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2003 October 27 Monday
Henry Rowen: Kim Jong Il Must Go

Henry Rowen has written an absolutely great article in Policy Review on North Korea and US policy toward North Korea and neighboring countries. The title of the article states his conclusion: Kim Jong Il Must Go.

If conditions get bad enough, might someone who understands the need for basic economic change seize power in a way analogous to Park Chung Hee’s takeover in South Korea or Deng Xiaoping’s succession to the Gang of Four in China? Both were dictators who, by opening their countries, produced rapid growth and, as a consequence, increased personal freedoms for their peoples — and for South Korea, democracy. As Deng told George Shultz in July 1988 when asked his opinion of Gorbachev’s reforms in the Soviet Union, “He’s got it backwards. He opened up the political system without a clue about the economy. The result is chaos. I did it the other way around, starting in agriculture and small businesses, where opening up worked, so now I have a demand for more of what succeeds.” What about political opening? “That will come later and will start small, just as in the economy. You have to be patient but you have to get the sequence right.”

While Deng's comments are very intriguing there is no sign as of yet that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il is willing to embark on Deng-style economic reforms.

Rowen was able to talk with former Reagan Administration Secretary of State George Schultz in preparation for writing the article and hence he is able to quote the rather insightful comments the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping made to Schultz.

Perceived and real interests of the US and South Korea have diverged very substantially.

Until circa 1990, one could fairly say that American and South Korean interests were congruent: Both were about the security of the South and its consolidation of democracy. The robustness of Korean democracy is no longer in doubt. The problem is security. Of course both want to avert war, but Americans (and Japanese and apparently Chinese) perceive greater dangers from the North’s missile and nuclear weapons than do South Koreans. Southerners (rightly or wrongly) do not expect the North’s missiles or nuclear weapons to land on them, nor do they see themselves as the target of nuclear-armed terrorists. Americans see themselves as threatened both ways.

The US can not expect any help from South Korea in dealing with the North Korean regime. In fact, the US can expect South Korean policies that help prop up and protect the North Korean regime. South Korea is effectively no longer a US ally even though the US helps to defend the place.

The bottom line for Rowen is very basic: nuclear weapons inspection can not work in a closed society. Therefore Kim Jong-il has to go.

The nuclear inspection task would be formidable, especially for fabricated weapons. The only way to have confidence that they are not present in a country known to have had them (e.g., South Africa) is for the country to be sufficiently open that insiders with knowledge can safely reveal cheating. That condition will not exist in Kim Jong Il’s North Korea. The American effort to round up international support for inspecting and seizing exports of missiles and drugs at least puts pressure on the North in the maneuvering for an agreement. An economic blockade (excepting perhaps some food) might bring Kim down, and might be supported in the Security Council if proposed by the U.S. and China, but that brings us back to how far China is willing to go.

If something like an Agreed Framework Mark II is reached, there will be celebrations over having averted a great danger. One should not be too ready to carp at whatever emerges; this is a problem from hell. But elation would be premature. The inspection requirements for confidence that the fissile material production programs — and any fabricated bombs — are gone are so stringent as to be unlikely to be met, and as Pyongyang demonstrated recently, the inspectors could be thrown out at any time. It is axiomatic that any government headed by Kim Jong Il will have nuclear weapons, despite any agreement signed by his government (unless the Chinese take decisive action).

The Chinese, while claiming to have little influence over the Pyongyang regime, in fact could bring down the regime simply by cutting off food and fuel aid. Also, as Rowen points out, if China was to stop deporting North Korean refugees that would spark a rush for the border by millions of North Koreans. So China's willingness to prop up the regime is the most important external factor keeping Kim Jong Il in power.

Rowen's analysis is weakest in terms of constructive suggestions about how to go about trying to bring a regime change in North Korea. One option Rowen doesn't mention is to make a very large scale effort to get information into North Korea about the outside world. Break the information monopoly that the regime holds over the North Korean people. Large quantities of radios and books could be smuggled in via a number of methods and radio broadcasts into North Korea could be greatly increased. Also, all North Koreans who are outside of North Korea could be reached with reading materials as well.

Max Boot lays out some options for putting pressure on the North Korean regime.

The goals of such a campaign are easy to articulate but hard to accomplish: Cut off food aid to North Korea from various nations. Halt fuel supplies from China and investment from South Korean firms. Do more to intercept North Korean ships carrying illegal goods. Convince neighboring countries to open their doors to North Korean refugees. Finally, try to break Pyongyang's information monopoly. North Koreans' constant diet of outlandish propaganda, reported New Yorker staff writer Philip Gourevitch, includes the claim that the Korean War was caused by capitalist aggression. The truth can set people free.

The Bush Administration and allies are already intensifying law enforcement investigations and intelligence work to reduce North Korean drug smuggling and other sources of revenue for the regime. Another step short of an embargo would be to reduce allowed legitmate trade that North Korea conducts with Japan and other countries.

Jim Hoagland argues that since the North Korean regime survives by use of extortion it will always have an incentive to cheat on any nuclear deal in order to better position itself for future extortion.

Tactics and strategy form a seamless web of survival for Kim, who runs no risk of mistaking one for the other. He is not buying time to experiment with reform communism or gradually open to the global economy. He is buying time "through the methodical export of strategic insecurity," in the words of scholar Nicholas Eberstadt, in a bid to escape change and outside influence.

The decision by the Pyongyang regime against embarking on serious internal reform of the sort Deng implemented in China effectively puts North Korea in a position where it has to find ways to become a security threat in order to be able to extort needed aid.

North Korea does not honor agreements to refrain from nuclear weapons development.

North Korea probably began cheating on the 1994 deal before the ink was dry. Scores of high-explosive tests done in the late 1990s suggest ongoing work to perfect a nuclear detonator. A female scientist who claims to have been in Yongbyon in the 1990s describes schemes concocted to hide covert weapons research. In a transcript allegedly made after she fled into China last year (and obtained by NEWSWEEK through a humanitarian group that arranged her exile in South Korea), she describes deception at the No. 304 Research Institute where she worked, a facility “involved with making both nuclear and chemical weapons.” To dodge IAEA inspections, she says, “we moved all materials and equipment into underground caves.” Eventually, a new plant called the August Facility was constructed. “The place is hidden inside a forest and connected with a new railroad from other facilities,” she added. “It processed uranium for use in other institutes.”

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 October 27 01:50 AM  Korea


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