Archive for the ‘North Korea – recognition as a nuclear power’ category

Trump’s Biggest Challenge in Seoul

November 7, 2017

Trump’s Biggest Challenge in Seoul, American Thinker,  Daren Jonescu, November 7, 2017

There is no equivalency here. North Korea’s hostilities are their essence, not a product of outside provocation, real or imagined. Anything they do will be on their own heads, as will any destruction that gets unleashed upon them due to their actions. Theirs is a regime that has no moral legitimacy, and hence, while no one is obliged to do anything about that, neither does anyone owe their rule, their aspirations, or their tender feelings any respect.

The only moral considerations that have any weight in this issue are related to whether annihilating Kim’s national death camp — inherently justifiable — is worth the risk it may bring to the lives of other nations’ citizens.

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Donald Trump is in South Korea today.  All focus, of course, is on whether Trump and recently-elected Korean president Moon Jae-in will present a unified position against North Korean aggression. Or let me restate that in words that make sense within the current zeitgeist: “a unified position on how to avoid an escalation of tensions with North Korea.”

In our worldwide progressive paradigm, suggesting that the problem to be solved here is the threat posed by a tyrannical rogue state’s immoral behavior is considered inflammatory. Rather, we are all supposed to pretend that North Korea is “a sovereign state” with “legitimate concerns about being threatened by the U.S. military presence in Asia,” and that its outrageous provocations, unprovoked violence, and frequent promises to annihilate its democratic enemies are merely “understandable responses to its increased global isolation.”

Demonstrators reacting to Trump’s visit

(Even many conservatives of the libertarian bent are wont to ask, “How would you feel if your neighbors were all discussing how to end your regime?” — as though rationalizing a killing machine’s sensitivities were anything but a moral absurdity.)

As for President Moon, a progressive appeaser in the mold of his old ally and boss, Roh Moo-hyun (of North-South “Sunshine Policy” fame), he may be a tough sell on taking a stronger stand against North Korea. He would likely accept the inevitable if necessary, however, especially since Japan has already signed onto America’s “all options on the table” position, and since China has remained largely aloof from the situation so far.

But President Moon probably will have to be dragged to a harder stance by events — a bizarre thing to have to say about the president of a nation that is technically at war with a communist madhouse dictatorship that tore his own country in half, has starved and enslaved millions of his countrymen, and has carried out repeated acts of murderous aggression against the South in recent years, in addition to its constant threats of all-out attack. Talk about Stockholm Syndrome.

But the depth of the moral problem facing this world — in which most governments, media voices, and academics are progressive in their underlying principles and perspective — may be seen in the sheer silliness with which people speak of what might cause an “escalation of hostilities” with North Korea.  Here is a perfect example, from Professor Koo Kab-woo at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. (Imagine the political perspective likely to prevail at a university with such a name.)

Addressing the concern that Trump might say or do something careless or bombastic during his South Korean trip, Professor Koo says, “If Trump says anything that can provoke North Korea, it could send military tensions soaring again.”

Right. North Korea is calm and trying to restore a peaceful coexistence. But what if Trump goes and blows it with a stupid remark?

You see, the tensions, whatever might have caused them (who can say?), have settled recently, but if they rise again due to Trump’s rhetoric during his visit to Seoul, then the resulting danger will be on America’s head for having “provoked” it.

This is a classic moral equivalency argument (and an excellent preview of exactly how China will respond if an armed conflict begins on the Korean peninsula): “Both sides need to calm down. If Nation A (the world’s oldest republic and traditional leader of the free world) causes things to escalate again by speaking too harshly, then Nation B (a bloody tyranny starving its own broken people and threatening the world with nuclear war) cannot be held solely responsible for the resulting rise in tensions.”

This is the same argument used for decades to frame the Cold War as a battle between “two noble experiments,” rather than between good and evil. It is the same argument used to equate the pro-Palestinian efforts by much of the Middle East (along with the UN and Europe and most of academia and the North American left) to wipe Israel off the map, to Israeli efforts to push back in defense of a nation the size of New Jersey.

Moral equivalency in international relations — “both sides are to blame,” or “both sides have understandable concerns” — is the last refuge of the morally bankrupt. In this case, expressing peevishness that somehow Donald Trump’s words might provoke North Korean hostilities is a convenient way of implying that North Korea is not inherently, essentially hostile to begin with, but rather that any hostility they display is merely a response to outside instigation. Thus, a tyranny is falsely portrayed as an equal participant in difficult diplomacy, rather than a victim of its own obsession with power and destruction. This in turn creates an aura of legitimacy around one of the most illegitimate regimes of modern times.

I myself have been critical of Trump’s often careless rhetoric on North Korea, but my concern has always been that by speaking too cavalierly, Trump risks tipping his administration’s hand unnecessarily, or painting himself into a strategic corner with Obama-like “red lines.” My concerns, in other words, are related to American interests, not North Korea’s “feelings.” Under no circumstances would I ever suggest Trump’s words or actions were to blame for North Korea’s behavior.

Similarly, appeasers like Moon Jae-in, who has used moral equivalency arguments against his own nation and yet has somehow been elected president under the guise of a “champion of the people” — reminiscent of Barack Obama in that regard, both in policy and in manner — exacerbate a national tragedy by emboldening a dictatorship. But by no means would I suggest such appeasers are to blame for the murderous aspirations of Kim Jong-un’s illegitimate regime.

North Korea is a brutal dictatorship with fantasies of eventually uniting the Korean peninsula under their communist bloodlust regime. They, and they alone, are to blame for their aggression; their aggression is not a response to anything, but rather their regime’s raison d’être.

Progressives constantly use moral equivalency arguments and moral relativism to obscure the crimes committed in the name of their death cult ideology. They have thereby obliterated an extremely proper and reasonable category of political discourse: illegitimate power.

In this age, any tyranny that survives long enough to become stable in its authority, or that exists as a protectorate of a bigger tyranny, is regarded as “sovereign,” in the sense of unassailable. The UN exists largely to reinforce and defend the “right” of unjust regimes to exist unchallenged, or to set strict limits on the conditions in which such regimes may be confronted by the so-called “international community.”

North Korea, under its current and permanent government, is not a sovereign nation. It is an illegitimate tyrannical regime, a state governed by men without even a pretense of concern for the well-being of their trampled population, which exists not at all as citizens, but rather as slaves, without any modicum or memory of self-determination or self-ownership.

To legitimize that regime by worrying about whether Donald Trump might say something to “raise tensions” is to miss the point. Tensions are permanent and unavoidable when a tyranny feels its power threatened. But tyrannies deserve to feel their power threatened, and in fact they always will. As Plato taught us long ago, the tyrannical man is the most frightened man in the world, for he lives in the knowledge that his power is not deserved, and that everyone hates him for it. He cannot sleep at night, because he cannot even trust his own guards, or his own brother.

But today, we are told not to speak too loudly, lest we disturb the tyrant’s sleep and make him angry, as if we would be to blame if our would-be killer’s anger were roused. Thus, progressives defend one of their own — an extreme and ridiculous one to be sure, but one of them nonetheless — with moral equivalency arguments.

There is no equivalency here. North Korea’s hostilities are their essence, not a product of outside provocation, real or imagined. Anything they do will be on their own heads, as will any destruction that gets unleashed upon them due to their actions. Theirs is a regime that has no moral legitimacy, and hence, while no one is obliged to do anything about that, neither does anyone owe their rule, their aspirations, or their tender feelings any respect.

The only moral considerations that have any weight in this issue are related to whether annihilating Kim’s national death camp — inherently justifiable — is worth the risk it may bring to the lives of other nations’ citizens.

Daren Jonescu lives in South Korea where he writes about politics, philosophy, education, and the decline of civilization at http://darenjonescu.com/.

North Korea taps GOP analysts to better understand Trump and his messages

September 26, 2017

North Korea taps GOP analysts to better understand Trump and his messages, Washington PostAnna Fifield, September 26, 2017

Spectators listen to a television news broadcast of a statement by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on a public television screen in Pyongyang on Friday. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

 North Korean government officials have been quietly trying to arrange talks with Republican-linked analysts in Washington, in an apparent attempt to make sense of President Trump and his confusing messages to Kim Jong Un’s regime.

The outreach began before the current eruption of threats between the two leaders but will probably become only more urgent as Trump and Kim have descended into name-calling that, many analysts worry, sharply increases the chances of potentially catastrophic misunderstandings.

“Their number one concern is Trump. They can’t figure him out,” said one person with direct knowledge of North Korea’s approach to Asia experts with Republican connections.

There is no suggestion that the North Koreans are interested in negotiations about their nuclear program — they instead seem to want forums for insisting on being recognized as a nuclear state — and the Trump administration has made clear it is not interested in talking right now.

At a multilateral meeting here in Switzerland earlier this month, North Korea’s representatives were adamant about being recognized as a nuclear weapons state and showed no willingness to even talk about denuclearization.

(Video at the link. — DM)

But to get a better understanding of American intentions, in the absence of official diplomatic talks with the U.S. government, North Korea’s mission to the United Nations invited Bruce Klingner, a former CIA analyst who is now the Heritage Foundation’s top expert on North Korea, to visit Pyongyang for meetings.

Trump has close ties to Heritage, a conservative think tank that has influenced the president on everything from travel restrictions to defense spending, but no personal connection to Klingner.

“They’re on a new binge of reaching out to American scholars and ex-officials,” said Klingner, who declined the North Korean invitation. “While such meetings are useful, if the regime wants to send a clear message, it should reach out directly to the U.S. government.”

North Korean intermediaries have also approached Douglas Paal, who served as an Asia expert on the National Security Council under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and is now vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

They wanted Paal to arrange talks between North Korean officials and American experts with Republican ties in a neutral location such as Switzerland. He also declined the North Korean request.

“The North Koreans are clearly eager to deliver a message. But I think they’re only interested in getting some travel, in getting out of the country for a bit,” Paal said.

(Video at the link. — DM)

North Korea currently has about seven such invitations out to organizations that have hosted previous talks — a surprising number of requests for a country that is threatening to launch a nuclear strike on the United States.

Over the past two years in particular, Pyongyang has sent officials from its Foreign Ministry to hold meetings with Americans — usually former diplomats and think-tankers — in neutral places such as Geneva, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

They are referred to as “Track 1.5” talks because they are official (Track 1) on the North Korean side but unofficial (Track 2) on the American side, although the U.S. government is kept informed of the talks.

But since Trump’s election in November, the North Korean representatives have been predominantly interested in figuring out the unconventional president’s strategy, according to almost a dozen people involved in the discussions. All asked for anonymity to talk about the sensitive meetings.

Early in Trump’s term, the North Koreans asked broad questions: Is President Trump serious about closing American military bases in South Korea and Japan, as he said on the campaign trail? Might he really send American nuclear weapons back to the southern half of the Korean Peninsula?

But the questions have since become more specific. Why, for instance, are Trump’s top officials, notably Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, directly contradicting the president so often?

“The North Koreans are reaching out through various channels and through various counterparts,” said Evans Revere, a former State Department official who dealt with North Korea and is a frequent participant in such talks. There are a number of theories about why North Korea is doing this.

“My own guess is that they are somewhat puzzled as to the direction in which the U.S. is going, so they’re trying to open up channels to take the pulse in Washington,” Revere said. “They haven’t seen the U.S. act like this before.”

Revere attended a multilateral meeting with North Korean officials in the picturesque Swiss village of Glion earlier this month, together with Ralph Cossa, chairman of the Pacific Forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and another frequent interlocutor with Pyongyang’s representatives.

The meeting is an annual event organized by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, a government-linked think tank. But it took on extra significance this year due to the sudden rise in tensions between North Korea and the United States.

All the countries involved in the now-defunct six-party denuclearization talks — the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and the two Koreas — were represented, as were Mongolia, the Swiss government and the European Union. The Swiss invited the U.S. government to send an official, but it did not.

The North Koreans at the meeting displayed an “encyclopedic” knowledge of Trump’s tweets, to the extent that they were able to quote them back to the Americans present.

Pyongyang’s delegation was headed by Choe Kang Il, deputy director of the Americas division in the Foreign Ministry, and he was accompanied by three officials in their late 20s who wowed the other participants with their intellectual analysis and their perfect American-accented English. One even explained to the other delegates how the U.S. Congress works.

“They were as self-confident as I’ve ever seen them,” said Cossa. Revere added: “They may be puzzled about our intentions, but they have a very clear set of intentions of their own.”

The participants declined to divulge the contents of the discussions, as they were off the record.

But others familiar with the talks said the North Koreans completely ruled out the “freeze-for-freeze” idea being promoted by China and Russia, in which Pyongyang would freeze its nuclear and missile activities if the United States stopped conducting military exercises in South Korea. The United States, Japan and South Korea also outright reject the idea.

Participants left the day-and-a-half-long meeting with little hope for any improvement anytime soon.

“I’m very pessimistic,” said Shin Beom-chul, a North Korea expert at the South’s Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, after participating in the meeting in Glion. “They want to keep their nuclear weapons, and they will only return to dialogue after the United States nullifies its ‘hostile policy.’ They want the U.S. to stop all military exercises and lift all sanctions on them.”

Ken Jimbo, who teaches at Keio University in Japan and was also at the meeting, said that North Korea may still be interested in dialogue, but on terms that are unacceptable to the other side.

“North Korea wants to be recognized as a nuclear-weapons state,” Jimbo said. “But when is North Korea ready for talks? This is what I kept asking the North Koreans: How much is enough?”