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Home > English > Alternatives International Journal > 2013 > May 2013 > North Korea’s Nuclear Craze

North Korea’s Nuclear Craze

Wednesday 1 May 2013, by Michael Sabelli

I’m just going to come out and say it: North Korea is bad.

It’s true. They’re really bad. Like trouble making children.

But they’re not the bully in the playground. They’re much more like the child that tortures insects. The kid bullies avoid because they don’t want to encounter that world of strange and bizarre. Plus, who knows what kind of filth could be picked up?

No, North Korea isn’t threatening despite the gory, poetic insults they hurl at the South and the US. They aren’t afraid of discipline or international sanctions, because quite frankly the people are already starving, and only physical confrontation with the elite and their yachts could register as punishment.

So they continue with their empty threats, and a foreign policy as internally damaging as their domestic one.

They have a nuclear test and launch a missile into the sea, all to gain attention for the new leader Kim Jong-un, and maybe because they haven’t done that in a few years.

And then Western mass media hires graphic designers to draw circles on maps that demonstrate North Korea’s missile launch radius, but the infograph doesn’t accurately indicate how flawed a hostile missile launch from the North would be.

Consider US/South Korean war games and how they fly stealth nuclear bombers from Kansas high above the Korean peninsula dropping faux-bombs on fixed targets for aiming practice. And this isn’t provocation, this is anticipating a defence. Just like how patriot missiles, missiles that seek and destroy other missiles, bombs essentially that blow up other bombs mid air, are defensive weapons and can’t be used in an act of aggression.

Just like nuclear weapons.

The concept of nuclear deterrence is what makes North Korea strive for the nuclear bomb, not for the sake of carrying out nuclear kamikaze missions. It doesn’t take a PhD in conflict resolution studies to realize that the only country to ever drop the atom bomb, which they did without any direct provocation or military threat, wouldn’t bat an eyelash at retaliating against an act of nuclear war carried out by North Korea on one of its allies.

North Korea wants the bomb for the same reason that everyone else does: so no one can bomb them with impunity.

During the current 2013 Korean Crisis, the one head of state using the most common sense is Russia’s Vladimir Putin with this quote alluding to a tangible concern.

"I would make no secret about it: we are worried about the escalation on the Korean peninsula, because we are neighbours. And if, God forbid, something happens, Chernobyl, which we all know a lot about, may seem like a child’s fairy tale.”

The worst-case scenario for anyone who is reasonably minded – or as poli-sci students like to say, realists – is that while North Korea is building up its military for self-preservation they have an accident and self-inflict their own nuclear disaster.

In Fukushima, the world witnessed one of the most technologically advanced states experience a nuclear disaster due to mismanagement. A tsunami triggered it, but all the information was there that it should have been anticipated and planed accordingly. Fukushima was a human error, not a natural disaster.

Mark Hibbs, a senior associate in Carnegie’s Nuclear Policy Program, explained in a press conference in Beijing last year that the Fukushima disaster was completely preventable, and it was human negligence for regulations and international safety standards, and ignoring past history of floods in the geographic area, that were the main causes of the disaster, and not the tsunami or nuclear energy in itself.

He didn’t want to comment about North Korea’s own nuclear ambitions, only to say that they are doing it alone without help from the international community (even Iran has Russian generators), and that North Korea’s nuclear program is terrifying from the perspective of developing nuclear energy safely.

Whereas South Korea has nuclear energy powering a third of their grid with help from the US, politicians in the wake of Kim Jong-un’s rhetoric are now considering developing their own nuclear weapons.

International cooperation is important for development, and North Korea’s stubborn policy of juche (self-reliance) and isolationism is a self-inflicting wound.

Closing the Kaesong Industrial Region – where South Korean companies exploit the poverty of the north by employing them to one-fifth the minimum wage of South Korea – was a step backwards, and will cost millions of dollars a year for North Korean citizens. One of the few symbols of cooperation on the Korean Peninsula has been shelved.

Though China remains an ally, it should be troubling when a Chinese editor openly writes that reunification of the Korean peninsula may be in the region’s best interest. He was fired from his job over those words: he strayed too far from the Communist party’s views for the legalist regime - based on strict adherence to the order bestowed upon society- to let slide.

But China, North Korea’s solution for obtaining agricultural produce and energy, is losing patience with their self-destructive nature. Kim Jong-un should go pay his due diligence to Beijing before he disrespects his most powerful asset and has to face the international community alone.

Snubbing China is just another, albeit less headline catching, imprudent mistake North Korea has made since Kim Jong-un came into power. China, the Kaesong industrial region, threatening their enemies: all of these actions are harming an already shell-shocked economy, and could eventually force a full on sell off of their collectables in the International Friendship Exhibition on Taobao (Chinese eBay).

Propaganda and cults of personality don’t have a place in a free and prosperous society, even if they’re prevalent to unhindered governing. We should all be able to make our own decisions regardless of what our courageous, god-fearing leaders would have us believe. But in the case of North Korea, it’s more saddening to read the reports of what happens within the country than to see how they can manipulate a circus response out of the likes of the US, South Korea, and Japan.

Kim Jong-un is trying to make his own way, seemingly forgetting what his father and grandfather had accomplished. Kim Jong-un really wants to showcase his own unique style of despotism, however unheralded and miscalculated it may be.

Be that as it may, he still isn’t insane or suicidal. He’s rich, and hasn’t experienced anything but a life of luxury. He wasn’t a guerrilla fighter like his grandfather. He’s a spoiled brat, and besides inflating his ego and creating his own chapter in North Korea’s paternal totalitarian regime, he won’t do anything that risks his luxurious lifestyle.

Let the kid with the magnifying glass burn ants by himself.