ICAS Special Contribution


( on Tong Kim's paper )

Kim Myong Chol

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422

Email: icas@icasinc.org

Biographic Sketch & Links: Kim Myong Chol

[Editor's note: We gratefully acknowledge the special contribution of this paper to ICAS by courtesy of Kim Myong Chol: sjk]

(on Tong Kim's paper)

Kim Myong Chol

Obviously the article by Tong Kim "Obama's Options on North Korea" is uncharacteristic of a scholar with a good knowledge of 5,000 years of Korean history and the history of DPRK-US negotiations.

The article is fraught with five major misunderstandings.

In the first place, the article totally fails to address a very simple but least noted and hard fact, that is, the US policy of hostility to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (the DPRK): the root cause that has relentlessly driven the Kim Jong Il Administration to arm itself with nuclear weapons and their long-range means of delivery.

The US refusal to have full ties with North Korea is one thing, with which the Kim Jong Il Administration can easily dispense, and the US bid to isolate it and threat to nuke it is quite another, which is perceived with alarm as a fundamental threat to the national security of North Korea.

The tiny DPRK is unique in that it has found itself living under the US nuclear sword of Damocles for more than half a century, while exposed to the endless US efforts to isolate and criminalize it.

Dr. Gavan McCormack of Australian National University offers the following observation on the US policy of animosity and nuclear intimidation to the DPRK that is the primary factor that has led the DPRK to gatecrash the elite club of nuclear weapons states: "The extremely abnormal circumstances under which it has existed since the founding of the state in 1948, facing the concentrated efforts of the global superpower to isolate, impoverish, and overthrow it, have not been of its choosing. Frozen out of major global institutions and subject to financial and economic sanctions, denounced in fundamentalist terms as "evil" (and beyond redemption), North Korea could scarcely be anything but suspicious and fearful."

"In particular, North Korea has faced the threat of nuclear annihilation for more than half a century. If anything is calculated to drive a people mad, and to generate in it an obsession with unity and survival, and with nuclear weapons as the sine qua non of national security, it must be such an experience. Its demand for relief from nuclear intimidation was unquestionably just and yet was ignored by the global community, till, eventually, as we know, it took the matter into its own hands."

The Toronto Star said in its January 14, 2003 commentary, "Who Can Blame North Korea?": "That's what North Korea, far more noisily, is also doing It is arming itself to stave off what Bush has all but promised. Any sensible country would do the same."

In a January 10, 2003 BBC commentary by Daniel Plesch, a scholar at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense Studies, said, " North Korea has decided to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, invoking its legal right to do so. "The move increases international tension and the risk of Japan reconsidering its position on nuclear weapons. But it is in line with the new approach to global security adopted by the Bush administration."

The US has a nuclear-strike force deployed in South Koreas, Japan and in the Pacific. The American nuclear-armed units are ready to mount a surprise assault on the DPRK, involving warplanes, missiles, and navy assets. The American forces are engaged in numerous large-scale joint nuclear-attack war games in the vicinity of the DPRK with the Japanese and South Korean forces.

True, the Americans deny the presence of nuclear weapons in South Korea and Japan, but they fail to produce a compelling verified proof to support their statement. As a matter of fact, the American, South Koreans and Japanese publicly claim that South Korea and Japan are under the US nuclear umbrella.

Unless the US ends regarding the DPRK as its enemy and addresses its paramount national security concern not in words but in complete, verifiable and irreversible manner, never will the Kim Jong Il Administration consider reducing and renouncing its hard-won nuclear weapons.

The Kim Jong Il Administration has good reason to extend deepest thanks for the departing President George Bush for his critical role in catapulting the DPRK to the status of a nuclear weapons state.

Secondly, the article is wrong to describe the goal of the six-party talks as "the North's complete and verifiable nuclear disarmament." This represents a bid to distort the objective of the multilateral nuclear talks from verified complete denuclearization of the whole of the Korean Peninsula into a unilateral nuclear disarmament of North Korea.

What belies the statement is an unwarranted stereotype view that the DPRK's acquisition of nukes is irrational and dangerous, while US possession of US nukes are rational, intended to preserve peace. Nothing is farther removed from truth as the March 12, 2002 New York Times editorially branded America as "a nuclear rogue," which may well prompt non-nuclear countries to seek nuclear weapons "to avoid nuclear attack."

The US is the first to develop the nuclear weapons, the first to use nukes by atomic-bombing two cities in virtually defeated Japan, partly to obtain actual data on the extent of damage a nuclear bomb can inflict and partly to awe the then major rival Soviet Union. The US is the only country to transfer nuclear arms to the United Kingdom, which has US-designed nuclear warheads, missiles and nuclear-submarines. The US has a stated doctrine of nuclear preemption.

What is urgently needed for a nuclear-weapon-free world is for the US to renounce its doctrine of nuclear first use, reduce its nuclear force and withdrawing all nuclear weapons from its ex-territorial bases overseas.

In a joint contribution to the January 9, 2009 International Herald Tribune, four senior German political leaders Helmut Schmidt, Richard von Weizsäcker, Egon Bahr and Hans-Dietrich Genscher called upon Russia and the US to lead global nuclear disarmament by reducing their nuclear weapons and asking the US to withdraw all nuclear warheads from Germany.

Thirdly, the Tong Kim article seems to be either unaware of the pledged readiness of Obama to unconditionally meet with Kim Jong Il when it states: "Sherman can tell the North Korean leadership that a meeting with President Obama is possible when the United States and its allies are convinced that the North truly intends to abandon its nuclear weapons even before complete denuclearization. To prove its intentions, the North must take positive but irreversible steps."

If not, the article cannot but be construed as a demand that the President-elect retract his pledge and instead attach conditions to holding a possible summit with the North Korean leader. In the January 17, 2009 issue of Japan's vernacular daily Yomiuri Shimbun Dr Zbigniew Brzezinski of Johns Hopkin's University School of International Studies stressed the importance of holding unconditional talks with North Korea.

Its commitment to the time-honored Korean values of national independence and pride will not allow the Kim Jong Il Administration to condescend to "take positive but irreversible steps" to seek a summit with the Obama Administration.

The fourth is failure to realize that the Kim Jong Il Administration no longer thinks normalization of relations with the US as of critical importance because the DPRK has emerged a full-fledged nuclear weapons state. It has all types of nuclear weapons, including neutron and hydrogen warheads and hundreds of ICBMs that can strike any remotest target in the USA.

The DPRK has prospered, surviving dozens of years in the absence of diplomatic relations with the US, which has wound up "Yielding to North Korea Too Often" as the Washington Post splashed an eye-popping headline on April 26, 2008.

Four of the six nuclear weapons states have full diplomatic relations with the DPRK; Russia, China, the United Kingdom, India and Pakistan. The first three are permanent members of the UN Security Council. The United Kingdom is a key ally and the elder brother of the US. The DPRK has a lower-level diplomatic mission in Paris.

All the European allies such as Germany, Italy, Australia, and Canada never demanded the DPRK renounce its nuclear weapons before having full relations with Pyongyang. Those US allies are well aware that the DPRK has a sovereign right to acquire whatever weapons deemed necessary to deal with the perceived national security threat.

The European states have expanded prosperous economic relations with the DPRK as all hotels in Pyongyang and local cities are filled to capacity with European business people.

The last and fifth is the absence of the most vitally required recommendation that the Obama Administration make a strategic decision to adopt a policy of "live and let live" toward the DPRK.

All the major Western allies of the US have full relations with the DPRK, and the US recognizes India and Pakistan as with all its sanctions. Canada to the north and Mexico to the south have full relations with North Korea.

The Obama Administration has no legitimate reason not to seek peaceful co-existence with the nuclear-armed DPRK. Nuclear weapons in the DPRK's arsenal cannot provide any justification for the American policy of hostility to Pyongyang because it is their mother. The American demand that the DPRK relinquish its nuclear weapons capability first before full normalization is tantamount to putting the cart before the horse.

There is no precedence where a nuclear weapons state has ever renounced its nuclear weapons. Among the nuclear weapons states, the US must show moral strength to establish the world's first precedent that even a superpower can go without nuclear capability.

However, what distinguishes North Korea from other nuclear-weapons states is the vowed readiness of its supreme leader Kim Jong Il to fulfill the commitment of the late father image Kim Il Sung to the denuclearization of the whole of the ancestral Land of Morning Calm.

The Kim Jong Il Administration remains committed to the renunciation of nuclear weapons once it has perceives the DPRK is no longer an enemy of the US and is freed from a nuclear threat.

Normalization of state relations between Pyongyang and Washington could be one of the important steps the Obama Administration can adopt toward creation of an environment in which the Kim Jong Il Administration will find nuclear weapons a white elephant. Holding an unconditional DPRK-US summit, concluding a DPRK peace treaty and resuming the construction of light-water reactors could be among the next major conducive steps.

This page last updated 1/30/2009 jdb

ICAS Fellow
ICAS Speakers
& Discussants