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North Korea Sets April 10th Deadline
April 5, 2013 9:38 PM   Subscribe


 


You know the "I have no idea what I'm doing" meme? Kim Jong-un is the living embodiment of that.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:55 PM on April 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think slowly ramping up to war (and announcing a deadline!) is kind of a sub-optimal tactic, although it worked for Bush, so who knows?
posted by Avenger at 9:56 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


North Korea is playing 11 dimensional chess on a standard 2d board and just imagining the other dimensions.
posted by crayz at 10:07 PM on April 5, 2013 [58 favorites]


I have been trying to follow all the links on reddit, but try my damnedest to avoid the warmongering comments.

I made a huge post over on livejournal... (too big, IMO, to copy/paste here).

I did, however, see this article linked elsewhere (probably from reddit, though I can't find the source now).

I'm stumped. I do think there's some serious machinations going on in that part of the world, and it's a lot more than the surface story of N. Korea. I think there's currently a sort of imperial game going on between the US and China and China made the joint move w/the US to sanction N. Korea for whatever reason. The US's current actions have seemed a lot more intentional to rile up N. Korea IMO. The claims of "ICBM testing" is hogwash - the satellite they launched was a legitimate satellite, and the trajectory it took was nothing like the kind that an ICBM uses, at least, from what I have read.

Anyways, there's just too much happening in the Pacific Area right now. I do wonder about Russia as well - as they are currently conducting exercises in the Black Sea, as China amasses troops near the border w/Korea... Just... On the one hand I want to see how it plays out, but on the other, I am concerned that this might lead to something much more severe.

It's easy to bury our heads and pretend that it will all be smoothed over. At the same time it's also quite easy to panic and worry over something that might in the end be controlled.

I just think that there are larger forces at work here and we're definitely not getting the full story.
posted by symbioid at 10:11 PM on April 5, 2013 [25 favorites]


For the love of god, Kim, the first rule is don't get high off your own supply.

Your father had the bluffing thing down to high art, so you better be taking it to a whole new level or you're gonna get your ass handed to you. You're skating on the thin ice of a new day, here.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:13 PM on April 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


The claims of "ICBM testing" is hogwash - the satellite they launched was a legitimate satellite, and the trajectory it took was nothing like the kind that an ICBM uses, at least, from what I have read.

If you can get a satellite into an orbit of the right inclination, you can land a bomb just about anywhere within those latitudes. Precisely targeting it is an entirely different and much more difficult problem, though.
posted by chimaera at 10:18 PM on April 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Personally I think the real issue here is that Kim Jong Un feels threatened by powerful constituencies within NK and is warmongering as a gambit to shore up his base. China and Russia are as gobsmacked as we are.

It's important to remember that under Kim Jong Il, the military and other party organs gained incredible autonomy and power that they never would have gotten under Kim Il Sung. What we are witnessing, I think, is various groups within NK trying to figure out who is really in charge.
posted by Avenger at 10:20 PM on April 5, 2013 [33 favorites]


I still think the DPRK is mostly posturing and sabre-rattling. As with so much posturing, though, if you point out that it's posturing, then the person doing it has no choice but to get real. So the only way for the US and other countries to deal with it is to treat the threat as somewhat real. Basically, it requires the same kind of "strategic ambiguity" that the US, PRC and ROC have adopted regarding Taiwan. It's a tricky balancing act.
posted by jiawen at 10:24 PM on April 5, 2013 [11 favorites]




Again I wonder just how much of this is actually from Kim Jong Un. I know he's the supreme leader and all that, but I've read (but honestly not a whole lot) that Un--much like Il before him--are really just figureheads and actually take marching orders of sorts themselves. That it's the top military brass that actually call the shots. Don't know how true that is.
posted by zardoz at 10:32 PM on April 5, 2013


North Korea will never directly attack South Korea in an all-out assault kind of way.

What I do expect is another Cheonan-style submarine attack or some random shelling of coastal islands.

And that sucks but South Koreans really can't be bothered to worry about Kim Jong-un and his tiny penis.

Seriously, you'd be shocked at how little SK gives a fuck about NK provocations.

This shit has been going on for 60 years, after all.
posted by bardic at 10:32 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


my theory is that the recent spike in acting out by N. Korea is a response to China moving towards dropping N. Korea as an ally (probably out of a review of foreign policy by the new Chinese government in recent months). Supporting N. Korea is expensive and very troublesome and China doesn't get much out of it. N. Korea acting out in increasingly scary brinksmanship ways could be aimed at putting pressure on the US to put pressure on China to continue supporting N. Korea's regime with subsidies and perks
posted by Bwithh at 10:35 PM on April 5, 2013 [3 favorites]




I just don't know what to make of the whole thing.

North Korea is not crazy. They are evil (particularly to their own citizens) but the regimes have been all about survival. The military buildup and the firepower they have pointed towards South Korea is why they are still around. But they have used up their margin of error. South Korea tended to want peace because they knew what would happen to them if war broke out. That changed when the Chenoan was sunk and their islands were shelled. They're tired of NK's bluster. I worry that North Korea is going to try a stunt like that again, and this time South Korea is going to respond harshly.

The nukes have me worried, not that they are going to use them, but from a proliferation standpoint. They do have tested bombs, but having a bomb and being able to deliver it are two different things. There's always the possibility they could sell nukes. But more worrisome is that now there is a lot of talk in South Korea and Japan that maybe they should have their own nuclear weapons.

My guess is: the North is going to fire the missiles they have set up on the east coast. It will be a test launch to send a message. And the US is going to shoot them down. Where it goes from there is anyone's guess.
posted by azpenguin at 10:38 PM on April 5, 2013


For the most part, I stand by an old comment I made (back when it was Kim Jong-Il at the throttle, and artillery shelling -- this is an excerpt):
The north doesn't want war, or to be precise, the leadership of the DPRK don't want war. Kim Jong-Il has a pleasant life with all of the luxury goods he wants; he has millions of people worshipping him. And it's pretty clear that the DPRK can't win a war against the South, much less if you add the US into the mix. Yes, they have a huge army and loads of artillery and so on. A porcupine has thousands of quills, yet it'll never attack you. I suggest that, although they are shitheads, the leadership is smart.

They are playing in a region where the neighbours (the DPRK propaganda site mentions the 'six country talks') are the world's #2 and #3 superpowers (China/Russia, you argue the order), an economic superpower (Japan), a decent regional power in the South that has significant financial and military muscle, and the US of course, who is interested in everything everywhere. That's the definition of a high-stakes table, and North Korea has been playing poker against these guys for 65 years, from a deck of 2s, 3s, 4s and 5s. You don't do that by being dumb or insane or crazy or ideologues, you do that by being clever as hell and bluffing for all you're worth. And every once in a while, pulling some crazy shit, like shelling a random island, or showing off your uranium centrifuges. So they can't tell if you're bluffing or crazy.
It's a little bit fascinating to me that warning embassy staff is seen as a step towards conflict escalation, but, say, the US flying B-2 bombers halfway across the world to blow the shit out of something juuust for practice is normal and sane.

(BTW, that last link in the FPP to the Anne Applebaum editorial set my IQ back about 20 points. Sure, China can resolve the crisis if they do the exact opposite of the things they normally do -- like instead of repatriating DPRK refugees, they knock down the border and welcome them with open arms, because if there's one thing Beijing loves, it's an agitated ethnic minority -- to gain some nebulous "respect" from a random newspaper columnist. Heck, why not just say Kim Jong-Un could solve the crisis by appearing on DPRK state TV, stripping naked, announcing an unconditional surrender to the South, and then punching himself in the face until unconscious.)
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:40 PM on April 5, 2013 [45 favorites]


But China has to support NK because the worst case scenario, from the Chinese perspective, is sharing a border with South Korea whom they consider a US client-state.

I mean, they kind of are.

For all the talk about unification you hear in South Korea, the current status quo is preferable all around for China, SK, and Japan. Yes, a horrible dictatorship filled with starving people is preferable, in a realpolitik sense, to a) China having to worry about a fleet of drones on their doorstep b) South Korea having to pay the billions that will be required to integrate the North and South, not to mention flood of cheap labor from the North willing to come down here and undercut wages.

Shits fucked up and bullshit. And if I had to bet money I'd guess we'll still be talking about North Korean 50-100 years from now.
posted by bardic at 10:42 PM on April 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


There's always the possibility they could sell nukes.

They may already have plenty of (counterfeit) cash, depending on whose stories one believes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:45 PM on April 5, 2013


I found the interview with Katy Oh (starts about 14:10 in the "listen" link) from the Brookings Institution sort of reassuring -- she calmly states that this is all just false bluster from Kim. She calls it the "worst kind of bluffing." (I was also fascinated by her assertion that there are in effect two republics in North Korea -- the capital Pyongyang which is serviced, and the rest of the country where people are left to fend for themselves.)
posted by anothermug at 11:04 PM on April 5, 2013


But China has to support NK because the worst case scenario, from the Chinese perspective, is sharing a border with South Korea whom they consider a US client-state.

The worst case scenario for China isn't in the longer term. It's before that, where there's a bloody war that devastates the (let's face it) already fragile global economy.

I simultaneously believe that this is more bluster from both sides in the endless game everyone plays with North Korea and that all regimes come to an end eventually, sometimes predictably, but sometimes not.
posted by smorange at 11:29 PM on April 5, 2013


Well, thank god I don't live in Austin. :/
posted by sexyrobot at 11:32 PM on April 5, 2013




Alone in the Dark - from 2003, an interesting background on the two elder Kims

North Korea's Hunger


A Look Inside North Korea
(photos)
posted by triggerfinger at 11:51 PM on April 5, 2013 [7 favorites]




Also, if anyone is interested, as I am, in insights into the day-to-day life of North Koreans, I would highly recommend Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, which I've recently started and am about 1/4 through. It's been a great book so far.
posted by triggerfinger at 12:01 AM on April 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


Well, if the scam was to get the US to pressure China to continue feeding them, it didn't work too well. Kim Jong Un, I think, is basically Dave Miscavige: he took over, but the previous leaders never let him in on the scam.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:08 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Shin Dong-hyuk's facebook page is worth following. We have also discussed him on Mefi before.
posted by triggerfinger at 12:08 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


North Korean prisoner escaped after 23 brutal years: Born in a prison camp, Shin Dong-hyuk describes how three generations of a family are incarcerated if one family member is considered disloyal.

"Kimjongilia" is a great documentary on the subject and Shin Dong-hyuk is interviewed extensively (only it's intercut with completely pointless scenes of a woman in a cop uniform doing interpretive dance). "The Aquariums Of Pyongyang" is a good book written by another former gulag inmate.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:10 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


This seems like an attempt by N. Korea to put itself into the strongest (and most threatening) possible posture before it begrudgingly allows (ie: Forces a very pissed off China to see to it) the six nation talks resume.

N. Korea wants to come to the table like a crazy unpredictable bunch of crazies. It's like they're forcing China to be the good cop...

But man, it just seems real dangerous talk, and I guess that's what it's supposed to be.

I do think something big may be coming in the way of a sort of North Korean Glasnost. I hope anyway. There's a limit to how long they can carry on this way, with so much terrible poverty, and isolated, especially if China reduces their funding.
posted by Skygazer at 12:20 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


People who want to opine on DPRK should at least sit down and give Bruce Cumings' North Korea a read. So much awful, wrongheaded "analysis" out there; CNN should be ashamed of itself.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:27 AM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I try to remain rational about these things, knowing there are too many variables to make any kind of prediction and knowing there's nothing I can do about it anyway.

Best Korea going nuts; the US/EU ramping up the rhetoric about Hezbollah/Iranian involvement in Syria; the rumors the Cypriots nearly traded the Russians an ice free port in exchange for rescuing their banking system; the unprecedented concentration of wealth worldwide in a very few hands leading directly to massive systemic risk....

No matter how intellectually detached I try to be, good god damn but the world has a very Archduke Franz Ferdinand feeling about it at the moment.
posted by digitalprimate at 12:34 AM on April 6, 2013 [45 favorites]


To me, the dumbest thing about all of this is that the course of action that would probably get them a bigger seat at the table and more credibility on the world stage and really pull Un out from under his father's shadow would be to earnestly engage in some positive changes and deal diplomatically in good faith. Like, he's got a legacy right there for the taking, and he doesn't even have to go all the way to making a new, free North Korea to do it, all of the horrible oppressive assholes in charge would still live in luxury while shitting on the citizenry, but if this regime was just half as crazy in public as the last one, people would line up to negotiate aid. You can do some truly fucking horrible things in this world as a government and still get a seat at the table and even accolades from other nations if you do some basic PR, which is completely shitty but true. Instead, they're going full-on belligerent idiot while shining a huge spotlight on the fact that they can't successfully follow through on their threats without being completely annihilated, and burning the few half-rotted rope bridges they've got left.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:42 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


METAFILTER: there are larger forces at work here and we're definitely not getting the full story.
posted by philip-random at 12:53 AM on April 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


I've been pondering the motivations of this Kim Jung Un character since someone here posted about possibly having gone to school with him in Switzerland. It seems as if there are several sources of that information, and is now pretty much agreed that he did in fact school there. Which leaves me wondering what this crazy role of leading the country of batshitinsania means to him.

He can't possibly have drunk the kool-aid, right? Him having grown up outside of NK and has seen what living in a non-oppressive society is like. And more importantly seen how other people live in a free state vs how the people of NK are forced to live.

And so I wonder. Is he a figure head, trapped in this role? Going along with the military leaders in an effort to keep from being overthrown? To keep from being murdered where he sleeps? Or does he really control the country as the surpreme leader? When he was in school, did he go there feeling that he knew the secret truth that these were all pig foreigners and he would one day inherit the keys to the castle? Perhaps bodyguards whispering to learn about these outsiders but never forget who he really is.

But maybe he is trapped, and realizes time is running out before a military coup. Maybe war is the only way out. The military would overthrow him before allowing him to democratize North Korea. Before he could even whisper the thought, they'd have his head. So instead, he proceeds to start a war, knowing that occupation is the only path to prosperity for North Korea and "freedom" for him.

Or maybe I just read too many god damned books.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:55 AM on April 6, 2013 [26 favorites]


On April 10th they will threaten to Photoshop even more amphibious landing vehicles into their press photos.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:03 AM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Lesson Number Two: Don't underestimate... the other guy's greed!

HAHAHHAHAHA
posted by mazola at 1:07 AM on April 6, 2013


Him having grown up outside of NK and has seen what living in a non-oppressive society is like. And more importantly seen how other people live in a free state vs how the people of NK are forced to live.
I'm pretty sure he doesn't live in an oppressed society himself. Just because the vast majority of his subjects constituents do, doesn't mean he lives the same way or has any real idea of how the average North Korean lives.
posted by dg at 1:15 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hope it is bluster. When I heard they were not letting the South Koreans into the factories I thought: of coarse they are. The western media pretty much said relax guyz nothing to worry about because the factories are open. Moving the missiles to the east coast knowing that the US satellites are watching every move.

What I don't get though is their endgame. Because pissing off its few allies left probably isn't a good idea.

I think a side propoganda benefit for DPRK is if they tell the people they're going to war with the imperialist US they can cut back on food supplies and say people should be patriotic and support the troops and get by with even less food.

No matter what goes down, the big losers are the North Korean civilians that have had to live there for generations.
posted by birdherder at 1:24 AM on April 6, 2013


I think Kim Jung Un is riding the tiger. He's inherited this hugely important job, and has to do honor to his father and his nation by being the best leader he can - but everybody is lying to him, and his so called allies in the government and army will be the first to turn against Un if he looks weak. So he's playing this game with the US, South Korea and China, and trying to prove that he's worthy of the title Supreme Leader. If he can bluff everybody at home and abroad by convincing us all that he's brilliant and/or crazy, then his position will be assured.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:29 AM on April 6, 2013


I just can't understand how Dennis Rodman didn't fix this.
posted by grajohnt at 1:29 AM on April 6, 2013 [33 favorites]


I'm pretty sure he doesn't live in an oppressed society himself. Just because the vast majority of his subjects constituents do, doesn't mean he lives the same way or has any real idea of how the average North Korean lives.

But to my point - when North Korea came up in class, in the news, did he just stick his fingers in his ears and shout "LALALALALALALALA!" Did he just not believe it? Did anything of the outside view of North Korea seep in, and what impact did it have?
posted by [insert clever name here] at 1:32 AM on April 6, 2013


I don't know, but Un probably thought his dad was Superman just like everybody else in North Korea. Now he's got the job, but everybody knows that he's just a normal guy. So he's doing all this crazy stuff to scare people in his own country just as much as the people outside. Then, when it all works out without a war and he gets some kind of concession from the foreign powers, his people will think he's a genius.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:45 AM on April 6, 2013


Can't we just promise Pyongyang the 2020 Olympics?
posted by de at 1:51 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.


No, seriously. The USA will drone attack anyone who looks vaguely like a terrorist but they haven't launched surgical strikes on NK artillery & commanders yet? Apparently it's impossible but there's got to be a way. Otherwise what's all that military might for?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:54 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Then, when it all works out without a war and he gets some kind of concession from the foreign powers, his people will think he's a genius.

Yeah. All DPRK has to do is step back (as far as the external world is concerned), and declare (internally) that it has repelled the imminent US thanks to its amazing military / nukes etc. His power is proven, the Millitary First policy is justified.

The USA will drone attack anyone who looks vaguely like a terrorist but they haven't launched surgical strikes on NK artillery & commanders yet?

Oh come on. You're not concerned about the 99% of military installations the "surgical drone" misses launching their Scuds at Tokyo and Seoul within minutes?
posted by Jimbob at 1:56 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh come on. You're not concerned about the 99% of military installations the "surgical drone" misses launching their Scuds at Tokyo and Seoul within minutes?

Part of me honestly thinks that we should nuke the whole country, since they've threatened America and may have the capability to hurt it and its allies. If the US is going to be the Evil Empire they should use that to protect themselves.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:59 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The part of you that honestly thinks nuclear genocide is probably the worst part.
posted by dougmoon at 2:11 AM on April 6, 2013 [63 favorites]


Yeah, hoping that = hoping Seoul (where I live) burns to the ground and millions upon millions are radiated.

God damn, that part of you is fucking fucked up and bullshit, Charlemagne In Sweatpants.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:18 AM on April 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


Part of me honestly thinks that we should nuke the whole country, since they've threatened America and may have the capability to hurt it and its allies.

A country should be nuked because they dare to threaten the US? And here I was thinking you were supposed to be the humanist...
posted by Jimbob at 2:20 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Part of me honestly thinks that we should nuke the whole country

That would sort of prove North Korea's point. And, more importantly, it would provoke a nuclear war with China, a real superpower. Not such a great idea, maybe.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:31 AM on April 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah. All DPRK has to do is step back (as far as the external world is concerned), and declare (internally) that it has repelled the imminent US thanks to its amazing military / nukes etc. His power is proven, the Millitary First policy is justified.

If he can really just say bullshit internally and have it believed, then why the external posturing in the first place?

"Yeah, so I flew to the moon with my magic powers and on my way back I nuked Ohio. Have you seen Ohio lately? No, didn't think so."
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:35 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Part of me honestly thinks that we should nuke the whole country, since they've threatened America and may have the capability to hurt it and its allies. If the US is going to be the Evil Empire they should use that to protect themselves.

Go ahead and go to google maps and look at Seoul. Note the distance to the North Korean border, which is covered with artillery and rockets. We'll still be here when you get back.
posted by empath at 2:52 AM on April 6, 2013 [18 favorites]


It's going to play out exactly like it did in Red Phoenix. Elite North Korean ninja squads are going to take out the top allied command centers in the South, a Chinese diplomat will talk smarmy to KJU, who will throw a tantrum, and a submarine will save the day. The end.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:00 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


A country should be nuked because they dare to threaten the US? And here I was thinking you were supposed to be the humanist...

Credibly threaten the US and US allies (including South Korea and Japan). But if we can't do that without attacking South Korea we should at least be able to do some kind of smaller preemptive strike. North Korea has explicitly threatened us.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:06 AM on April 6, 2013


Lots of people explicitly threaten us every day. Sticks and stones, man. This kind of thinking got us into Iraq and Afghanistan.
posted by JHarris at 3:10 AM on April 6, 2013 [19 favorites]


Lots of people explicitly threaten us every day. Sticks and stones, man. This kind of thinking got us into Iraq and Afghanistan.



Yeah, which was bullshit because we were fighting a guerrilla war/counter-insurgency. NK is a single country; we should be able to take it down.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:11 AM on April 6, 2013


I see that Game of Thrones has infiltrated even political topics now. Kim Joffrey Un. I give up.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 3:13 AM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


How do guerrilla wars and counter insurgencies get started? We thought Iraq would be over in weeks, and North Korea, for its astonishing primitiveness, has spent the decades digging in to ever-more-paranoid extents.

Even if we could swiftly take out North Korea, that puts us in a military action adjacent to the second-most-powerful nation in the world, one that's been explicitly supporting this regime to avoid having a West-friendly Korea on its border, and one that, for various reasons, it'd be nice not to anger. We cannot afford to blunder into this recklessly.
posted by JHarris at 3:18 AM on April 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


we should be able to take it down.

When you say 'we' are you volunteering to help or just going to cheer along from the sidelines while other people you presumably don't care much about get killed?
posted by empath at 3:18 AM on April 6, 2013 [75 favorites]


Part of me honestly thinks that we should nuke the whole country, since they've threatened America

Why I remember just a few months ago when there was vigorous, even heated debate in the North Korean Parliament-- wrangling over the needs of various stakeholder constituencies and electoral groups-- on the topic of the US, and whether or not it should be threatened.

oh wait just kidding north korea is a fucking stalinist dictatorship
posted by threeants at 3:19 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Charlemagne In Sweatpants, cut it out with the nuke 'em from orbit crap. Everyone else, let's move on.]
posted by taz at 3:20 AM on April 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm afraid it can go Jonestown / Branch David. We don't understand very well paths leading to mass suicides, but we have important ingredients in place: there is a cult and a siege, and no much hope for the leaders how it can go better from there.
posted by Free word order! at 3:23 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, but removing diplomatic protections is itself a big deal, isn't it? Who's going to want to hang around in the embassy after that? (Just saw ARGO on the plane.)
posted by newdaddy at 3:39 AM on April 6, 2013


I hope Kim Jr hasn't read this one and thinks it's a good idea to implement it. You just have the new and improved bird flu floating in the neighbourhood, I suppose if you had some biowarfare programs already mucking around with dread stuff you might be tempted to help spread the flu joy as a preemptive first step too.
posted by Iosephus at 3:43 AM on April 6, 2013


Y know, if a month's worth of news from 2013 were taken back in time 15 years and used as part of the background world building for a near-future SF movie, it would be seen as too outlandish and unrealistic to be believable.
posted by hippybear at 3:45 AM on April 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


Kaesong was part o South Korea. The north got it during the war and managed to keep hold of it. The original peace talks between the N and S took place there--I was sent there for that--but it was humiliating for Americans to be marched under guard to the talk tables so they relocated the talks.
posted by Postroad at 3:46 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I haven't been following the news very closely, but that's largely because I know where most of it comes from.

I know that the currently reported batch of threats from North Korea didn't start before the US and South Korea initiated their current, exceptionally aggressive military exercises -- which involved a lot of crap like simulated nuclear drops within a few miles of the border, firing a lot of long-range northward-pointing artillery, etc.

When Iran was replying to Israeli militaristic rhetoric with statements like "If you attack us we will devastate you," American news services screamed headlines like "Iran threatens to devastate Israel." I believe that the same thing is happening here. Is it? I simply don't have the patience to sift through all that patriotic bullshit, all the USA!USA! chanting, to find any possible tiny nuggets of truth, but maybe they're in there somewhere. Maybe somewhere around paragraph 32 of a 40-paragraph article detailing Kim's symptoms of mental illness there will be casual mention of a total blockade currently enforced by the US navy, or something equivalent.
posted by fredludd at 3:47 AM on April 6, 2013 [17 favorites]


I sometimes wonder if rather than just being crazy, NDK has learned the lesson of the Iraq war: get the mushroom cloud going before the U.S. attacks and invades you
posted by angrycat at 3:48 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


cut it out with the nuke 'em from orbit crap

The use of nuclear weapons as a first strike is a real thing that smart people who talk about this sort of thing for a living are talking about right now, much as some might find it distasteful or personally inconvenient.

Very accurate delivery systems, new reconnaissance technologies, and the downsizing of arsenals from Cold War levels have made both conventional and nuclear counterforce strikes against nuclear arsenals much more feasible than ever before. Perhaps most surprising, pairing highly accurate delivery systems with nuclear weapons permits target strategies that would create virtually no radioactive fallout, hence, vastly reduced fatalities...nuclear balances around the world—for example, between the United States and China, the United States and North Korea, and perhaps in the future between Iran and Israel—bear little resemblance to the Cold War superpower standoff.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:53 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


smart people who talk about this sort of thing for a living?

Smart people who talk about this sort of thing for a living can take a running hike. Maybe said smart people should be made redundant.

I know that the currently reported batch of threats from North Korea didn't start before the US and South Korea initiated their current, exceptionally aggressive military exercises -- which involved a lot of crap like simulated nuclear drops within a few miles of the border, firing a lot of long-range northward-pointing artillery, etc.

Yay! North Korea were humiliated. Good to see it acknowledged. OK, North Korea hasn't played the victim. Isn't that something we're supposed to admire these days?

Now the best outcome is for both sides to retreat. The ball's in the US court. Would it really kill the US to apologise and retreat? ... also something to admire.

And as for US sensitivity to humiliation, jeezus, spare us. Maybe there's a peace deal to be done. If China can be called on to discourage North Korea's activities, the US may discourage Japan's activities in return. That seems fair.

Then maybe the rest of the world can absolutely demand and expect action on disarmament starting you-know-where.
posted by de at 4:03 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


The use of nuclear weapons as a first strike is a real thing that smart people who talk about this sort of thing for a living are talking about right now

Yes, says FPIF: "this war exercise included a simulation of a pre-emptive attack by South Korean artillery units in an all-out war scenario against North Korea."

But the smart people who talk about this sort of thing for a living... who does that include? I know that it can't possibly include those who have pronounced North Korea "evil" -- those people have obviously confused reality with some kind of comic-book world. That's not particularly smart.
posted by fredludd at 4:26 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


The US is very much afraid of the DPRK becoming a failed state with nuclear technology, which is why (along with the fact that reprisals against ROK from the surviving military would be devastating) there haven't been any moves towards "decapitating" the regime. Nuking a tiny country that is that close to the major population centers of an ally would be literally the most idiotic thing anyone has ever done.
posted by graymouser at 4:30 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nuking a tiny country that is that close to the major population centers of an ally would be literally the most idiotic thing anyone has ever done.

You think that fact escaped Kim Jong-Un's advisors when they placed Seoul and Tokyo in check? Why can't the US admit it has baited something it can't reel in?

Where were the experts then?
When will the US learn?
posted by de at 4:50 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just think that there are larger forces at work here and we're definitely not getting the full story.

I was reading the entire thread to get here and write The Great Game of Thrones when I noticed a bunch of comments all echoing the same thing.

Hmm. Interesting.
posted by infini at 4:57 AM on April 6, 2013


Even a minor disturbance in this area will be enough to put companies like mine out of business. Nearly all of our products are built in Korea and China; losing the ability to safely move ships in and out of the China Sea will eliminate 90% of our product line. I'm sure China and South Korea are acutely aware of the economic impact as well, we can only hope they can keep KJ-U from doing something stupid.
posted by tommasz at 5:20 AM on April 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


Can't we just promise Pyongyang the 2020 Olympics?

As a bonus, already being a totalitarian regime, they would be able to organise it without passing any new draconian laws to do so.
posted by acb at 5:28 AM on April 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


when North Korea came up in class, in the news, did he just stick his fingers in his ears and shout "LALALALALALALALA!" Did he just not believe it? Did anything of the outside view of North Korea seep in, and what impact did it have?
Well, I can think of two possibilities:
1. He had been so brainwashed from birth as to both his and his nation's absolute superiority that he refused or was unable to see the truth
2. He believed it, but he didn't care.
posted by dg at 5:32 AM on April 6, 2013


What I do expect is another Cheonan-style submarine attack

Others think there may have been different story - one version has a German made torpedo, another one has and American sub being sunk http://www.globalresearch.ca/who-sank-the-south-korean-warship-cheonan-destabilization-of-the-korean-peninsula/19375

A newer claim has 2 PRNK mini subs 'missing' in the last few months.

You might wish to go see Grandma and Grandpa and ask them about duck and cover ya young wippersnappers.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:41 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just think that there are larger forces at work here and we're definitely not getting the full story.

1) When hasn't that ever been the case?
2) And some people wonder how conspiracies theories are ever believable. Crap like the background events are the agar.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:48 AM on April 6, 2013


Part of me honestly thinks that we should nuke the whole country, since they've threatened America and may have the capability to hurt it and its allies.

I'm pretty sure the countries downwind of an irradiated North Korea might disagree with this idea.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:01 AM on April 6, 2013


There's a limit to how long they can carry on this way, with so much terrible poverty, and isolated, especially if China reduces their funding.

I'd say there is no limit to how long the oppression of people experiment will be allowed to continue in North Korea.

For every nation has a group of people who feel being oppressive is the best way for them to rule and as long as there is "useful" data coming from the PRNK the oppression will continue.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:02 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, I can think of two possibilities:
1. He had been so brainwashed from birth as to both his and his nation's absolute superiority that he refused or was unable to see the truth
2. He believed it, but he didn't care.


This is the fascinating puzzle that keeps me awake at night. Who's actually in control? As you move up the North Korean hierarchy (essentially a caste system), at some point you must reach the level where people are aware of the truth. The level where people have something to lose if the country falls, and something to gain by keeping it where it is. Where is this level? How many people are there in it? How do they get to be there? Do any of them have a conscience? Then I can't help thinking that beyond this level, as you tend towards Kim Jong-Un, we start to descend into fairy-land again. In answering the question regarding the power and awareness of Kim Jong-Un, I think someone above probably caught onto the answer. The kid values his life. So he's doing his best to play the role he's supposed to play - who cares what he experienced in Switzerland. What else can he do? What would happen if he got in front of a camera, broadcast to the world, and surprisingly announced a raft of political and economic reforms? They generally don't let the leaders do that, though. In reading Nothing to Envy, there was a story about someone in North Korea picking up a broadcast from the south, and hearing Kim Jong-Il talking to Jimmy Carter. It was the first time this person had ever heard their leader's voice - statements from him had always been delivered via a newsreader.

North Korea is so far off the bell curve it's impossible to say what the best strategy may be. I think China is probably the key, but despite mumblings, there is no actual change in police evident. If China stops repatriating North Korean refugees, then there might be evidence of change.
posted by Jimbob at 6:02 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Realizing I'm being hopelessly naive here, how likely is this a case of The Mouse That Roared?
posted by a person of few words at 6:03 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


dg: He believed it, but he didn't care.

The ability of the very wealthy to ignore the truth behind where their wealth really comes from and what it means is legendary.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:05 AM on April 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


North Korea is a Blackmail State, one that extorts to sustain itself. Sometimes you play nice, other times you have to get tough and show some muscle. But it's vital the fear of what you MIGHT do outweighs the other options available to your shakedown target(s). Amazingly, the DPRK has been playing this delicate game against all sides of the table simultaneously for half a century...
posted by jim in austin at 6:06 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


The part I can't reconcile is that NK has nukes, knows how to use them, and is making more. W missed the opportunity to nip it in the bud. I think the US hoped that an end to KJI's reign would open the door to change. Now we have Jr at the helm for another 40yrs if the pattern holds, and he's seemingly crazier than his dad or grandad. What do we do? Accept a nuclear N. Korea? Launch a preemptive (conventional) strike limited to nuclear facilities and dare him to fire back? Ask him nicely? "Pretty please, with sugar on top?"

Appeasement failed. Containment seems...exhausting. These biennial saber rattling sessions are much higher stakes with a nuclear North Korea.

I've often thought that limited "surgical" strikes on sovereign nations is what modern warfare should be about. Bunker buster in Iran's facilities, same in pre-nuclear NK's. Sort of like our mission to take out OBL. "Yeah, we snuck in and f***ed some s*** up. Our bd. What're you going to do about it?"
posted by karst at 6:22 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think a stongly worded letter from the UN to Mr. Kim should do the trick. I suggest a Times New Roman font.
posted by Renoroc at 6:29 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


The assumption that Kim Jong Un knows what's really happening, has a plan, or is sane, seems like an untoward assumption. Kim Jong Un has not been playing clever brinksmanship with the US for decades. Kim Jong Un is the grandson of the guy who built the country, three generations into inherited wealth and privilege. I suspect the models for understanding him are not so much other dictators as other grandchildren of the Gottis, who tend to be deeply crazy/stupid.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:39 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


should nuke the whole country, since they've threatened America

This kind of "thinking" is what brings America positions like
if someone classifies you as "anti-government" then you're no longer a US citizen, which would be a rather unique (and wrong) interpretation of the Constitution.

How many people write a threatening communication to The President? How many are jailed for that action?

How many times on American streets does one person say 'I'm going to kill you"? Does the utterance of that threat allow the one on the receiving end to strike 1st and kill the one who just made that statement?

Under such a worldview if the CEO commits fraud - every worker should have tribute extracted because dear leader says/did something? What about if Grandpa says/does something - under the quoted worldview the Grandkids should suffer?

The quoted nuke utterance is a really crappy worldview. Perhaps sitting down and thinking about it extended to your personal life and family wold have one reconsider that worldview.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:40 AM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thank you for including links on the Chinese response in this post. In the US this is all being reported as an American story, as in "what will US diplomats do?" and "can their missiles reach the US" and "Dennis Rodman as cultural ambassador" (trololololo). Which is all ridiculous; the Chinese / DPRK relationship is far more important here than anything to do with the US. To the extent North Korea is posturing to attack the US, they're doing so to influence China (and to bolster the ruling junta's power within the country). I'm glad to read more about what the Chinese government may be thinking.
posted by Nelson at 6:41 AM on April 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


The people of NK are primary amongst the hostages NK holds - after them South Korea, then Japan, and so on radiating out (I don't really think they are a credible direct threat to any part of the US) - a solution that involves "nuking" them really misses the point.

Thank you for including links on the Chinese response in this post.

A China that sees NK as a problem it needs to fix rather than carefully nurture would be a huge change in the situation.
posted by Artw at 7:05 AM on April 6, 2013


The part I can't reconcile is that NK has nukes, knows how to use them, and is making more. W missed the opportunity to nip it in the bud.

What, exactly, should W have done to nip it in the bud? I'm happily at the front of the line when it comes to decrying the incredibly foreign-policy failures of the Bush II Administration, and sneering at the hamhandedness of the "Axis of Evil" bullshit - but what, seriously, could/should he have done? The two basic paths to "stopping" North Korea from building nukes were 1) Bribe them not to and 2) Invade them. We tried part 1 for a bit and it seems to have worked, for a bit. Part 2 is, to put it lightly, undesirable as hell.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:07 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]




If you want to quote chilling North Korean propaganda, just take a walk through the official state English language press release blog. Today's gem Youth of Songun Korea Will Display Heroic Spirit in Confrontation with U.S. starts "The dear respected Marshal Kim Jong Un made a final decision for all-out action against the U.S." and notes "Millions of Korean youth turned out as one in the sacred war for annihilating the enemy" and "When they ignite a nuclear war at any cost, the Korean youth, shock brigade of the Supreme Commander, will clearly show the world what the real arms and war are like."

Mind you, this is written for an American audience; it's supposed to sound so murderous.
posted by Nelson at 7:19 AM on April 6, 2013


Hasn't been mentioned that a lot of this is related to the UN extending sanctions (which is a large source of a lot of the suffering in the country) and the US and South Korea running war games a month ago.
posted by destro at 7:21 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


grajohnt: "I just can't understand how Dennis Rodman didn't fix this."

Like I said, man... Larger forces at play - what makes you think that Rodman wasn't the instigator?
posted by symbioid at 7:52 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


King Joffrey Un.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:54 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


hippybear: "Y know, if a month's worth of news from 2013 were taken back in time 15 years and used as part of the background world building for a near-future SF movie, it would be seen as too outlandish and unrealistic to be believable."

I know, like... iPads and shit, right?
posted by symbioid at 7:59 AM on April 6, 2013


"Yeah, we snuck in and f***ed some s*** up. Our bd. What're you going to do about it?"

Bomb the shit out of Seoul, pop. 10.5 million. Seoul is nearly within artillery range of the DMZ. They wouldn't have to nuke it to kill thousands of people.
posted by Diablevert at 8:04 AM on April 6, 2013


It's all really jokey until you consider that no matter which way the coin flips on this one - continuing escalation to a conflict or de-escalation and a return to status quo, tens of thousands of lives will be lost or continue to be lost.

It is incredibly lazy to drop shitty jokey one liner comments about the situation, where the best case is the slow unravelling of the state in as ordered a fashion as possible. Even in such a situation it's likely that many many North Koreans would lose their lives.
posted by iamabot at 8:11 AM on April 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


This has actually been a very informative thread for the uninitiated.

I agree that there always turns out to be much more gamesmanship going on than we the public are aware of and all we can do is speculate on the various factions' motivations. The thing that's striking to me right now, it seems that there are very few face-saving options left for Kim Jong Un anymore, regardless of whether he is a shrewd diplomatic chess player or power hungry madman. I suppose the best case scenario is he takes the world right up to the brink of war and then shouts "OK, I'm ready to talk!" as a means to get the strongest negotiating position. He might be able to sell himself to his people as a great savior of the peace, but one can only gear up for war for so long before your people, particularly your military leaders, accept this as a certainty. North Korea is way farther down this time line than the US was in the lead up to Iraq and we had some small amount of free press and Internet access. Worst case scenario, North Korea tries (or for all we know already *is*) funding their regime through the sales of nuclear and missile technology.

Hopefully, the US has learned not to go in with guns cocked without unanimous international agreement. It seems inevitable people are going to die, the question is how to end this as quickly as possible, with as little loss of life as possible.

And seriously, "lets just go nuke em now" needs to be shut down as forcefully and vigorously as possible. No more Iraqs.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:14 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think your average rogue regime would risk all out war in the event a few installations were destroyed. It'd be a bitter pill to swallow, for sure, but they would have to know that everything they have would be lost in the event of an attack on Seoul. I'd combine the attack with a MASSIVE aid package. Food, energy, infrastructure spending. Sanctions lifted, arms open. "Come here, let's hug it out".

In the case of NK it's now too late for a strike like that. The downside risk of a nuclear strike by them is too great. But W could have and should have ordered a strike like that. I think the Israelis have the right idea with Iran (though it shouldn't be them that carry out the strike).

Carrots don't work, sanctions don't work.
posted by karst at 8:25 AM on April 6, 2013




iamabot, I'm not sure if your comment was specific to me (though I would hazard a guess it is since I've been cracking jokes in here). However, if you read both my first comment in the thread and followed my link in that comment, you would see that I am at the same time: conused, curious, terrified, against US Imperialism, unhappy about how N. Korea is ruled, not particularly keen on China, but also see the role of how my own country (the US) is plotting for more hegemonic control over the Eastern Hemisphere (it's a bit like an expanded Monroe doctrine).

I try my best to keep up on N. Korea for the past few years (especially N. Korea Leadership blog and N. Korea Tech, but there are also alternative sources that I am finding that offer alternative perspective than the staid factual reporting that they provide and the clearly propagandistic/one-sided viewpoint that the US media provides.

It does have an eerie Franz Ferdinand feel (as someone else in this thread pointed out). I joke, because it is the only way I know to cope. Because if I don't, all I have left is a shocking fear that we may be witnessing the start of World War 3. I can express hope all I want that it doesn't happen, but the only "drug"/thing that pushes the dopamine for a slight reprieve isn't hope, it's a joke. It is the only medicine I know. I apologize if I have a gallows humor. Indeed, this is nothing to sneeze at, and it is most assuredly easy for me to do so, sitting safe in my 1st world apartment with internet access and more food than I should ever be allowed, which in the end comes on the back of suffering and impoverished people around the world and those people are deprived by my own people's systemic actions around the world. It is this interplace of actions and power-relations that make me acutely aware of my own role in the situation as a citizen of the US and a taxpayer for a massive military force that sees itself as the only righteous force in the world for good. I laugh, so I don't cry. You see I do not laugh at the suffering of the individuals in the labor camps in N Korea. In fact, I do not even laugh at KJU. Or KJI. I think the people who make racist or stupid jokes about their system are idiots. I think the situation is grave and serious and should be respected in the gravitas it deserves, and that means respecting your "enemies" (though I do not consider N Korea my "enemy" any more than I consider any other country of the world my "enemy"). I think saying that KJU is a spoiled Gotti-child does a disservice to an individual who has already survived on assassination attempt at the start of his leadership, and had to reshuffle the military ranks when he came into power. He is in a precarious position. In some ways, I do think he is a sort of slave to the situation he is put in. I don't think he is merely a figurehead, but at the same time, he is not a pure dictator. He has substantial influence, indeed, but there is a party that makes decisions based on songun policy which evolved from Juche "nation-first" ideology. I am not saying that what N Korea does is right, but I understand their fears and concerns when confronted by what they see as an external threat who happens to be a bit anxious to see N. Korea as a problem ... I mean, how would YOU react if you were called part of the "Axis of Evil"?

The focus on N. Korea obfuscates the US role in this game. I don't know there's just so many variables and factors that go beyond the current incident, the long history of imperialism in Korea, from Japanese occupation, Chinese support during the war, the utterly MASSIVE bombing from the US during the Korean war. The fact that both sides had assassination attempts on the other side. There is a grand narrative there that is just as rich and deep as anything we teach our kids at school about our own history (at least we teach in a surface sense)... But because we don't have the time or inflination all most people ever get is the news media stories that's clearly slanted for sensationalism and loves to have a boogie-man, and if the actions make the boogie-man seem "crazy" then even better for our sensationalist propaganda outlets.
posted by symbioid at 8:49 AM on April 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Meanwhile, the Chosun Ilbo's top story (online)?

Department Store Layouts Reflect Changing Economy

It seems that there is a lot of rhetoric floating around as part of the news cycle.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:50 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


By the way, this observation from the Marmot's Hole really resonated with me:

BTW, North Korea is totally owning the media right now. Which, frankly, it the thing I’ve always resented most about North Korea—they’re the only Korea anyone cares about. South Korea pulls off a socio-economic miracle, going from ass-backwards, post-colonial basketcase to prosperous 21st century democracy in just half a century, and nobody cares. North Korea becomes a poverty-stricken, nuclear-armed cesspool run by an idiot manchild, and the eyes and ears of the world are entirely focused on them.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:53 AM on April 6, 2013 [29 favorites]


rough ashlar: "Others think there may have been different story - one version ... another one has and American sub being sunk Link"

WTF? Is someone really trying to propose that a US sub was sunk (presumably USS Columbia (SSN 771)), and it chose to stay completely silent regarding that? That would require a metric fuck ton of tin foil.

I can see some shenanigans resulting in a US sub being lost (see Thresher and Scorpion), but I find it pretty hard to believe the US would try to keep the loss of a sub with all hands a total secret.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 8:55 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think your average rogue regime would risk all out war in the event a few installations were destroyed.

Ah. You are confident that North Korea is your average rogue regime? That they would not consider such an attack to be itself a declaration of total war? That they would not feel compelled to draw blood in order to prove they had not been rendered defenseless, or merely to punish the South for allowing the US to strike them on its behalf? You're confident of these things?

If NK was a perfectly rational actor we wouldn't be in the situation. Their own internal rhetoric may make it impossible for them to back down from confrontation in such an event: Imagine you're an ambitious young NK general and your leadership has just been humiliated by an outside military power, and done nothing in response. They're weak. A good time for a coup, no? Or maybe a simple rebellion?

The leaders of NK don't have to convince merely the outside world of their ruthlessness and power to wreak vengeance. They have to convince their own people, their own army, and their own senior command of those things as well. Failure to respond to an obvious act of American aggression might easily place them in an untenable position. And if there's one thing you can bet the Kims want to save, it's their own skins.

"All we need to do is land one good punch and they'll see they can't hurt us and back down" has led to a hell of a lot of barroom brawls, never mind wars. It'll all be over by Christmas...
posted by Diablevert at 9:02 AM on April 6, 2013


One of my favorite links for the last ten years: Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries 0perati0n Nuk0rea. This is the price of conventional miltary action.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:04 AM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I had to unfriend someone on FB yesterday because they actually used the "Wake up, Sheeple!" line in reference to N. Korea. They've been posting links to YouTube videos "proving" the New World Order is behind all of this. Anyone who uses Wake Up Sheeple in an unironic way is dead to me.
posted by karst at 9:07 AM on April 6, 2013


I've always wondered whether or not China would act pre-emptively to invade North Korea if it became convinced North Korea was going to attack South Korea. As has been pointed out a war between North and South Korea would be a foregone conclusion, unless China intervened on the Northern side. However, China doesn't want a war with the US that would be the economic equivalent of mutually assured destruction. It also does not want the powerful US client state that a unified Korea could eventually become sitting on it's border. If China thinks war is inevitable then it can avoid this dilemma by attacking North Korea first, and setting up it's own client state as a buffer. Maybe burn off some of their surplus young men in the bargain.
posted by Grimgrin at 9:13 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite links for the last ten years: Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries 0perati0n Nuk0rea. This is the price of conventional miltary action.

Previously.

Related.
posted by homunculus at 9:26 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


iamabot - so we can't joke...What is this, North Korea?

You are correct, there are many ways this could go, and basically none of them are good for the North Korean people (and possibly others) in the short term. However, is discussing the NK issue on Metafilter going to help reduce the death count in some way that makes it morally superior? I have been in situations that could have rapidly resulted in my own death and deaths of loved ones, and humor was my reaction then as well. You may consider it 'incredibly lazy', but using gallows humor is many people's reaction to difficult situations that are outside of their control.
posted by grajohnt at 9:28 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


W missed the opportunity to nip it in the bud.

I've actually come around to thinking that Clinton missed the opportunity to nip this in the bud. The famine in NK towards the end of the 90s, along with their human rights abuses and actual plutonium program, would have provided enough justification. And in the late 90s, Clinton would have been able to get significant international support, plus China's objections would have been much less worrisome.
posted by gsteff at 9:30 AM on April 6, 2013


W missed the opportunity to nip it in the bud.

Truman missed the first opportunity. I'm not in favour of waging war, but MacArthur had a point.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:35 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pre-9/11 W was all about picking a fight with China, that probably wasn't helpful either.
posted by Artw at 9:48 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of my favorite links for the last ten years: Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries 0perati0n Nuk0rea. This is the price of conventional miltary action.

Holy shit that is some strong medicine. I didn't think I was going to make it past MAGGOTS but I got through the whole thing. This comment thread, I might add, has a lot higher quality than the one from ten years ago.

I'll explore that website later, but Lord, I don't think I can face a similar flash presentation called "Cunnilingus in North Korea."
posted by Countess Elena at 9:49 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The one thing I haven't seen is video of Kim actually making any of these provocative statements. It's all been official news readers and some photos of Kim holding binoculars on the nightly news. I worry that we're not dealing with a either a 'dangerously deranged' or 'young and untested leader', but instead that Kim is no longer in control and these actions are being taken by the KPA General Staff Department freelance.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:56 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


King Joffrey Un.

Funny, he actually strikes me as much more of a Theon type.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:56 AM on April 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Is someone really trying to propose that a US sub was sunk (presumably USS Columbia (SSN 771)), and it chose to stay completely silent regarding that?

So it seems someone was - and I didn't know about THAT claim 'till today. I was looking for backing on the 'it was a German torpedo' claim. Given the attack was in 2010 and one has a named sub - I'm guessing said sub has been seen back in port right?

Its not like reasons for past actions for wars haven't been fabricated in the past.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:57 AM on April 6, 2013


Disturbing, yet oddly reassuring thread. Are there reasonable blogs that are good to review 'post thread'?
posted by sammyo at 10:02 AM on April 6, 2013


No matter how intellectually detached I try to be, good god damn but the world has a very Archduke Franz Ferdinand feeling about it at the moment.

... or maybe more like the Cuban Missile Crisis. If there is anyone around in 50 years, perhaps they will be able to do research on just how LITTLE all sides know about the others' intentions, desires, fears.

Recently a panel met at CiGi to discuss the Cuban, Russian and US version of the 1962 brush with Armageddon. Very aptly, the title is Empathy or Death: Applying the Lessons of the Cuban Missle Crisis (worth watching the whole two hours!)

New information about 1962 just emerged last year. Right now we really don't know anything -- and it is chilling to know that those in command of the nuclear weapons don't either.

"How did three leaders, none of whom was suicidal, arrive at such a moment of maximum peril? How did they inadvertently weave a tangled web of misunderstandings, missed signals and misperceptions creating a temple of nuclear doom in the Caribbean? And what are the lessons we can learn from history's closest brush with Armageddon?"
posted by Surfurrus at 10:08 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I mean, how would YOU react if you were called part of the "Axis of Evil"?

Personally my reaction to being called part of the "Great Satan" is sort of meh but I like your point.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:15 AM on April 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


fwiw, fareed zakaria on NK today; from an earlier transcript...
Just when you thought the place could not get any stranger, it did. In the past few weeks, this impoverished, isolated nation has tested a nuclear bomb, threatened a preemptive nuclear attack on the United States, abrogated the armistice that ended the Korean War and declared its intention to "rain bullets" on its neighbor to the South.

No one knows for sure what is going on, but the most likely explanation is that North Korea's trying to get attention, force us negotiate a deal, get some goodies, then quietly start cheating on that deal.

That has been the pattern in the past, but, this time, the North Koreans have gotten the attention of their ally, China, but not quite how they want to get it. In a remarkable shift, China, which sustains its neighbor North Korea economically, helped draft and then voted last week for U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang.

For decades, Beijing saw Pyongyang as a historical and natural ally. But now, a senior Obama administration official told me last Wednesday, "We are clearly hearing increasingly levels of frustration and concern" from Beijing about North Korea.

A few weeks ago, a senior Communist Party Deng Yuwen argued in an op-ed in the Financial Times that China should "abandon" North Korea. Now, talk is easier than action. China has never imposed penalties or strictly enforced sanctions against its ally.

Beijing's reasoning is understandable. We tend to think about North Korea through the prism of two issues; nuclear weapons and human rights. But the Chinese have a more pressing concern, national collapse. If they were to push the North Korean government too hard, they feel, the regime could fall, leaving millions to seek refuge in China.

Even more important, the endgame would be obvious, a unified Korea on South Korea's terms, which would mean that China would now be bordered by a formal ally of the United States, one with about 28,000 U.S. troops on its soil as well as nuclear weapons. You don't have to be a paranoid to worry about that scenario.

If Washington wants to deepen China's commitment to tackling North Korea's belligerence, we'll have to address Beijing's concerns.

The National security adviser Tom Donilon, who has been the administration's chief interlocutor with the Chinese, could have a frank series of conversations with his counterparts in Beijing about a strategic plan for the Korean Peninsula in the event of a North Korean collapse.

We would have to talk some issues. In a unified Korea, would we destroy the nuclear weapons immediately, would American troops remain, would America's treaty relationship with the South apply to the new nation?

"The North Koreans know," says former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, "That there is now a real danger of an accident, incident or miscalculation on the Korean Peninsula."

If that happened, there is a danger that China and the United States would end up reacting quickly, viscerally and in ways that might make things much worse, even lead to conflict. To prevent this scenario, we should propose serious strategic talks."

Kissinger, who has spent more time talking to senior Chinese leaders than any other living American says, "My instinct is that the Chinese are ready to have this conversation."

[...]

DONALD GREGG, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA: I met with North Koreans very recently and talked to them about it. And they said what has happened is that they have given up on their diplomats and their military is now in control.

And what they want is talk about moving from the now disbanded armistice agreement to the creation of a peace treaty. And that's what they want to talk about and anyone who is willing to talk about that -- they will listen to anyone who wants to talk about what they call "the old way" which was give up your nuclear weapons and then we'll talk is going to get nowhere.

ZAKARIA: Do you think that the -- that this is being directed by this 28-year-old boy who has essentially no experience in politics and government and seems more interested in basketball than anything else?

VICTOR CHA, DIRECTOR, ASIAN STUDIES, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Yes and amusement parks. I mean, as far as we know, from all the pictures and all the statements, he appears to be in charge.

I mean it is, in a sense, a royal family because only one family has run the country so he certainly feels entitled to that position. But the wild variations in behavior that you just mentioned, leads some people to be concerned about whether he is fully in charge or whether the military is in charge.

The three top military generals that were with him when his father died are all gone now. And we don't know what happened to them. That could be a sign of him taking control, but it could also be a sign of some real churn inside the system where some people don't like the fact that a 28-year-old is now running the country.
Is Kim Jong Un in control?
When I heard that Dennis Rodman was going, I couldn't believe it. I don't know about you, but you can't make this kind of stuff up.

You can't make it up. They reportedly wanted Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan, perhaps wisely, decided not to be part of it.

He declined.

You know what partly this tells you, to add to the complexity of this story, is this 29-year-old boy, Kim Jong Un, is probably not running national security strategy. The guy is a few months in the job. There's a military dictatorship. He's fully in control of basketball policy for North Korea. But national security policy's probably being controlled by very senior generals.

He is the son, though, of Kim Jong Il, the grandson of founder of North Korea, so the power he has potentially is enormous.

Enormous, and it unifies the country, and it keeps the regime intact. But probably behind the scenes there are people actually pulling the strings, which makes it more complicated, because there are probably multiple centers of power here.

Where do you see this going, bottom line?

Bottom line, I think they will be deterred. I think they're trying to get attention. They're trying to get concessions. The Obama administration is probably not going to do it. So we'll probably ride this out. But as you said at the start, there have been miscalculations here.
Department Store Layouts Reflect Changing Economy

I Have Seen the Future of Retail! (How Haterade Hurts Us All ;) [1,2,3]
posted by kliuless at 10:20 AM on April 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


The quarterbacks who are suggesting that W or Clinton could have nipped things in the bud may perhaps want to switch their comfy armchairs into the upright position and consider that many people on the world (yeah, I know, the Americans are making it safe for the rest of us etc etc etc) do not agree with giving the Americans carte blanc to bomb the shit out of anyone and everyone.

Plus, as much as it pains me to say it, the United States is no longer the sole "hyperpower" anymore, and in this case China - who really won the last Korean War by effectively beating the Americans - holds most of the cards now, and may prefer the status quo. The US no longer has the agency to act unilaterally.

Good on the Americans for holding the line in South Korea, but no bombing, please.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:26 AM on April 6, 2013 [15 favorites]


In addition to what KokoRyu said, Clinton could not have possibly gathered the support at home to do this sort of thing in the late nineties, if we even know what "nipping it in the bud" would entail.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:32 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was wondering if the recent portrayal of North Koreans in Red Dawn and Olympus Has Fallen made some of the NK decision makers feel that the US was either going to attack them soon OR maybe that the US didn't view them as a serious threat since they were depicted as cartoonish-villains.
posted by FJT at 10:43 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does anyone believe his goal in all of this is actually war? I think we should just play along. Put out a statement that we have been sufficiently cowed and we are going to erect a statue to the glory of Kim Jong Un. Photoshop up some pictures of the statue. Let him take that back to his people and say he won. We quietly tell him behind the scenes to stop fucking around.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:50 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Speaking of cartoonish villains
posted by KokuRyu at 10:52 AM on April 6, 2013


Pre-emptive nuclear strike? That's what NK is talking about. We don't do that.

I hope.

About surgical bombing strikes with conventional weapons: surgical bombing is the same as open-heart surgery using hand grenades. You take out the heart just fine, so I guess you win, if you look at it that way. It looks fairly simple when you view all this on a map, but when you translate it to square feet in real life, there's a lot of ground to cover. I don't believe it would be hard to wipe out NK's industrial base--not obliterate, just render useless.

But we will probably not be able to kill Un, just a bunch of factory workers, miscellaneous civilians, and low-level military folks. If you have been paying attention to the wars lately you will remember that it's the boots on the ground that gets stuff done, not the drone strikes and stealth bombers. By "stuff done" I'm not implying anything useful, but bombs don't do anything but piss people off. I'm pretty sure that Un and his advisors realize that we will not send ground troops into NK because it's a stupid (underscore that and put it in bold-face) idea. But, if we did, NK would (eventually) win for a whole bunch of reasons.

I don't believe NK has the hardware to hit the US. It can hit Japan--with missiles aimed at Japan, you don't need good target solutions, anywhere within a ten-kilometer square will do just fine. Our anti-missile stuff can take out probably 95% of anything they put in the air, except artillery rounds, and we can probably take out a lot of them. However, we have some 30,000 troops in South Korea. Many of them will die.

Now, about the dead civilians.....Okay, there's the Japanese. The South Koreans, and the above mentioned miscellaneous North Korean civilians and low-ranking military guys. Un will probably get out okay, and then he'll jump up to the dais and scream I told you so to the masses....well, the survivors.

No. We don't shoot first. It wouldn't do any good, because I don't think we could take out every missile on the pad anyhow.

We aren't even sure that Un is the prime mover and shaker here. Too bad that the tools of weapons suggest bullets as solution. I bet somebody, somewhere, had a better idea. I can't wait to see what it is.

(okay, maybe we'll never know, but we can reserve a place on our wish list for something besides mass carnage.)
posted by mule98J at 10:53 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


We don't shoot first.

Well unless it's Iraq. Then we shoot first. And second. And last. And I have to wonder if the US bellicosity towards Iraq helps give fuel to the North Korean claim that the US is going to attack them any minute now.
posted by Nelson at 10:59 AM on April 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Iraq got rid of its WMD's (or ability to make them), and still the US imposed regime change. Libya got rid of its WMD's (or ability to make them), and still the US imposed regime change.

There is no real rationale for disposing of one's WMD's.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:11 AM on April 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


In addition to what KokoRyu said, Clinton could not have possibly gathered the support at home to do this sort of thing in the late nineties, if we even know what "nipping it in the bud" would entail.

Outside the US, after the Al Shifa factory bombing, Clinton probably had no foreign policy capital to spend on such an enterprise.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:15 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can someone explain to me intelligently why China wouldn't help North Korea? They have the nuclear capability to take out many of our major cities. Over the past year Chinese hackers have been infiltrating U.S. Government and corporate networks. China has previously supported NK, now they are backing away from that but it isn't being questioned. The only reason I've heard is they would be scared of disrupting the economy... but NK + China certainly have enough people to occupy the U.S. and control the entirety of it. China could silently ship their long range nukes to NK, to make NK look responsible. NK gets nuked to hell by the U.S. in retaliation, China is left untouched, major U.S. cities are gone, and U.S. gets occupied while it is weak. Sure it would be a bigger more expensive version of Iraq... but hey, we did it.
posted by banished at 11:18 AM on April 6, 2013


As kliuless pointed out, one of the most interesting aspects to this is China's shift in policy towards NK. To a very real degree China is no longer self identified as an idelogy (communist state, totalitarian, whatever). It's foremost trait, now, seems to be a large corporation. Is NK good for business or bad for business? Our armies are becoming mall cops meant to keep business humming, unlike during the Cold War when the threat was philosophical/ideological. Where China would once go to the mattresses for an ideological cousin it now sees a threat to it's bottom line, or at least it offers no financial incentive to keeping them around. I see Kim Jong Un sorta like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. He's getting a little too big for his britches and is hurting business. The most hopeful scenario is for China to step in solve this.
posted by karst at 11:36 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Banished --

How does destroying it's major trade partner help China? China and the US are not enemies. They may be rivals in some area, but their economies are tied together. China's leadership is far from stupid. Attacking the US destroys their economy.

And the idea that China nukes US cities without retailiation from the US is absurd. And then invades, conquers and occupies the US? Seriously?
posted by jclarkin at 11:39 AM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


That EMP article is from the Washington Times, a notoriously unreliable newspaper. Particularly when it comes to Korea.
posted by Nelson at 11:52 AM on April 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


NYtimes any better?
posted by banished at 12:01 PM on April 6, 2013


NYT Asia correspondence is laughably bad.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:07 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


but NK + China certainly have enough people to occupy the U.S. and control the entirety of it.

China doesn't even have enough transports to stage an amphibious attack on Taiwan (population: 24 million), but suddenly they dream of taking over a nation that's 40 times farther and has over 12 times the population?

And suddenly China isn't concerned about a irradiated refugees flooding into Northeast China?

And North Korea benefits from this, how?

And, through this scenario the entire USPACOM just stands around looking at each other?

Metafilter's own, Tom Clancy.
posted by FJT at 12:07 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Um, given that the Washington Times article is full of stuff like "In fact, North Korea is a mortal nuclear threat to the United States— right now", while the NY Times article is full of stuff like "A number of scientists say they consider Mr. Gingrich’s alarms far-fetched", I'm going to go with yes. Yes, the NY Times is better.
posted by Flunkie at 12:07 PM on April 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm no international affairs expert, but I've been following this over the past month or so and my own theory is that there's some serious internal strife that's causing Kim Jung Un to feel insecure in his hold on power. Possibly a coup, or an uprising of some sort, or just general malaise in the populace. This extreme bluffing (let's hope it's bluffing) is an effort to raise national solidarity against a realistic outside threat, and perform power as a leader.

The closed nature of NK's media make it extremely hard to know what's going on inside of the country outside of either their own, or the west's propaganda machine.

I haven't watched Fox News recently enough to know how despicable hawks like Crystal and Krauthammer are spinning this, but I have to imagine that as we're finally reaching the end of troop involvement in Afghanistan there's not much political appetite to engage in another ground war.
posted by codacorolla at 12:15 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The emp thing is a joke. It would certainly take out some electronics, but it would not be doomsday, and the counterattack would be catastrophic.
posted by empath at 12:18 PM on April 6, 2013


LOL Gingrich.
posted by Artw at 12:20 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can someone explain to me intelligently why China wouldn't help North Korea?

China depends on the us economy. North Korea is a backwater.
posted by empath at 12:20 PM on April 6, 2013


...but I have to imagine that as we're finally reaching the end of troop involvement in Afghanistan there's much political appetite to engage in another ground war.

This is a very valid point. Would have thought that the military-defence industry in the US have a need to make sure the US is active in at least one major conflict, or likely conflict, at all times. Merely to increase their arguments and "justification" for this. The US not being in a conflict for a period of time would make it gradually more difficult to argue for this utterly huge, ongoing, spend, especially when everything else is getting cut.

The UK is pretty much the same. Bet there's more than a few people in the defence industry, military and government who are quietly pleased every time Cristina Fernández de Kirchner demands the Falkland Islands back. More "reasons" to lob another few billion pounds from somewhere at tinkering with the UK submarine fleet...
posted by Wordshore at 12:24 PM on April 6, 2013


LOL Gingrich.

If I ever form my own garage band, *that* will be their name...
posted by Wordshore at 12:28 PM on April 6, 2013


Gingrich really is kind of the Washington Times of people, isn't he?
posted by Navelgazer at 12:30 PM on April 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


China has to be very careful here. What they want (most likely) is status quo. No war, no regime change, no more nuclear tests, just a continuation of the current situation with North Korea buffering them in the south. So they have to be careful in how they apply their influence, because if they flat out called Pyongyang and told North Korea to stand down, the likely response would be something like "We can't! Our existence is in peril!" And that would be it for their influence. It would be a humiliation.

For them it's kind of like feeding scraps to an angry stray dog that lives on the other side of the fence. The dog keeps people away from the fence and it's grateful for the scraps, but there's only so much they can make it do without chasing it away or hurting it.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:36 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I keep wondering if the people of North Korea, especially the officials whose spitting, vein-popping rhetoric we're hearing, have any awareness of how ridiculous they sound to the rest of world. Do they realize that we think they sound clownish? Do they know that they look like a parody of themselves? Are they genuinely trying to get us to take them seriously, or are they trying to make us giggle? Are our communication styles so fundamentally different? I can't help but feel embarrassed for them. (This doesn't mean that I think they're not also a real danger.)
posted by Corvid at 12:40 PM on April 6, 2013




Is someone really trying to propose that a US sub was sunk (presumably USS Columbia (SSN 771)), and it chose to stay completely silent regarding that?

Well, obviously that's implausible. You'd have to admit the loss of an entire naval command immediately, even if you blamed it on an accident in another part of the world or something. I mean, even if you could keep the people who know quiet, nobody in Pearl Harbor is going to start to wonder why 771 just got stricken from all the maintenance planning? What those boats do is classified, but their existence isn't, and can't be. That would have to be a cover-up of faked moon-landing complexity.

On the other hand: other things could be mistaken for a "US submarine" by someone not directly involved.

"A submarine employed for such an operation is undoubtedly an atomic submarine, which can stay under water for one month."

Lol.

posted by ctmf at 12:53 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Lol.

You're too reserved, ctmf. That deserves a full-on ROFLMFAO.
posted by radwolf76 at 1:12 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have to wonder if the US bellicosity towards Iraq helps give fuel to the North Korean claim that the US is going to attack them any minute now.

Do the actual actions of Eastasia affect the propaganda in Oceania? North Koreans have no sources of news other than 24-7 state propaganda from radios they can't turn off. The US inasion of Iraq may have been a boon to some peons in the department of education because it gave them a new topic to riff on, but they have been singing this tune a long, long time and what happens in the outside world doesn't change it.


Can someone explain to me intelligently why China wouldn't help North Korea?

It wouldn't do them any good? China wants to be the most powerful nation in the world. To do that, they need to grow, a lot. The vast majority of their country is still very, very poor. In addition, the Communist Party wants to remain in power. To do that, China needs to grow, a lot. A war with the US would wreck the economies of both countries. China is not capable of conquering the United States and has no desire to do so. They don't even dare to piss us off by taking Taiwan, which they very much do want.

It's only in the past ten years that the Chinese economy has begun to catch up to the US's. over the next decade it will likely surpass it. But the US has a 75-year head start, yes? While the Chinese have probably about 2-3 times the number of active duty military as we do, in terms of weaponry, equipment, ships, rocket, missiles, nukes --- we have about 10 times as much stuff to throw at them, and most of it is much more advanced. Put it this way: they got thier first aircraft carrier last year. We have 10 of the fuckers in active service.

We don't have the manpower to conquer China. Neither do they have the manpower to conquer the US. More to the point, they don't fuckin' wanna. Even if they did, the same principle that kept the Cold War cold holds --- we could nuke the shit out of them.


No matter what happens in Korea, there is very, very little chance that the US and China go after each other guns ablaze. That, in fact, is China's whole problem: if the two Koreas go to war again, the North is almost certain to lose and be merged into the US-allied South.
posted by Diablevert at 1:15 PM on April 6, 2013


I think North Korea is collapsing, and Lil' Kim is desperately trying to distract the wolves at his door.

My bet: that country is going to go through a coup or a revolution within the next couple years. I would be surprised, but not floored, if it does so within a couple months.
posted by Malor at 1:21 PM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wonder if we'd ever even hear about it?
posted by Artw at 1:28 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


ctrl-f "playbook", 0 for 0.

You are missing an important piece of the puzzle.
From the PACOM Playbook to PACOM's Plan B(MD)
Should We Expect Another War In Korea?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:54 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, if there is another Korean War, maybe we can get some new M*A*S*H episodes out of this.
posted by jonmc at 1:55 PM on April 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


there are larger forces at work here and we're definitely not getting the full story.

The press rarely frames these things in perspective. NK isn't just about NK.

(I mean, it is in part, and of course Kim Jong un is working to keep a handle on his rule. He's fairly young. He's got the quintessential "black sheep" brother in Kim Jong nam who's not only a dissenter from the military first schtick but all the guy needs is to have a beer named after him what with the Tokyo Disneyland thing and hanging out with hookers, etc.
And there are plenty of "who's actually in control?" stories (mostly around Kim Kyong Hui and Jang Sung Taek, Kim Jong un's aunt and uncle).
There are definitely blocs struggling and positioning themselves and putting pressure on the military in order to show prestige/face. Essentially, who's the hardest ass against the West. And with Kim Jong nam, well, the family has something to prove.)


But, as with comedy, TIMING.

Right now the P5+1 talks with Iran are going on in Kazakhstan. The press (NYT) has reported how this affects the situation with North Korea. But I haven't seen anyone make the connection with Iran and China.
Yesterday Iran's Dep. Chief of Staff Gen. Jazayeri laid into the U.S. on behalf of NK.
Some reports mention that Iran is following NK's cue in saying "go F yourself" to the U.S. and the west on everything nuclear.
The idea being NK is paving the way for blowing off any Western proposals for nuclear disarmament. In fact, Iran's negotiator (and major league prick) Saeed Jalili completely did blow off all the proposals, didn't even respond.

So, bit of history, China's strategy in the Persian Gulf since about 2000 (at least openly stated AFAIK) is to line up with Iran. They were doing it long before then. During the Iran-Iraq war they supplied Iran with weapons (we supplied Iraq).
We almost went to war back in '87 (Chinese missile hit a U.S. tanker, then we hit an Iranian oil platform, etc), in any case, Iran has trusted China to go to bat for them since.
And right now (AFAIK since '09) the Chinese have been refining Iranian oil and are now apparently running their own ships to pick it up. And of course China has helped Iran out with missile and nuke technology. (And steel, and gyroscopes, etc. etc)

So North Korea. Most of the press separates the Middle East and east and southeast Asia. This attitude - essentially what's in the NYT piece - overlooks the possibility that subverting the Six party (or P5+1) talks is by design. That it's part of a coherent strategy.

This kind of thinking is how ADM and other companies get away with price fixing, collusion, forming clandestine cartels, etc. etc.

China, North Korea and Iran have been able to dodge sanctions, technology restrictions, etc. etc. because of their strategic cooperation. It's not serendipity that has allowed them to ignore international commitments.

(Actually, one of the really big stupid ideas of the Bush administration was the Axis of Evil. Typically, they were just right enough to be completely counterproductive. North Korea and Iran are working together - with China. Then they slipped in "Iraq." Hey let's pour wax all over this Gordian knot, we can make money off it! Meanwhile, that only strengthened ties between North Korea and Iran....heckova job there Bushie)

China has a long history of using cat's paws. It's one of their hallmarks. They can ship military technology only to a point before the West gets really pissed off. So - the DPRK. They're immune to international pressure because they're essentially an isolated country. So they are the go-between.
Iran fronts the cash for their research (missile and nuclear tech) then buys the equipment produced with the technology.
This has been going on as far back as the Scuds. North Korea produced them as the reverse engineered Hwasongs.

So thus far, China has been following it's buffer agenda with North Korea and Iran against the west. They do have a defense pact with North Korea, but .... well, it's complicated. They seem to be playing a balancing act (most recently China officials have said they won't support any aggression on the Korean Peninsula, whether it's from North Korea or the U.S., but they've left vague what that means.)

It's clear though they're fine with North Korea being the canary in the coal mine. The Chinese need to protect their oil shipping - although they're working on overland routes for energy - so they need to deploy towards the gulf (various bases there - looong story on the how, suffice it to say they're working on it) and they can keep more of their beef focused on Taiwan.

And too, we (the U.S.) can't really press on Taiwan with a nuclear North Korea playing spoiler and pinning us down there instead of advancing on the peninsula.

Y'know, it's really ironic that Dennis Rodman went out there. They essentially have had the same roles, North Korea and Rodman. They're the bad guy spoiler that allows the rest of the team to make their moves. They draw the attention and flak and are too weird to get a handle on. Meanwhile Jordan - in this case China - can score unscathed.
(I suppose that makes Iran Scottie Pippin....(?)

Anyway, North Korea isn't just playing us. They're quite clear on China's strategic interests and - while they're provoking the West - what they're actually pushing is how far China is willing to back them. Particularly now, given their working with Iran, the talks, the moves China has been making towards securing energy (the "energy silk road" 's),, etc.

The last thing the North Korean's want is to fall into obscurity. Their existence depends on being the dark space on the map (what with the tunnels, the clandestine arms/technology/etc. economy, etc) and selling that service.
China supports about 70 percent of their economy, so regional instability is North Korea's business. The "shakedown diplomacy" thing.

North Korea wants to remain relevant to China while showing strength to the west as a way to fortify leadership's position at home, their own stability, and re-assert their global significance. Particularly at a time when China seems like it's embracing the west more, at a time where countries are sitting down with Iran and genuinely engaging trying to work something out to avoid nuclear proliferation (which would threaten North Korea's nukes),

Timing.

China has really proven unwilling to lean on North Korea. Either way.

Meanwhile, South Korea too has relations with Iran. Just recently the U.S. had to cut a deal with South Korea to reduce their importation of Iranian oil. We don't want to lose them just because we want to boot Iran in the ass.

As it sits, Iran seem to be the key to fixing this. The move would be to axe North Korea out of the loop.
There are a number of ways to do that. For one, address the sanctions on Iran. Render the necessity of their relationship moot.
Maybe guarantee the security of oil transportation by sea from Iran to China, eliminate the overland routes.
Never going to happen of course, but it's costing us too much to keep a hammerlock on the region.

If North Korea is going to make a move, not that they will, they'd probably hit the refineries. Right now South Korea is doing some maintenance at their refineries. It'd be an opportune time. Plus, it does economic damage, doesn't harm too many civilians, you can be sloppy with the aim if you use a missile because refineries occupy a lot of ground (a few miles what with the tanks, processing units, etc)

If they're smart, and they want to go all the way, and push China into an economic and political corner that benefits their position, that'd be the move.

But again, it's pretty dicey to push it that far and - meh. It's all just words until it isn't.

They can put up this huge fuss then slip in restarting their reactor and then go on with dealing under the table with Iran until Iran's program is a done deal. Easy enough to play a waiting game while making noise to distract the U.S. and South Korea and tighten the domestic grip by posturing.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:56 PM on April 6, 2013 [24 favorites]


But I haven't seen anyone make the connection with Iran and China.

Oh, Smedleyman, you should get better sources:
Korean Cloud Obscures Almaty
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:02 PM on April 6, 2013


A Korean reunification would make the problem-plagued German reunification look like a cakewalk.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 2:03 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is someone really trying to propose that a US sub was sunk (presumably USS Columbia (SSN 771)), and it chose to stay completely silent regarding that?

Record of movement for USS Columbia (SSN 771) after March 22, 2010:
March 22, 2010 The Columbia departed Chinhae, Republic of Korea, afre a four-day port visit and will participate in the bilateral exercise Foal Eagle 2010.

May 3, USS Columbia returned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam after a six-month deployment.

August 5, Cmdr. Dennis J. Kline relieved Cmdr. Craig Blakely as CO of the Columbia during a change-of-command ceremony at Pearl Harbor.

June 21, 2011 USS Columbia departed homeport for a scheduled western Pacific deployment.

July 1, SSN 771 pulled into Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka for a routine port call.

October 13, The Columbia arrived in Sepanggar naval base for a scheduled port visit to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, and to get tender support from USS Emory S. Land (AS 39).

December 21, USS Columbia returned to Pearl Harbor after a six-month deployment.

May 1, 2012 Capt. James Pitts, Commander, Submarine Squadron (COMSUBRON) 7, relieved Cmdr. Dennis J. Klein as CO, due to a "loss of confidence in his ability to command." Chief of the boat, Master Chief Electronics Technician Don W. Williams, was also relieved of duty. Capt. Dennis Boyer, Deputy Commander of SUBRON 7, assumed temporary command of the Columbia.

October 19, Cmdr. J. Patrick Friedman relieved Capt. Dennis Boyer as CO of the SSN 771 during a change-of-command ceremony at the USS Missouri Memorial.
The ghostship get around, apparently.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:17 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there any direct quote from any chinese official or any chinese news report on Korea? If not, I would take all utterances of a changing stance with a huge grain of salt.
posted by asra at 2:33 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


NK is a single country; we should be able to take it down.

It'll be over by Christmas!
posted by Justinian at 2:44 PM on April 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


I keep wondering if the people of North Korea, especially the officials whose spitting, vein-popping rhetoric we're hearing, have any awareness of how ridiculous they sound to the rest of world.

The ordinary citizens of North Korea don't realize how ridiculous their country looks. One of the best things about Barbara Demick's amazing book on North Korea is how she conveys what it's like to live inside the DPRK, to grow up with the propaganda, and to believe it entirely. The most frightening thing about videos of people morning Kim Jong Il's death is those mass displays of grief are largely sincere.

Demick's primary sources are people who've escaped the DRPK. Several talk about how hard it was for them to adjust to life outside the totalitarian country, to realize what poverty and isolation they grew up in.

A particular force for change is the wave of famine that swept over North Korea in the 90s and 00s. It's a lot harder to believe your home is the best country on earth when you are starving to death. Also the collapse of the state economy forced the government to grudgingly allow some black market trade; the resulting commerce with China has made more North Koreans aware of their relative poverty. The importation of DVDs, cell phones, etc, has also made it increasingly hard for DPRK to lie about how advanced the country is.
posted by Nelson at 2:45 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Who's actually in control? As you move up the North Korean hierarchy (essentially a caste system), at some point you must reach the level where people are aware of the truth. The level where people have something to lose if the country falls, and something to gain by keeping it where it is
I wouldn't assume that anyone important is at all aware of the truth. Humans are incredibly good at avoiding inconvenient truths at all levels. Combine that tendency with a largely closed system, stir in rabid patriotism and top with carefully filtered news from the outside world that portrays the US as a power-mad lunatic bent on destroying communism wherever it exists and it's easy to see how North Koreans, even at very high levels, are aware of a very different truth to the rest of the world. It doesn't help that you don't have to go back very far in history to find a US that was, in fact, a power-mad lunatic bent on destroying communism wherever it existed.

I don't think this state of ignorance is sustainable long-term, though. As Nelson alludes to, it's really not possible these days to completely block information from the outside world and the best hope for a resolution that doesn't involve bombing at least one nation back to the Stone Age might be to work on getting information to the population about how oppressed they actually are to foment change from within. It would be a slow process, though and I don't think there is time now. I can't see this ending in anything other than at least a limited exchange of fire - both sides are almost at the point that they can't back off without a too-high loss of face.
posted by dg at 3:02 PM on April 6, 2013


In regards to positing various regional and geopolitical outcomes, the more I know, the more I realize how much I don't know.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:38 PM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think North Korea is collapsing, and Lil' Kim is desperately trying to distract the wolves at his door.

This seems to be, if not likely — something that I have no ability to judge, certainly — at least an explanation that fits the facts at hand rather well. In particular, it explains the somewhat schizophrenic behavior of the DPRK and their seeming lack of caution for the cliff they're driving themselves over. If there is an internal power struggle which is foremost on the minds of those involved, they might not realize — or perhaps they realize, but don't care especially — what's going on outside the country, or what effect their statements and actions are having on the DPRK's global position.

I think this makes them more dangerous rather than less, though; a single rational actor in control of the country would not go to war, given that they couldn't win or that the country wouldn't benefit as a whole from a war. But if there a bunch of factions each pushing each other aside for their moment at the controls, one of them might decide to start a war if they thought they might end up ahead as a faction... Which might easily be the case if they're on the losing side of a power struggle and likely to all be executed if another faction wins.

So if Un is or was attempting to consolidate power over the military, it's not hard to imagine someone with literally nothing to lose using whatever little power they have left to push things over the edge.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:55 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


The forecasts of the collapse of the government of the DPRK have been around for some time. I'm not holding my breath.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:02 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


BTW, North Korea is totally owning the media right now. Which, frankly, it the thing I’ve always resented most about North Korea—they’re the only Korea anyone cares about. South Korea pulls off a socio-economic miracle, going from ass-backwards, post-colonial basketcase to prosperous 21st century democracy in just half a century, and nobody cares. North Korea becomes a poverty-stricken, nuclear-armed cesspool run by an idiot manchild, and the eyes and ears of the world are entirely focused on them.

Except for all the k-pop fans and movie fans who love South Korean cinema.

In regards to positing various regional and geopolitical outcomes, the more I know, the more I realize how much I don't know.


There's an unstable regime with weapons who have threatened a bunch of countries, including ones where people I know live. How long do we assume they're just bluffing?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:06 PM on April 6, 2013


There's an unstable regime with weapons who have threatened a bunch of countries,

How dare one call America unstable just because a bunch of voters believe in bigfoot and the antichrist!

So if Un is or was attempting to consolidate power over the military, it's not hard to imagine someone with literally nothing to lose using whatever little power they have left to push things over the edge.

Or one can look at the past - like a drunk Nixon demanding bombing and how the orders were ignored. Assuming the actions are all Un - at what point do the people who are the soldiers and their bosses say "naw....." and don't follow orders?

are Communists

Really? What, by actions, in either China or North Korea 'are Communist'? The label they claim they are says 'Communist' - but does a label equal reality?

Are the players in this drama Communists when members of the State licenced media say things like "[W]e have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to their communities,"?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:42 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


BBC News is reporting that the US Pentagon has delayed an intercontinental ballistic missile test scheduled for next week. The Minuteman 3 test was put off because of concerns that it could be misinterpreted by North Korea.
posted by Wordshore at 5:46 PM on April 6, 2013


one more dead town's last parade: "A Korean reunification would make the problem-plagued German reunification look like a cakewalk."

Then 20 years later they'll have bugstalgia (북-stalgia)... "north-stalgia" a la ostalgia... (OK, yeah, I gTranslate... I'm sure that's probably not even close to correct, anybody in S. Korea know what the proper portmanteau would be?)
posted by symbioid at 5:49 PM on April 6, 2013


China depends on the us economy.

And how much could China grow if the US wasn't sucking up the often quoted 25% of world production?

(but such talk makes unchecked growth as a good. Unchecked growth in biology is usually Cancer.)
posted by rough ashlar at 5:56 PM on April 6, 2013


But to my point - when North Korea came up in class, in the news, did he just stick his fingers in his ears and shout "LALALALALALALALA!" Did he just not believe it?

Think about every other post on MeFi about privilege, liberal arts education and invisible backpacks.

Thousands of 20-year old white upper-middle class male undergrads are required to take some core liberal arts curriculum courses every year. And a lot of them who who take something like a multicultural studies, women's studies, or sociology course are confronted with the same issues.

And a lot of them just stick their fingers in their ears, or shout "LALALALA", usually to an exasperated over-worked TA, while the rest of the class alternately nods in agreement or shakes their head sadly.

I imagine Kim Jong-Un is like that in some ways, just with a much fancier invisible backpack. Probably given to him as a gift by the Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China.

And he probably also realizes the situation is bad. But given embargoes, trade restrictions, and military threats, he rationalizes his actions, and blames external forces that aren't entirely innocent.

There's an unstable regime with weapons who have threatened a bunch of countries, including ones where people I know live. How long do we assume they're just bluffing?

Well, considering that's North Korea's basic modus operandi for decades now, I'll keep assuming they're bluffing just like every other time. I'll also not worry about the sun not rising tomorrow, leaving questions of epistemology and inductive reasoning safe for another day.

Regarding the latest set of threats, they're probably intended for multiple parties, internal and external. But I'm certain we are getting an amplified and select set of information, filtered by the media, for our own government's benefit.

Defense Secretary Hagel's recent claim of a "real and clear" danger and our own operations are meant to drum us into war, and as justification for military budgets and federal power, just like with Afghanistan and Iraq.

And the sun keeps rising.
posted by formless at 5:59 PM on April 6, 2013


Interesting that the US actually does the "sensible" thing this time. I do wonder, however, if this is part of their game. They've ratcheted shit up so high, that maybe they're afraid to call N. Korea's bluff and realize maybe they are just willing to do it this time. Maybe they're doing the "we're the sensible ones here, look, we're backing down" card. I don't know.

As for N. Korea/China being Communist. We all know China isn't Communist.

People still consider N. Korea Communist, even though since at least the 90s (due to the collapse of the Soviet Union/Eastern Bloc), the official ideology is "Juche" (self-reliance) and Songun (Military First). More recently, They have removed statues of Marx and Lenin from Kim Il-sung square.

And please, can we stop using the term "Stalinist" when referring to N. Korea? Dear lord.
posted by symbioid at 6:00 PM on April 6, 2013


but NK + China certainly have enough people to occupy the U.S. and control the entirety of it.

The tin-foiled hat version where the Chinese have 1/4 a million horses in Mexico + troops awaiting the EMP attack to ride into America after the nation is disarmed?

(According to reported Chinese manuals on garrisoning troops you need a 1:5 troop:civilian ratio. So how is that kind of numbers going to be moved from Asia to America? Walk through Russia/Alaska??? Oh and how are those numbers going to work in a land where there are more guns than people?)
posted by rough ashlar at 6:02 PM on April 6, 2013


Nat Geo's documentary Inside North Korea (2007) is also worth watching to get some idea of the mentality of the population toward Kim Jong Il that Nelson touched on above. It's streaming on Netflix right now.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:38 PM on April 6, 2013


WTF? Is someone really trying to propose that a US sub was sunk (presumably USS Columbia (SSN 771)), and it chose to stay completely silent regarding that? That would require a metric fuck ton of tin foil.

Probably enough tinfoil to wrap the USS Liberty*, USS Maddox and USS Pueblo** together.

From the article posted if I had to guess that something sank, I'd guess a PRNK vessel, and the US rushed to gather intelligence before PRNK or allies started salvage operations.


* I don't know the real story with the USS Liberty, but it's apparent there was more going on, which is a good lesson in this whole mess too.
** If true, the stories about the USS Pueblo POWs and their actions after capture are awesome. Actions like that take a unique kind of radical bravery and patriotism I have to respect.
posted by formless at 7:05 PM on April 6, 2013


Missed Opportunity in North Korea

As to what the DPRK hopes to accomplish by yanking Uncle Sam’s chain in the nuclear way, I think there are a few rational calculations at work. First, North Korea is happy to demonstrate to the United States that China cannot moderate its behavior; therefore, if the Obama administration wants to deal with the North Korean problem, it has to deal with Pyongyang directly. Second, the DPRK probably welcomes the nuclear stirrings in South Korea and Japan elicited by its nuclear posturing, since the crisis creates a certain amount of urgency for the Obama administration to reach out to Pyongyang and avoid getting sidelined as only one—and the most distant one—of six nuclear weapons powers (China, Russia, the US, and the DPRK currently; Japan and South Korea potentially) in East Asia...

You may have heard about a recent op-ed in the Financial Times saying China should abandon North Korea, which got the author suspended from his job as the editor of a Chinese Communist journal. His op-ed said, in part:

Last, once North Korea has nuclear weapons, it cannot be ruled out that the capricious Kim regime will engage in nuclear blackmail against China. According to Xue Litai of Stanford University, during former US president Bill Clinton’s 2009 visit to Pyongyang, the North Koreans blamed the poverty of their economy on China’s “selfish” strategy and American sanctions. Kim Jong-il, then leader, hinted that the motive for withdrawing from six-party talks on his country’s arms programme was to free Pyongyang from Beijing. It was not directed against the US. He suggested that if Washington held out a helping hand, North Korea could become its strongest fortress against China. And Pyongyang revealed it could use a nuclear arsenal to coerce China.

Also, from back in 2010, Wikileaks cables reveal China 'ready to abandon North Korea':

"Citing private conversations during previous sessions of the six-party talks , Chun claimed [the two high-level officials] believed Korea should be unified under ROK [South Korea] control," Stephens reported.

"The two officials, Chun said, were ready to 'face the new reality' that the DPRK [North Korea] now had little value to China as a buffer state – a view that, since North Korea's first nuclear test in 2006, had reportedly gained traction among senior PRC [People's Republic of China] leaders. Chun argued that in the event of a North Korean collapse, China would clearly 'not welcome' any US military presence north of the DMZ [demilitarised zone]. Again citing his conversations with [the officials], Chun said the PRC would be comfortable with a reunified Korea controlled by Seoul and anchored to the US in a 'benign alliance' – as long as Korea was not hostile towards China. Tremendous trade and labour-export opportunities for Chinese companies, Chun said, would also help 'salve' PRC concerns about … a reunified Korea.


...A senior Chinese official, speaking off the record, also said China's influence with the North was frequently overestimated...
posted by triggerfinger at 8:36 PM on April 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think a stongly worded letter from the UN to Mr. Kim should do the trick. I suggest a Times New Roman font.

Times New Roman!? Clearly, this is a job for no other font than Comic Sans.

You don't go to nuclear war armed only with a BB gun . . .
posted by flug at 9:42 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's not Communist about North Korea? The state controls all the means of production, private markets are banned, and all goods are provided through the state. Communist. Plus government control over production is maintained by a totalitarian police force and personality cult, which means Stalinist also seems like a pretty good descriptor.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:53 PM on April 6, 2013


"And how much could China grow if the US wasn't sucking up the often quoted 25% of world production?"

A lot less. We're their customer. How much does a producer grow without customers?
posted by jclarkin at 9:54 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


formless: "Probably enough tinfoil to wrap the USS Liberty*, USS Maddox and USS Pueblo** together.

From the article posted if I had to guess that something sank, I'd guess a PRNK vessel, and the US rushed to gather intelligence before PRNK or allies started salvage operations.


Ah, yes, now that sounds much more likely. Gotta get any goodies while you can.

** If true, the stories about the USS Pueblo POWs and their actions after capture are awesome. Actions like that take a unique kind of radical bravery and patriotism I have to respect."

Indeed! And you gotta love the usage of the Hawaiian Good Luck sign.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 10:13 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Plus government control over production is maintained by a totalitarian police force and personality cult, which means Stalinist also seems like a pretty good descriptor.

There's some really interesting discussion about whether or not North Korea is a Stalinist state
posted by KokuRyu at 11:33 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


ThatFuzzyBastard: What's not Communist about North Korea? The state controls all the means of production, private markets are banned, and all goods are provided through the state. Communist. Plus government control over production is maintained by a totalitarian police force and personality cult, which means Stalinist also seems like a pretty good descriptor.

On this subject, I'd highly recommend the book "The Cleanest Race" by B.R. Myers, which makes a very convincing argument that North Korea's "Communism" was always essentially a veneer, and that the core of the regime's ideology was and is closer to that of Imperial Japan than anything else, a sort of race-based ultra-nationalism more accurately described as extreme right than extreme left. I'm the first to get irritated and disgusted by the tendency of some on the left to deny that the nastier left-wing regimes and ideologies are "really" left-wing, but in the case of North Korea I think it's really true that they cannot accurately be described as Communist or even leftist anymore, and arguably never could. Even on the surface level it's no longer accurate- references to Marx and Lenin were removed from their constitution in 1998, and as mentioned they've removed statues and portraits of Marx and Lenin as well.

Though I don't think it's quite accurate to call the DPRK fascist, (there's still a fair amount of debate over whether the term applies to Imperial Japan, for that matter), it's probably a better description than Stalinist or Communist. It's true that economically, they go significantly further in the "socialist" direction than any other fascist regime has ("socialist" in this case implying state control of the economy, rather than workers controlling the means of production- the latter, needless to say, is about as far from the reality of North Korea as it gets), but fascist movements have always tended to have a sort of left wing which favors the overthrow of capitalism, the abolishment of private property and class distinctions, and control of the economy by the state/people of the nation. This ideological tendency has gone by various names in the different times and places it has appeared, among them Third Positionism, Strasserism, and National Bolshevism. I wouldn't really call North Korea any of those things (all of which exist in a political context which isn't really applicable to the DPRK), but I'd say that they are closer to that particular ideological current than they are to anything else. All of their seemingly Communist elements- state control of the means of production, banning of private markets, etc.- are things that third positionists also tend to favor, and as such the veneer of Marxist-Leninist ideology was easy to maintain during the time when they were dependent on support from the USSR- as the USSR no longer exists and China's Marxism is now also only a veneer, the DPRK's Communist facade is rapidly falling away as well. Most of the obviously more obviously extreme-right/fascist elements of the regime's ideology (the belief that Koreans are the most pure and virtuous people in the world due to their unmixed bloodline, for example) are avoided in propaganda aimed at foreign audiences, but are much more apparent in media made for the consumption of the North Koreans themselves.

IMO, many things about the DPRK become far more understandable viewed through this lens. One example would be the hereditary nature of the North Korean leadership, which is of course completely incompatible with Marxist-Leninist ideology, but is very understandable in the context of a far-right ideology. It becomes particularly so when one considers that the main influence on the cult of personality around the Kims was likely not Stalin or Mao (though the North Koreans certainly were heavily influenced by both of them), but the Imperial Japanese Emperor cult. This is, I have to say, not altogether reassuring when it comes to the current situation and the future of North Korea in general. I really don't think it's likely that they're actually going to do anything which would lead to war at this time, but if at some point in the future the leaders of the DPRK ever truly feel that their backs are against the wall- all I can say is that I just hope that whoever is actually running things there doesn't have the same sort of mindset that some of the higher-ups in the Imperial Japanese military had.
posted by a louis wain cat at 3:30 AM on April 7, 2013 [15 favorites]


Oh, Smedleyman, you should get better sources
the man of twists and turns

Yeah, in the U.S. the news is pretty lousy for framing anything in context. Oh, NK threatened diplomats. Hmm... BE SCARED!! But also NO BIG DEAL!!!!
Hey, what about Justin Beiber's monkey!!!

Meanwhile we actually lost a diplomat (Afghanistan) and I've seen nothing about it. It's pisses me off to no f'ing end that news - I mean the popular U.S. press - can't fall anywhere near the mid-range of the emotional spectrum between "meh" and "AAAAAGGGHHH!!!" much less deal with any reasonable level of practical reality.

Ambassadors are either doing to be tortured immediately or some journalist goes out of their way to prove how not in danger they are by quoting everyone on how they're staying in North Korea.

Yeah, great, what does "staying" mean? Well, it means they're going to risk their f'ing lives like they do every day and be written off as the cost of doing international business when they're taken out delivering books or doing something nice for some ungrateful fucks who think killing them is a good way to send a message about how hard ass and on message they are.
It's like shooting at a firefighter who's trying to keep your neighborhood from burning down.

I have zero sympathy for North Korea. But at least they sent the warning first. Most of the U.S. press quotes the Swedes and the Brits saying "yeah, we're gonna stay" without mentioning that, yeah, it's a dangerous job in any case. And ignoring what expelling/detaining/killing foreign ambassadors will mean.

I know the deadline is Apr. 10. But if by Apr. 15 they haven't eased off and they really do cut off diplomatic channels than deescalation is going to be off the table for anyone but China.
Could be by design though. Doing the whole "middle child" thing.

But from what I hear at the DLI the S. Korean Marines are champing at the bit though. After the 2010 shelling they got some more autonomy.
It'd be an ugly war if it went that way.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:30 AM on April 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


a louis swain cat, there was a very interesting interview with Myers on CBC.
posted by sneebler at 8:01 AM on April 7, 2013




jclarkin: A lot less. We're their customer. How much does a producer grow without customers?

The US is the fat kid on the island, eating all the food and making huge promises about what he will someday do in return. So a huge amount of worldwide wealth is disappearing into the US maw. What China and other exporters to the US are getting, in exchange, is mostly green confetti.

If China were using those same resources to develop the economies of the Second and Third World, it might not grow quite as fast as it does now, but that growth would be solid. The current growth is going to evaporate once the world finally figures out that, no, the US cannot actually pay its total systemic debt (both public and private), that it can't even get close. The results will be horrible for China, because they've invested so very much wealth in learning how to send us more stuff. Instead, they should have sent stuff to countries that will actually pay for it, growing their economies with their imports, instead of just burning up the wealth in McMansions, and huge cars, and plasma TVs.

If you take a million bucks and buy a house, you've bought a house. If you take a million bucks and use it to build a factory in Ethiopia, you've bought income, production, and a whole bunch of new consumers to buy some of whatever you're making in your factory.
posted by Malor at 11:50 AM on April 7, 2013


...and then it gets nationalized.
posted by clavdivs at 12:04 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


perhaps we should send in ambassador Sizemore?
posted by clavdivs at 12:13 PM on April 7, 2013


If not from the US, then where does the money come from to make that factory? The US is trading in a century of economic domination for TVs. Is Ethiopia going to buy the TVs? Do they have something superior our green confetti?

You've got cause an effect completely backwards. China wants a weak currency in order to facilitate exports to places like the US. China wouldn't be bigger if it destroys its biggest customer. That's just crazy talk.

If China doesn't like the US's green confetti, all it has to do is allow its currency to float. Then the US won't be able to buy China's stuff. They don't have to nuke the US to do that.

The last thing China wants is for the US to stop buying stuff with its green confetti. The idea that they're going to somehow secretly provide NK with a reliable delivery system and advanced nuclear weapons to somehow deniably destroy the US without repercussions is beyond absurd from tactical, strategic, and economic senses.
posted by jclarkin at 6:46 PM on April 7, 2013


> The last thing China wants is for the US to stop buying stuff with its green confetti.

Really? That's just not what I'm hearing. The US$ has cost most of us too dearly for too long.

> The US is the fat kid on the island, eating all the food and making huge promises about what he will someday do in return. So a huge amount of worldwide wealth is disappearing into the US maw.

Decades old information; and the Chinese are a fast read.

Win-win Xi has just entered some deal with African nations as "equal partners". Not sure what changes will emerge as typically poor nations start sharing the wealth around, but I'm certain China could be as selfish as the US, in the long run, as its economy overtakes the US. Time will tell.
posted by de at 8:11 PM on April 7, 2013


No such thing as "the Chinese" or "the Americans" although there are oligarchs that transcend nationality.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:39 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sure. Business oligarchs go where they need to be. Maybe it's time to lift sanctions from North Korea.
posted by de at 8:59 PM on April 7, 2013


No such thing as "the Chinese" or "the Americans" although there are oligarchs that transcend nationality.

... or as I heard it put back in the roaring 80s. "There ain't no Russians and there ain't no Yanks, just corporate criminals playing with tanks."

of course, the double-negatives do confuse things
posted by philip-random at 12:00 AM on April 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


the double-negatives do confuse things

Not where I come from, good buddy! Ain't no problem to understand you whatsoever!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:03 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


"There ain't no Russians and there ain't no Yanks, just corporate criminals playing with tanks."

Credit where it's due -- The Call - The Walls Came Down
posted by philip-random at 8:54 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


North Korea Cuts Off Economic Ties With South as Tensions Escalate
North Korea announced Monday that it would pull all workers and suspend operations from the joint-Korean Kaesong industrial zone, one of the last relics of cooperation between North and South Korea.
[...]
This sudden aggression could also be North Korea’s way of sending a message to China to continue sending monetary and trade support to Pyongyang. Chinese president Xi Jinping said on Sunday that "no one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain," which has been interpreted as a thinly veiled rebuke at North Korea.
[...]
Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to make a trip to the Korean peninsula next week where he is scheduled to address the rising tensions in the area. “I think sending the Secretary of State to the area is a lot better than sending B2s and B52s,” says Carroll.
North Korea's nuclear weapon capabilities questioned
North Korea is widely recognized as being years away from perfecting the technology to back up its bold threats of a pre-emptive strike on the United States. But some nuclear experts say it might have the know-how to fire a nuclear-tipped missile at South Korea and Japan, which host U.S. military bases.
Is an ICBM the only way to deliver a nuclear warhead to the U.S.? Couldn't they sneak a mini-sub up to the West Coast or something? If the present day nuclear capabilities of NK are not a huge threat, it might not be long before they have 100 or so nuclear warheads and a few thousand medium range missiles. It seems like a pretty hopeless situation, but I don't think Obama's "playbook" is helping. The loss of any communication and cooperation with, and further isolation of, NK is not good.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:49 AM on April 8, 2013


Holy crap, I never knew that the North Korean, Chinese & Russian borders all met at a single point.

Wow, a NK/Russia border! Life in Khasan (pop 742) must be intesting these days. And intersting to note the financial iron Russia has in the fire, as they have a deal to use a North Korean port for imports/exports with South Korea.
posted by Theta States at 11:56 AM on April 8, 2013 [6 favorites]




Maybe John Kerry can send a bunch of ketchup as a goodwill gift, and they can display it in their esteemed gift hall.
posted by symbioid at 9:21 AM on April 9, 2013


This constant and increasing buzz of threatening rhetoric and posturing coming out of NK is seriously beginning to physically affect me. My anxiety levels are ratcheting up with every day that passes. I'm gonna need to unplug from the net soon or something.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:39 AM on April 9, 2013


Gotta love this analysis from Prof. Lankov:

"he's not even 30 yet, and seriously overweight by Korean standards"
posted by KokuRyu at 9:54 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna need to unplug from the net soon or something.

I found that Tracy Bowden's sexy accent and beautiful blue eyes at the link above calmed me quite a bit.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:55 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Japan has real reasons to fret about North Korean nukes

Unlike North Korea’s still under construction intercontinental ballistic missile program, its arsenal of about 300 deployed Rodong missiles has been flight-tested and is thought to have a range of about 1,300 km.

That is good enough to reach Tokyo and key U.S. military bases, including Yokota Air Base — the headquarters of the U.S. 5th Air Force — in the capital’s western suburbs, Yokosuka Naval Base — where the USS George Washington aircraft carrier battle group is forward-deployed — in Kanagawa Prefecture, and Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture, a key launching point for American F-16 fighters.

Michishita, in an analysis published late last year, said a Rodong missile launched from North Korea would reach Japan within five to 10 minutes and, if aimed at the center of Tokyo, would have a 50 percent probability of falling somewhere within the perimeter of its main subway system.

posted by KokuRyu at 11:40 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Every time I think to myself "there's no way that they'll do anything real, since that would literally be suicide-by-cop (with the cop being America's military strength)," I then remember that the guy running the show is only a single year older than I am. That scares me for a number of reasons.
posted by codacorolla at 12:25 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


God, I hope I don't wake up tomorrow and find out something horrifying happened in the night.
posted by JHarris at 1:11 PM on April 9, 2013


Take heart, maybe you won't wake up.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:14 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, I'm feeling confident. China and Australia signed a "strategic" level partnership overnight joining the UK, Germany and Russia in that status. None of us is interested in inciting old-world war with North Who?

Obama knows exactly what's going in.

North Korea is in need of rehabilitation. That can only start with lifting sanctions and expecting peaceful co-operative behaviours. Give them something small to go on with: the 2020 Olympics. (Many a true word spoken in jest ;)

Relax. The world wants the young US to relax.
Step away from the gun.
posted by de at 1:59 PM on April 9, 2013


Many a true word spoken in typo, too.
posted by de at 2:16 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


An interesting article from CounterPunch Magazine on what's happened in the background with regards to the Obama administrations stance towards North Korea, that's led to the DPRK feeling ever more threatened and in an existential crisis.

It really sounds like the Obama White House senses that regime change is not only possible in the DPRK, but it's imminent, with the proper economic and military forces brought to bear ever more tightly upon Pyongyang.

The article really does bring across the feeling that this time is different from the saber-rattling in the past. As to whether the Obama Admin. knows something the rest of us don't that makes it's stance part of a logical plan or not, I sincerely hope they do know something that makes squeezing North Korea the right move.

Personally, I do think that the DPRK sending up a satellite in October of 2012 was regardless of whether it was testing a missile to deliver nuclear weapons (which the article goes to great lengths to prove that the way it was launched and the second stage thruster it used was entirely wrong for a missle) was ultimately an exercise with it's goal being the establishment of some military support system or intel gathering or targeting platform.
posted by Skygazer at 8:23 PM on April 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Tricky Dick Cheney on the North Koreasituation: ‘We’re in deep doo doo’
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:38 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


^ The aide declined to say whether Cheney suggested any specific course of action on the situation in North Korea during this meeting.

You might say that since the last US fabricated war Cheney's had a change of heart.
posted by de at 9:45 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]




^ When Secretary of State John Kerry visits China, Japan and South Korea later this week in his first trip to the region as the top U.S. diplomat, he will need to adjust his rebalancing sales pitch to China while he engages in Korea crisis diplomacy.

Nice timing because Hillary Clinton would not have had a snowflake's chance in hell. Kerry may not be as challenged as that article makes out. Or does the US want war with China?
posted by de at 12:11 AM on April 10, 2013


Dick Cheney is always in deep doo doo. I'm surprised he doesn't tell KJU to "go fuck himself".
posted by symbioid at 9:46 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


de: "^ The aide declined to say whether Cheney suggested any specific course of action on the situation in North Korea during this meeting.

You might say that since the last US fabricated war Cheney's had a change of heart.
"

A change of what now?
posted by symbioid at 10:04 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


He's probably had several, depending upon how many interns matched his blood type.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:31 AM on April 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Artw: "Analysis: In bitter irony for China, North Korea furthers U.S. strategic goals"

Huh - for once, someone posts something on a mainstream news site that isn't 100% propagandistic tripe...

This has been the thing that's been bothering me all along. I feel like the US Pacific presence has been a key point at play, but no news article dare bring that up (because then we'd have to admit it's actually an issue instead of just painting N. Korea as the baddies who clearly are a problem and thus justify our actions).

I still can't figure it out. One idea I've been floating around is that he's actually been turned and is working from the inside. The other more likely one, of course, is the seeming main narrative that people have right now, and that's that he's trapped, and has to prove himself. Isn't today the big day? Why aren't we hearing anything about something major happening.

Well I guess we'll see..
posted by symbioid at 11:35 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's really starting to feel like 2002-2003...
posted by goHermGO at 6:30 PM on April 11, 2013


How can the current situation possibly resemble 2002/03? I doubt the US wants a war on the Korean Peninsula - it's too risky - and neither does China. The US no longer has the power to act unilaterally anyway. North Korea holds the cards, and as a result who knows what could happen. While I am sure there are some geopolitical games being played, lets not forget North Korea has a history of doing bad shit. Assasinate half the South Korean cabinet? Why not. Sink a destroyer? Sure.

Too bad China is losing the game for the moment. Actually after the events of last fall it would be rather satisfying if not for the fact that American successes now mean more rivalry in the future.

By the way, compare American hegemony in the region with Chinese dominance. You have Japan, Taiwan and Korea, all with a high standard of living and civil societies versus a predatory state run by hereditary kleptocrats. Even Vietnam regards the US as a partner, and China as a threat.

My point is that this is most definitely not like the adventurism that led to the Iraq debacle.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:42 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]






Why Aren't We More Freaked Out By North Korea?
it's also worth considering what a romney (or mccain) response might have entailed...
posted by kliuless at 3:15 PM on April 12, 2013


CNN is really hawking it up with this thing.

Someone really need to do a parody of this and switch the subject from the North Korean media to the US mass media, especially outlets like FOX and CNN. It's just crying out for it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:44 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why Aren't We More Freaked Out By North Korea?

Because any attack from North Korea would be paid back a hundredfold within minutes?
posted by Sys Rq at 5:17 PM on April 12, 2013


Gangnam Style Parody by North Korea

PSY - GANGNAM STYLE (강남스타일) - Pyongyang Style - Remix and parody

Well, at least NK has better taste in music. That's a starting point.
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:15 PM on April 13, 2013


Exclusive: How North Korea Tipped Its Hand - "The U.S. recovered the front section of the rocket used in North Korea’s satellite launch in December, which gave away the status of the regime's nuclear arms program. "
The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) released a classified assessment last month saying that it now has “moderate confidence” that the “North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles however the reliability will be low,” South Korea has provided additional intelligence bolstering this conclusion, according to U.S. officials.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:40 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sex In The North Korean Army
We talked to a group of North Koreans in exile who used to serve in the North Korean army, and asked them what they thought were the most significant weaknesses in the DPRK military. The unanimous conclusion was unexpected: at present, the greatest problem faced by the North Korean army is not the chronic shortage of food or even the outdated weaponry; the real crisis in the Korean People’s Army is sexually transmitted diseases.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:37 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]




*yawn*
posted by symbioid at 12:18 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


They certainly picked the wrong couple of weeks to hold their crisis, US media-wise.
posted by Artw at 1:27 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am starting to be really really really disappointed in North Korea.

Heh - one theory I was having during the Marathon Bombing was that maybe it was actually a North Korean attack (not really, but one of those "interesting ideas" moments).

What's the equivalent term to "blue balls" for nuclear wargasm?
posted by symbioid at 7:33 PM on April 24, 2013


What's the equivalent term to "blue balls" for nuclear wargasm?
1st World Problems?
posted by fullerine at 7:42 PM on April 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


fullerine: "
What's the equivalent term to "blue balls" for nuclear wargasm?
1st World Problems?
"

Touche. Tou-fuckin-che.
posted by symbioid at 7:57 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]






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