Skip to comments.Ominous rumblings in North Korea
Posted on 07/22/2012 4:42:59 PM PDT by TigerLikesRooster
Ominous rumblings in North Korea
By Arthur I. Cyr
Strange things are happening in North Korea, which is nothing new. This time, however, developments apparently reflect divisions within the leadership of the isolated totalitarian regime. Conceivably, this could spark a renewed Korean War.
Ri Yong-ho, a powerful military figure and until recently a close ally of young North Korea leader Kim Jong-un, has been relieved of command, allegedly due to illness. This explanation is generally discounted. In a May statement, Kim criticized those in the military for "developing a taste for money" amid reports of corruption.
Kim has also assumed the rank of marshal of the Democratic People's Republic, the latest in a series of celebratory titles that sycophants attach to his name. Whether he is solidifying power, or actually being weakened, is not clear.
Undeniable is that for several years North Korea has been acting erratically in military matters. In November 2010, North Korean artillery bombarded Yeonpyeong Island, held by South Korea. The island lies just south of the maritime boundary dividing the two states.
In the same vicinity in March 2010, a North Korean torpedo sank the South Korean ship Cheonan, following a skirmish the previous year between naval gunboats from the two countries. An independent international commission concluded that physical evidence confirmed North Korea had sunk the vessel, but Pyongyang angrily denied the charge.
In late February this year, North Korea agreed yet again to cease its on-again, off-again nuclear program. In joint announcements coordinated with the State Department, the regime agreed to halt enrichment of uranium and construction of weapons and permit international inspection of nuclear facilities.
Yet in April, Pyongyang tested a missile, preceded by the usual bombastic propaganda broadcasts. The launch ended in embarrassing failure. This erratic North Korean behavior over time strongly implies infighting at the top.
President Barack Obama's instinct for moderate language and international cooperation is welcome, but so is his caution regarding North Korea. Years of diplomatic flexibility toward Pyongyang has yielded little beyond sporadic slowdown in nuclear development.
Washington should emphasize economic leverage, which is considerable. In the past, well-aimed economic pressure on North Korea has paid off. The George W. Bush administration declared Banco Delta Asia (BDA), based in Macau, a renegade institution assisting illegal activities by Pyongyang in the global black market.
U.S. businesses were banned from dealing with BDA, and others followed suit. Macau government authorities froze $25 million in North Korean funds. The money was released following North Korean concessions.
Pyongyang has continued to support North-South commercial cooperation through the Gaeseong industrial zone located just north of the Demilitarized Zone. Washington should back up Seoul in offers to expand this collaboration, in return for specific military and other concessions.
During the height of the Cold War, President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave consistent support to cultural and educational exchanges with the Soviet Union. Koreans have a rich, diverse cultural history, and harsh division of the peninsula dates only since 1945. Exchanges should be encouraged.
Eisenhower also provides an important lesson in the realities of war. Stalled Korean War armistice talks were quickly, successfully concluded following extraordinary obliteration bombing of North Korea. Ike knew how to get the job done, ruthlessly when necessary.
Obama should continue to emphasize U.S. commitment to South Korea, and remind everyone of the high stakes involved.
Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College. Email him at email@example.com.
The Korean military leaders were making a ton of cash through their connections to the market. I can’t imagine they’re all that happy about having their cash cow being killed.
This could spark a coup in North Korea.
If this guy really went down with a fight, then Little Kim has one hell of a problem on his hands and all hell WILL break loose there. These kinds of things just don’t happen in a “Workers’ Paradise”, unless there are major problems.
Eventually, he is going to piss off the wrong General.
Well, the Seoul time I experienced genuine kimchi in those parts I experienced rots of ominous rumblings, let me tell ya.
Remember we were told we’d by overflying NK but were diverted across the Sea Of Japan, crossing Hiroshima instead?
Bombs away with Curtis LeMay.
It worked so well that the NORKs built nuclear weapons with impunity, are now following with ICBMs, starved their people, and created hell on earth.
Author Arthur I. Cyr is the "Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College." Not very distinguished, IMHO, judging from his unrealistic drivel.
Ri may be dead already:
I’ve seen other reports that agree.
There are several factors at work:
Need to defang military which had grown too big under Military First Policy
Turf war between the Party and the Military over
1) who is the boss
2) who gets to control the lucrative hard-cash earning enterprises
Who gets the blame for botched military adventure (Cheonan’s sinking and Yonpyong shelling)
Need to show some tangible commitment of change to outsiders especially China.
On the other hand, going after military is fraught with dangers. Cold and hugry military, from top to bottom, could be very destabilizing.
China has noticeably cooled to NK, they see their future to the S China Sea oilfields and S Central Asia. NK is now an unchanging stagnant dependent of China and China knows it.
I think considerable pressure is being laid on the Kim family to modernize.
There is a rumor about that Kim Ok, Kim Jung-il’s “secretary” is the real power behind Kim Jung-un and that she has an 8 year old son by Kim Jung-il.
Power play by her? Her father is a finance minister and has arranged the very profitable and untaxed export businesses of the general staff.
Some of this reads like the drivel being spouted by Ahn Chul-soo, the far left presidential candidate.
Cyr’s comment commending Pres. Obama’s for using “moderate language and international cooperation” along with “his caution regarding North Korea” appears to be an homage to Obama, but is odd when placed just before a favorable comment about former President Bush. I question whether Obama is really being prudent toward North Korea given his lack of sophistication and ability in the foreign policy arena, or he is too inept to do the right thing(s).
Cyr’s comment leave me with more questions than answers.