Delhi, 06 March 2005
Korean leader Kim Jong Il is playing psychological
games again. Just a week ago, North Korea made the
unprecedented announcement of possessing nuclear
weapons, simultaneously also withdrawing suddenly
from the six party nuclear talks.
situation is ironic and almost comic. The
disarmament talks are aimed at making North Korea
abandon its nuclear program. Yet it is precisely the
possibility of possession of a nuclear weapon that
has allowed North Korea, a small and impoverished
country, to bargain with military giants like USA,
Russia and China, holding at bay also its
traditional enemies, South Korea and Japan. Instead,
all these players are forced to adopt relatively
accommodative tones at the negotiating table. The
USA, especially, with its prior record of having
forced the issue of Weapons of Mass Destruction on
Iraq, is particularly embarrassed that North Korea
is not exactly abiding by its wishes nor playing
according to the rules.
the nuclear bargaining chip, North Korea is merely
another third world country. Even in demographics,
it does not even measure up to its neighbour and
rival, South Korea. The latter has more than twice
North Korea’s population, 29 times its GDP, and
13.7 times individual purchasing power parity.
to which is the old historical problem of the
ceasefire after the technically unresolved Korean
War –– there was no formal peace treaty signed
at the war’s end. Lacking a thriving modern
economy, North Korea runs the risk of state collapse
and regime change, if it ever loses its control on
North Korean regime presided over by Kim Jong Il is
very similar to a warlord fief run by the junfa
of Republican China in the 1910s to 1920s. The
illusion of a strong military dictatorial rule, when
stripped of its allure, reveals an under-developed
and neglected nation run on lines akin to martial
law. North Korea’s lack of international
credibility also makes non-state investors hesitant
to invest in the isolated nation.
Korea will not be disarming simply because there is
no rational reason for it to do so. The risk of not
having a nuclear arm is even higher than having one.
The six party national talks had solved nothing at
all, because each nation had its own national
interests and agenda. Russia and China were anxious
to maintain a stable regime in Pyongyang and the
status quo. Japan was concerned and alarmed with the
nuclear threat. The USA wanted to withdraw its
military commitments to South Korea on justifiable
grounds of the non-existence of a security threat.
As for South Korea, is it willing to unify
peacefully with North Korea through the
inevitability of history, like the collapse of the
Berlin Wall that led to the re-unification of East
and West Germany?
a scenario of peaceful re-unification may sound
touching and ideal, but the great economic
disparities would mean economic chaos and a sudden
drop in the standard of living in South Korea.
Widespread unemployment will without doubt,
the fictional scenario painted by novelist Larry
Bond in his book Red
in which Pyongyang took advantage of student rioting
and a failed military coup in Seoul to stage a
second Korean war, is a bit far fetched in reality.
For one thing, China and Russia will not stand by
and do nothing, as these countries also have
economic and political interests to protect.
with North Korea will not work, as this sudden
withdrawal from Pyongyang has proven, nor will
ceding concessions to it at the negotiating table.
It is simply a waste of time. Short of a violent
war, which is unthinkable, the only other way is for
North Korea to adopt reforms from internal process.
The other five parties, if they sincerely wish to
break this diplomatic stalemate, must engage heavily
in foreign direct investments into North Korea,
thereby helping to initiate and spur social changes
that will bring the inevitable progress of history
on the isolated Stalinist state.
The writer holds a Masters degree in ‘Science in
Strategic Studies’ from the Institute of Defense
and Strategic Studies (IDSS). He
currently writes commentaries and analytical
articles on international affairs, security issues
and terrorism for newspapers.