Am discutat despre ceea ce reprezintă astăzi Coreea de Nord pe scena internațională și dacă aceasta este un factor de instabilitate în zona Asia-Pacific cu doi profesori de la Universitatea din Texas: Young Rae Oum și Dennis Hart.

Interviul poate fi citit în cele ce urmează. Menționăm că acesta a fost realizat în limba engleză.

Do you believe that, at this moment, North Korea poses a real threat to the global security, or is it just about creating an illusion of power?

D.H.: Neither. When looked at in the context of the nuclear/military powers elsewhere in the world, NK (North Korea) is a minor power with limited ability to project their power. The military of SK (South Korea) , Japan, US, China, etc. dwarf NK’s abilities.

Neither it is an “illusion of power” (whatever that is). They want to have more power, and nukes are the cheap more effective way to make sure the US or others do not ignore them, topple the government, invade, or attack. NK watched the US and Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya and learned lessons. They are liable to be attacked much more than they are liable to attach another country. (and why would they attack another country? And whom?)

NK is driven more by insecurity than it is by any desire to be a threat to the world. The US is the most aggressive/militarized nation around.

Y.R.O.: North Korea has not attacked or invaded any country since the Korean war. (The Korean war began as a civil war so technically North Korea did not invade any country ever.) There is no reason why North Korea should be considered a threat to global security.  I am not sure what you mean by “an illusion of power” so I cannot answer that.  North Korea has always demanded to be treated as equal to the US, South Korea, Japan, or China. North Korea’s power comes from the self-respect and their diplomatic astuteness.  The North Korean government is not servile to any other states.

Prof.Young Rae Oum

How much should its neighbours fear North Korea? I’m mainly talking about South Korea. Does South Korea’s alliance with the United States provide a certain sense of security towards Kim Jong-un’s regime? Does the fact that the two countries never signed a peace treaty (only an armistice) after the Korean War of 1950-1953 has any real implications on their relation?

D.H.: I have a bit of a problem with the question. It assumes NK is the threat without first establishing whether this is the case. Whom would NK attack? China? Ha! Japan? To what end? SK? Such an attack would result in their immediate destruction. NK leaders are many things, but suicidal is not among them. The NK bluster and threats are intended to make potential attackers afraid to attack. That is, it is deterrence, not a real threat to begin hostilities.

As far as I can tell, the US provides zero feelings of security to NK. SK is not about to attack NK, why would they risk destruction and ruin of the economy? The lack of a peace treaty is a red herring. It carries not meaning. Do you really believe that if NK wanted to attack that the leaders would NOT do so because of a piece of paper?

Y.R.O: As I wrote in the above, there is no reason why the neighbors should fear North Korea. I do not see South Korea as a “neighbor.” There has been a single nation-state in Korean peninsula since 676 CE until US and Russia divided Korea into two in 1945.  There is a strong sense of nation both in the North and South. Even right wing people in South Korea do not deny that North Koreans are Koreans as well.

Different dynasties in China invaded and attempted to colonize Korea. Japanese dwarf pirates (“Wakou”) invaded Korea numerous times between 14C to 16C. Most recently, Japan colonized Korea and parts of China in the early 20C. North Korea never invaded any “neighbors,” Japan, China, or Russia.

South Korea’s military budget is 4.5 times of North Korean military budget.  South Korea is twice larger than North Korea in the size of military manpower and in the size of population-fit to-service. South Korea has much more weapons and artillery than North Korea. South Korea’s overall military power is far superior. Why should South Korea be afraid?

I believe South Korea’s allegiance with United State is what makes Korean peninsula unstable and insecure. The relationship between North and South Koreas have fluctuated because of the changes in the South Korean regime, and it is not really affected by the lack of a peace treaty. During Kim Dae-jung regime, the “Sunshine policy” created a remarkable progress. Roh Mu-hyun government continued the policy. During Lee Myongbak government and the insane Pak Geun-hye government, all the progress made during 10-years period prior them was nullified. Sad, sad situation. I hope the next president will revive the stalled relationship between the two Koreas and sincerely work toward reunification.

Prof. Dennis Hart

Do you think that the European Union should be involved more when it comes to the geopolitical destabilizing factor that is North Korea?

D.H.: Again, NK is not destabilizing, but it does wish that the power relations were more in its favor. Every country wants that. And why do you assume that the current distribution of power is the best or more natural arrangement? NK lacks real power in the region, hence its blustering. Did not the US “destabilize” power with its illegal intervention in the Korean Civil War many years ago? Eastern Europe? Why do you think they play a role? I am not sure as to why this question is being posed.

Y.R.O.: I am not sure what you are asking. Why should EU be involved? What has EU done when US attacked Afghanistan and Iraq? What has EU done while Syria was being torn in civil war terrorist attacks? I do not agree that North Korea is a “destabilizing factor.” What has North Korea done to destabilize world peace? Absolutely nothing.

What is the source of the great powers’(meaning USA, UE) inability to keep North Korea in check when it comes to developing a nuclear arsenal? Is there any chance the international community would ever be able to compel North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons? Do you believe that the six-party talks would be resumed in the foreseeable future?

D.H.: Are you assuming that it is the right of “great powers” to be able to control weaker peoples? In the same way the Soviet Union once controlled Romania? Again, “in check” from what? They are not attacking anyone. You seem to assume that it is all right for the US to tell NK to follow US designs and wishes, but not for NK to follow its own designs and wishes? This is a key source of the behavior of NK. They do not trust the US to act in a way that benefits NK, so why should they follow the US requests? I many not agree with NK actions/policies, but I see the reasons behind them.

WHY? Have you asked WHY the international community wants NK to give up its most important defensive weapons? And after they did give them up, would the international community respect them more? Help them more? Work with them more? NK thinks that without these weapons they are vulnerable to the pressures and weapons of powerful countries. They have a valid point if you think about it.

Next, the key is that NK feels surrounded and vulnerable. Until that threat is removed from their minds, they would be stupid to remove the nukes.

And how are NK nukes a threat? The US tolerates nukes in Israel without objecting. Also, the theory of deterrence supposedly prevents nuclear powers from attacking one another. Why is this logic not extended to NK by the US thinkers?

Six party talks do nothing unless NK’s prime concern over security is solved first.

Y.R.O.: Why should the USA keep North Korea “in check”? What rights do the US and EU have to decide which country should own nuclear weapons? How many nuclear bombs does the US have? The US has 7,700 nuclear warheads, and the technology to launch them. The US has the ability to completely bomb the whole planet to oblivion, several times over. Who gave them the permission to develop and own that many nuclear weapons? Shouldn’t we, all of the people in the world, try to keep the US in check? After all, there is only one country in the world that has actually used a nuclear weapon, and it is the US.

You asked “Is there any chance the international community would ever be able to compel North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons?” I would ask back why you think the international community should compel NK to give up nuclear weapons. Why shouldn’t we compel the US and Russia and Israel—the states that have actually invaded so many countries—to give up their nuclear weapons?

Is it possible that the North Korean regime took advantage of USA’s distraction with the presidential election, as it performed two nuclear tests this year (in January and September)?

D.H.: I don’t understand the question. Isn’t it possible NK conducted tests because they wanted to do so? Do you believe that the US would simply NOT notice them because of the elections?

Y.R.O.: No. North Korean will perform nuclear tests to send messages to the US, to keep off.  For North Korea, nuclear weapon is a cheap and efficient defense and leverage against US. North Korea has never kept its military next to a border of the US, but US has kept its military and nuclear weapons along the border of North Korea. The US threatened to use nuclear bomb on North Korea numerous time, and it came very close to using it during the Korean war as well as during the Clinton administration. North Korea has a good reason to develop nuclear weapons for self-defense.

Many say that we are currently experiencing a second Cold War. What is North Korea’s role in this battle between USA (and its allies) and Russia? Is North Korea considered a valuable or a strategic ally of Russia? Or does it represent, as it did in the past (I’m referring to the Korean War), more of a burden for Kremlin?

D.H.: Russia and the US have long histories of using proxies to combat each other and neither side ultimately really cares about the interests of these proxies.

Y.R.O.: Would you ask the same question about Russia or China, for example, “Is Russia an ally or a burden to North Korea”? Why not?  This questions come from a perspective that privileges military superpowers as if they are the only rational, intelligent thinkers and the rest are just object of mobilization or domination.

What would you say is North Korea’s main foreign policy direction at the moment? What is its main goal in terms of international relations and security?

D.H.: NK’s main foreign policy remains what it was – to create a more secure country that does not become dependent, and thus vulnerable, to the whims and wishes of other countries. The entire juche ideology is predicated upon that. The problems are more internal with the ever increasing corruption and degrading economic structures.

Y.R.O.:  I do not believe one country’s foreign policy can be reduced into a single “direction.” It will depend on the country, the diplomatic relations, the history, and the current situation. I would assume North Korea’s main goal for foreign  policy is to maintain and promote its own national security, just like any other nation.

What is North Korea’s relationship with China at the moment, in terms of diplomacy and military alliance? We know that there is a decline in their relations, mainly because of North Korea’s nuclear program.

D.H.: Define “decline” please. NK’s value to China is linked to its relations with the US and the desire to not have a failed state on its border.

Y.R.O.: China is an important ally to North Korea. Since the collapse Soviet Union and Eastern European block, North Korea has increasingly been isolated globally.  I do not see a decline in relations. China is also investing economically in North Korea, and was competing with South Korea over economic initiatives, until the current South Korean regime shut down Kaesung Industrial Region.

Does the Songun policy of North Korea, that prioritizes the military factor in allocating resources, automatically implies that this country’s army is a very efficient one, that could compete with the ones of the great powers?

D.H.: Are you asking whether NK military can compete with the US, Japanese, SK, Chinese militaries? If so, then answer is simple – no. But it is never intended to compete with these militaries. It is intended to create security from a very real threat of US attack. (remember Clinton in the 1990s.)

Y.R.O.: As I wrote in the above, North Korea does not aspire to compete with great powers. They strive to survive and maintain the nation.

Last, but not least, how do you think the Trump administration will handle the North Korean issue? Do you believe this president will have a stronger attitude and response towards North Korea’s actions?

D.H.: Poorly, that is how they will handle it. Trump is surrounding himself with hawks and unimaginative thinkers who wish it was 1960 once again.

Y.R.O.: We fear that Trump’s policies will be unpredictable and will undermine world peace. He has surrounded himself with people who have a very narrow vision.  American exceptionalism will be the defining characteristic of Trump’s defense (actually should be called “offense”) team.

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