In 2018, the North Korean head of state Kim Jong-un confessed to his South Korean counterparts that he wanted to “write a new history of national reunification” and that he was planning to do so peacefully. Kim didn’t go into details on whether this new story might take democracy and the rule of law into account. In August 2019, Kim’s South Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in, set 2045 as the deadline for the peaceful reunification of Korea, without explaining the future government framework. 2045 marks the centenary of the capitulation of Japan and the de facto liberation of Korea from the imperial rule of Japan. Since taking office as president in 2017, Moon has not hesitated to mention Seoul and Pyongyang’s shared reservations about Japan. Reflecting the views of most of his compatriots, Moon said that Japan did not take enough responsibility for the injustice, humiliation and suffering Koreans suffered during the half-century Japanese takeover of the country, which began with the assassination of the Koreans Queen Min started through Japanese Forces in 1895, followed by Japan’s imposition of the 1905 Eulsa Protection Treaty on behalf of the Korean government, which led to the full annexation of Korea to Imperial Japan from 1910 until Japan’s surrender to the Allies in August 1945.
Japan’s annexation of Korea, with American support, achieved international acceptance and legitimacy through the Treaty of Portsmouth of 1905, which effectively ended the Russo-Japanese war for territory and suzerainty. President Theodore Roosevelt played a crucial role in these negotiations. These efforts led to his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906. Even today, most South Koreans regard Japan as a persistent “bad actor”. In a 2017 survey by the Japanese Genro Group, 56.1% of Koreans said they see Japan as negative and 48.6% of Japanese see Korea as negative. In a Statista poll from August 2019, only 12% of South Koreans said they viewed Japan positively. 77% said they had a negative opinion. In 2019, the Japan Times reported that 45% of South Koreans would support North Korea if there was ever a conflict between Pyongyang and Japan. While President Moon frequently points out the unexplained differences arising from the occupation and annexation of Korea by Japan and seeking Korean reunification, Moon’s government has not put forward a plan for unification that requires navigation through longstanding roadblocks and minefields that would limit the process. Here we consider two of the main obstacles: North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and the fate of Kim Jong-un after its dismantling.
Roadblock # 1: The nuclear problem
As long as North Korea remains both an unrepentant one-party dictatorship and a growing nuclear power, Japan and the United States, two of the key players whose buy-in is crucial to the reunification of the peninsula, will continue to insist on Pyongyang stop nuclear weapons production first and foremost surrender his existing supply of these weapons. Estimates range from 30 to 40 to a forecast of up to 250 nuclear weapons by 2027.
There is no convincing evidence that Kim Jong-un, or any of the key players around him, ever had plans to surrender their stored weapons. A leaked North Korean document released in 2019 revealed that Kim Jong-un had informed DPRK leaders that he will dominate the world with nuclear weapons, lead the US to apologize for decades of bullying our people and to compensate for us, and this will explain to the whole world, that the mighty order of the world is being reshaped by Juche-Korea and not by the United States. “Kim, who shared these views with senior leaders shortly before his trip to Hanoi for his failed second summit with then-US President Donald, seems to have reckoned that the Hanoi summit would be the moment to reach a” final agreement “That would lead the United States to accept that Pyongyang remains a” global strategic nuclear state. ” As it turns out, there was clearly a gap between Kim and Trump’s expectations in the collapse of the Hanoi talks.
As the Korea specialist Mark Setton once described, nuclear weapons are a “status symbol” for Pyongyang that they will not easily do without. Nuclear weapons alone have enabled the DPRK to join an elite of nations, an association they do not want to leave.
Stumbling block # 2 The fate of Kim Jong-un in a post-nuclear North Korea
Kim Il Sung once observed:
It is unnatural to stand up for peaceful reunification and have a dialogue with a dagger in your belt. If the dagger is not put on the table, it is impossible to create an atmosphere of mutual trust or to find satisfactory solutions to large or small national reunification problems, including achieving cooperation and exchanges between North and South (1973, p. 16). 338).
The late chairman and founder of the DPRK could rightly be accused of wavering on this principle. On January 20, 1992, his government and the government of South Korea signed a joint declaration that nuclear weapons cannot be tested, manufactured, manufactured, received, owned, stored, deployed or used. to use nuclear energy exclusively for peaceful purposes; and having no facilities for nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment ”at a time when his government was already actively involved in uranium enrichment and was well on its way to becoming a nuclear power. North Korea’s “daggers” often do not have to be discovered on but under The table. The intelligence officers of Pyongyang’s rivals, as well as defectors and informants, help to expose them. The DPRK’s 2019 leaked memorandum was quoted by Voice of america it says: “The Korean People’s Army must hold on to nuclear weapons as our all-round security sword in order to protect the revolutionary leadership like an impregnable fortress.”
At the first Trump-Kim summit in June 2018 in Singapore, the “most competitive economy in the world”, Trump had hoped to signal to Kim that a Pyongyang without nuclear weapons could have a bright economic future, similar to that of Singapore or even Seoul. Did President Trump actually believe that Kim, his family, and the coterie that surrounded them were naive enough to believe that if they gave up their nuclear weapons, they would be at the helm of such an enterprise? These weapons are their only real leverage against Japan, the United States, the Republic of Korea, and human rights and civil society organizations that are demanding that Kim be tried for crimes against humanity.
The DPRK document leaked to the VOA indicates that Pyongyang is relying on a bilateral approach to nuclear diplomacy. In Kim’s messages to foreign powers, he expresses an “unwavering commitment to the full denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” but within his inner circle, Kim makes it clear that he is “the ultimate result of the increase in the.” [North Korea’s] World-class nuclear education status. “
Kim Jong-un’s track record in human rights abuses and war crimes mirrors the policies of his ancestors Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and reports of these abuses are sure to hit the front page of the world’s press should the nuclear threat no longer be a center of media attention . Before the first nuclear summit between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 2018, the New York Times reported that human rights activists were “waiting for Mr. Trump to bring up North Korea’s widespread crimes against humanity” Times reported that Pyongyang is one of the “world’s worst human rights abusers”. It cites a United Nations report on the DPRK from 2014 detailing how Kim Jong-un made crimes such as “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortion and other sexual violence, persecution from political.” , religious, racial and gender-specific reasons, the violent transmission of population groups, the forced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing persistent hunger. ” Times added that Kim’s actions were very personal; “Family is not taboo either. One of Mr. Kim’s uncles, Jang Song-thaek, was convicted of high treason. He was then executed with anti-aircraft machine guns and his body burned with the flamethrowers. “
Kim claims that “North Korea’s value as a model for revolutionary success is becoming natural for all nations of the world.” In reality, the Kims’ “Orwellian Experiment” has become “natural” to the world, noble as the original intent may be, it has advanced the apparent sacrifice of human rights. Kim’s record of crimes against humanity will no doubt become the top priority of Kim’s critics should Pyongyang give up its nuclear arsenal.
How can we expect Kim Jong-un to give up his only “Get out of Jail” card, knowing that the day after his critics will demand a Nuremberg-style trial for him and his entourage in Pyongyang or Seoul? for extradition to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to be tried for crimes against humanity?
Should the demands for atonement for the long history of the DPRK with blatant human rights violations be put on hold in order to prevent nuclear attacks on Seoul, Pusan, Inchon, Tokyo and Osaka by an unrepentant Kim Jong-un who faced a military confrontation, could realize that he has “nothing to lose” by unleashing his nuclear arsenal on his enemies? Can we address the North Korean nuclear problem without considering Kim’s concern for the justice demands that his handover of the DPRK’s nuclear codes will spark?
In late May and June 1992 I had the opportunity to accompany a delegation of former high-ranking US government officials to North Korea. The delegation included John Holdridge, Former Deputy Secretary of State for East Asia: Ambassador Douglas MacArthur II, Former US Ambassador to Japan; Max Hugel, former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Service; and other former top US officials led by retired US Congressman Richard Ichord. Our delegation traveled with the assistance of George H.W. to Pyongyang. Bush and his national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft.
Congressman Ichord met with Mr Scowcroft at the White House before we left, and he met with both Mr Scowcroft and President Bush on our return from Pyongyang. The focus of this diplomatic initiative for Track II was to seek, as a measure of good faith, a reduction in the abusive rhetoric that hurled Pyongyang in the United States and Seoul. The visit resulted in the first suspension of Pyongyang’s annual “Hate America” month, which occurs between June 25 (the start of the Korean War in 1950) and July 27 (the date of the signing of the year in North Korea) of the Armistice each year from 1953, which ended most of the hostilities in the Korean Peninsula). I was the representative of Congressman Ichord in those discussions and spent an extra week alone in Pyongyang in June 1992.
As a token of appreciation for the delegation’s visit, the North Koreans prepared a videotape for each of us. The video contained a recording of our visit to the demilitarized zone and the Panmungak Hall, the main North Korean administrative building in the Panmunjom region. When I looked at my video, I found that the tape I was given was taken from a previous tapping of CNN’s coverage of Operation Desert Storm.
Nations, multilateral institutions and civil society organizations advocating denuclearization or human rights in North Korea would be naive if they ignored the fate of Pyongyang, both of Saddam Hussein and Moammar Qaddafi, who have both abandoned their nuclear ambitions . North Koreans are certainly well aware of what the United States (or China) could do in virtually no time to destroy and unravel the Juche experiment. They understand that the “Juche dream” of the Kim Dynasty can best be prolonged by maintaining the DPRK’s nuclear arsenal.
The Hirohito option?
In 2019, I was fortunate that Korea and Japan expert Alexis Dudden advised me on an article I wrote. Soon after, I invited her to speak to our students at Bridgeport University in Connecticut about Korea-Japan relations. During the pre-event dinner my faculty and I shared with Professor Dudden, we discussed the future of North Korea, and everyone agreed that a major obstacle to denuclearization would be the post-nuclear fate of Kim Jong-un.
Prof. Dudden once speculated that lessons could be drawn from how the United States treated Emperor Hirohito after World War II. Hirohito undoubtedly bore some responsibility for the aggression sparked by Japan between 1937 and 1945. For example, we know that Hirohito was briefed by the Japanese leadership prior to the Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor. In addition, the emperor was repeatedly photographed in military dress during the war years to convey his approval of Japan’s military campaigns. Hirohito was certainly not the driver of the conflict. However, as the sign on Harry S. Truman’s desk reminded every visitor to his Oval Office, the maximum leader is where the money ends.
General Douglas MacArthur insisted on removing the emperor’s status as a deity. After their meeting in his office on September 27, 1945, however, he also decided not to prosecute the emperor. This MacArthur decision enabled Japan to join the family of democratic states in the post-war era rather than remaining recalcitrant.
In the case of North Korea, is there a place for what we might call the “Hirohito Solution”? Kim Jong-un and the Juche nomenklatura around him admittedly never agree to give up North Korea’s weapons, regardless of the precautions taken. On balance, however, our understanding should be that the discussion will lead nowhere without an amnesty guarantee for Kim Jong-un and the key figures around him.
The late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was offered asylum in Bahrain and elsewhere, but decided he would not be banished from Iraq. That decision would eventually cost him his life and lead to the second Gulf War. Like Saddam, would Kim Jong-un choose to stay and try to keep power no matter what? He could very well choose that option. The refusal to stir up his nuclear supplies and his opposition to any efforts to remove him from his position as leader could make a military confrontation inevitable.
Given that Kim Jong-un may refuse to go into exile, one must wonder whether it makes sense to allow Kim Jong-un to remain in North Korea with a symbolic role that preserves part of his dignity. What price are we willing to pay to encourage the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to give up its nuclear weapons? Can we forego a human rights court for Kim Jong-un to prevent a nuclear holocaust? For example, could Kim serve as an honorary co-chair of the Korean National Unification Advisory Commission or in a similar advisory capacity with a former South Korean head of state, perhaps President Moon Jae-in?
When Boris Yeltsin was invited to a joint session of the United States Congress on June 11, 1992, he proudly declared that his government, which had left the Communist Party and pledged its commitment to multi-party democracy, had decided to rallate with communists To deal with executives not in show trials but by letting cases work their way through the legal system. Yeltsin explained his decision as follows:
Last year, the citizens of Russia passed another difficult test of maturity. We have decided to forego revenge and the intoxicating desire for summary justice over the fallen colossus known as the CPSU. There was no repetition of the story. The Communist Party citadel next to the Kremlin, the Communist Bastille, was not destroyed. There was no evidence of violence against communists in Russia. People just wiped away the toxic dust of the past and went about their business. There was [sic] No lynch litigation in Russia.
In the case of Russia, indulgence towards former Soviet leaders does not seem to have produced the same result as in Japan. The long-time General Secretary of the Communist Party, Leonid Brezhnev, remained in power from 1964 to 1982, after Josef Stalin’s almost thirty years’ rule. If you include the four-year period in which Dmitry Medvedev shared leadership with Vladimir Putin through what is known as the “tandemocracy”, Putin has been in power since 1999, longer than Brezhnev. If his health stays with him, he could well exceed Stalin’s term in office. Dealing with a great enemy involves risks. In the case of Japan, this decision worked well and continues to this day. But can the same be said for the former Soviet Union?
Moammar Qaddafi gave up his plan for nuclear weapons and naively expected that he would be welcomed back into the international community. During the Arab Spring, after a punitive air strike by France, Great Britain and the United States and the increasing erosion of his military and security forces, Gaddafi met his fate with an angry mob who swiftly dispatched him to his maker. Kim Jong-un is not interested in facing a similar fate. He appreciates that his nuclear arsenal in place ensures that he can at least do so on his own terms if he has to go. If he were to ever surrender his weapons, Kim would almost certainly expect not only amnesty but also the right to stay in his homeland and participate as a prominent participant in the Korean reunification process.
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