Five Myths About North Korea, by Joel S. Wit & Jenny Town

[This article appeared in the 29 March 2013 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. Joel S. Wit is a visiting fellow with the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and founder of its North Korea website, 38North. Jenny Town is a research associate at the Institute and the editor of its website. –CanKor]

It’s Not a Hermit Kingdom, and 4 Other Myths About North Korea

Yes, we should be taking Kim Jong Un’s recent threats seriously. But first, we have to lose the comic-book caricature of his country.

(Photo by Erich Weingartner)

(Photo by Erich Weingartner)

Every day the media is filled with reports of North Korea threatening to attack the United States and its close allies. An escalating cycle of threat and counter-threat has been going on for the past few months. It started with the North’s partially successful long-range rocket test in December, was followed by its third test of a nuclear bomb in February, new U.N. sanctions in response to those tests, U.S.-South Korean military exercises, Pyongyang’s bellicose threats to launch strikes against the United States, and now the temporary deployment of long-range U.S. B-2 bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, to South Korea.

Americans should be deeply concerned about these events. While the North may eventually be able to put a nuclear weapon on top of a long-range missile and attack the United States, Pyongyang’s bombs can already reach our friends in South Korea and Japan. There is also a danger that North Korea may export nuclear technology to other rogue states, like Iran and terrorist groups. Remember that the North did send a nuclear reactor for producing bomb-making material to Syria — luckily Israeli warplanes destroyed the unfinished facility in 2006. The danger of exports will grow in the future if the North’s nuclear arsenal continues to grow. Read the rest of this entry »

Is there a role for Europe in the Korean crisis?

Until this past week I had never even heard of the Centre for European Reform. On Friday 12 April 2013, my emailed alerts to the North Korea Forum on LinkedIn brought my attention to Ian Bond’s excellent article Out of range, out of mind: Is there a role for Europe in the Korean crisis?

European union conceptAs you might have read in the left-hand column, CanKor has always been interested in the “role to be played in northeast Asia by second-tier middle powers like Canada, Australia and the European Union.” I have often puzzled over the fact that after the initial “Sunshine” enthusiasm shown by European countries for a role in North Korea in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Europe by and large seems to have ceded its politically astute and innovative role to the geopolitical interests of the USA.

My own European roots have rebelled against the notion that when it comes to North-East Asia, Europe should act as cheerleaders of a  doomed-from-the-start American policy initiated by an American President politically traumatized by the events of 9-11. Who would have thought that Barack Obama would continue his predecessor’s ill-conceived notion that somehow playing the DPRK’s game of brinkmanship would bring them to their knees? I too wish that doing nothing except wagging a finger would have prevented North Korea from building up to 10 nuclear warheads and a missile capable of launching a (non-functioning) satellite into orbit.

Our best efforts over the past seven years have not been able to stir the Canadian Government into any useful direction. Even playing the “good cop” role, as Andrei Lankov recently suggested in Ottawa, seems beyond our government’s ability or intent. The same apparently goes for Australia and New Zealand. Read the rest of this entry »

Christian Conference of Asia sends letters of concern to both North and South Korea

[The Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) is a regional ecumenical organization representing 17 National Councils and 100 denominations (churches) in 21 countries throughout Asia and the Pacific. Henriette Hutabarat Lebang, CCA General Secretary, sent a letter regarding the crisis on the Korean Peninsula to its member churches on 12 April 2013. In addition, she addressed both the (North) Korean Christian Federation (KCF) and CCA member churches in South Korea. We reproduce the CCA letter to the KCF below. All three letters may be accessed by following these links: Letter to CCA Members, Letter to Member Churches in South Korea, Letter to KCF. –CanKor]

CCA logo 3April 12, 2013

From Christian Conference of Asia

To Korean Christian Federation (KCF)

Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Greetings of Peace!

It is with a great anxiety and concern that we receive the news these days on the increasing tensions in the Korean peninsula. As this time of uncertainty for an immediate solution to reach the goal of a more peaceful atmosphere in the Korean peninsula, the Asian churches uphold all our brothers and sisters in the Korean peninsula in our prayers. We pray to God almighty for divine intervention in overcoming the tensed situation, the suffering of the people and the threat of war. Read the rest of this entry »

North Korean Nuclear Test: Implications for Asian Security, by Muthiah Alagappa

[Datuk Dr Muthiah Alagappa is Tun Hussein Onn Chair in International Studies at ISIS Malaysia and non-resident senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC. He is author-editor of Nuclear Weapons and Security in 21st Century Asia, published by Stanford University Press in 2008. The following article appeared in PacNet #10 as well as on the website of the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace on Wednesday, 13 February 2013. –CanKor]

Muthia AlagappaNorth Korea carried out its third nuclear test on Feb. 13, 2013 after having successfully test-fired its long-range rocket in December 2012. Pyongyang is on its way to developing a nuclear weapon capability that can be delivered at short range and in due course over longer ranges including to the United States, China, and Russia. As expected, the international community has reacted to the test with calls for tighter sanctions and will try to induce North Korea to the long-stalled Six-Party Talks. These are unlikely to succeed.

Though paying a high price, North Korea is intent on developing a strategic nuclear deterrent against present and potential adversaries. The international community must recognize and attempt to integrate a nuclear North Korea into Asia and the world. This may be unpalatable to policymakers who have persisted with a sanction and roll back policy as well as for the bankrupt nonproliferation community. However, there is little else that the international community can do. It can bomb North Korea to oblivion but that carries risks and would serve no substantive political or strategic purpose. Read the rest of this entry »

Australian Statement on the death of Kim Jong Il

[The following was a joint media release by Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Kevin Rudd, and the Acting Prime Minister and Treasurer, the Hon Wayne Swan, issued to the press on 19 December 2011. –CanKor]

The death of Kim Jong-Il is a major development in North Korea and potentially for the wider Asian region.

The Korean peninsula is among the world’s most heavily armed regions, and a potential flashpoint.

North Korea is one of the most isolated regimes on earth, and one of the most dangerous. Its nuclear and missile programs present a real and credible threat to the region and, potentially, to Australia.

It is essential with Kim Jong-Il’s passing that stability on the Korean peninsula is maintained. It is vital that all those with influence on Pyongyang reinforce the need for calm and restraint.

Kim Jong-Il’s passing may also represent an opportunity for the North Korean regime to act more responsibly both domestically and internationally. The Australian Government will continue to urge Pyongyang to act in the interests of its own people and to engage constructively with the international community.

The Government is monitoring developments with close interest and consulting closely with our allies and partners.

Related articles

ROK Statement on the death of Kim Jong Il

[The following is an unofficial translation of the Statement on the demise of DPRK leader Kim Jong Il by the Foreign Affairs and National Security Ministers of the Republic of Korea, issued 20 December 2011 – CanKor]

Fellow Koreans,

With the sudden passing of National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong Il, the ROK Government, in close cooperation with its allies and neighbors, is tightly managing the situation to prevent any harm to peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Our military maintains its alert posture, prepared to deal with any situation that arises. So far, we have not seen any unusual indications on the part of North Korea.

We hope our fellow Koreans will be at ease, go on with their everyday lives, and continue normal economic activity.

On the passing of Chairman Kim Jong Il, the ROK Government expresses its sympathy for the people of North Korea. Read the rest of this entry »

Interview with CanKor Brain Trust member Charles Burton

CanKor Brain Trust member Charles Burton’s views on the changing situtation in North Korea were reported in Erica Bajers’ report “Dictator’s death met with concern in Niagara” published in the Niagara Falls Review on December 19, 2011. Article below:

Dictator’s death met with concern in Niagara

By Erica Bajer, QMI, 19 December 2011

North Korean women cry after learning death of their leader Kim Jong Il on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 in Pyongyang, North Korea.

The death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il is worrying local residents with ties to the country.

Unlike the deaths of other high-profile dictators, including most recently Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, Kim Jong-il’s death is not being met with relief and joy.

Instead, his death has caused fear and uncertainty, said Brock University political science professor Charles Burton, who worked on North Korean relations in the Canadian Embassy in Beijing from 1998 to 2000.

“Any change there is destabilizing and anything destabilizing causes worry about what’s going to come next,” he said.

“It’s not a cause for celebration … we don’t know what will happen.”

He said despite the fact the dictator chose his 28-year-old son Kim Jong-un as his successor, it’s unclear if the regime will continue.

Burton said North Koreans equate age and experience with wisdom and may not be willing to accept such a young, inexperienced leader.

“The real concern is the transition,” he said.

Burton said there’s a strong possibility a power struggle between different factions of the Kim family and the military will break out. Read the rest of this entry »

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