An arresting image from space: a black hole on earth, No. Korea

Ralph Johansen michele at
Tue Jan 7 14:17:19 MST 2003

Fwd by Tomeditor at

There may be no better way to begin to grasp the North Korean situation than
to take a look at a single image.  The website posts
satellite images of, say, American bases in Qatar or Iranian nuclear
facilities.  The other day it posted the single most staggering image I've
seen in a long time -- a night shot from space of North and South Korea.
I've posted below the explanatory caption offered by globalsecurity, but you
simply must go take a look for yourself.  At night, seen from the heavens,
it turns out, South Korea is ablaze, an electrical wonderland, a single
blast of light.  North Korea is dark.  A black hole on earth.  An electrical

Nothing else so conveys the desperate state of the North Korean regime and
economy.  You can, for instance, read a recent report in the British paper
The Independent that begins, "The United Nations food agency warned
yesterday that supplies for some seven million people, a third of North
Korea's population, will run out early next month without further aid."
("Seven million Koreans facing starvation,"
Or check out Steven Weisman's piece on p. 11 of today's New York Times,
"U.S. in No Rush Over North Korea's Food Aid," which indicates that the Bush
administration is quietly using food, as well as suspended shipments of oil,
as a weapon to pressure North Korea.  (As with the decade-old sanctions
against Iraq, such a denial of everyday necessities to a people -- after all
we al l know that Kim Jong-Il doesn't lack gourmet level edibles -- will
someday undoubtedly be seen as a crime.)
(To read more of Weisman go to:

But the satellite image tells it all.

"North Korea is Dark

South Korea is bright, North Korea is dark. This amazing image was made by
the orbiting Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellite over
regions of the world at night. The DMSP is a Department of Defense (DoD)
program run by the Air Force Space and Missle Systems Center (SMC). The
Defense Meteorological Satellite Program satellites carry the Operational
Linescan System (OLS) in low-altitude polar orbits. hese satellites record
nighttime data. The Operational Linescan System has a unique low-light
imaging capability developed for the detection of clouds using moonlight. In
addition to moonlit clouds, the OLS also detects lights from human
settlements,fires, gas flares, heavily lit fishing boats, lightning and the
aurora. It is possible to distinguish four primary types of lights present
at the earth's surface: human settlements, fires, gas flares, and fishing
boats."   (To see the image go to:

With this image in mind, try to imagine the effect, if successful, of the
Bush administration's long-term plan to push North Korea beyond the edge of
collapse and you'll quickly see why it's opposed in most of Asia, but
especially in South Korea.  Were the North to collapse, the Chinese might
inherit hundreds of thousands or millions of destitute refugees, but South
Korea would inherit that black hole itself, which could well pull the South
Korean economy into hell.  And, of course, if anything went wrong and the
one thing the North Koreans have going for them -- a powerful army -- were
unleashed, well the results could be incalculable.  I thought the following
piece by Jim Lobe from Asia Times caught the mood of the moment, and the
growing desperation of our own leaders to find some way out of the web of
words and threats they've woven before the possibility of war in Iraq is
somehow irreparably damaged. Tom

Kim Jong-il out-Saddams Saddam
By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - Iraqi President Saddam Hussein must be green with envy.

Not only has North Korean President Kim Jong-il eclipsed him in the US mass
media, but his fellow evil-doer in the infamous "axis of evil" is also
defying the world's dominant power on a daily basis, and getting away with

After all, dozens of United Nations weapons inspectors are crawling all over
Iraq without the slightest hindrance, scouring the country for evidence of
biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. Despite such cooperation, US
President George W Bush threatens war to "liberate" Baghdad virtually every

How does this square with his kid-gloves treatment of Pyongyang, which
Washington believes already has chemical, biological and as many as two
nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them as far away as Japan and
even Hawaii?

Kim expels the remaining two UN inspectors from its territory, starts firing
up the Yongbyon nuclear plant that already houses enough plutonium to
produce half a dozen more atomic weapons in two months, warns it may soon
withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and Bush responds by
insisting that Pyongyang need not fear military action by the United States.

Not only that. Bush is facing growing pressure both from his closest Asian
allies to go back on his pledge not to "negotiate" with Pyongyang, as the
North is demanding, until it dismantles all of its nuclear programs. And
there are already indications that his administration is figuring out
possible forums in which such a dialogue could take place.

But with respect to Iraq, Bush contemptuously rejects similar pleas by
Washington's Arab allies for patience and engagement, and appears bent - not
to say obsessed - instead on pursuing a military solution, unilaterally if

Indeed, Washington's Asian allies, particularly South Korea where it has
stationed thousands of troops for a half-century, are defying Washington
directly, as both that country's outgoing and incoming presidents did this
past week by publicly denouncing Washington's efforts to isolate Pyongyang.

By contrast, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, and other Muslim states around
Iraq grumble publicly about the direction Washington is taking the region
while assuring Bush privately that, when push comes to shove, they will
cooperate with US war plans.

And while the Bush administration has done everything it can -
unsuccessfully - to link Saddam Hussein with al-Qaeda and thus bolster its
case that whatever weapons of mass destruction he still has could be
transferred to terrorists for use against US targets, it does not even
mention the possibility that North Korea may be a much stronger candidate
for supplying weapons of mass destruction to al-Qaeda.

After all, North Korea, whose possession of such weapons and past resort to
terrorist methods are beyond dispute, has a long history of close
cooperation with Pakistan's military establishment, which reportedly
provided some of its nuclear secrets in exchange for North Korean missiles.

Moreover, some of the scientists and military sponsors in Pakistan's nuclear
program are known to have backed the Taliban in Afghanistan and to have
pro-Qaeda views. So why should Saddam be singled out for suspicion, as
opposed to the Pyongyang-Pakistan axis?

It all seems so unfair.

But if Saddam Hussein may be green with envy about Kim Jong-il, Bush
himself - and the hawks in the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney's
office - must be seeing red.

In the first place, Kim's defiance is showing the limitations of US military
strength at precisely the moment when Washington has laid out explicitly its
aims at achieving global military hegemony.

While Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tried to assure everyone early last
week that Washington retains the capacity to take on North Korea militarily
despite the massive buildup in US forces around Iraq, that notion was
pooh-poohed by even hardened hawks.

Others noted that, with thousands of North Korean missiles poised along the
Demilitarized Zone and within 40 kilometers of Seoul, military action is
simply unthinkable, especially without the support of South Korea itself.

But even more infuriating has been the criticism that has been leveled at
the administration from the left, right and center, as the crisis in Korea
has developed over the past month.

"Where's the Big Stick?" read one big Washington Post headline recently, a
particularly wicked reference to the foreign-policy advice of his hero, the
late president Theodore Roosevelt, who once said: "Speak softly and carry a
big stick."

The administration is not only being accused of double standards in dealing
with Iraq and Korea - and the fact that the strategic implications of a
nuclear arms race in Northeast Asia that could include Japan are likely to
be far more serious than even a US invasion of Iraq.

It is also having to suffer charges that its low-key response to the
situation so far is vastly more wimpish than actions - including the
deployment of US troops to the region - taken by the administration of
president Bill Clinton during the last great nuclear crisis on the Korean
Peninsula eight years ago.

Former Clinton officials, who advised the incoming Bush team to maintain an
engagement policy with North Korea that had already brought Clinton's
secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, to visit Pyongyang, are saying that
Bush's seemingly gratuitous hostility to North Korea is now having serious
political consequences. This hostility was evident during the March 2001
visit by South Korean President Kim Dae-jung to the White House and Bush's
subsequent inclusion of Pyongyang in his axis of evil.

"The political reminder from this episode is the danger that can come from
tough talk," noted Leon Fuerth, former vice president Al Gore's top
national-security aide. "When using words as weapons, a leader must be
prepared to back up his rhetoric with force." Bush's words, he went on, "now
look like a bluff that is being called".

But most harmful, perhaps, is the lesson to be drawn from these two crises
by countries that do not wish to be cowed by Washington: if you are
militarily strong, preferably armed with nuclear weapons and the missiles to
deliver them, like Kim Jong-il, you are safe. If you are militarily weak,
like Saddam Hussein, you are in trouble.

Or, as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman put it on Friday: "The best
self-preservation strategy for Mr Kim is to be dangerous."

(Inter Press Service)

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