB, if you look at the list of failed states in that wikipedia article, based on the only “index” for failed states ever invented, NK comes in at 19, just inside the alert list. If on the other hand you use AusAID’s definition of a fragile state, it doesn’t work at all.

    That Wikipedia article makes the point that defining a failed state is controversial and kind of pointless. Maybe you should try arguing from what we know about the state, rather than using a term that is controversial and often misused for propaganda purposes? Or was that your actual goal?

    As I said above, if you can shell your neighbours’ towns with impunity, you’ve got a lot of power and you can’t really be said to have “failed.” Compare the response to NK’s actions with Russia’s response to its neighbour last year (Georgia? I forget..)

    I don’t think China would care to get dragged into another Korean war. I reckon they’d cut NK loose pretty fast if it actually went off its leash. And I don’t think China “needs a war” or wants to reduce the US to colonial status. I also don’t think it wants to dispose of its “bachelor army” when it needs millions of uneducated young men as a mobile labour force to support internal development. The Chinese govt may be heartless and cold but I don’t think they’re irrational or bent on world domination. They follow their geopolitical interests but they’re much more rational (and much better world citizens) than Bush’s America ever was.

    I think this is just posturing, and NK’s collapse will come about without external intervention.

  124. Paul Burns

    That China is bent on world domination goes against the whole grain of Chinese history. The Middle Kingdom is essentially and always has been isolationist (except for one brief period of maritime exploration in the fifteenth century. Sure, the Mongols made several failed attempts at invading Japan and never even managed to land, and China has made incursions into North Korea as far back as the sixth/seventh century and into countries bordering it, notably Tibet, into regions they consider their sphere of influence, but, in broad terms they are not, and never have been an expansionary colonial power. For those of you who believe the yellow hordes are a-comin’, somewhere, someplace, sometime, read up on China a bit from the earliest times to the present. The only territories they’re likely to make incursions into are territories other countries have stolen from them at some time in the past.

  125. Paul Burns

    I’ve done a post on the Chinese-North korean relationship, trying to put it into some kind of historical perspective.
    http://beingahistoryheadandotherthings.blogspot.com/2010/11/china-and-north-korea-historical.html

  126. PeterTB

    I don’t think China would care to get dragged into another Korean war.

    I agree that China would not want to get dragged into another Korean war. On the other hand, I don’t believe that there is any way that China could tolerate an attack on NK by SK, or particularly by the US. They would have to respond at least proportionately.

    In that sense the Chinese protective umbrella is still very real.

    As I indicated @93 above, I think there is a chance that “NK’s collapse will come about without external intervention” – to use your own words.

  127. Katz

    As I indicated @93 above, I think there is a chance that “NK’s collapse will come about without external intervention” – to use your own words.

    As this is how all Stalinist regimes have fallen, this is simply to state the obvious. I doubt that there is anyone on this thread who both hopes and expects that this is the way the NK regime to fall.

    The novel elements presented by NK are the fanaticism of the ruling clique, the volatility of the situation at the Truce Line (yes, the relationship between the antagonists is one of truce only) and the fact that the NK clique has at its disposal an unknown number of nukes.

    In short, in the process of collapse, this clique can wreak some cataclysmic damage upon the region.

    Contrast this with the collapse of the Soviet regime. This process was gradual. The hardliners were mostly removed from positions of power over a protracted period of time. When it came time to defend the regime there were few in positions of authority who were prepared to use violence or other extreme methods to prevent its collapse or to punish the people who sought to bring about its collapse.

    Thus far, the same cannot be said about North Korea.

  128. Katz

    “I doubt that there is anyone on this thread who both hopes and expects that this is the way the NK regime to fall.”

    Badly phrased. I meant:

    “I doubt that there is anyone on this thread who DOES NOT both hope and expect that this is the way the NK regime to fall.”

    In other words we all hope the regime collapses and goes away.

  129. Paul Burns

    Re China getting dragged into another Korean War. Well, I would have thought that they definitely wouldn’t want it too, until I looked at the historical record. Its happened twice in roughly the past hundred years, and several times before that. In the 19/20C wwars there was a lag time between each war of about fifty years. So, I don’t know. Don’t want to spook anyone but …
    And the South Koreans and US are conducting their naval exercises today. North Korea is making very bellicose threats about that.

  130. Wozza

    PeterTB@ 74, sorry mate, I had to pop out for a while to attend to business in the real world – evidently a place that some contributors to this thread never need to put a foot in – but it seems that you and JPZ in particular have done an excellent job in further shredding Katz and his cohorts.

    Their continuing Black Knight defence is pretty obviously exactly that, albeit no less amusing for it.

    I don’t think I need to contribute further. Although on a peripheral point I must say that the attempt to suggest that a misspeak confusing two countries by Sarah Palin has anything to do with it is merely further evidence of the lack of real arguments available to the blame Bush brigade. A Bush adviser was she?

    It does obviously say something about her knowledge of foreign affairs – rather as Julia Gillard’s confusion of East Timor and Nauru says something about hers (http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/gillard-shows-strain-with-nauru-gaffe-20100729-10wu5.html). Given that Ms G is an actual Prime Minister, and of our own country, I know which misspeak I find more worrying.

    Oh and sg, in regard to your belief that the NK’s development of nuclear weapons supports the “blame Bush” thesis, you and Katz should get your stories straight. He at least has acknowledged that the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program goes back to the 1980s. Remarkably prescient about future US political processes, weren’t they? Though I guess one of your views will be able to rationalise that as just another piece of evidence for the superhuman powers of the Dear Leader.

  131. Paul Burns

    Latest developments.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/28/korea-tensions-yellow-sea-war-games
    Heartening to see China and the US doing all it can to stop this blowing up. I suppose it depends on how the North Koreans currently view the special relationship. One would hope they would be quiescent, as they have been in the past. Of course, if either Korea actually invades the other’s territory, all bets are off.
    While I think the presence of US Naval forces in the Yellow Sea is a bit provocative, I don’t see how they could do otherwise given the present situation.
    The overall scheme of things, though, is very worrying. Seems to me both Koreas are going a little mad. (And this, Wozza, is not to apportion blame – just a statement of selfpevident fact.)

  132. Katz

    The Turkey shoot continues.

    He at least has acknowledged that the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program goes back to the 1980s.

    Thanks for half understanding my argument Wozza.

    Until you show that you fully understand it, I feel that there is no reason to engage with you further.

  133. sg

    The same Wozza who dismissed a comment containing the phrase “the US and its vassals” now sails in to complain about “Katz and his cohorts.” Nothing if not consistent, Wozza. And in the process managing to get in the time-honoured “you guys spend all your time on this blog, you must be dole-bludging lefties” routine. Why think when you can spout cliches?

    In case you hadn’t noticed, Wozza, nobody here is actually defending NK. Why do you insist on presenting every comment on this blog as evidence that the commenter is secretly a genocidal stalinist?

  134. GregM

    “I doubt that there is anyone on this thread who both hopes and expects that this is the way the NK regime to fall.”

    Badly phrased. I meant:

    “I doubt that there is anyone on this thread who DOES NOT both hope and expect that this is the way the NK regime to fall.”

    Thanks for that clarification, Katz.

    For a moment there I thought that you had completely taken leave of your senses.

  135. sg

    well GregM, he could have meant that he wants it to go down the way the South Korean Marines are demanding in today’s paper – “let’s hit Pyongyang.”

    I presume that the next Korean war is going to be catastrophic in a way that even the worst economic and political collapse – complete with famine – won’t be able to mirror. I hope cooler heads prevail…

  136. Dave Ritchie

    Wouldn’t the best thing all round simply be to crank up the pressure on Pyongyang until they get into the faces of the Americans and had to take a pot shot and then to use that as a pretext to simply wipe out their missile bases, and places fromn which they could launch attacks?

    Let’s face it — bringing matters to a head might be a good thing. The South Koreans seem keen and they have the most to lose and this puts the North Koreans between a rock and a hard place. I they back down they lose all their leverage and the regime is humilated if they can’t back their bluster and their military gets smashed, then the glue holding the regime together falls apart.

    Maybe it’s time to bring this 50-year hostage crisis to an end.

  137. Wozza

    sg thinks that “nobody here is actually defending NK”. Perhaps sg could give us an interpretation of these comments then:

    “North Korea …..just can’t sit on their hands, while their citizen’s (sic) are being killed and their property destroyed.”

    “Why on earth would they [North Korea] do otherwise than what they have done?”

    “A failed western economy and greedy elites ….presenting us with war as the remedy.”

    “A few rounds of Artillery”

    “Blame Bush” [repeated ad nauseum.]

    They’re not exactly suggesting that North Korea has any actual responsibility, are they?

  138. GregM

    sg, I worry about what will happen in Korea as you do. Just one mis-step by anyone could bring about a conflagration that will draw all sorts of parties into it; Japan, China, Russia and the US and its allies, which includes us.

    But not even I think that Katz is as silly as those South Koreans you have quoted, although he has given me many occasions to wonder.

  139. sg

    hmm, Wozza, so let me see… analyzing NK’s actions is the same as defending them is it?

    Btw, the first quote you present there is pretty obviously a mistake, where Joe intended to write South Korea. He is talking about “responds,” which by definition can’t apply to NK, since they initiated the aggression. That’s pretty clear from the tone and context of his comment.

    The second quote is clearly an attempt to explain NK behaviour, not to condone it. You really seem to have difficulty discerning between attempts to understand the point of view of the NK leadership, and sympathizing with them.

    The third quote is an explanation of why one commenter thinks that the West will be eager to escalate the conflict. It doesn’t say anything in support of NK’s position, or even give any opinion about whether NK is right or wrong.

    The artillery quote is about china, not NK.

    The blame Bush thing you’ve already been roundly spanked on.

    So yeah, one quote with a mispelling that when read properly actually attributes responsibilty to NK; one that tries to understand their realpolitik; one that attempts to understand the Western response; one that criticizes accusations about China; and one quote about Bush’s failings vis a vis the nuclear game. This is your evidence that we’re all stalinists?

  140. FDB

    I think NK’s probably the only nuke country who would actually use them if attacked.

    This is kinda scary.

  141. sg

    well GregM, I’m within the range of NK’s missiles (I think) so I think I should be more worried than I am. I am really hoping that everyone on the South side of the border will be sensible, even though the NK leadership need a damn jolly good stomping. But I worry that South Koreans are excessively nationalistic, and they’ve copped rather a lot of trouble lately. I think there are few nations that would react in as restrained a manner as the South Koreans did when that navy ship was torpedoed. Imagine if someone did that to Russia!

    Although I agree with Katz that Bush is partly to blame for the current nuclear-armed situation, I don’t think ultimately it matters, because the artillery pointing at Seoul pretty much guarantees that South Korea are going to behave politely in the face of quite extreme aggression. So i suppose we all have to hope that NK get their internecine squabbles over and done with quickly, so they don’t have to posture at their SK neighbours anymore…

  142. GregM

    I think NK’s probably the only nuke country who would actually use them if attacked.

    This is kinda scary.

    FDB all countries with nuclear weapons would use them if they were attacked and theit survival depended on it. They are weapons of last resort and recognised as such in a 1996 World Court decision.

    What is scary is that North Korea is using them not as weapons of last resort but for geopolitical leverage.

  143. andyc

    I suspect that North Korea may have outlived its usefulness to China as a buffer state, provocateur and showcase of worse alternatives. If it doesn’t find itself under new, highly sinophile and vastly more rational management overnight one day soon, I’ll be amazed.

  144. rumrebellious

    This article challenges a few presumptions about what happened and what didn’t.

  145. Joe

    rumrebellious, interesting link. Thanks for posting.