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The PJ Tatler

by
Dan Miller

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March 26, 2011 - 12:13 pm

According to a New York Times article, an “anonymous North Korean official” from the Foreign Ministry of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) claimed that the DPRK’s nuclear activities are justified in light of the actions of the United States and others against Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi.

North Korea’s official news agency carried comments this week from a Foreign Ministry official criticizing the air assault on Libyan government forces and suggesting that Libya had been duped in 2003 when it abandoned its nuclear program in exchange for promises of aid and improved relations with the West.

Calling the West’s bargain with Libya “an invasion tactic to disarm the country,” the official said it amounted to a bait and switch approach. “The Libyan crisis is teaching the international community a grave lesson,” the official was quoted as saying Tuesday, proclaiming that North Korea’s “songun” ideology of a powerful military was “proper in a thousand ways” and the only guarantor of peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The South Korean Chosun Ilbo has much the same story as does the Joongang Daily, which reported the response of a State Department spokesman:

“Where they’re at today has absolutely no connection with them renouncing their nuclear program or nuclear weapons,” said Mark Toner, a U.S. State Department spokesperson, yesterday. “And in fact, it’s – frankly, it’s a good thing that they did, because if they had such weapons of mass destruction and they turn weapons so easily against their own people, then God help us.”

The State Department spokesman said U.S. involvement in Libya was brought about by leader Muammar el-Qaddafi and had nothing to do with his decision to abandon his nuclear program in 2003 after the U.S. and allies invaded Iraq. The decision was made to get economic assistance and better ties with the U.S. and its allies.

Statements attributed to anonymous DPRK Foreign Ministry officials are perhaps entitled to less weight than those attributed to named officials but usually reflect the views of the government; it can be dangerous to make statements that don’t.

Taken at face value, the statement is consistent with the DPRK’s general behavior thus far and adds an additional troubling element. If Colonel Gaddafi survives and clings to power in Libya – and he may be able to do so by encouraging the already substantial dissent among NATO members and others –  “Dear” Leader Kim may well be encouraged to persist with nuclear weapons development, other military activity and domestic repression, hopeful that neither the United States nor an “alliance of the unwilling” will do anything effective to cause him to stop.  If Colonel Gaddafi instead finds exile in some warm and friendly country,  Kim would probably derive less encouragement. It would probably be better than not surviving for Colonel Gaddafi if not for the country of exile. Maybe the Bedouin tent Colonel Gaddafi magnanimously sent to Venezuela for el Presidente Chávez’s use when Chávez allowed some people displaced by floods to sleep in the presidential palace is still available. “Mr Chavez is an admirer of Col Gaddafi, who lives in a huge Bedouin tent in Libya, and brought one with him when he visited Venezuela last year.”

In view of the lack of diplomatic progress on the various Korean issues, which the DPRK has demanded but simultaneously made extraordinarily difficult, the DPRK may well stage another nuclear test in hopes of furthering its diplomatic agenda.

These things do not mean that the DPRK will not intersperse with its continuing unpleasantness a few promised morsels of civilized behavior  “to get economic assistance and better ties with the U.S. and its allies.”  They do suggest that such overtures should be considered in appropriate context.  Although a wretched human being, Colonel Gaddafi managed to keep some of his promises; the Kim regime does not do that.

Dan Miller graduated from Yale University in 1963 and from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1966. He retired from the practice of law in Washington, D.C., in 1996 and has lived in a rural area in Panama since 2002.
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