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Korea Diary, 17 May 06

If you need an even better illustration of the idiocy of the Tokdo distraction, read this moving story about the families of two hostages, one Japanese and one South Korean, who married during their captivity in North Korea.

Yokota expressed gratitude that his son-in-law was a South Korean. “I am so lucky to have a South Korean son-in-law, not a North Korean. I am so happy that I can hope that our families may meet one another again. He said the couple “loved each other and had such a beautiful child” — Hae-gyong, who North Korea says is their daughter – “a healthy and sweet girl. I thank Young-nam for taking such good care of my granddaughter and I thank you, too.

Tears prevented Choi from replying, But Kim’s sister Young-ja (48) spoker for her. “Hae-gyong’s picture makes us believe that she is just as pretty as her mother. Pyongyang says Megumi Yokota is dead but has failed to provide convincing evidence.

How can South Korea let itself to be diverted away from the greater interests of protecting its own citizens and the stolen half of its nation over two worthless, shit-spattered rocks? But diversions are all the rage in Korea these days:

The Pan-National Committee to Deter the Expansion of U.S. Bases … seems bent on invoking a 2002 accident in which a U.S. Army vehicle ran over two middle school students in nearby Yangju by staging the rally around the fourth anniversary of the deaths. The incident occurred on June 13, but the committee scheduled the demonstration on Sunday, June 11 to enable more people to attend.

The word “expansion” is a blatant lie to all of us who live in reality. The U.S. Army is actually reducing its presence in Korea, in terms of both land area and personnel. If an accident that happened four years ago still provokes more outrage than the deliberate murder of Korean babies, there’s not much of an argument for an optimistic view of South Korea.


Speaking of diversions:
the “Northern Wind” is the oldest trick in the book of unethical Korean politics. Good to know that I’m not the only one who sees through this one. Interesting to know that it was first used by a rightist dictator to consolidate his power.


Free Trade Agreement talks come and go, and the world still turns. I favor an FTA with South Korea, but not for North Korea, the world’s most oppressive, least law-abiding nation, and certainly among the leading dealers in contraband. Including Kaesong in a US-South Korean FTA represents a back-door FTA for North Korea, and what nation is really less deserving of an FTA? This should be a pre-election deal-breaker.

Jodi’s view on this is worth reading.

I think Seoul’s proposal poses a huge moral issue for the U.S. and I’m surprised they even brought this up because there is obviously no way the States will agree to this. (Not only out of personal interests but think about how would it appear to the international arena should Washington accept this proposal?).


Good news: they turned on the lights. Bad news: they turned off the food.


Give Him an Inch… If you gratuitously offer “to make many concessions” to North Korea, North Korea will ask you to move your borders. What will it take for South Koreans to realize that the North isn’t going to be reasonable?


Lessons of Libya: NYT Alum Judith Miller — the one who did jail time for refusing to reveal her sources under court order — has a long and very interesting piece on the WSJ about Libya’s abandonment of WMD:

“The administration overstates Iraq, but its critics go too far in saying that force played no role,” says Bruce W. Jentleson, a foreign-policy adviser to Al Gore in the 2000 presidential campaign and professor at Duke University, who has written the most detailed study of why Col. Gadhafi abandoned WMD: “It was force and diplomacy, not force or diplomacy that turned Gadhafi around . . . a combination of steel and a willingness to deal.”

That sounds about right to me. Neither threats nor negotiation alone can disarm a dictator. You may also recall some recent ontroversy about opaque regimes and faulty CIA witchcraft intelligence we collect on them. The margin of error works both ways, apparently.

The inspection team returned in December 2003, with even greater access. They were astonished by what they learned during their visits to weapons sites, labs and dual-use and military facilities. Although Libya claimed that it had no biological or germ-weapons-related facilities, and that its chemical capabilities were less than the CIA had feared, U.S. intelligence had underestimated Libya’s nuclear progress.

Libyan scientists revealed that, between 1980 and 1990, they had made about 25 tons of sulfur mustard chemical-weapons agent at the Rabta facility (which the CIA had long ago identified), produced shells for more than 3,300 chemical bombs, and tried to make a small amount of nerve agent. But they had not mastered the art of binary chemical weapons, in which chemicals come together to form a lethal agent only when the bomb explodes. Thanks to sanctions, a U.S. official wrote recently, Libya was unable to acquire an essential precursor chemical.

The nuclear front was more troubling. Not only had Libya developed highly compartmentalized chemical and nuclear programs that were often unknown even to the Libyans who worked at the facilities, they had already imported two types of centrifuges from the Khan network–aluminum P-1s, (for Pakistan-1), and 4,000 of the more advanced P-2s. By 1997, Libya had already gotten 20 preassembled P-1s from Khan and components for another 200. In 2000, it got two P-2 model centrifuges, which used stronger steel, and had ordered 10,000 more. Libya had also imported two tons of uranium hexafluoride to be fed into the centrifuges and enriched as bomb fuel. In fact, it had managed to acquire from the Khan network what it needed to produce a 10-kiloton bomb, or to make the components for one, as well as dozens of blueprints for producing and miniaturizing a warhead, usually the toughest step in producing an atomic weapon.

What does this all have to do with North Korea, you ask? Remember all the controversy about uranium hexafluoride from North Korea?

Relying on the Khan network meant he no longer had to worry about the origin of the equipment and material, or haggle with individual suppliers over the price and (often shoddy) quality of goods on the nuclear black market. He said he never knew (nor wanted to know) where Khan was getting most of what he bought for Libya, though international inspectors say it came mainly from Pakistan, Germany and Malaysia. He claimed that he never knew whether the casks filled with uranium hexafluoride for Libya’s gas-enrichment program had originated in North Korea, as U.S. intelligence analysts now believe (based on isotope fingerprints of traces found on the containers).

Translation: the North Koreans left traces of plutonium on those containers that matched known samples of North Korean plutonium, probably taken by U.N. inspectors. The Washington Post tried to make a scandal of this obvious non-sequitur — the meaningless distinction between whether North Korea sold UO6 directly to Libya or did it through the A.Q. Khan network. The latter stream of commerce is arguably more dangerous for proliferation of nuclear material to terrorists and clearly crossed the “red line,” although either could arguably be a causus belli, if war were really an option here.


Staying on the subject of nuclear proliferaton for a moment, I have to ask, “Are They Insane?”

Europe Weighs Giving Reactor to Iran.”

With allies like Europe . . . you end up dropping more bombs than you would without allies like Europe.


Pot, Beat Kettle: When I read things like this, I know why Korea won’t be a hub of tourism for a few more years.


Backlash Watch: Oranckay is back; he links to some fascinating poll results from the Hankyoreh’s new English edition. They’re all the more fascinating because they ask stunningly loaded questions (“Do you approve of using excessive force against protestors at Camp Humphreys?” Thirty-five percent didn’t say “uh, noooooooooooo.”) and yet those polls still show a shift “toward the center” — which is somewhere to the right of the left, I believe.

The issue of Seoul expanding economic aid for North Korea as part of its sunshine policy was in 2004 supported by 58.9 percent of the respondents and opposed by 41.1 percent. However, the gap has been narrowed in this year’s survey to 53.5 percent and 46.5 percent.

The portion of the people who support the idea that Korea should respect the United States government’s view on Korean Peninsula security issues has been growing from 20 percent in 2002 to 30.2 percent in 2004 and 37.1 percent in the latest survey. Yet, a dominant 62.9 percent of those surveyed still favor Korea’s independent diplomacy toward the U.S.
. . . .

Concerning rallies by Pyeongtaek residents and peace activists protesting the expansion of U.S. military bases there, 62.5 percent of the polled people disapproved of the excessive use of force by law enforcement authorities.

The use of force to suppress rallies was “categorically opposed” by 27.3 percent and “generally opposed” by 35.2 percent. But disparity between categories’ viewpoints was fairly insignificant, as overall the general disapproval ratings of each group hovered between 61.5 and 62 percent. This is the same level (62.9 percent) who said that Korea should respect the U.S. view when there is disagreement on security issues related to the Korean Peninsula.

Korea’s planned signing of a free trade agreement with the U.S. was favored by 58.1 percent and opposed by 41.9 percent. Nearly 68 percent of the respondents from the agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries disapproved the plan while 67.3 percent of self-employed workers supported the free trade agreement.

The word is “mercurial.”

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