Tag: kim jong un

An Unprecedented Peace Summit With High Ratings. Now What?

By Craig Axford | United States

To give you some idea just how much of a priority the Korean Peninsula really is to the Trump administration, it just got around to nominating an ambassador to South Korea on May 23rd, about three weeks before Trump’s unprecedented peace summit with Kim Jong-Un in Singapore. In fact, as of May 25th only 84 of the 188 career and political ambassadorship positions the president is empowered to fill had either ambassadors or nominees according to the American Foreign Service Association.

While talks between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un will undoubtedly help to thaw tensions for a time, peace takes more than a handshake. Frankly, neither North Korea’s leader or President Trump is all that interested in true peace. They were meeting in Southeast Asia for a photo op each desperately wanted for their respective domestic audiences and little more.

As President Obama could have told Trump, and perhaps even did but he just wasn’t listening, negotiating a nuclear deal involves years of planning and effort. This president doesn’t do that. His neglect of the State Department leaves him with a less than adequate team to work out such details. Meanwhile, John Bolton, the president’s National Security Advisor and a well-known hawk, is standing in the wings looking for the first opportunity to blow the whole effort up should it start getting off the ground.

It doesn’t take a psychic to predict what the future is likely to look like here. Trump will come home thumping his chest having “accomplished what no president has before,” a meeting with a North Korean leader. He’ll never mention and his base won’t care that the reason such a meeting has never taken place is past presidents wanted the North Koreans to change at least a few facts on the ground in exchange for such a meeting.

Trump was willing to give the North Koreans an unconditional meeting so he could have his place in history. The foreign policy implications of the meeting never even entered his mind. We should be expecting a tweet regarding the ratings for the peace summit at any moment.

Having provided the world’s worst regime a greater measure of legitimacy and achieved his place in history books, tensions should remain low for a while. Neither government has any real incentive to invest much political capital in working out anything like complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization (CVID). The statement coming out of this meeting is certainly a far cry from that.

But even if CVID did get worked out, there remains the problem of the tens of thousands of long-range artillery sitting just north of the DMZ aimed at Seoul. True peace would require their removal as well. Both the media and the public ought to know better than to think any of this could have been worked out in a 35 minute face-to-face meeting between two leaders with a reputation for bluster.

Everyone agrees that the worst possible outcome here is conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Such an eventuality would be very unlikely to remain isolated to the two Koreas and could very quickly escalate to the use of nuclear weapons. Should such an event occur, Donald Trump’s name will replace Neville Chamberlain’s as our best example of an appeaser.

But Neville Chamberlain’s primary sin was naivete. He, at least, was motivated by a desire for peace even if he should have known a man like Hitler wasn’t really all that interested. Trump is inexperienced to be sure, but it’s narcissism that’s his Achilles heel. If diplomacy mattered at all to him he would have appointed someone other than Rex Tillerson to be his first secretary of state, or at least would have instructed him to make filling key positions in the State Department a top priority.

The best we can hope for now is a slightly more tolerant status quo than we witnessed during the first few months of Trump’s tumultuous presidency. Fortunately, that’s also far more likely than war. The North Koreans will still have their guns pointed squarely at downtown Seoul and will still have at least as many nukes as they have now on inauguration day in January 2021.

Even before the handshake, Trump’s ad hoc foreign policy had led Russia and China to ease the enforcement of sanctions against North Korea, and that will probably continue without much opposition from Washington unless Trump sees some political advantage to making an issue out of it. In other words, the Singapore summit was just another episode in Trump’s reality TV presidency.


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North Korean Sanctions Must Go

By Jadon Buzzard | United States

We often hear of the gruesome tyranny exhibited by the North Korean regime. The citizens of the country are starving as their government continues to siphon every ounce of economic activity into their devious nuclear programs. Liberty in the country is virtually nonexistent, as property rights, freedom of expression, and human life are irreverently swept aside by the horrendous dictator, Kim Jong Un. North Koreans are legitimately suffering, and we ought to recognize that.

Sanctions, however, are not the answer to the ailments of the North Korean economy. We should be careful not to jump to policy decisions too hastily, lest we worsen the problem at hand. Unfortunately, that reaction to North Korea’s nuclear program seems to have been a common element of almost every US administration. Instead of thinking logically about what actions are both morally and pragmatically justifiable, citizens and officials alike often jump to conclusions about how the US must react to this “imminent” threat.

I contend that economic sanctions on the North Korean economy are both morally unjust and pragmatically unsustainable. The degrading effects these sanctions have on the Koreans’ quality of life far outweigh any benefit they provide in changing the North Korean regime. President Trump ought to abandon these practices and promote a more open exchange with the country.

There are a few reasons why the efficacy of sanctions ought to be called into question. But before we dive into those elements of the trade barrier in question, it would be prudent to examine several negative effects of sanctions on a society, both at a pragmatic and at a moral level.

Sanctions often result in a severe undermining of the quality of life of citizens in the targeted society. Trade creates wealth: there’s virtually no doubt about that. Mercantilism, on the other hand, which looks at trade a as a “zero-sum game”, is an outdated and harmful philosophy. Trade happens because of two (or multiple) individuals’ consent, and that consent only happens because both sides benefit. So, on an individual level, trade always benefits each individual that participates. This benefit is conferred even at a societal level. As individual wealth increases, societal wealth with increase. Trade encourages competition and innovation, which in turn enhances quality of life.

You can imagine what happens to the citizens of a nation when trade is restricted. The North Korean people are starving, and it’s because they lack access to high-quality goods. Most nations, including the US, have virtually closed off their borders with the country. This action is justified to many because we want to ensure that Kim Jong Un doesn’t “get richer” so he can make his nuclear weapons. But here’s the problem: a dictator is a dictator no matter how rich the people are. With or without sanctions, the North Korean government will continue to steal resources from its people in order to fund their nefarious activities. Sanctions only hurt the people, forcing them into a position of weakness.

And it goes further than that. By weakening the people of North Korea, sanctions actually make it harder to replace the Kim regime. The people lack the resources necessary for a revolt against their dictatorial leader. Rather than weakening the Kim regime, sanctions just make the North Korean government stronger by weakening its people.

However, there is also an immoral aspect to sanctions as. In essence, trade barriers violate individuals’ natural rights. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that property rights exist, meaning that it is immoral to steal. You own what you work for and trade for, as do I. If you think about it, sanctions run directly contrary to this idea. I decide whom I will trade with and how much I shall trade for, and it’s no one’s business to tell me or anyone else how I should spend my money. Trade barriers, in effect, allow the government to be the sole arbiter of the economy. They get to make the decisions, instead of the citizens who worked for their wealth.

A common counter-argument here involves the shouting of, “Well, under that logic you’d have to get rid of all taxes!” (cue scary music for effect). I agree: at least all federal taxes. It is not the government’s job to tell people how to act in the economy, granted that you refrain from violating another individual’s natural rights. Either way, the idea is fairly simple: either you believe in natural rights, and thus the evils of sanctions, or you do not believe in natural rights and utilize a sort of quasi-utilitarianism rule.

And that’s just the problem. Individuals and governments claim a belief in “rights,” but few really have one. Natural rights theory is inherently a deontological moral paradigm, or if not, a form of rule utilitarianism (which basically says adopt the universal rule that would provide the most happiness). Either way, you can’t accept the right to property in only certain instances. Doing so, of course, shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the idea.

Now, even if sanctions somehow weakened the Kim regime (they don’t), citizens still ought to oppose them. Why? They are an unnecessary exertion of government force. The government is arbitrarily using force in order to prevent you from making a simple transaction. That’s similar to a hypothetical situation in which I pulled a gun on you in order to prevent you from buying from a grocer who was “mean to me.” Do I have the moral authority to do such a thing? Of course not! Likewise, the government also lacks this authority in matters of international trade, no matter who is doing the trading.

Overall, there are several major problems with sanctions imposed on the North Korean regime. Trade barriers produce severe inefficiencies in the market, causing the citizens of the targeted nation to grow weak, thereby making them less able to fight back against their oppressors. But equally important are the moral implications that arise when the government interferes in the market. Yes, our gut reaction is to shut down trade with evil regimes.

In spite of this, we must remember that behind that ruthless, dictatorial government, there lies an oppressed group of people, suffering from our actions. All liberty-minded individuals ought to oppose sanctions against North Korea, and should work to foster an open, rational relationship into the future. Such a vision will both remove illegitimate governmental interference and gradually begin to liberate the nation’s suffering.


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North Korea Warns The United States

By James Sweet | United States

While the United States and the executive branch believes its sanctions and tough diplomacy against North Korea is working, a North Korean Foreign Ministry official thinks otherwise.

The official believes the American government is “misleading public opinion” by believing the sanctions are the primary reason behind Korean peace talks. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are set to meet in the next few months, although a time and place has not been publicly announced.

The North Korean government has also stated that the United States should refrain from putting “pressure and military threats” against the regime. “The US is deliberately provoking [North Korea] at the time when the situation on the Korean peninsula is moving toward peace and reconciliation thanks to the historic north-south summit and the Panmunjom Declaration,” says a statement from the regime.

“This act cannot be construed otherwise than a dangerous attempt to ruin the hard-won atmosphere of dialogue and bring the situation back to square one. It would not be conducive to addressing the issue if the US miscalculates the peace-loving intention of [North Korea] as a sign of ‘weakness’ and continues to pursue its pressure and military threats against the latter.”

The state news agency, KCNA, reported that the North Korean government was giving credit to their leader and his “boldness, patriotism and leadership” for the new diplomatic revelations.


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The Free Market is the Unsung Hero of North Korea

By Glenn Verasco | Thailand

As you may know already, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has expressed interest in meeting with President Trump, and has already met with South Korean president Moon Jae-In to begin brokering a peace deal to formally end the Korean War, eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons stockpile, and attempt to unite the peninsula as one Korea. The two Korean leaders met at the DMZ line and engaged in a symbolic sequence of gestures to signify the progress being made to the entire world. Un also met with newly-confirmed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a few weeks earlier.

If everything works out (and that is a gargantuan if), we could be looking at the most important world peace event since the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. Threats of nuclear apocalypse could subside for the foreseeable future, and an ensuing economic boom in North Korea could have wonderful effects for the North Korean people and markets throughout the world. Of course, a step towards freedom and prosperity for the prisoners of the North Korean concentration camp (i.e. everyone who lives there) would be the greatest victory of all.

This brings me to a point that I have not seen raised much yet: while it can be argued that President Trump deserves heaps of credit and maybe even a share of the Nobel Peace Prize should real advancement towards peace be achieved, the real reason North Korea is ready to open up to the world is the free market itself.

Before I make the case for crediting capitalism, I’ll share my thoughts on Trump’s role in getting the wheels rolling in Korea.

I think Trump’s brash and unorthodox tone prevalent at his rallies and on his Twitter feed is extremely effective in creating international peace. Comedian and impressionist Dana Carvey burlesqued President Obama and President Trump in order to show why Trump’s method might be working where Obama’s failed:

Regardless of whether or not Trump’s technique is calculated cunning or accidental impulsivity, I think there is logic behind the notion that speaking loudly and carrying a big stick is effective diplomacy when dealing with dictators like Kim Jong Un.

Years ago, I heard a clip of Adam Carolla ranting about the right way to deal with dictators and terrorist groups in the Middle East. While some may dismiss Carolla as a simple layman who’s grown a bit too big for his britches, I think he has wisdom and common sense on his side. Carolla believes that playing nice is the wrong way to go. Instead of being patient and measured a la Obama, Carolla says letting the US’s enemies (particularly those who are more bullying than reasonable) know that we are capable of military destruction unlike any nation in world history is the best way to great through to them.

Carolla recently had General Michael Hayden as a guest on his podcast and asked for his opinion on the current situation in Korea. While Carolla reiterated his own view, Hayden, predictably, renounced Trump’s tweets and rhetoric, but credited the administration’s military demonstrations and sanctions for producing hopeful results.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIAFA2PPrvY?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent

On Twitter, Ian Bremmer, president of political consulting firm Eurasia Group, and possibly the most perfect caricature of a globalist in a derogatory, populist-envisioned sense, echoed Hayden’s analysis by noting that the Trump team persuaded China to actually enforce sanctions against North Korea:

My problem with Hayden and Bremmer’s takes is that sanctions generally do not accomplish their goals. To exemplify this, sanctions have not done much to make progress in Cuba, Russia, Iran, or North Korea up until now. How could it make sense that a new set of sanctions is suddenly succeeding after decades of sanctions have failed? As Oxford research fellow and international relations expert Professor Adam Roberts says, “There are very few cases where you can definitely identify sanctions as having had a success, except sometimes in combination with other factors.” In other words, even on the rare occasions where sanctions appear to lead to change, correlation does not equal causation.

The last thing I’ll say before making my case for the free market is that Barack Obama should not be blamed entirely for missing out on an opportunity to make progress with Kim Jong Un if it existed while he was in office. Unlike the Republican congress under Trump’s thumb, GOP lawmakers would have pitched a hissy fit of epic proportions had Obama acted as Trump is acting now. They would have accused Obama of cozying up to dictators and obstructed any positive steps his administration may have liked to take. Now neutered by Trump, the GOP congress has shed their phony principles and does as their master commands.

I think talking to dictators is smart and ethical, whether via tweets or backchannels. The world is a complicated place, and government is inherently violent. If we kill all the sinners, we’ll all wind up dead, so making the best of a bad situation is the right way to go. It’s better to see oppressed people freed than oppressors hanged. This manner of foreign policy should be accepted across party lines.

There is also a case to be made that Trump’s apparent role in negotiations with North Korea are, like most economic sanctions, purely coincidental. Behind the optical illusions of rhetoric and diplomacy, the gears of innovation and production continue to turn. How one deals with a tribe that has invented the spear matters less than the fact the spear is now in play. Tariffs on raw materials do not matter if the raw materials aren’t there. Individuals and industries make the world more inhabitable for mankind, and governments must adapt or be left behind.

Several quasi-free-market factors could be the real hero on the Korean Peninsula. The first is that the isolated, centrally-planned economic model of North Korea is unsustainable. In fact, it’s miraculous that misery and starvation levels in the country aren’t higher. In the market of economic systems, the best options are in the laissez-faire-leaning aisle. Kim Jong Un might be making a choice to eschew some of his responsibilities and at the same time bring greater prosperity to North Korea and an easier life for himself. With international investors like McDonald’s and 711 on the menu, Un would probably regret resisting the temptation of effortless access forever.

If North Korea opens up, an economic boom like no other will almost certainly take place. As the image below demonstrates, North Korea has immense potential for economic development:

Korea Map

The GDP numbers Un could tout to the world and his people would make him look like an enormous success. Juxtapose being remembered as the man who liberated North Korea with being written into the history books as an evil tyrant who starved his people, and then think about which role you’d rather play.

The World Wide Web is another free market wonder that may be forcing Kim Jong Un’s hand. At the moment, press and internet freedom in North Korea is abysmal. It’s hard to imagine living in a world with such limited flow of information.

But the internet has proven to be something of a tyranny deterrent. My guess is that the Kim Jong Un regime will have a difficult time suppressing the information superhighway for much longer. Whether accomplished internally or via interventions from the outside, more and more North Koreans will wind up online. This is largely due to the forces of the free market, which have decided that the internet shall be the economic foundation of nearly all things.

The more access North Koreans have to the internet, the harder it will be for Un to keep his propaganda intact. Instead of waiting for things to boil over, easing into less-restrictive access to information is probably the better option.

Obviously, I do not know what is going to happen in Korea, nor do I know if or why anything is taking place right now. These are theories based on very limited knowledge of the world.

My advice to all is to remain skeptical of everything you hear and to hope for the best. North Korea may not open up to the rest of the world in any of our lifetimes. But if it does, it could be the event that restores optimism to the world.

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North Korea: Dead in the Water

By Joe Brown | United States

Imagine living in a world where every day is your last. Waking up each morning knowing you have numberless hordes of rockets pointed at you. Imagine living under the smoking barrel of a gun, or sleeping on a bomb, knowing that at any moment your entire existence could be reduced to a smoldering pile of nothing.

Imagine looking into the eyes of death…and yawning.

As unbelievable as this sounds, that is exactly what life is like when living in the Korean Peninsula. Welcome to the world where war is as trite as your morning cup of coffee, and the threat of nuclear annihilation is as natural as the rising of the sun.

Due to recent developments in the realm of diplomacy, many now consider with hope the possibility of a unified and peaceful Korea. But with a less than favorable track record and warhawks running foreign affairs, many question the United State’s role in garnering peace in the region, and still the greater question remains:

Can peace ever be achieved in Korea?

Despite what you may have heard in middle school, Korea was divided before the Korean War. Years of Japanese rule came to an end with the Second World War, with treaties delegating the North to Soviet forces, while the South remained under Western control before the invasion that triggered the conflict in 1950. Unlike its German counterpart who eventually united under a single democratic government, the Korean War is still technically at war to this day, leaving the people of Korea with more of a question mark than a happy ending.

After nearly 70 years of perpetual tension and complete separation between the two countries, diplomatic strides are causing some to regain hope for peace in the region. The Chinese government confirmed that earlier this week a meeting was held between Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in which, the latter promised to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

The pledge comes after months of heightened tensions regarding North Korea’s escalating nuclear program, which included the testing of multiple warheads with nuclear capabilities. Although the announcement was welcomed by most, many wonder how China was able to reach such a solution with a country the rest of the world generally considered uncompromising.

The thought that such an agreement can be made without threatening military action, applying economic sanctions, or paying off government officials may come as a shock to an American, but victims of American “negotiating” would testify otherwise.

The failure of American diplomacy isn’t anything new, and it certainly didn’t start with Korea. If anything, the modern United States was built upon broken promises, dishonest pacts, and shredded treaties. Whether it’s the hundreds of formal agreements made with Native Americans, the recent rejection of American efforts to preside over peace talks between Israel and Palestine, or Roosevelt’s infamous “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick” policy, peaceful and effective negotiations have never been America’s strong suit.

What’s the point in talking if you have the bigger gun, right?

The world needs leaders who are willing to compromise, rather than leaders who can’t take their fingers off the trigger.

Besides. No one can hear you if you speak softly, and you don’t need a big stick if your ideology is worth anything.

Michael Flynn, a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General and former National Security Advisor, famously commented on American affairs abroad, saying:

“We’ve invested in conflict, not solutions….”

Even a man who many would consider hawkish recognizes that if peace is what the U.S. is really looking for, its actions aren’t backing up its claim. In fact, if you took a closer look at the American track record concerning nuclear weapons, you would see that tensions such as those in North Korea exist because of so called “peace efforts” rather than despite them.

We don’t have to go any farther than this past year to find evidence of American efforts to undermine diplomacy. John Bolton, the newly appointed National Security Advisor with a knack for warmongering, has long opposed peaceful resolution in Iran, repeatedly stressing that regime change is the only real option in the country, (nevermind the fact that American supported regime change is what got Iran where it is now in the first place).

During a conference call with AIPAC, the most influential Israeli lobby in the U.S., Bolton revealed the true darkness of his strategy when he expressed frustration with Iranian compliance with international law. Iran has been a member of the non-proliferation treaty since its conception in 1968, and as such, its inventory, facilities, and nuclear infrastructure are subject to regular inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency. Bolton, knowing that Iran had agreed to the rules set by international entities, vehemently advocated for crippling sanctions against Iran in order to trigger the country into withdrawing from the treaty. Bolton planned on using this reaction as justification to invade Iran, to overthrow the government. As Bolton said himself during the call:

“They have not…withdrawn from the non proliferation treaty or thrown out IAEA inspectors which I actually hoped they would do, as that reaction would produce a counter-reaction.”

Bolton is essentially saying: “How am I supposed to justify an invasion if I can’t credibly accuse them of harboring weapons of mass destruction?”

Sound familiar?

America followed an almost identical formula to justify regime change in Iraq, even after Saddam Hussein invited chemical weapons inspectors from the U.N. to prove his country had no plans to use WMD’s. In order to preserve the false narrative that justified the invasion, John Bolton illegally exercised his influence to get the Chairman of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons fired in 2002, in what the United Nations’ highest administrative tribunal later condemned as an “unacceptable violation” of principles protecting international civil servants. His actions sent a clear message to the global community: The United States doesn’t accept dissident opinions.

This has grim consequences in the realm of negotiation.

Even as significant steps in diplomacy bring us closer to peace than we’ve ever been before, similar strategies have been used against North Korea in attempts to sabotage peace efforts. To the career politicians and lobbyists on capitol hill, an end to the conflict means losing the Korean War.

The recent strikes in Syria pose an additional threat to global security, as they jeopardize America’s fragile position as peacemakers in North Korea. With the groundbreaking talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un scheduled to happen within a month, many speculate that attacking one of the closest allies of Kim Jong-Un’s regime cripples America’s ability to negotiate. Simon Jenkins, one of Britain’s most acclaimed authors, notes that western patterns of opposition such as air strikes and economics sanctions act as an “elixir” that empowers dictatorships, spoils public image, and that promotes independence from domestic markets. All of which actually do more to support authoritarian regimes and contribute to a robust political and economic environment in which the U.S. has no power or influence.

Kim Jong Un is motivated by a desire to maintain power. He recognizes that the possession of nuclear weapons may be one of the only ways under the sun to prevent American aggression, and his administration has repeatedly stated that their nuclear weapons program would be suspended if they felt safe to do so.

As unpopular as the rocket man may be, Kim Jong Un paid attention in history class.

He knows what happened to Ukraine after the breakup of the Soviet Union, when regional leaders surrendered over 2,000 nuclear weapons in exchange for territorial autonomy. Following the deal, Ukraine would be invaded by Russian forces, and Crimea would be annexed.

He knows the only thing that preserved peace during the Cold War was the grim concept of mutually assured destruction

He knows that the complete lack of WMD’s still wasn’t enough to prevent an invasion in Iraq, and that the U.S. wouldn’t be bombing Syria if Assad possessed nuclear weapons.

Love him or hate him, the Supreme Leader has some legitimate concerns.

The problem isn’t that we’re dealing with a bully with a bad haircut who threatens other countries with nuclear weapons. The problem is that you didn’t know if I was talking about the Korean dictator, or the U.S. President.

By all means, hope for peace. But don’t be surprised by empty promises, broken treaties, and failed agreements. Whether by diplomatic incompetence or dark design, national interests have always been more important than peace.

Rather than asking: “Is peace attainable?” we should be asking: “Was peace ever even a priority?”

Of course peace is attainable. The real question isn’t whether or not peace is possible. The question is whether or not the current administration, or any administration for that matter, is willing or capable of garnering that peace.

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