Thursday, December 22, 2011

Note from AFA President -- Pacific nation, NK

Over the past few months the Administration has emphasized US ties across the Pacific. In mid-November, Secretary Clinton delivered a very good speech at the East-West Center in Hawaii. In the speech, she pointed out the importance of the Asia Pacific region:
“So many global trends point to Asia. It’s home to nearly half the world’s population, it boasts several of the largest and fastest-growing economies and some of the world’s busiest ports and shipping lanes, and it also presents consequential challenges such as military buildups, concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons, natural disasters, and the world’s worst levels of greenhouse gas emissions. It is becoming increasingly clear that in the 21st century, the world’s strategic and economic center of gravity will be the Asia Pacific, from the Indian subcontinent to the western shores of the Americas. And one of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decades will be to lock in a substantially increased investment – diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise – in this region.”
Sec Clinton took on the charge that with our economic problems, now is not the time for a new era of engagement in Asia:
“At this time of serious economic challenges, I am well aware of the concerns of those in our own country that the United States downsize our work around the world. When they hear me and others talk about a new era of engagement in Asia I know they think to themselves, “Why would we increase our outreach anywhere? Now’s the time to scale back.” This thinking is understandable, but it is mistaken. What will happen in Asia in the years ahead will have an enormous impact on our nation’s future, and we cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and leave it to others to determine our future for us. Instead, we need to engage and seize these new opportunities for trade and investment that will create jobs at home and will fuel our economic recovery.”
And she describes moving ahead on six key lines of action:
“They are: strengthening our bilateral security alliances; deepening our working relationships with emerging powers; engaging with regional multilateral institutions; expanding trade and investment; forging a broad-based military presence; and advancing democracy and human rights.”
You can find the entire speech at:

Secondly, the world received good news this week. The world’s most authoritarian despot – Kim Chong Il of North Korea – died. Many around the world, especially in the Republic of Korea cheered. Kim has single-handedly killed millions of his own people and approved/conceived of dozens of terrorist attacks. As a self-proclaimed expert on NK, I listened to the commentary on the news with great interest. I found most of those opining to have made one of several mistakes when talking about North Korea. First NK is not a country. It is more like a crime family gang run by Kim, his friends, and his family. Think of it as a mafia. And … it does all the things a mafia organization does – such as drug smuggling, counterfeiting, kidnapping, extorting, and threatening. Secondly, despite the many experts you might hear, no one knows what is really going on inside of the minds of the elites who control power. Third, I heard (and laughed) that the “will of the people” was being ignored. Despots don’t permit the people to have a will. I could go farther, but let me share one piece I saw that seems to get the situation about right. Ms Melanie Kirkpatrick writes the piece below that appeared on Tues, 20 Dec in the Wall Street Journal.

For your consideration.


Michael M. Dunn

Air Force Association



The World's Most Repressive State
President George W. Bush famously told journalist Bob Woodward, 'I loathe Kim Jong Il.'

A few minutes after the news of the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il flashed across computer screens on Sunday night—Monday morning on the Korean Peninsula—I received an email from a North Korean defector. The man, who is now living in Seoul and is a Christian, was exultant: "God blesses all of us," he wrote. The defector's sentiments will be shared by many, especially his long-suffering countrymen.

The best-known aspect of Kim Jong Il's legacy is a nuclear North Korea. During his rule, which began in 1994 after the death of his father Kim Il Sung, the younger Kim accelerated the nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs initiated by the elder Kim. He went on to proliferate both technologies to Iran, which today would not be on the brink of being a nuclear power if it were not for his assistance.

Kim Jong Il will also be remembered as a master manipulator of the Western powers, especially the U.S. The history of the failed denuclearization agreements says it all. On Pyongyang's part, it is a history marked by lies, broken promises, and clandestine programs. On the part of the U.S., the history is marked by gullibility and wishful thinking. North Korea's path to developing nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them would have been far more arduous had Bill Clinton and George W. Bush not accepted Kim Jong Il's promises of future good behavior in return for economic benefits.

The late dictator leaves another legacy too: presiding over the world's most repressive modern state. Kim Jong Il's name belongs on the list of the most evil tyrants of our time.

President George W. Bush famously told journalist Bob Woodward, "I loathe Kim Jong Il," a statement for which he was widely mocked in diplomatic and academic circles. Mr. Bush made this remark in 2002, when the world was just beginning to learn about the horrors of life in North Korea thanks to the testimonies of the few people who had escaped and reached safety in the free South. Associated Press A North Korean child sits on the top of a stone lion on the river banks in Sinuiju, North Korea.

In the decade since 2002, there has been a flood of escapees. From these men, women and children we have a glimpse of Kim's human legacy: a brutalized and starving people, whose access to food is controlled by the state and dependent upon their perceived political reliability; the world's most corrupt society, where the rule of law is nonexistent; and a gulag-like system of prison camps, where some 200,000 people are incarcerated, often with three generations of their families, for such "crimes" as listening to a foreign radio broadcast, reading a Bible, or disrespecting a portrait of Kim Jong Il or Kim Il Sung. Refugees frequently use the word "hell" to describe their country, and it is impossible to disagree.

Here are just two examples of Kim Jong Il's reign of terror—one monumental in its impact on human suffering. First is the famine of the mid-to-late 1990s, which killed two million to three million North Koreans. This blood belongs on the hands of the dictator himself, who diverted resources to military programs rather than buy food for his hungry people, and who refused to introduce agricultural reforms that would make possible better and sustainable food production. He was only too willing to let millions of his countrymen die in order to pursue his nuclear ambitions.

The other example has to do with the defection, in 1997, of a high-ranking official, Hwang Jong-yop. Kim Jong Il's initial response was to round up 3,000 of Hwang's relatives—including people who had no idea they were related to the defector—and ship them off to the gulag. But his obsession with retribution did not stop at North Korea's borders. He spent the next 13 years—until Hwang's death from natural causes in 2010—dispatching a series of assassins to Seoul to attempt to murder him.

Kim's personal eccentricities were legion—the ever-present boiler suit, the bouffant hair style, the elevator shoes. His personal appetites were legion too, akin to those of Nero or other famous hedonists of yore. In recent years, after his doctor reportedly ordered him to avoid his preferred cognac, he drank only Chateau Margaux, an expensive French Bordeaux. He was a great movie buff whose personal library was said to include thousands of films. In 1978, he arranged to have his favorite South Korean actress kidnapped from a beach in Hong Kong and brought to Pyongyang to star in North Korean movies.

There is one more notable aspect to Kim's human legacy, and while it would be overly optimistic to make too much of it, it is nevertheless a hopeful one. In recent years, according to testimonies by refugees, more and more North Koreans have started to question Kim's rule. The discontent doesn't yet reach the level of organized dissent, but refugees report that there is a growing hatred of the Kim family dynasty. The hatred is more widespread than one would suppose in a state where most sources of information are controlled and where the regime propagates a cult of Kim family worship.

The hatred extends to Kim Jong Il's son and announced successor, Kim Jong Eun. In recent months Kim Jong Eun is believed to have ordered a vicious crackdown on North Koreans who try to leave the country and on family members they leave behind. Recent roundups of people caught in possession of foreign DVDs, listening to foreign radio broadcasts, or using cell phones that can call outside the country are also laid at his feet.

None of this bodes well for the North Korean people in the near term. It looks like Kim Jong Eun can be counted on to do everything he can to perpetuate his father's tyrannical regime. In this, he will have the support and assistance of the elite ruling class, which benefits from the status quo.

In dealing with the new dictator of North Korea, however, the Western democracies would do well to reconsider the policies that failed to move the now-dead dictator. In this, they should heed the advice of the late Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright and democrat.

In the last decade of his life, Havel took up the cause of the North Korean people and urged the world's democracies to make respect for human rights an integral part of any discussions with Pyongyang. He wrote in 2004: "Decisiveness, perseverance and negotiations from a position of strength are the only things that Kim Jong Il and those like him understand."

These qualities, absent from the West's dealings with Kim Jong Il, deserve to be paramount in its dealings with his heir.

Ms. Kirkpatrick, a former deputy editor of the Journal's editorial page, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Her book on North Koreans who escape and the people who help them will be published next year.

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