Archive for the ‘North and South Korea’ Category

Nuclear sabre rattling with North Korea

By Jonathan Power

Does President Donald Trump (aka “Fire and Fury”) know what a nuclear war would be like?

I ask the question because President Roland Reagan confessed he did not until he decided to look at some movies (once an actor, he was a cinema man), like “On the Beach” that depicted a nuclear war. The exercise changed his thinking and he became an anti-nuclear weapons militant. Together with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev they cut their nuclear stockpiles sharply.

They also came near an agreement to destroy all their nuclear weapons.

The blasts at the end of the Second World War in Hiroshima and Nagasaki can now be repeated hundreds of thousand times. The remains would not just be the broken arches of the Caesars, the abandoned viaducts and moss-covered temples of the Incas, the desolation of one of the pulsating hearts of Europe, Dresden, but millions of square miles of uninhabitable desolation and a suffering which would incorporate more agony than the sum of past history.

It would be a time when the living would envy the dead and it would be a world which might well have destroyed the legacy of law, order and love that successive generations have handed over the centuries to one another. Read the rest of this entry »

New counterproductive U.S. sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea

Jan Oberg comments on the new U.S. sanctions – passed on July 28, 2017, against Russia, Iran and North Korea.

North Korea: A danger that can easily be contained

By Gunnar Westberg
TFF Board member

An easy Q & A session:

Question: What does Kim Jong-un and the leaders of DPRK, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea want?

Answer: Security for themselves, power and privileges.

Q. Are their privileges and their leadership threatened?

A: Yes. From outside and from inside.

Q: What outside danger?

A: An attack from the USA.

Q: Is there a real threat from the USA?

A: It seems so, from the perspective of Pyongyang. There are US exercises by air and navy, showing off the superiority of the US forces. And verbal threats.

Q: Why have DPRK developed nuclear weapons?

A: The leaders believe, just like in other nuclear power states, that nuclear weapons are effective deterrents.

Q: What is the danger from the inside?

A: A revolt from the repressed and destitute masses.

Q: How can the leaders prevent a revolt and keep their power?

A: By force, by fear but mostly by pointing at the danger of an attack from the South. There is one thing the people fear more than their leaders: A war. Nuclear weapons give a feeling of security, just as the US Ambassador to the UN, Ms. Nikki Haley, explained for the USA.

Q : How can we decrease the danger from DPRK?

A: There are two main ways:

1. Stop the military provocations.

2. Start negotiations.

In 1994 a “framework” of an agreement was reached and DPRK stopped their nuclear weapons program for several years. When that agreement gradually fell apart, former President Jimmy Carter helped negotiate a second agreement , which unfortunately was not accepted by President George W. Bush . Today the situation is more difficult, but if the DPRK leaders feel assured that they will not be attacked, that there will be no attempt of a regime change, progress can be achieved. And DPRK leaders can always be bought.

However, there is one great danger: If the threat from the south is removed, the people of DPRK may start a revolt, the government may fall and masses of people from North Korea will start walking, into South Korea and into China.

Maybe that is the reason the USA does not want to solve the “problem of North Korea”? Or is it just the need for an enemy?

One thing is obvious: Military threats against North Korea strongly supports the leaders of the country and increases the risk of war, maybe a nuclear war.

Gunnar Westberg

Overcoming nuclear crises

By Richard Falk* and David Krieger**

TFF PressInfo # 420
June 30, 2017

Prefatory Note
This jointly authored essay was initially published in The Hill on May 30, 2017 under the title, “Averting the Ticking Time Bomb of Nukes in North Korea.” We did not choose such a title that is doubly misleading: our contention is not that North Korea is the core of the problem, but rather the retention of nuclear weapons by all of the states pose both crises in the context of counter-proliferation geopolitics and with respect to the possession, deployment, and development of the weaponry itself; a second objection is with the title given the piece by editors at The Hill.

While acknowledging the practice of media outlets to decide on titles without seeking prior approval from authors, this title is particularly objectionable. The term ‘nukes’ gives an almost friendly shorthand to these most horrific of weapons, and strikes a tone that trivializes what should be regarded at all times with solemnity.

Alarmingly, tensions between the United States and North Korea have again reached crisis proportions. The United States wants North Korea to curtail any further development of its nuclear weapons program, as well as to stop testing its missiles. North Korea evidently seeks to bolster its security by acquiring a sufficiently robust deterrent capability to discourage an attack by the United States.

The unpredictable leaders of both countries are pursuing extremely provocative and destabilizing patterns of behavior. Where such a dangerous interaction leads no one can now foresee. The risk of this tense situation spiralling out of control should not be minimized.

It is urgent that all governments concerned make a sober reassessment in a timely manner. The following questions need to be addressed:

• What can be done to defuse this escalating crisis?

• What should be done to prevent further crises in the future?

• What could be learned from recurrent crises involving nuclear weapons states?

It is discouraging that the White House continues to rely mainly on threat diplomacy. It has not worked in responding to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions for the past few decades, and it is crucial to try a different approach.

Currently, there are mixed signals that such a shift may be underway. President Trump has turned to China, imploring that it use its leverage to induce Kim Jong-un to back down, and has even mentioned the possibility of inviting Kim for crisis-resolving talks. Also relevant and hopeful is the election of Moon Jae-in as the new president of South Korea, and his insistent calls for improved relations with the North.

In the end, no reasonable person would opt for another war on the Korean Peninsula. The only rational alternative is diplomacy. But what kind of diplomacy?

American reliance on threat and punitive diplomacy has never succeeded in the past and is almost certain to fail now. We assuredly need diplomacy, but of a different character.

It is time to abandon coercive diplomacy and develop an approach that can be described as restorative diplomacy. Coercive diplomacy relies on a zero/sum calculus consisting of military threats, sanctions, and a variety of punitive measures. Read the rest of this entry »

Trump could play the nationalist card to avoid impeachment threat



By Jonathan Power


June 12th 2017

“The best lack all conviction”, wrote the Irish poet, William Yeats, “while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Is this not true of America today?

Some of the “best” are working to bring down President Donald Trump yet are they ready to cut to the chase? He has cards up his sleeve. He came to power partly because he won the support of working class and lower middle class whites who were prepared to vote against their economic interest for the sake of the nationalism that Trump espoused. Neither Keir Hardie nor Franklin Roosevelt nor Bernie Sanders were their leader. It was Trump.

I don’t find it difficult to imagine how Trump could play the nationalist card that would rally his electorate. The “best” would be against this, but how many would be convinced enough to go out on the street, French style, and demand Congress impeach him?

I doubt if the Harvard professors would or journalists from the New York Times, business men, school teachers, doctors, civil servants or airline pilots. Of course, as with the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War protests, there would be students in the front row. Then there would be clergy, a few professors from the University of Wisconsin, novelists, Senator Sanders and at most 50 members of Congress. The police would easily face them down and disperse them.

“Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”, said Samuel Johnson. So is extreme confrontation, or even war. What follows is not my scenario. It is that of Philip Gordon, writing in the current issue of the respected “Foreign Affairs”.

He was Barack Obama’s Special Assistant for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf regions. Those who have dormant passionate intensity in their bones should read it and act now before it is too late. Events can move fast. “A week is a long time in politics”, said the former British prime minister, Harold Wilson.

Trump could begin his diversionary tactics with Iran, Read the rest of this entry »

All options should be on the table with North Korea: Start with negotiations!

By Gunnar Westberg
TFF Board member

April 17, 2017

North Korea was utterly destroyed in the Korean war. The people of DPRK, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, are not allowed to forget that USA considered using nuclear weapons against them.

There are frequent exercises when the population is rushed into underground shelters where they have to stay for days. The perceived, and maybe overblown, threats from the South are an effective way in raising support for the political leaders.

The leaders of DPRK believe that their nuclear weapons will deter an attack from the south. Look at Khadafi in Libya, they say, he gave up his nukes and was attacked. Saddam Hussein had no nukes, he was attacked. We shall not give up the nuclear deterrent as long as we are under threat.

In 1991 USA withdraw all nuclear weapons from South Korea. Subsequently North Korea and South Korea signed the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, whereby both sides promised they would “not test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons”.

The North Korean nuclear weapons program was mothballed for a longtime. However, the inspections and negotiations were repeatedly interrupted and the whole agreement was several times in jeopardy.

In 1994 the previous US President Jimmy Carter travelled to Pyongyang to meet with DPRK president Kim Il Sung. Read the rest of this entry »

Getting rid of North Korea’s nuclear bombs

By Jonathan Power

April 18th 2017.

There are 29 states which have at one time or another set about becoming nuclear weapons powers or have explored the possibility. Most have failed or drawn back. Only the US, Russia, France, UK, China, India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea have crossed the threshold. Only the first five have long range, nuclear-tipped, missiles. North Korea wants to walk in their footsteps.

The common belief that when a state has decided to do so it goes for it as fast as it can is wrong. Sweden, Japan, Algeria, Australia, Italy, Yugoslavia, West Germany, Egypt, Iraq, Switzerland, Syria, Brazil, Argentina, Taiwan, South Korea, Norway, South Africa, Pakistan and India all sought to acquire nuclear weapons but their pace and commitment were different.

In the end all but Pakistan and India became convinced to kill their programs off. For many years Indian leaders, unconvinced of their value or of the morality of use, stalled the urge of nuclear scientists to step up the pace of research and engineering.

Nuclear weapon possession is usually counterproductive. Vipin Narang, in Harvard’s “International Security” has shown that “on average, states pursuing nuclear weapons face more armed conflict”.

In the case of the US and the Soviet Union (now Russia) it led to an arms race that enabled each side to blow up each other’s civilization not just once but many times.

North Korea is today’s hot potato. Clearly the regime is moving things forward just as fast as it can. But in past years – during the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama – North Korea was prepared to compromise. Read the rest of this entry »

Asking foolish questions about serious issues

By Richard Falk

When the Clinton campaign started bitching about Russia interfering in US elections by hacking into the DNC I was struck by their excesses of outrage and the virtual absence of any acknowledgement that the United States has been interfering in dozens of foreign elections for decades with no apparent second thoughts.

CNN and other media brings one national security expert after another to mount various cases against Putin and the Kremlin, and to insist that Russia is up to similar mischief in relation to the upcoming French elections.

And never do they dare discuss whether such interference is a rule of the game, similar to espionage, or whether what was alleged to have been done by the Russians might lead the US political leaders and its intelligence agencies to reconsider its own reliance on such tactics to help sway foreign elections.

Is this selective perception merely one more instance of American exceptionalism?

We can hack away, but our elections and sovereign space are hallowed ground, which if encroached upon, should be resisted by all possible means. It is one thing to argue that democracy and political freedom are jeopardized by such interference as is being attributed to Moscow, and if their behavior influenced the outcome, it makes Russia responsible for a disaster not only in the United States but in the world.

The disaster is named Trump.

Assuming this Russian engagement by way of what they evidently call ‘active measures’ occurred is, first of all, an empirical matter of gathering evidence and reaching persuasive conclusions.

Assuming the allegations are to some extent validated, it hardly matters whether by what means the interference was accomplished, whether done by cyber technology, electronic eavesdropping, dirty tricks, secret financial contributions, or otherwise.

What is diversionary and misleading is to foster the impression that the Russians breached solemn rules of international law by disrupting American democracy and doing their best to get Trump elected or weaken the Clinton presidency should she have been elected.

The integrity of American democratic procedures may have been Read the rest of this entry »

Dealing with North Korea

March 14th 2017

Rocket launches galore in North Korea. Colours and flames in the sky. It’s all a bit like a peacock spreading his tail.

Murders abound. Is this a butcher’s shop- an uncle, a half-brother and a couple of high-placed generals and no doubt others?

Kim Jong-Un, the president, is no Hamlet and murder seems not to give him doubts. The day after he is photographed at some event, smiling the smile of a psychopath who ditched his conscience somewhere at the top of the Alps when he was out for a hike organised by the school in Switzerland he was sent to.

When he was leaving office President Barack Obama warned Donald Trump that the nuclear-armed, rocket-raqueteer, Kim, would be his most immediate foreign policy challenge. But, apart from saying he is prepared to meet Kim, Trump hasn’t offered a plan.

The Financial Times in a recent editorial said Kim has bad cards but plays them well. One could add that the US has good cards too but plays them badly – and that goes for three presidents – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

At one time Washington did play a good hand Read the rest of this entry »

More US hostility towards China?

By Jonathan Power

September 20th 2016

The two American presidential candidates give the impression of being rather hostile towards China. This is counterproductive.

“The US should not adopt confrontation as a strategy of choice. In China, the US would encounter an adversary skilled over the centuries in using prolonged conflict as a strategy and whose doctrine emphasizes the psychological exhaustion of the opponent. In an actual conflict both sides possess the capabilities and ingenuity to inflict catastrophic damage on each other. By the time any such hypothetical conflagration drew to a close, all participants would be left exhausted and debilitated. They would then be obliged to face anew the very task that confronts them today: the construction of an international order in which both counties are significant components”.

Henry Kissinger who wrote this four years’ ago, was the architect, along with his boss, President Richard Nixon, of the US’s rapprochement with China which led to Communist China taking up its seat on the Security Council and to full diplomatic recognition.

But these days China has begun to feel the old Soviet paranoia that it is being not only contained but encircled. The US of President Barack Obama has been giving it a hard time. The dispute over the ownership of the islands in the East and South China Seas is profoundly threatening for most members of China’s governing elite. Indeed they are right to feel partially encircled.

China has no friends to the east and to the south, except North Korea. To the west it has Read the rest of this entry »

 

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