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Ending North Korea Fear

2017 August 9
by Ian Welsh

So, Trump and Korea have everyone in a tizzy about the possibility of nuclear war. The international community has another set of sanctions going forward, which look like they will close off much of the remaining North Korean trade, and North Korea is saying nasty things and testing nasty weapons.

Perhaps it’s time to regularize relationships?

It seems to be forgotten that no peace treaty ever ended the Korean war. The North Koreans are scared spitless of the West, and, let us be frank, not without reason. The fates of Libya and Iraq bear heavy on their minds, to mention two recent events.

People without nukes, whom the West/US doesn’t like, tend to do badly.

The North Koreans have long said that they want a peace treaty. Perhaps one could be arranged for serious agreements to scrap or limit long-range nuclear weapons? Scrapping would be a hard sell, because after Qaddafi scrapped his, he got invaded, but some serious limits ought to be possible.

I know this flies against the current mood, but sanctions have been tried now for 60 years and haven’t worked, and the threat keeps getting worse and worse.

Perhaps try something else?


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44 Responses leave one →
  1. Ghostwheel permalink
    August 10, 2017

    * Largest known rare earth deposit discovered in North Korea:
    http://www.mining.com/largest-known-rare-earth-deposit-discovered-in-north-korea-86139/

    * North Korea May Be Sitting On $6 Trillion Worth Of Rare Minerals:
    http://www.businessinsider.fr/us/north-korea-is-thought-to-be-sitting-on-6-trillion-worth-of-rare-earth-metals-2012-8/

    * North Korea May Have Two-Thirds of World’s Rare Earths:
    http://thediplomat.com/2014/01/north-korea-may-have-two-thirds-of-worlds-rare-earths/

  2. bruce wilder permalink
    August 10, 2017

    Feed North Korea.

    Just send them a few boatloads of grains and edible oils and maybe some fruits.

    Gratis. For a few years at least.

    Basic foodstuffs are cheap. Give them something they need.

    Then, negotiate later.

    Foreign policy does not need to be conducted exclusively by playground bullies, whose understanding of human nature has not advanced since sixth grade.

  3. V. Arnold permalink
    August 10, 2017

    bruce wilder
    August 10, 2017
    Feed North Korea.

    +1

  4. EverythingsJake permalink
    August 10, 2017

    He’s never looked more presidential, or some shit presstitute Fareed Zakaria and most others of his morally compromised ilk will say.

  5. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    August 10, 2017

    North Korea, and by virtue of that, South Korea, are Toast, I’m afraid. This steady, unrelenting Death March has been building since Trump first took office. It’s a Set-Up, of course. Obama, who is obviously no friend of Trump’s (or is he?), told Trump Korea will be his most urgent issue thus indicating The Deep State would both define, and scapegoat, Trump with the North Korean Crisis they were brewing for just this Time.

    Those who voted for Trump, and supported him implicitly & explicitly, will have the murder of millions, and perhaps tens of millions, on their hands and their Dark Hearts. A Pox upon your Houses for your tacit approval of this. In your disgust of Hillary, you voted for, and supported, and even worse Nightmare. You could have chosen, per my admonition, to not vote at all as a protest against the illegitimacy of The System, but your egotistical hubris and obstinance won the day.

    I’d say Karma will have its day with you, but I don’t believe in Karma. George H.W. Bush has lived a good, long Life. He’s never had a Karmic Blowback and yet the things he’s done are as deep & dark as anything any powerful leader has ever done. Karma, frankly, is BULLSHIT. If you want Karma, administer it yourself because the Universe will not do it for you.

    FYI, The Mainstream Media wants a Nuclear War. They really do. They’re egging Trump on every bit as much as Russia & China & The Deep State are egging Trump on. No one took note of how readily China & Russia got on board with the sanctions against North Korea. They were so cooperative because they want Trump to do this. They know, and knew, the sanctions would provoke Kim Jong-Un and Trump would react to Kim Jong-Un’s reaction. When Trump gives the nod, America as it was mythologized is NO MORE. Once millions, if not tens of millions, are murdered, America will be forever permanently transformed and will become a Global Pariah that must be Taken Out. This is exactly what Russia & China want and they’re willing to gamble the Planet in the process.

    Curtis LeMay is salivating, not smoldering, in his grave. What he would have given for a Trump Card. Instead, he got JFK, the exact opposite.

  6. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    August 10, 2017

    Feed North Korea? Are you serious? You really think Kim Jong-Un would let that “Relief” reach those who were starving & suffering? It’s not going to happen. Those who are starving & suffering in North Korea are praying for a war so that they, like injured animals, can be put out of their misery. Get real.

  7. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    August 10, 2017

    Tying the last blog post to this one.

    Confucius say: Paper Tigers Should Never Play With Fire & Fury.

  8. Ian Welsh permalink*
    August 10, 2017

    Eh, Hillary wanted to escalate in Syria, risking a war with Russia (even worse.)

    There were no good choices in the US election.

    As for Korea, I’m not sure the military would carry out the order, but we’ll see. That would be awful too, but less awful.

  9. Ghostwheel permalink
    August 10, 2017

    Unearthed archive footage reveals what Trump REALLY thinks about North Korea (1999):
    http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/838792/Donald-Trump-twitter-North-Korea-Kim-Jong-un-Guam-war-latest-threat-US-video

  10. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    August 10, 2017

    Oh, and as far as the Fire & Fury terminology, I bet those words came straight from Stephen Miller. It’s exactly something that Freakish Goon would say. Trump may have improvised the rest, but Fire & Fury has Miller’s Signature all over it.

    He’s a 31-year-old with this kind of influence. Unbelievable. Or not.

    Trump may also give us a Nuclear War with Russia. If Putin washes his hands of Trump and dumps his Kompromat, Trump, considering his impulsive volatility and vengeful demeanor, may overreact, and then it’s on.

    I agree both Hillary & Trump were/are terrible choices and really not choices at all, and I’ve said as much many times over. That’s why it was imperative, if you’re a principled moral person, to not cast your vote for either and protest the Corrupt System via a No Vote.

  11. Ché Pasa permalink
    August 10, 2017

    FYI, The Mainstream Media wants a Nuclear War. They really do. They’re egging Trump on…

    This is true. They are almost universally normalizing the notion of a little bit of nuclear annihilation as we speak. The tens of millions slated for instant incineration? Enh. Too bad for them. The people who matter will survive.

    There is essentially no opposition voice in the mainstream whatsoever.

    The North Korea Thing will become the first of many post WWII incidents of the use of nuclear arms to wipe out a designated enemy. All the fears of nuclear Armageddon of the last several generations will be mooted. It will no longer matter.

    Hillary wanted to escalate in Syria, risking a war with Russia (even worse.)

    This is one of the more pernicious falsehoods of the late, unlamented campaign season, but it doesn’t matter any more as it has served its purpose. We’ll get nuked — or some designated “they” will — no matter.

    And no, Ian, a little bit of nuking in Korea is not “less awful” than the fantasy of nuclear war with Russia spun over what to do about Syria.

    (Trump’s and Hillary’s policies wrt Syria were almost identical. It was the rhetoric that inspired the fantasy.)

  12. August 10, 2017

    I don’t think Gaddafi ever had anything resembling a viable nuclear weapons programme, much less any usable weapons. What he did have were massive reserves of high grade oil, and massive reserves of potable water under the south-eastern desert. He also had plans to create a gold-based African currency which would have threatened US economic hegemony in the continent. That is what did for him, not nukes……..

  13. drfrank permalink
    August 10, 2017

    Nah. Trump and Kim are like a pair of schoolboys poking fingers into each others’ chest, but a real fight among these two cowards is not likely. Trump comes from a school of negotiating that believes in raising the tension to an unbearable level in order to come to a deal, and he recognizes in Kim a similar mind set. When it gets hot enough, cooler heads will come forth and negotiate a resolution. Those with most at stake are those who have regional proximity to North Korea: South Korea, China, Russia and Japan. The US might not have a seat at the negotiating table. Whatever happens, Trump will claim credit for a resolution that puts America first based on his show of strength.

  14. August 10, 2017

    The fairness doctrine needs to be brought back – FOX
    fibs needs to be hard to find, rather than this place.

  15. Socialist permalink
    August 10, 2017

    Great post by a Russian historian about this “threat” (in English, ofc)
    https://www.reddit.com/r/russia/comments/6srswh/on_the_north_korean_nuclear_threat/

  16. realitychecker permalink
    August 10, 2017

    @ Stirling

    Yes, we need the Fairness Doctrine back, but if you think we need it JUST FOR FOX, you are out of your mind.

    All the corporate media are acting as political players rather than informers of the public.

  17. realitychecker permalink
    August 10, 2017

    @ drfrank

    Don’t forget that both Bush and Obama claimed ‘credit’ for letting the situation fester until it developed into this insoluble crisis.

  18. sid_finster permalink
    August 10, 2017

    The wars are not meant to be resolved.

    They are meant to be continuous.

  19. atcooper permalink
    August 10, 2017

    It’s hard not to think this is to help drive arms sales, that’s for sure.

  20. August 10, 2017

    We jave to stop doing what we’re doing. It isn’t working.

  21. V. Arnold permalink
    August 11, 2017

    bruce wilder
    August 10, 2017
    Feed North Korea.

    Bruce, can I quote this entire post of yours over at MoA?
    With attribution of course.

  22. Socialist permalink
    August 11, 2017

    “Feed North Korea”

    Really?! Is that your plan?

    Even people who think they think outside of the box on here have completely bought into the narrative of the irrational and insane North Korean leader who starves his people and eats children for breakfast. The USA uses the narrative of some country being an irrational actor every fucking time they oppose someone’s government, how are you still buying into this nonsense?!

    Each time they present “the news” on North Korea in my country or show some fake footage, it’s always completely made up or manipulated. I still remember how once they were shooting a footage on North Korea by interviewing Chinese people in the middle of fucking Beijing asking for their opinions on how evil the regime is and trying to present it as some kind of legit understanding of how cruel Kim Jong Un.

    North Korea is fettered by very strict sanctions, yet they are doing very well with what they have. Most of their land is hilly and very infertile and their energy sector is small, so producing fertilizers is a huge drag on the economy. Yet, they are surviving and their population is steadily growing with an increasing average lifespan. No doubt, they spend their lives frugally and sometimes eat scantily (like most of the fucking world, duh) but do you want them to become another nation of dumbed down war mongering fatties like the US? I tip off my hat to that small nation with its amazing culture and its resilience! I hope they keep working on their nuclear program to fully protect itself from the biggest imperialist threat and bully – the USA – with its economic and cultural imperialism.

  23. someofparts permalink
    August 11, 2017

    I spotted someone official on network prime time news saying that North Korea would never use their nukes and they would also never give them up. In my book that nails it.

    I think the point of that broadcast was to signal that despite Trump’s reckless noise, cooler heads are really calling the shots.

  24. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    August 11, 2017

    Bruce, can I quote this entire post of yours over at MoA?

    I’m sure the NK Operatives who post there would get a good chuckle out of it. That Commentariat isn’t a Drug-Infested Den like New Hampshire (per The Donald), it’s an Operative Infested Den (per Me). Obfuscation is The Rule.

  25. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    August 11, 2017

    Socialist is janet on another forum.

  26. Richard permalink
    August 11, 2017

    The idea that Hill would go to war with Russia over Syria was always idiotic if you thought it through.
    Putin may be paranoid, but he is very rational. Same with Hill. Turkey shot down a freakin Russia plane and now Erdogan and Putin are buddy-buddies. Why? Because it was rational to do so. Escalating to a major war over Syria was never going to happen given rational actors.

    In the case of NK, I have little faith that either Der Trumpster or Little Fat Boy know what they are doing. Both only know to escalate and threaten until the other more rational side backs down, but I don’t think either have a Plan B.

  27. Socialist permalink
    August 11, 2017

    The Stephen Miller Band

    Sorry, but I literally have no idea what you meant by your last post.

  28. Ché Pasa permalink
    August 11, 2017

    At this point, the problem is the military brass.

    The Freak in the White House will do or say whatever, but as we’ve seen, it only matters to the extent his minions are willing/able to carry it out — which so far has been limited.

    There is a faction of the military which has been itching to use nukes since the Korean Conflict of my toddlerhood. They want to do it. To prove, once and for all, that it’s survivable — among other things.

    NK has long been targeted by this faction (as their Own Freak knows well).

    This faction appears to be what Trump refers to as “my generals.”

    Cooler heads cannot prevail. They have been silenced and sidelined.

    Therefore the issue is not whether there is a rational solution (of course there is), it’s whether Trump’s generals believe now is the time to strike and if they do what they’ll do.

    It was easy enough to predict things would come to this. But who would listen?

  29. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    August 11, 2017

    You must listen to the RadioLab Podcast at this link. The Military HAS to fire the nukes if The Donald says fire them. It’s an Unconstitutional Process, but it is the process and The Personnel put in place to launch the nukes on the POTUS’s orders are selected for their obedience so they do not waver when the time comes.

    Blowback Mountain

  30. Peter permalink
    August 11, 2017

    @Richard

    Using the word rational to describe the Red Queen ‘Hill’ after seeing her behavior in office and after is a stretch that makes me fear for some people’s sanity. We can be thankful that we will never have to find out how irrational Hill could become. If the story of her becoming a preacher is accurate some poor souls will hear how the devil stole her rationally constructed right to rule.

    Trump’s colorful rhetoric seems to be mostly directed at China who is the power responsible for the creation of NK and the power who will suffer if there is a conflict. China is the only country with experience in dismantling a hermit kingdom but the replacement of Kim and his generals will require very creative thinking and action.

  31. will andermann permalink
    August 11, 2017

    For a more thorough backgrounder on why North Korea, and Koreans generally, have good reason to fear the US, I refer everyone to Bruce Cumings recent London Review of Books article:

    https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n10/bruce-cumings/a-murderous-history-of-korea

    The US wreaked horrendous violence on the North during the Korean War, violence rivaling anything the Nazis inflicted on the Soviet Union. North Korea is playing out the madness inherent in the logic of mutually assured destruction, and in this case it is a logical reflection of the history of unfeigned madness characterizing US strategic policy. By way of contrast, when Nixon, acted nuke crazy, he was playing a part that did not reflect real experience.

  32. bruce wilder permalink
    August 11, 2017

    V. Arnold — with or without attribution is fine; I have and want no proprietary interest in the idea that foreign policy could be conducted with a different model of motives and persuasion — as Ian might say, from kindness.

    We do not have to take hostages or threaten punishments in every case. Aid or benefit costing us no more in resources than the punishments we deal out, often onto innocent heads, might be more effective. Sanctions against a regime which has pursued autarky for decades does not punish uncaring leaders. And, lest anyone think such an approach is unpossible, I would remind everyone that Bill Clinton’s administration struck a deal with North Korea in which the U.S. promised to deliver a modest quantity of grains and edible oils. Of course, John McCain blustered until he forced the U.S. to renege. But, he did not pay a price for that blunder.

  33. Hugh permalink
    August 11, 2017

    An alternate view.

    North Korea is a client state of China. That North Korea has nuclear weapons and a ballistic missile program is because China allowed, and/or aided North Korea in having them.

    The Korean War began when Kim Il-Sung invaded South Korea in 1950. Kim had to be one of history’s great con men because he convinced both Stalin and Mao that seizing the South would be a cakewalk, presenting the world with a fait accompli, and that it could be done before the US could react. I think Mao, in particular, felt royally rooked and he stayed in at great cost mostly because he did not have a good way out and did not want the Americans on his borders.

    Since then China has used North Korea to destabilize Northeast Asia and, in the post-Mao era, as a cheap counterweight to South Korea, Japan, and, of course, the US in the region. In recent years, to these, has been added the policy of propping up the North to avoid millions of Korean refugees flooding across China’s border in the fairly likely event of the North’s implosion.

    Nor do the US or South Korea want to invade or take over the North for the same reasons. North Korea is a horrible place, a militaristic super police-state, but more importantly for China, the US, and South Korea, incredibly, incredibly poor. It has a malnourished, undereducated population of 25.4 million and a GDP of about $23 billion. It does not need a nuclear program for protection, but for extortion, to keep its ruling clique in power and keep its state from collapsing. And it does have a real danger of falling apart, and in doing so, attacking the US, the South, and Japan on its way out.

    I do not agree with how Trump is going about this, but China does need to be held responsible for its support of North Korea and its weapon programs and there is a real concern here. The North’s nuclear capability is a real threat and if we are going to deal with it, it would be better to do so before it is operational. You may not like hearing this. I don’t particularly saying it, but it needs to be said.

  34. Lex permalink
    August 11, 2017

    Hugh,
    There’s also some argument that Stalin talked Kim into the invasion and offered a lot of military support that he never delivered. The argument is based partly on some historical records that suggest the US was moving towards normalizing relations with the PRC, even if it meant sacrificing Taiwan. The idea being that it would be worth it to threaten stalin’s long, southern border. But Stalin egged on Kim; didn’t aid him as promised; and what can Mao do? He can’t let the US army sit across the river. If this is true, it was Stalin’s greatest triumph.

    As to Ian’s point. The answer is simple: a treaty to end the Korean War. I doubt we have the maturity to do it. We can’t admit we didn’t win. We’re just taking a break, and that’s exactly how the DPRK sees it. Rightfully, given the broken promises, constant threatening, and timing those annual invasion simulations during important agricultural times.

    The DPRK is not going to invade the ROK if we stand down and open up relations. Assuming we make it through this without a hot war, the ROK might be ready to tell us to start going home.

  35. Hugh permalink
    August 11, 2017

    Lex, what interest would a peace treaty serve the North’s regime? As I pointed out above, neither the South nor the US have any interest in invading the North, and neither (along with China) want to be on the hook for taking care of North Korea’s population or the costs of bringing them into the twenty-first century.

  36. V. Arnold permalink
    August 11, 2017

    bruce wilder
    August 11, 2017
    Thanks Bruce; I decided to link to it instead.

  37. bruce wilder permalink
    August 12, 2017

    Hugh, NK got essential help on their nukes not from China, but America’s great, good ally (and host to Osama Bin Laden), Pakistan.

  38. Hugh permalink
    August 12, 2017

    bruce wilder, actually I was thinking more about North Korea’s missile launchers which came from China and the ICBMs which are clones of Chinese designs. Some nuclear know-how went through the AQ Khan network, of course. Not sure how much of Pakistan’s nuclear tech came from China or how much of North Korea’s came directly from the PRC. Maybe someone else could comment on that. A uranium based weapon is not technically difficult to build. The difficulty is primarily in getting the nuclear material and secondarily in miniaturization of the warhead. Plutonium weapons are much more difficult to build, but sort of come with the miniaturization built in and are an important step toward an H bomb.

  39. Lex permalink
    August 12, 2017

    Hugh,
    It would allow the DPRK to reduce the massive cost of remaining on war footing. And since they’ve been asking for it for years, it appears to have great value to them. Of course, there’s the psychological value, as a peace treaty would require the US to implicitly recognize that it lost (or at least did not win) the war.

    And I disagree that the US has no desire to invade the north. There’s a reason that the military exercises are set up as invasions. The wishes of the ROK are immaterial given that command and control of the ROK military goes to the US in the event of any hostilities. The wishes of the majority of South Koreans are hard to know for sure, given the almost unbroken track record of the US supporting hard right (and at times dictatorial) regimes in Seoul. The Sunshine Policy was undermined by GWB breaking previous agreements with the north. And given that the Korean people had to force the daughter of a dictator ourt of office recently, it would be nice to see what Moon would do without this current escalation. But the ROK cannot do anything officially about ending the war on its own. The US represents the “UN” for treaty purposes.

    I can say, from living in S. Korea for a while that most don’t believe the US is there protecting S. Korea from the DPRK, and that the “tensions” Americans see al the time are wholly absent from life, even within 30 miles of the DMZ where I lived. I generally learned of the latest tensions via emails from home, not the local news.

  40. will andermann permalink
    August 12, 2017

    “The Korean War began when Kim Il-Sung invaded South Korea in 1950.”

    I encourage you to read the Cumings article at LRB I linked above. It raises questions about that account. All was not peaceful on the Korean peninsula in the run-up to the war.

    https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n10/bruce-cumings/a-murderous-history-of-korea

  41. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    August 12, 2017

    Will, that’s an excellent article. Here’s the last sentence. Trump, a Maverick? I don’t think so. He may not be an Insider as Inside the Beltway, but he’s a member of The Global Plutocracy and is, therefore, no Maverick and no Champion of The Little People, Korean or American or otherwise. Bruce typed up the article in May. I’m betting he’s not so optimistic now.

    But whatever else he might be, he is unquestionably a maverick, the first president since 1945 not beholden to the Beltway. Maybe he can sit down with Mr Kim and save the planet.

  42. Hugh permalink
    August 12, 2017

    Maybe reading Orwell’s 1984 or Arendt’s On Totalitarianism would be helpful. As Arendt pointed out and Orwell illustrated, totalitarian regimes lie, and their logic and priorities have nothing to do with what you or I might think their logic and priorities should be. The North needs to be on a war footing both for control at home and extortion abroad. Peace would be an unmitigated disaster for its ruling clique.

    As for revisionist histories of the Korean War, spare me. The North invaded the South and had it nearly occupied by the time MacArthur came along. It’s like the bully running to his mother crying, “But Tommy made me hit him.” And progressives wonder why they are never taken seriously on much of anything.

  43. nihil obstet permalink
    August 14, 2017

    Hugh, since progressives are never taken seriously of much of anything, can we continue to think that the U.S. in the late 1940s interfered in elections and/or supported rightwing sides in coups/civil wars in China, Italy, Greece, the Philippines, and South Korea, among others? Or do very serious people know that the U.S. just beamed innocently as the good people struggled against the godless commies? Who should be taken seriously?

  44. Chaz permalink
    August 16, 2017

    Agreed. Give them a taste of capitalism and the regime can start to count its days.

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