In the News – Romney on North Korea


In the News – Romney on North Korea

By Tong Kim

Despite U.S. concerns of proliferation and security threats, North Korea is not a critical issue that will affect the outcome of the American presidential election in November. The North is not likely to provoke military trouble serious enough to make a difference during the rest of this presidential election year for either the United States or South Korea.

Since Pyongyang’s failed satellite rocket launch in April that effectively cancelled a Feb. 29 agreement with Washington, the North has shown willingness to forego a third nuclear test and to reengage the United States. From its strategic calculation, the new North Korean leadership under Kim Jong-un seems to have decided to avoid further provocations.

However, it is also unlikely that there would be a breakthrough to the deadlock in inter-Korean relations or a new development that could help remove distrust and hostility between the United States and the DPRK, which has reached the worst level in the 60-year cycle of confrontation and engagement.

The Barack Obama administration knows that there is no satisfactory settlement of the North Korean issue achievable before the election. To protect his reelection chances, Obama would hope that the North does not stir up more trouble. The North appears to be cooperative for its own interests.

The North Koreans likely favor the reelection of Obama over the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, despite their disappointment and frustration with the minimal record of Obama’s North Korea policy.

From Romney’s statements on North Korea so far and in view of the known perspectives of his foreign policy team members, it is easy to understand why North Koreans would favor Obama. A Romney administration would resemble the hawkish George W. Bush administration preferring to rely on military force to resolve international disputes rather than diplomacy.

To appeal to voters, Romney speaks of “another American century,” “an American exception to stay as the sole superpower to lead,” and “a robust military presence in the Pacific.” He does not trust the sincerity of the North Koreans at the negotiating table. He does not talk about engagement or negotiation for non-proliferation but about implementation of verifiable inspections.

When Kim Jong-il died six months ago, Romney argued that the United States should push for regime change on the opportunity of the North Korean leader’s death, calling him “a tyrant who lived a life of luxury while the North Korean people starved,” and who developed dangerous weapons. To bring about regime change and to force North Korea to take a different path, Romney said, “America must show leadership.” In contrast, the Obama administration has called for stability and caution during Pyongyang’s transition.

On the launch of the North Korean rocket, Romney charged that Obama’s “efforts to appease the regime have emboldened Pyongyang.” He said Obama had “no effective response to North Korea’s weapons program and Obama supported “a food-aid deal,” ― a characterization of the Feb. 29 agreement ― “that proved to be as naive as it was short-lived.”

According to Romney’s official campaign website, he “will commit to eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons and its nuclear-weapons infrastructure. A key mistake in U.S. policy toward North Korea has been to grant it a series of carrots in return for only illusory cooperation. Each step the world has taken toward North Korea has been met with further provocations and the expansion of its nuclear program.”

“Romney will reverse that dynamic.” He will make it “unequivocally clear to Pyongyang that continued advancement of its nuclear program and any aggression will be punished instead of rewarded.” Romney will “institute harsher sanctions on North Korea, such as cracking down on financial institutions that service the North Korean regime.”

“He will also step up the Proliferation Security Initiative to constrain North Korean illicit exports by increasing the frequency of inspections of North Korean ships and discouraging foreign ports from permitting entry to North Korean ships.” His people believe “such measures would shut off routes by which the regime supplies its nuclear program.”

A Romney administration would clearly be tougher in rhetoric and attitude, but it does not offer new ideas that could disarm North Korea. Its policy represents a rehash of the hardline aspects of what the previous and present administrations have tried without much success. Romney has yet to offer more specifics on how he can accomplish denuclearization and secure peace and stability in Korea.

Romney says he “will work to persuade China to commit to North Korea’s disarmament,” and “assure China it will not be alone in dealing with the humanitarian and security issues that will arise should North Korea disintegrate …and when the North Korean regime collapses…under the weight of its own economic and political contradictions”

The underlying assumption for this approach is not original. Under Obama’s policy of strategic patience, Washington and Seoul had erroneously anticipated an imminent fall of the Pyongyang regime or its surrender to international pressure to accept the conditions of engagement as dictated by them. The North neither fell nor surrendered.

Like Obama, Romney “will also pursue robust military and counter-proliferation cooperation with our allies and others in the Pacific region.” Similarly, he will also invigorate relationships with South Korea, Japan, and others to increase a collective military presence and cooperation,” to deal with the rising power of China.

The North is unlikely to collapse in the next five years. And, since neither Obama nor Romney seems to have any fresh ideas that will resolve the issue, perhaps, a solution should come from the next government of the South or the new leadership of the North. What’s your take?


Original article can be found here.

U.S. Presidential Candidates on North Korea

The Korean peninsula is expected to enter a new phase as a result of leadership changes in 2012. South Korea will have a new president by the end of the year, and this is the first fiscal year for Kim Jong-un who assumed the supreme commandership of North Korea after his father’s sudden death in December 2011. In addition, the United States presidential election of 2012 will be held in November. Xi Jinping of China will succeed Hu Jintao as General Secretary and President. As six-party talks play a crucial role in determining the dynamics between South and North Koreas, all of these leadership changes should be taken into account when predicting the future of the peninsula. With the U.S. election being eight months ahead, now is the time to take a look at each candidate’s view on North Korea and how it can affect the South-North relationship in the future.

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In the News – Defense reform bills fail to pass in parliament


In the News – Defense reform bills fail to pass in parliament

SEOUL, April 20 (Yonhap) — A South Korean parliamentary committee dealing with national defense failed Friday to pass a set of reform bills aimed at bolstering military readiness against North Korean provocations, as the meeting lacked a quorum.

Only six of the minimum nine lawmakers needed to reach a quorum attended the meeting of the National Defense Committee, making it unlikely the bills will pass in the outgoing National Assembly before its term ends next month. The committee has 17 members.

The reform plans centered on making the military’s command structure more efficient, and giving the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff more power to control the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Reforming the military has been one of the government’s top policy goals, especially since North Korea’s two deadly attacks on the South in 2010.

“(We) tried to pass urgent bills such as those related to defense reforms during our final meeting today, but it is regrettable that the meeting could not proceed smoothly due to the aftereffects of the April 11 parliamentary elections,” said Rep. Won Yoo-chul of the ruling Saenuri Pary, who chairs the committee.

The defense reform bills had been pending in parliament for 11 months mainly due to fierce opposition from opposition parties over their possible destabilizing effects.


Original article can be found here.

In the News – North Korean defectors emerge from periphery


In the News – North Korean defectors emerge from periphery

North Korean defectors are emerging from the periphery to take center stage in academic, political, religious and other spheres, hoping to lay the groundwork for reunification.

Brushing aside lingering prejudices against the defectors in South Korea, they have striven to carve out a distinct role to raise the public understanding of the communist state and bring about a change for the people struggling north of the border.

Among them is Cho Myung-chul who became the first defector elected to the National Assembly last week.  Continue reading

In the News – N. Korea completes electing new leader Kim as party delegate


In the News – N. Korea completes electing new leader Kim as party delegate

SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) — After a series of party meetings countrywide, North Korea has elected new leader Kim Jong-un as a delegate to this month’s ruling party conference, the North’s state media said Sunday, in a move seen by outside analysts as another effort to consolidate Kim’s grip on power.

The North’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) plans to hold a special session on April 13 and is expected to appoint the young Kim, believed to be in his late 20s, to the post of general secretary of the party. The same post was held by his late father Kim Jong-il.

The young leader became supreme commander of the North’s 1.1 million-strong military shortly after his father’s death in December, as he progressively takes more control of the communist country.

Announcing Kim as a WPK delegate, representatives “praised him as the great statesman who is wisely leading the revolution and construction as a whole with his tested leadership,” according to an English-language report by the Korean Central News Agency. Continue reading