[Marxism] Kim Jong Il Confronts Bush and wins
walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Oct 8 09:40:57 MDT 2007
(Below this report from LMD, you'll find a report from RIG ZONE,
an oil-industry news service discussing joint ventures, oil
exploration, and other expanded economic links between the two
sides. In an NPR report I heard yesterday, cultural exchanges
are to begin between the DPRK and the US, and Washington has
even taken steps to free up $25 million dollars in Korean
funds which it had frozen in foreign banks.)
Le Monde diplomatique
KIM JONG IL CONFRONTS BUSH; AND WINS
North Korea: neutral instead of nuclear
The leaders of South and North Korea have met. The meeting had been
formally delayed since the summer because of serious flooding in the
North - but in fact both sides had to wait six years for this
by Bruce Cumings
The two Korean heads of state met for the first time in June 2000 in
Pyongyang. Kim Jong Il, leader of the Democratic People's Republic of
Korea (DPRK), was supposed to reciprocate by visiting Seoul, but he
never did. Now he has succeeded in having a South Korean president
visit his capital again.
Roh Moo Hyun, president of the Republic of Korea (ROK), agreed
because he and his predecessor, Kim Dae Jung, ended decades of
tit-for-tat protocol in which both sides sought advantage with
endless threats and posturing, and began the so-called "sunshine
policy". South Korea, as the 10th-ranking industrial power in the
world, has a clear advantage over the North; letting Kim Jong Il
think he is in charge is a small price to pay for trying to open up
the North. There is political advantage in the summit; Roh, whose
popularity is low, can't win in elections in December and wants to
boost the chances of his successor.
The DPRK has long fancied itself capable of manipulating the ROK's
politics, and perhaps it has some influence for there is a change in
Southern opinion about the North that is part of the policy of
reconciliation since 1998. Southerners, used to propaganda depicting
the communists as evil sadists, now see them as long-lost cousins
ruled by errant (and perhaps nutty) uncles. The summit capped that
extraordinary achievement. Roh has also promoted the idea of the
Korean peninsula as the hub of a vibrant northeast Asian economy and
wants "the era of the Northern economy" as his legacy.
But the real reason for the summit is the entirely unexpected warming
of relations between President George W Bush and Kim Jong Il,
manifest in the 13 February agreement on denuclearisation, the
origins of which remain murky. Pyongyang celebrated United States
Independence Day last year by firing seven missiles, including a
long-range Taepodong 2 and several medium-range rockets, and followed
that up in October with its first nuclear test. This led to UN
sanctions supported for the first time by the DPRK's old allies,
Russia and China (1).
Bush does not "reward bad behaviour". He had always rejected direct
talks with North Korea and had included the North in his "axis of
evil". Vice-President Dick Cheney said in 2004: "We don't negotiate
with evil, we defeat it." Yet the February agreement was hammered out
in secret direct talks between Assistant Secretary of State
Christopher Hill and Foreign Minister Kim Gye-gwan in Beijing and
Berlin, and was then presented to the multilateral Six Party Talks
(the two Koreas, China, the US, Japan and Russia) on North Korea's
nuclear programme set up two years ago.
Back to the future
The "back to the future" quality of this agreement can be appreciated
in the list of achievements: mothballing and dismantling the North's
plutonium reactors, relaxing sanctions and embargoes Washington has
had against the North for decades, taking it off the State
Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, readmitting UN
nuclear inspectors, getting a peace agreement to end the Korean war,
and moving toward normalisation of relations.
All of these were accomplished or being negotiated when Bush came
into office. But the Clinton administration had also worked out a
plan to buy out, indirectly, the North's medium and long-range
missiles; it was ready to be signed in 2000 but Bush let it fall by
the wayside and today the North retains all its formidable missile
capability. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was amazed
in her memoirs that Bush let this deal slide into oblivion, since
Pyongyang has no other reliable delivery capability for nuclear
weapons. Hardly any influential Americans seem to remember these
negotiations, although they were major news at the time.
Also inexplicable is how Bush, or Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice, short-circuited the squabbling inside their administration over
how to handle evildoers. On 19 September 2005 the US and the DPRK
came to an agreement at the fourth session of the Six Party Talks on
principles that paved the way toward denuclearisation (including a US
pledge not to attack or invade the North). Yet three days later the
Treasury Department, operating under the disputed USA Patriot Act,
sanctioned North Korea for its allegedly illegal dealings with the
Banco Delta Asia in Macao, cutting it off from the international
financial system. It is now clear that the evidence was skimpy and
that the sanctions were specifically designed to destroy the
September pledges (2).
The only illegal activity that the Treasury Department uncovered
dated to 1994 and the amounts were tiny, $250m in counterfeit notes
that DPRK operatives allegedly deposited in Banco Delta. (Insiders
said it was really the North's entirely legal gold bullion
transactions with this obscure bank that were at issue.) Years passed
with almost no critical reporting on the matter, and then
administration insiders finally admitted that all this was not about
law enforcement: dissident officials had gone after North Korea to
head off an accommodation between Washington and Pyongyang (3). The
Banco Delta problem quietly disappeared when the US agreed to return
all the DPRK's seized deposits with no questions asked and no
A prominent expert, Leon V Sigal, has argued that it takes a while
for new administrations, Republican or Democratic, to realise that
they have to deal with North Korea, and that with the February
agreement, Bush "put the United States firmly back on the road to
reconciliation with North Korea". The key US negotiator, Hill, was
similarly optimistic; in August he said that he expects a full
declaration of all nuclear weapons and programmes from the North by
the end of this year, and full dismantlement of all facilities in
2008. He hinted that Rice might visit Pyongyang soon, and Washington
gossip hints at a summit between Bush and Kim Jong Il. If so, it is
all to the good. But no administration ever took longer to arrive at
such a conclusion.
A failed policy
Until the February agreement, Bush had presided over the most asinine
Korea policy in history. He sent James Kelly to Pyongyang in October
2002 to accuse the North Koreans of harbouring a second nuclear
programme utilising highly-enriched uranium (HEU). Immediately after,
Bush broke the precious 1994 Framework Agreement, which had kept the
North's Yongbyun plutonium complex frozen for eight years (4). The
North reacted by leaving the Non-Proliferation Treaty, taking back
the plutonium complex complete with 8,000 fuel rods that had been
neutered in concrete casks, manufacturing an unknown number of
nuclear weapons - and facing no penalties other than a slap on the
Washington's inaction in 2002-03 was partly caused by internal
conflict over what to do about the DPRK's provocative steps. Like the
current crisis over Iran's HEU facilities, some officials (especially
those in Cheney's entourage) urged a bombing campaign. Others argued
that this would start another Korean war. Bush was focused on making
war against Iraq, not the DPRK. So nothing was done except to
complain to Seoul that the Bush administration didn't understand its
sunshine policy, thus creating problems with both Koreas.
The 1994 agreement said nothing about HEU but most experts thought
the North had indeed cheated by dealing with Pakistani nuclear
scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. This wasn't news: the Clinton
administration had told the Bush transition team about it in 2000 and
suggested that it should be no obstacle to keeping Yongbyun frozen
and finishing the missile deal, because HEU is a hard technology to
master and would require many years of experimentation before a bomb
could be built (5). No one is surprised if North Korea cheats. But
the 1994 agreement and the missile deal were based on painstaking
verification measures that assured no plutonium bombs and no missile
The Bush administration sat on the intelligence information that
Clinton provided from 2000 to 2002, and then sent Kelly to Pyongyang
to confront the North Koreans with it. Yet if US negotiators had
learned anything in the 1990s, it was that you do not confront the
North Koreans. Kelly returned to Washington empty-handed. His timing
was absurdly provocative: he delivered his message just after Bush's
September 2002 announcement of the doctrine of pre-emptive strikes
against the axis of evil. A few months later the US invaded Iraq.
Pyongyang reasoned that the US would not have invaded if Saddam had
had nukes, concluding:"This is not going to happen to us." The
Koreans soon found many ways of talking about their nuclear
We now know that US intelligence on the North's HEU was no better
than it was on Saddam Hussein's WMDs. Like Iraq, Pyongyang had also
purchased thousands of aluminium tubes: but it turned out that these
weren't strong enough to use in the high-speed rotors necessary for
centrifuges. Evidence of these modest purchases had been transformed
by Washington analysts into a significant production capability in
2002. Since then the US had turned up no evidence of the large-scale
procurements that would be necessary for an HEU bomb programme.
The bomb that the DPRK detonated last year was made of plutonium, not
HEU - it is Bush's bomb, not Clinton's. Still, it isn't easy to say
why North Korea chose to test a weapon. It has been 15 years since
the North achieved the goal of making the world think that it had
atomic weapons. In 1992 the CIA estimated that Pyongyang probably had
one or two bombs, and it stuck to that estimate for a decade. The
ambiguity about whether they did or didn't have the bomb strengthened
the North's hand: as with Israel, probable possession of nukes, but
no test and no announcement, creates a credible deterrent without
putting overwhelming political pressure on other states in the region
to follow suit.
Why did North Korea end that ambiguity for no obvious gain? It may be
that the test was directed more against China, which shut off
petroleum exports to the North last September in response to the July
missile tests. In that case Pyongyang would have tested to show that
it could not be intimidated, and only afterwards agreed to return to
the Six Party talks.
Nor is it easy to say why Bush decided to make a deal with the North.
Clearly the congressional elections last year ended Bush's hopes of a
long-term Republican ascendancy, and turned him into the lamest of
lame ducks. His core of support has evaporated at home and abroad:
most of the neo-conservatives (Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton) are gone,
as are Tony Blair and Abe Shinzo.
Yet these explanations are not entirely convincing. In 2003-04 the
North Koreans seemed genuinely afraid that the US would attack them.
But the US military was soon stretched so thin around the world that
the Pentagon could barely spare a handful of combat brigades for the
Korean theatre (extant war plans call for half a million US troops
there before a victory can be assured). Pyongyang's strategy was to
become a declared nuclear power, suffer through sanctions for the
next two years, and then hope to deal with the next US president.
Something happened in Washington, as Christopher Hill got a free hand
to deal with Pyongyang. The most likely explanation is that the White
House decided that Iran was the greater threat: if a deal could be
struck with North Korea, that would put pressure on Tehran to
negotiate away its nuclear programme. If Bush decided to use force
against Iran, North Korea would have to be neutralised or forgotten.
These last years, relations between Washington and Seoul have
deteriorated drastically. By commission and omission, Bush trampled
on the norms of the historic US relationship with Seoul while
creating a dangerous situation with Pyongyang. Perhaps the "back to
the future" somersault will begin to repair this damage; when the
Bush administration returned to Bill Clinton's strategy of engaging
the North, South Korean public opinion against the US began to
In South Korea anti-Americanism was never anything like the Middle
East's broad rejection of US power, culture, and values. But since
2001 the US image has deteriorated, especially among the young.
Koreans, like many others around the world, were angry about Bush.
>From being overwhelmingly in favour of the US before Bush, public
opinion is now divided: according to the polls 43% do not favour the
US, and among Koreans in their 20s only 22% have any kind of
favourable opinion (6).
Consternation in the South
This is the result of Washington's policies toward the North, and
fears for South Korea's sunshine policy and reconciliation with the
North (from which Washington under Bush disassociated itself). The
acute danger, which South Korean leaders immediately grasped, was
that the Bush doctrine - under which the US may pre-emptively attack
regimes it does not like - meant that Seoul would be dragged into a
war it didn't want. Soon after the doctrine became public, a close
adviser to Roh told Bush administration officials that if the US
attacked the North over South Korean objections, it would destroy the
alliance with the South. Leaders in Seoul repeatedly sought
assurances from Washington that the North would not be attacked
without close consultations or over Seoul's veto. The Roh
administration has not won these assurances. Since the North can
destroy Seoul in a matter of hours with 10,000 guns buried in the
mountains north of the capital, one can imagine the extreme
consternation that the Bush doctrine caused in Seoul.
Things are so bad that it now requires a major effort to restore
trust and confidence. What the US could do to start afresh would be
finally to normalise relations with the North (as it pledged to do in
1994 and again in 2005); guarantee Seoul that it will have a veto
over the use of military force against Pyongyang; assure Seoul that
the US will not use its forces in Korea in a conflict over Taiwan;
and reduce the anachronistic US troop presence in Korea. These steps
are not impossible to imagine: the ROK, China and Russia have all
urged the US to normalise relations with North Korea.
North Korea has won and got what it wanted, and what it had suggested
in the 1990s: to trade its nuclear programme for aid and normalised
ties with the US, a proposition denied and derided in official
The successful diplomacy of the late 1990s was led by Kim Dae Jung,
who finally convinced Clinton that Pyongyang would give up its
nuclear programme and its missiles in return for a new relationship.
The US could have its cake and eat it too, Kim Dae Jung thought,
because Pyongyang would not object to the continued stationing of US
troops in the South if relations were normalised. He judged that Kim
Jong Il was almost as worried about the strength of China and Japan
(simultaneously strong for the first time in modern history) as he
was about the US, and could be coaxed into new security arrangements
within the international system that the US had built in northeast
Asia since 1945. Washington could lose an enemy and gain a neutral
North Korea - if not a friend or an ally - as a counterbalance
against China and a revived Russia, and as a check on Japan's future
It is likely that Pyongyang hopes to play the US off against China,
much as it did Moscow and Beijing during the cold war. There is no
way to know if this new thinking has had an impact on Bush, but it is
a logical US strategy for the region in the 21st-century.
Bizarre events may well place Bush and "evildoer" Kim Jong Il side by
side as peacemakers. If so, all well and good, and better late than
(1) Russia and China only voted Chapter VII sanctions after making
sure that they carried no implication of being backed by military
(2) John McGlynn, "Financial Sanctions and North Korea: In Search of
the Evidence of Currency Counterfeiting and Money Laundering", Japan
Focus, 10 July 2007, www.japanfocus.org/products/ details/2463
(3) See "How US Turned North Korean Funds into a Bargaining Chip",
The New York Times, 11 April 2007.
(4) Bush and his advisers claimed that the North cheated on this
agreement, when in fact the eight-year freeze was never broken. UN
inspectors were on the ground every day, and all the facilities were
sealed and under constant surveillance.
(5) See Selig Harrison, "Did North Korea Cheat?", Foreign Affairs,
New York, February 2006.
(6) Meredith Woo-Cumings in David I Steinberg, dir, Korean Attitudes
Toward the United States, M E Sharpe, 2005; Pew Global Attitudes
Original text in English
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED C 1997-2007 Le Monde diplomatique
Two Koreas Discuss Oil Exploration and Joint Ventures at Summit
Asia Pulse Pte Ltd Friday, October 05, 2007
Leaders of the two Koreas discussed issues relating to oil field
development and exploration at the latest summit in Pyongyang.
"The oil development issue was discussed at the summit, and North
Korean leader Kim Jong-il expressed keen interest in the South's oil
field and gas exploration projects," Finance Minister Kwon O-kyu said
in a press briefing.
"South Korea also discussed the development of resources in North
Korea, including oil fields."
Kwon said the oil development issue may continue to be discussed at
talks of the proposed Joint Committee for Inter-Korean Economic
Cooperation, a committee to be formed through upgrading the status of
the existing Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Promotion Committee in
an effort to accelerate bilateral economic cooperation.
Kwon played down concerns about potential financial burdens on the
government from proposed inter-Korean business projects.
At the three-day summit, ended Thursday, the two Koreas agreed on a
range of cross-border business projects, including the creation of a
special economic zone at the North's western port city of Haeju,
development of an existing port at Haeju, and the expansion of an
industrial complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.
The two also agreed to jointly repair and maintain the North's
dilapidated expressway linking Kaesong and Pyongyang, as well as the
North's railway between Kaesong and Sinuiju on the North's western
The two countries also decided to construct an inter-Korean joint
shipbuilding complex in Nampo, near Pyongyang.
South Korea will be able to finance the development of Haeju port
through a proposed 2 trillion won (US$2.2 billion) overseas port
development fund, which will be created by the nation's port
authority, Kwon said.
In a related note, Maritime Minister Kang Moo-hyun said in a meeting
with reporters that about 220 billion won will be spent on the
development of the port which will have eight berths, including two
The government will also able to attract international cooperation
for repairing the railways since it is part of the international
Trans-Siberian Railway project, he said.
South Korean shipyards, which hold a combined 45 percent share of the
global market, which invest in the envisioned shipbuilding complex
will be able to maintain their competitiveness through access to
North Korea's cheap labor, Kwon said.
In case of the summit's impact on domestic financial markets, Kwon
declined to make concrete predictions, but said rising expectations
of improved profitability and competitiveness by domestic businesses
might be able to boost investor spirits.
(C) 2007 Asia Pulse Pte Ltd
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