Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What Gives In North Korea?


We in the West look at Kim Jong Un as a madman -- young though he be. And perhaps he is mad. But the story isn't that simple. Tom Walkom provides some context:

There is an armistice signed by North Korea and the U.S. But there is no peace treaty. When North Korea sabre-rattles, or when South Korea responds in kind, each believes it is responding rationally to the provocations of an implacable enemy.
Neither side is blameless in this. The U.S. never did agree to the political talks required by the armistice. For its part, North Korea has behaved in a manner that beggars belief — at one point randomly abducting Japanese citizens to fill its need for language instructors, at another trying to assassinate the entire South Korean cabinet.

Still, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions can be understood only in the context of this unresolved war.
To Pyongyang, the fate of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi provide a stark warning: leaders who relinquish nuclear weapons in order to placate the U.S. leave themselves open to being deposed by the U.S.

So, Walkom writes, what's going on in North Korea is all about unfinished business. After North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, the Harper government did nothing -- as was its want -- to help resolve the situation:

During the early 2000s, Canada and many other Western nations were open to North Korea. Ottawa and Pyongyang established diplomatic relations in 2001. There was talk of a North Korean embassy in Canada’s capital.
Then came Pyongyang’s 2003 decision to withdraw from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Relations chilled. In 2010, Canada announced it would severely limit contacts with the Communist regime. In 2011, Ottawa banned virtually all trade with North Korea.

We used to have a tradition of acting as an honest broker between nations which did some pretty horrible deeds. We've lost that cachet. And that is tragic.  Two of our sons sons taught English as a second language in South Korea. One of them visited the Hermit Kingdom. He says it's a pretty austere place, where much as gone amiss. 

But we make a mistake if we turn a blind eye to it.

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