New Zealand's involvement in North Korea - TOP

One thing about North Korea (DPRK) – and for that matter South Korea (ROK) – is that hyperbole is stock-in-trade in political speak. The rhetoric more often than not gets in the way of the reality of what is being asserted or claimed. For us in the West, the Koreans use of the English language can often be quite funny because of its puffed up hyperbole.

When it comes to the North Korean regime, it clearly is a totalitarian one that doesn’t tolerate dissent and imposes ghastly consequences upon the families of its own citizens who cross that line, or are even suspected of doing so. That’s what totalitarianism is – there is one authority, end of story. This is hardly unique to North Korea, there are plenty such regimes where disappearances and sentencing without trial are de rigueur. It’s not as though Russia or China are beyond such methods – and yet we scramble to have ‘normal’ relations with each.

The Korean penchant for exaggeration and bluster is well known, so when the North Koreans start huffing and puffing – which occurs with regular monotony – it’s important to look through the bravado and remember cause and effect. For many decades now the US militarisation of the South has been the ultimate provocation of the totalitarian regime in the north. It goes back to the Armistice signed by the US, North Koreans and Chinese (not the South Koreans) at the end of the Korean War in 1953 and really hasn’t changed since.

What has changed of course is the nuclearisation of the DPRK (North Korea) and as a consequence the global ramifications of any escalation of hostilities between the players are far more serious. Against this backdrop, any half-literate interpretation of the 64 year-old stand-off recognises that it takes two sides to tango, that both North and South and seriously hostile to the other. The armistice is nothing more than a cessation of hostilities, albeit long-enduring. The conflict remains – time certainly hasn’t dulled the hostility.

Provocation of each other has been pretty well normal behaviour for both sides each and every year since 1953. At the heart of the unease of this prolonged standoff has been the Clause 13(d) of the Armistice which holds that no new weapons are to be introduced to the Korean Peninsula – by either side. By as soon as 1956 this clause was violated and acknowledged to be violated by the Americans who declared their intention to bring atomic weapons to South Korea.

Ever since that breach of the Armistice by the US, North Korea has quite justly taken the position that it is free to do what it likes weapons-wise since it was the US that broke the deal and installed Patriot missiles in the South. And of course, ever since the US has also had its nuclear armed ships participating in the annual exercises off the peninsula, exercises that are designed to provoke a response from the DPRK. And most years they do.

In summary then, these are two regimes still very much at war after all these years, with an extremely uneasy ceasefire the only thing preventing aresumption. No matter what one thinks of the DPRK regime, it is difficult to blame them for developing their nuclear capability given the blatant breach of the Armistice by the US.

To see the new New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs wading in and accusing everything and everyone North Korean as “evil” is about as a naïve response from New Zealand one could imagine. It adds nothing to the chances of any diplomatic solution, is inaccurate, and adding our own bellicose utterances into the war of words doesn’t feel that mature.

The eventual outcome for the Korean peninsula will hopefully be a normalised standoff wherein China and perhaps Russia guarantee the security of the DPRK, while the US and allies do the same for South Korea. Under such an arrangement or treaty, the presence of foreign troops on the peninsula would be unnecessary and the nuclear disarmament of the DPRK could happen – indeed the DPRK has been offering this for years. But those offers fall on deaf ears south of the DMZ, which really makes one wonder whether this standoff has up to now at least, been more about a US/China standoff, with the Korean peninsula just caught in the middle of an attempt by our side to contain China.

As the nuclear capability of the DPRK has steadily improved the ability of the West to force regime change has correspondingly fallen away – and so we are now at the point where the North is actually capable of a nuclear strike on neighbours and positioning to be capable of throwing its stuff even further. Indeed the DPRK can now produce a nuclear bomb every six of seven weeks and it’s said to be only a few years from having the capability of one that reaches Seattle.

The objective of North Korea is to force the West to negotiate an end to the stand-off, to accept that it cannot contain the conflict by having a presence in South Korea and its dream of regime change in the North are becoming more and more far-fetched. It’s a dangerous game by the DPRK for sure because such escalation, from what we non-Koreans see as erratic, evil and unpredictable intention – does make conflict more likely.

And with Trump on the scene now with his fantastical belief in the all-powerful ability of the US, the scene is set for turbulence bordering on the insane. China recognises this thankfully and is telling the DPRK that a 6th nuclear test will stretch “the game of chicken” between Pyongyang and Washington to breaking point. Much as we might wish it so however, China has not threatened Pyongyang with consequences.

So how to defuse this then? The way out hasn’t really changed over all these years – China and the US need to reach an agreement, quite independently of the DPRK or the ROK (South Korea), that they will guarantee the security of each in return for (a) the US withdrawing all its forces from the peninsula and (b) the DPRK dismantling all nuclear capability.

The way out has been blindingly obvious for many years now but the hopes in the West that the DPRK would undergo regime change well before their nuclear threat became real led the West to reject the commonsense route. Instead, in annual attempts to destabilise the DPRK regime, it conducts very provocative military exercises on the border and around the seas off North Korea. Those games, targeted at wearing the DPRK regime down, have comprehensively failed – in fact they’ve driven the DPRK to become ever more militaristic, they’ve escalated the tension. The DPRK regime believes – and rightly so – that the US intends to destroy it.

Trump’s desire for a surgical incision will go nowhere apart from escalation. It is time for the big boys to negotiate the end of the armistice, and normalise relations between two hostile neighbours. Only a mutual guarantee for the security of North and South from China and the US can possibly do that.

This has been so obvious for so long to anyone with a modicum of understanding of the conflict – that perhaps the best hope at this time is that the Trump-escalation does lead to China calling for such direct talks with the US. After all it is China, the US and the DPRK who are the signatories to the armistice.

Showing 11 reactions

  • Ray McKeown
    commented 2017-05-01 06:17:04 +1200
    Catherine, A gilded cage is still a cage. Gaddafi did a lot of nice things for the people of Libya with the petrodollars generated from their country. He did not however let them choose their government. Saudi is much the same as are the other emirates in the gulf. They keep their population quiet with bribes using money from oil. What happens when the oil runs out? Is being rich more important than being free? Anyhow I’m not sure that a petrodollar rich Libya and a brutal regime more akin to Stalin in the 1930’s such as DPRK are that comparable. At least in Libya life was nice in the cage. In DPRK the cage is not nice.
  • catherine OSullivan
    commented 2017-04-30 21:32:45 +1200
    I couldnt help myself so found this info on LIBYA, so called basket case. You know the drill: Axis of Evil collection that gets aimed at with firing squad precision much like Syria now and this N Korea next.
    I could live in a place like this….
    • There was no electricity bills in Libya; electricity is free … for all its citizens.

    • There was no interest on loans, banks in Libya are state-owned and loans given to all its citizens at 0% interest by law.

    • If a Libyan is unable to find employment after graduation, the state would pay the average salary of the profession as if he or she is employed until employment is found.

    • Should Libyans want to take up a farming career, they receive farm land, a house, equipment, seed and livestock to kick start their farms –this was all for free.

    • Gaddafi carried out the world’s largest irrigation project, known as the Great Man-Made River project, to make water readily available throughout the desert country.

    • A home was considered a human right in Libya. (In Qaddafi’s Green Book it states: “The house is a basic need of both the individual and the family, therefore it should not be owned by others.”)

    • All newlyweds in Libya would receive 60,000 Dinar (US$ 50,000 ) by the government to buy their first apartment so to help start a family.

    • A portion of Libyan oil sales is or was credited directly to the bank accounts of all Libyan citizens.

    • A mother who gives birth to a child would receive US $5,000.

    • When a Libyan buys a car, the government would subsidizes 50% of the price.

    • The price of petrol in Libya was $0.14 per liter.

    • For $ 0.15, a Libyan local could purchase 40 loaves of bread.

    • Education and medical treatments was all free in Libya. Libya can boast one of the finest health care systems in the Arab and African World. All people have access to doctors, hospitals, clinics and medicines, completely free of charge.

    • If Libyans cannot find the education or medical facilities they need in Libya, the government would fund them to go abroad for it – not only free but they get US $2,300/month accommodation and car allowance.

    • 25% of Libyans have a university degree. Before Gaddafi only 25% of Libyans were literate. Today the figure is 87%.

    • Libya had no external debt and its reserves amount to $150 billion – though much of this is now frozen globally.

    Not bad for a country run by an ignorant and brutal dictator.
  • robert carter
    commented 2017-04-30 14:00:07 +1200
    There is an implicit assumption that China is on the other side from S Korea. In fact there is a degree of integration between China and South Korea, they trade. Computer cases may be designed and marketed by a Korean business but manufactured in China.
    I doubt that it is in China’s interest to have N Korea attack the South.
    I went to a show of chinese national dress. Korean dress was one of the traditional Chinese costumes on display. In fact a historical Chinese state included Korea, and it seems that the Korean speakers in China are deemed Chinese, by extension this almost certainly applies to all Koreans.
  • catherine OSullivan
    commented 2017-04-29 20:45:25 +1200
    Ray mckeown just as an aside perhaps consider we are programmed from the west to have these abhorrent feelings about other none western nations particularly if they don’t share our banking system and have something of value under foot: oil and other accoutrements. You talk about dictators and repression – given the amount of war mongering over the last 70 yrs with the west, in particular the US it’s hard to even compare what you mean by this given the West is by far the most offensive on this count. Libya enjoyed an abundant economy, every person received an amount in personal accounts for oil revenue. If you had a business idea everyone was eligible for a grant. Was Illegal to be a real estate agent : massive non inflationary measure NZ could envy. A one off grant when 1st married to buy a house, Free education and health. Now it’s been looted completely . The green book was a triumph Gaddafi introduced for devolving decisions to the heart of community. It worked magnificently . Gaddafi by the way had no official role in govt for over 20 yrs . Dictator indeed. The only Arab spring that was real was in Egypt and Yemen. They manipulate and continue to repress these nations until they (western globalist ) get the uprising they desire.
    I appreciated the deeper background discussion above on the separation of Korea so often lacking in our media by Gareth. Go the great gareth:)
  • Ray McKeown
    commented 2017-04-29 18:56:14 +1200
    if you were in ROK would you trust China and DPRK to stick to a treaty? Fact is that ROK and USA/west at big numbers disadvantage so only tech can give ROK any security. I may also be naive but find the idea of doing any deal with the Kim’s of DPRK abhorrent. China may be a dictatorship but it is not on a par with DPRK in terms of repression. In the cultural revolution famines and repression killed millions but could China go there now? Russia another story too. I’ve always thought we should be open about our distaste for regimes that enslave and kill their people and our desire for them to be changed. Too often we look the other way for strategic reasons (Saudi, right wing dictators against communists etc) and when there is a chance for real change (Iraq, Syria, Arab Spring etc) we stuff it up.
  • catherine OSullivan
    commented 2017-04-28 17:31:33 +1200
    fletcher prouty who was in the Korean War is an interesting person to listen to in reflection to how things have evolved on purpose by design and how weapons and military excerises were shifted in anticipation for the next aggression. Leroy Fletcher Prouty (January 24, 1917 – June 5, 2001)1 served as Chief of Special Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President John F. Kennedy. A former colonel in the United She tates Air Force, he retired from military service to become a bank executive. He subsequently became a critic of U.S. foreign policy, particularly the covert activities of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) about which he had considerable inside knowledge. Prouty was the inspiration for the character “Mr. X” in Oliver Stone’s film JFK.2

    He is an amazing person to listen to . Check out him speak on YouTube .
  • Oliver Krollmann
    followed this page 2017-04-28 16:28:51 +1200
  • Glyn Jones
    commented 2017-04-27 18:43:21 +1200
    Puffed up hyperbole? What this mean? Just leave them alone, west always picking on a country that does not toe the line to their agendas.
  • Marc Aranui
    commented 2017-04-27 06:29:06 +1200
    I recently read an article in the Washington post about US war crimes during the Korean War against North Korea as the reason why this state so despises the US.
    The article went on to say that even after they had defeated North Korea the US continued to carpet bomb and use napalm to ease its soldiers boredom and every day since, North Korean media(government controlled) reminds its people of it.
    Perhaps the best way to start to bring North Korea into line would be an official apology for those war crimes from the USA.
  • Nick Taylor
    commented 2017-04-26 20:20:09 +1200
    Yes this is a typical indignant, after the fact response from Gerry Brownlee we have become accustomed to in his former roll as earthquake recovery minister.
    It shows a complete inability To be proactive or to offer any insight or solutions to the problems he is ultimately supposed to be addressing.
    Which ultimately defines his failure as any sort of leader.
  • Steve Cox
    commented 2017-04-26 14:18:47 +1200
    Can the two Koreas trust their guarantors?
    History is littered with treaties that have been ignored if the circumstances suited one or more parties to do so.
    From a New Zealand perspective why are we saying anything at all?
    Do we make comments on all countries in the world? No, we don’t.
    Whether we say anything about the DPRK is irrelevant and I would contend is more to curry favour with friends than to actually encourage a resolution to the Korean situation.