Foolishness over North Korea
JAN 19, 2016

Two factors define the North Korea we see today. The first is the dreadful bombing unleashed upon it by the United States and its allies during the 1950-53 Korean War — a war that in many Korean eyes was a far from illegitimate attempt to unite a nation arbitrarily divided into north and south in 1945 after liberation from Japanese control. As one Australian pilot put it to me after that war, “we bombed all the farmhouses, then we bombed the cows, and when we ran out of cows we bombed the haystacks.” The bitterness of anti-U.S. feeling that comes from those years cannot be underestimated.

The second factor was the 1994 Agreed Framework with the U.S. So as never again to be powerless before overwhelming U.S. air power, North Korea in the ’90s had set out to build a plutonium reactor to produce its own nuclear weapon. But the U.S. intervened.

Literally hours before a planned U.S. air attack on the reactor former U.S. President Jimmy Carter negotiated on behalf of the Clinton administration an Agreed Framework under which the U.S. and its allies would assist in building a light-water reactor to replace the offending plutonium reactor (the KEDO project). Promises of economic aid and diplomatic recognition were included.

Sadly, the neocons in the subsequent Bush regime were able to dismantle all this with claims that Pyongyang still had the materials or the intention to create an atomic bomb. The Bush regime condemned North Korea, together with Iran and Iraq, as part of the axis of evil and subject to pre-emptive attack if holding weapons of mass destruction. Stories of starvation convinced many in Washington that North Korea would in any case soon collapse of its own accord. All suggestions for improved relations were rejected with the fatuous claim that bad behavior should not be rewarded.

Equally bizarre was the later move under U.S. President Barack Obama to offer North Korea a guarantee that it would not be attacked if it dismantled its nuclear capacity. Pyongyang had a short answer to that one: You made the same promises to Iraq and Libya and what happened to them later? You promised Moscow you would not put NATO closer to its borders, but you did.

Pyongyang set out to create its own nuclear defence, which brought us to where we are today

A glimmer of reality emerged at a press conference at Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo last month given by Robert Carlin from Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation at the height of the fuss over Pyongyang’s claimed detonation of a hydrogen bomb. A former CIA analyst, Carlin has been involved with North Korea in and out of government since 1974. He was executive director 2003-2006 of the abortive KEDO project and has visited North Korea more than 30 times. If anyone knows North Korea and can talk about U.S. policy, it is he.

Carlin was strongly critical of U.S. policies. He blamed the breakdown in relations squarely on the Bush rejection of the agreed framework. He confirmed that sanctions have not hurt North Korea greatly; that if anything conditions, both in town and country, have improved greatly and that this can be confirmed by glance at the burgeoning Pyongyang skyline. I asked him if the North Korean officials he dealt with went along with the bluff and bluster of the regime. Some did, he said, but he confirmed what others say: that a new generation is emerging which is much more realistic and surprisingly well-informed. The standard Western image of the regime as a collection of clownist oafs was far from the mark.

From Carlin’s and other reports it is clear that it is the refusal of the diplomatic contacts promised in the Agreed Framework that rankles most. Attempts to imitate China’s ping-pong diplomacy with people-to-people contacts through celebrity visits do not get far. (As someone involved in the ping-pong opening, I would advise doing everything on a much larger scale and allowing reporters free movement.)

But the regime is far from isolated. North Korea has 53 embassies and consulates abroad. It is recognized by 72 nations with 34, including Britain, having embassies in Pyongyang. The others maintain liaison offices in nearby countries. So why don’t the U.S. (and Japan) do likewise? Because it would be rewarding bad behaviour is the standard answer. The idea that the bad behaviour, if it in fact exists, could be due to the lack of diplomatic recognition, never seems to occur. But then again small children, too, have problems with separating causes and results.


二つの要因が、今日我々の見る北朝鮮を規定している。一つは、1950-53年の朝鮮戦争--1945年日本支配から解放されたあと恣意的に北と南に分断された国を一つにまとめようという、朝鮮人の目から見て至極納得できる*戦争 ――の際、アメリカとその同盟国による苛酷な爆撃である。その戦争の後あるオーストラリア人パイロットが語っているが、“われわれは農家という農家はすべて爆撃した。牛も、そして牛がなくなると藁におさえ、爆撃した。” 数年にわたるこの経験から生まれた苦々しい反米感情の、根は深い。


アメリカがそのリアクターを攻撃する計画の文字通り数時間前、ジミー・カーター元米大統領は、クリントン政権の命を帯びて、交渉に入った。その大枠合意とは、アメリカとその同盟国は、攻撃的なプルトニウム・リアクターの代りに、北朝鮮に軽水リアアクターの建設を支援するというもの(KEDO プロジェクトと呼ばれる)。それに加えて、経済援助や外交関係樹立もふくまれていた。


北朝鮮の飢餓に関する諸々のストーリーが流布し、米政府関係者の多くは北朝鮮はどっちみち自然崩壊するのだという確信を深めていた。関係改善のための提案は、悪に対して温情で報いるべきではないという愚かしい言い分で、すべて退けられた。また不可解なのは、北朝鮮が核能力を放棄するなら、アメリカは北朝鮮を攻撃しないという保証を北朝鮮へ与えようとしたその後のオバマ大統領の動きだ。これに対し、ピョンヤンは短く答えている―― あなたがたはイラクやリビアに同じ約束をしたが、実際は何が起こったか?またモスクワに対して、NATO軍をこれ以上ロシア国境に近づけないと約束したが、実際させたではないか。


先月東京の外国人記者クラブで、スタンフォード大学国際安全協力センターのロバート・カーリンによる記者会見で、現実の一部が垣間見られた。ピョンヤンのいわゆる水素爆弾をめぐる騒ぎの最高潮の時期だった。もとCIA アナリストであるカーリンは74年以来政府内外で北朝鮮問題に関わってきた。2003-06年は日の目を見なかったKEDOプロジェクトの責任者として、30回以上北朝鮮を訪問している。彼以上に北朝鮮を知り、米政策いついて語れる人は、ほかにいない。



実際、北朝鮮は決して孤立しているわけではない。北朝鮮は外国に、53の大使館及び領事館を置いている。北朝鮮を承認している国は72カ国にのぼり、英国も含め34カ国がピョンヤンに大使館を設けている。他の国は北朝鮮の隣国に連絡事務所を置いている。ではどうしてアメリカ(と日本)は同じように出来ないか? 悪に対して温情で報いることは出来ない、というのがお決まりの返答だ。もし悪が現実に存在するとしたら、それは外交関係がないせいかもしれないという考えは、決して出来ないらしい。この点でも、幼児が原因と結果を分けて考えることができないのと似ている。