Saturday, March 30, 2013

North Korea, 'Imperialists,' and All That

This could be serious, or not:
"...On Thursday, North Korean state media reported leader Kim Jong-un 'judged the time has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists'.

"He was said to have condemned US B-2 bomber sorties over South Korea during military exercises as a 'reckless phase' that represented an 'ultimatum that they will ignite a nuclear war at any cost on the Korean peninsula'. ..."
(BBC News)
On the one hand, North Korea has a limited supply of nuclear weapons, missiles that might reach targets other than South Korea, and a new leader who may not have his father's talent for self-preservation.

On the other hand, speeches about western imperialists were a perennial favorite during the Cold War: and still popular in some circles.

A Choice of Emphasis

BBC News and Reuters coverage of the Korean situation present nearly the same facts, but each seems to have its own distinct point of view.

First, how Reuters starts:
"North Korea says enters 'state of war' against South"
Jack Kim, Reuters (March 30, 2013)

"North Korea said on Saturday it was entering a 'state of war' with South Korea, but Seoul and its ally the United States played down the statement as tough talk.

"Pyongyang also threatened to close a border industrial zone, the last remaining example of inter-Korean cooperation which gives the impoverished North access to $2 billion in trade a year.

"The United States said it took Pyongyang's threats seriously but cautioned that the North had a history of bellicose rhetoric. Russia, another a permanent U.N. Security Council member, urged all sides to show restraint...."
It's fairly even-handed reporting: although I get the impression that we're supposed to see American leaders carelessly ignoring deadly threats to world peace, while Russian leaders wisely implore restraint.

Or, not.

Here are the BBC News lead paragraphs:
"North Korea enters 'state of war' with South"
BBC News (March 30, 2013)

"North Korea has said it is entering a 'state of war' with South Korea in the latest escalation of rhetoric against its neighbour and the US.

"A statement promised 'stern physical actions' against 'any provocative act'.

"North Korea has threatened attacks almost daily since it was sanctioned for a third nuclear test in February.

"However, few think the North would risk full-blown conflict. It has technically been at war with the South since 1953 as no peace treaty has been signed.

"An armistice at the end of the Korean War was never turned into a full treaty...."
There's more: I recommend reading both articles, at least. What struck me about BBC coverage was the the reminder, rather near the top of the article, that North Korea has been 'at war' with South Korea for decades.

Maybe that's not as dramatic as Reuters coverage: but I don't mind a little historical perspective.

Reuters does mention the armistice which ended the Korean War, together with what may or may not be a new development:
"...North Korea has canceled an armistice agreement with the United States that ended the Korean War and cut all hotlines with U.S. forces, the United Nations and South Korea."
That was in the last paragraph of the Reuters article. Maybe North Korea canceled the armistice agreement today: or they could have done so in 1954. Reuters doesn't say.

Serious? Yes

Tempting as it is to imagine that North Korea's new leader is merely following in his dynasty's tradition of making wild threats against "imperialists," this time we may have a leader who believes his own propaganda.

I think it is very unlikely that North Korea could defeat the United States by lobbing nuclear warheads at Alaska and Hawaii.

On the other hand, if North Korea's new leadership decides to teach "US imperialists" a lesson by killing thousands of American citizens: it's possible that my country's antimissile defense system wouldn't stop the warhead(s).

That would be very bad news for anyone living near the new ground zero: and, most likely, for folks living in or downwind of North Korea.

If Kim Jong-un, or a maverick North Korean general, decides to launch a nuclear strike, I don't think the United States would be that nation's biggest concern.

A few years ago Russia changed their nuclear policy, and are now willing to launch a first nuclear attack. (January 19, 2008) Russia's Pacific seaports, including Vladivostok, are substantially closer to North Korea than Alaska or Hawaii: and Russia has a record of shooting first, as KAL flights 902 and 007 demonstrated. (September 10, 2007)

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.