Identifying the True North Korean Threat
by Trevor Bothwell
28 April 2004
While the mainstream
media has been focused on Iraq, Vice President Cheney has been trying to
make headway along another critical path in the war on terror.
media types have been hyperventilating in their mission to compare the war
in Iraq to Vietnam or to press President Bush to apologize for terrorist
attacks he couldn’t prevent, Vice President Dick Cheney has been trying to
make headway along another critical path in the war on terror. He embarked
recently on a weeklong trip to Asia, where his travels included a stop in
Beijing to urge China to encourage Kim Jung Il’s communist North Korean regime
to give up its nuclear ambitions.
Ever since Pyongyang’s haughty admission in October 2002 to flouting its
pledge to the Clinton administration that it would terminate its nuclear
weapons program, the United States has been forced to ratchet up diplomatic
relations with North Korea’s neighbors.
The question many analysts have struggled to answer isn’t how the Kim regime
could undermine Clinton administration policies and secretly plan to build
nuclear weapons, but how it could be so arrogant in admitting it! (According
to William C. Triplett, when confronted with the existence of Pyongyang’s
nuclear weapons program, North Korean diplomat Kang Sok-ju exclaimed “Not
only YES, but HELL YES, and you tell that to your president!”)
The answer to this very important question is found in Mr. Triplett’s new book, Rogue State: How a Nuclear North Korea Threatens America.
The world has been well aware of the Kim regime’s human rights abuses, weapons
proliferation and threats of regional aggression for decades, but only now
have we found true insight into how North Korea has been able to terrorize
its own people and enemies for so long: It has long been subsidized economically,
defended diplomatically, and sponsored militarily by communist China.
Triplett argues persuasively that “[t]here is no simple military solution
to the North Korean problem,” unless Pyongyang was noticeably inclined to
launch an initial nuclear strike against the U.S. In short, this would be
the only case “in which [an] obliterating American first strike would be
justified.” One might also add “tolerated,” since the author’s point seems
to be confirmed by the current controversy surrounding President Bush’s preemptive
removal of Saddam Hussein.
While Mr. Triplett maintains that “[m]any countries have extensive [diplomatic]
influence with Beijing,” he argues it isn’t feasible that we’ll alleviate
the North Korean threat effectively “so long as the issue is defined as ‘North
Korea’ and not ‘communist China and North Korea.’”
Rogue State outlines in breathtaking fashion the early
alliance between Stalin, Mao, Kim Il Sung, and Ho Chi-Minh. It describes
in detail how Pyongyang’s intimate affiliation with communist China reaches
all the way back to the Korean War, where virtually all of the high command
of the North Korean Army was comprised of veterans who had fought in China.
And it explains how communist China acts as a smuggling port for weapons
of mass destruction and ballistic missiles between Pakistan and North Korea.
Triplett’s book highlights in horrific detail the divide that persists in
Kim Jung Il’s North Korea between the senior military and its elite and the
rest of the citizenry, where Kim’s gulag system -- estimated currently to
contain roughly 200,000 prisoners -- enslaves entire families in camps, forces
children to undertake heavy labor, uses prisoners as guinea pigs to test
chemical warfare technology, and enlists female victims as sex slaves.
But for all the gruesome pictures that are painted in Rogue State,
it is indisputable that Mr. Triplett’s primary intention is to communicate
the unequivocal alliance between China and North Korea. Communist China may
not necessarily play puppet master to North Korea’s puppet -- the Kim regime
is capable of engineering on its own a regime of tyranny, oppression, and
terror -- but it is clear that Pyongyang could not survive without the carefully
manufactured support of Beijing.
Triplett concludes by offering recommendations to the U.S., South Korea,
Japan, and Russia for effectively curbing the North Korean threat. These
range from enforcing RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations
Act) standards regarding North Korea’s drug and arms trafficking, to enacting
sanctions legislation against North Korea and its enablers.
Most importantly, Triplett reiterates the importance of being able to convince
Beijing that it is in its own interests to pressure North Korea into compliance.
And if the book is deficient anywhere with regard to specificity, it is here.
However, the author can be forgiven; it is irrefutable that accomplishing
this end will prove to be the most difficult aspect of disarming North Korea
before it’s too late. All diplomatic relations involve trade-offs, and it
may prove taxing to balance what the U.S. and its allies will demand, and
what communist China -- not to mention the American public -- will accept.
Upon Mr. Cheney’s latest arrival in Beijing, the vice president praised China
for its efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear aspirations.
For the sake of America, its allies and the oppressed citizenry living beneath
the hammer of tyranny, let us hope this was the beginning of effective diplomatic
intercourse between the two countries, and not the exercise in naiveté
to which we’ve grown accustomed in years past.
Trevor Bothwell is the editor of The Right Report.
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