Kim Jong-il shifts to plan B
"Upholding national dignity is much more valuable than a full granary."
- Koguryo's most illustrious statesman Yon Kaesomun (603 - 666)
"People cannot expect to be well off unless their country is independent."
- Yi Korean Dynasty's 4th King Sejong the Great (1397-1450)
"What is of fundamental interest to the destiny and fate of a nation is to safeguard its independence."
- Korean leader Kim Jong-il
PYONGYANG - In his drive to build a mighty and prosperous country and have the divided Land of Morning Calm reunified in an independent and peaceful manner, all indications are that Kim Jong-il, supreme leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), has finalized a little-known watershed decision in March to shift to a "plan B" after more than a dozen years of fruitlessly pursuing "plan A".
The South Koreans now seem to be aware that the Kim Jong-il administration has shifted to plan B. The Financial Times reported on May 14, "South Korea is increasingly concerned that North Korea's latest threat to process plutonium to expand its nuclear arsenal is no longer a negotiating ploy to gain leverage with the US."
The shift to plan B is a result of a critical policy review of the first three months of the United States Barack Obama administration and the 16 years of the two previous administrations of Bill Clinton and George W Bush.
Plan A's failure
Plan A called for the DPRK to consider exploring a shortcut to enhanced independence, peace and prosperity through rapprochement with the US. Plan A obliged the Kim Jong-il administration to negotiate away its nuclear weapons program as part of a verified denuclearization of the whole of the Korean Peninsula in return for Washington's strategic decision to co-exist peacefully with Pyongyang.
Plan A assumed the US would decide to leave behind its policy of hostility to the DPRK, conclude a peace treaty with North Korea, and pledge in a verifiable way it would not attack it with nuclear and conventional arms. It also assumed the US would establish full relations with North Korea, show respect for its sovereignty and independence, lift sanctions imposed on it, and provide it with fuel oil and light-water reactors.
Plan A was the engine behind the 1994 Agreed Framework with the Clinton administration and a series of nuclear agreements from six-party talks with the Bush administration, including the September 19, 2005 joint statement, the February 13, 2007 agreement, the October 3, 2007 agreement and the July 12, 2008 agreement.
Despite plan A, the US has remained hostile to North Korea as it is bent on its nuclear disarmament, painting it as a criminal state, and toppling its regime.
The Clinton administration did not want to fulfill the US's obligations under nuclear agreements and procrastinated for years, secretly betting on the collapse of the DPRK. The Bush administration was more overtly antagonistic, branding the DPRK as part of the "axis of evil", singling out it as a prime target for a nuclear pre-emptive strike, and moving to discard the nuclear agreement.
The US has not adopted a "live and let live" policy towards the DPRK, and it has refused to take any specific steps to reduce its nuclear threat to it, while North Korea was close to accepting full normalization of ties and a peace treaty with the US.
The Obama administration, which was launched with much fanfare and vows to reverse the disastrous policies of the Bush administration, has struck the Kim Jong-il administration as unmistakably no different from it in terms of hostility to the DPRK.
Compelling evidence came in three episodes. The first was the March 9-20 Key Resolve (Team Spirit) joint war games between the US and South Korea. Secondly, the US-led United Nation Security Council's (UNSC) condemnation of an innocuous April 5 satellite launch. The launch was a scientific research experiment partly intended to serve as a firework display to celebrate the re-election of Kim Jong-il as the all-powerful National Defense Commission, partly to demonstrate that North Korea has joined the two elite clubs of nuclear powers and space powers, and partly to signal it will join a third elite club of economic tigers by 2012. The third piece of compelling evidence is Obama's decision to overhaul and restart the Bush administration's military tribunals for Guantanamo Bay terrorism detainees.
The Key Resolve exercise presented a direct threat to the national security of the DPRK and served as potent evidence of the US's unchanged readiness to invade it whenever it is off guard. Its cancellation might have sent a positive message that the Obama administration would be willing to roll back the hostile policy of successive administrations to Pyongyang.
The Clinton administration's chief negotiator Robert Galluchi told the Japanese daily newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun that it was a mistake for the Obama administration to bring the North Korean satellite launch before the UN and not to have direct talks with North Korea. The US-initiated UNSC condemnation of the North Korean satellite launch was further proof of the Obama administration's true colors.
By taking this path the Obama administration has in three ways:seriously infringed on the inalienable sovereignty and national dignity of the DPRK:
Firstly, it has obviously attempted to hurt the prestige of Kim Jong-il in the eyes of the Korean people and spoil the festive mood that enveloped the DPRK in the wake of the re-election of Kim Jong-il as chairman of the National Defense Commission.
Secondly, every nation has a sovereign right to the peaceful use of outer space and the UNSC has never discussed a satellite launch by any other country. A total of 5,736 satellites were launched during a 50-year period from 1957 to the end of 2006 with the US and Russia accounting for about 88% of these and Japan placed the third with 119, representing a yearly worldwide average of approximately 120 satellites. In short, a satellite blasts off somewhere in the world every three days.
Thirdly, the UNSC could not even agree on a term for North Korean satellite, meaning it effectively condemned the launch of an unidentified flying objects or UFO. As Dr Gavan McCormack, professor of Australian National University wrote in Japan Focus on April 13:
Notably, the council nowhere spelled out what North Korea might have launched, for the simple reason that its members could not agree: some thought missile, some thought satellite. Unable to agree on a noun, it therefore compromised with the verb 'launch'. The council's strong and peremptory diplomatic language - 'condemns', 'demands', etc - was therefore oddly out of kilter with its inability to decide what it was condemning. Essentially it was saying North Korea was not to launch any more unidentified flying objects, or 'UFOs'. 'Whatever it was you launched', said the Security Council in effect, 'you should not have and you must not do it again.'
Plan B sees no point in talking with the US
The Kim Jong-il administration has learned the hard way that there is no point in negotiating with the US government on a bilateral or multilateral basis while the US remains hostile with no intention of adopting a "live and let live" policy towards Pyongyang.
Plan B envisages the DPRK going it alone as a fully fledged nuclear weapon-armed state, with a military-first policy, and then growing into a mighty and prosperous country. It will put the policy of seeking reconciliation with a tricky US, a helpless superpower with a crippled economy that is losing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on the back burner.
The DPRK is equipped with all types of nuclear warheads, atomic, neutron and hydrogen, and their means of delivery puts the whole of the USA within effective range.
The Times of London wrote on April 24, 2009: "The world's intelligence agencies and defense experts are quietly acknowledging that North Korea has become a fully fledged nuclear power with the capacity to wipe out entire cities in Japan and South Korea."
The announced vow to quit six-party talks, restart nuclear facilities and conduct additional nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests is a clear message that the Kim Jong-il administration's decision to shift to plan B is irretrievable.
Plan B will help Kim Jong-il to be comfortable in the driver's seat, as he is responsible for the destiny and the wellbeing of his people, who are the inhabitants of ancestral Korean soil bequeathed by Dankun, founder of Korea 5,000 years ago and Chumong, founder of Koguryo 2,000 years ago.
Plan B calls for the DPRK to join all three elite clubs of nuclear, space and economic powers by 2012, without seeking improved ties or a peace treaty with the US, as the DPRK has built up an independent global nuclear strike force which can carry the war all the way to the metropolitan US rather than on the Korean Peninsula.
Kim Jong-il has stated: "The entire party, the entire armed force, the entire population should re-double their efforts to bring about a new revolutionary surge, convinced that victory is certain and showing the indomitable spirit and thus fling open the gate of a great prosperous powerful nation by 2012 and more strikingly demonstrate the dignity and might of Songun [military-first policy] Korea."
According to the May 14, 2009 Financial Times, "South Korean officials initially saw the sabre-rattling as an effort to test relatively inexperienced presidents in Seoul and Washington. But now they suspect it is part of a propaganda campaign to become a 'mighty nation' by 2012, the centenary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the nation's founder."
But for the hard-earned nuclear deterrent, the Korean Peninsula might have been reduced to a second Iraq, with the two booming economies of China, South Korea and Japan devastated in the expanding war. The US ought to have suffered dozens of trillion dollars in war spending.
Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing could at least have expressed private appreciation of the nuclear capability of the DPRK.
This fact was underlined by a former US assistant secretary of defense in an op-ed published in the March 12, 2003 edition of the Los Angeles Times, Professor Joseph Nye at Harvard's Kennedy School of Administration, said: "The decision to focus on Iraq rather than North Korea shows that deterrence works, but in this case what it shows is North Korea's ability to deter the United States."
Reporting on the calculations of the true cost of the war by Harvard's Linda Bilmes and Nobel-prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, the Toronto Star wrote on January 21, 2008:
They determined that, once you factor in things like medical costs for injured troops, higher oil prices and replenishing the military, the war will cost America upwards of $2 trillion. That doesn't include any of the costs incurred by Iraq, or America's coalition partners.
The $2 trillion cost is simply as a result of fighting what the US calls "asymmetrical warfare" with tiny ragtag armed groups that possess none of a modern military force's trappings such as radars, tanks, heavy artillery pieces, armed drones, warplanes, missiles, Depleted uranium ammunition, and cluster bombs
The cost of fighting a nuclear-armed fortress DPRK would be dozens of times greater than that of the Iraq war.
The July/August 2005 edition of the Atlantic Monthly magazine observes:
Dealing with North Korea could make Iraq look like child's play - and the longer we wait, the harder it will get. That's the message of a Pentagon-style war game involving some of this country's most prominent foreign-policy strategists.
Kim Myong Chol is author of a number of books and papers in Korean, Japanese and English on North Korea, including Kim Jong-il's Strategy for Reunification. He has a PhD from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's Academy of Social Sciences and is often called an "unofficial" spokesman of Kim Jong-il and North Korea.