A Forum for Opinions on News, Politics, and Life
October 22nd, 2011
By Dan Miller
Until recently, there had been little new in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. North Koreans continue to starve, the country begs for food, and the barely fed prisoner-slaves (there are up to 200,000 political prisoners there) grow poppies to make heroin to provide state export revenues of $500 million to one billion annually. According to Bruce Klingner at the Heritage Foundation, “the total for legitimate exports is estimated at around $1 billion annually.” Still, it’s a very cheerful place according to state media, far superior to all countries other than China.
Little light escapes the black hole of the North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK), but Dear Leader Kim Jong-il has long been a cheerfully despotic narcissist, grandly fed according to his former chef who defected to Japan in 2001 and whose insights into Kim Jong-il are still highly regarded by intelligence officials:
Money was no object when it came to food. Fujimoto made shopping trips around the world to pick up ingredients – to Iran and Uzbekistan for caviar, to Denmark for pork, to Thailand for mangoes, durians and papayas. On a whim, Kim once sent Fujimoto to pick up a box of his favourite rice cakes, which were scented with mugwort and available only at a department store in Tokyo. Fujimoto later evaluated the trip and put the cost of each bite-size morsel at $120.
Kim’s food is always prepared with consummate skill and devotion:
Before cooking the rice, the kitchen staff would inspect each grain individually and discard any blemished by irregularities of shape or colour. He ate only the choicest foods and loved the fatty cut of tuna known as toro.
Sometimes Fujimoto would prepare sashimi using a trick he had learnt at Tsukiji, slicing so the vital organs were spared and the fish was served writhing on the platter.
Another of Kim Jong-il’s pleasures is his military. They seem quite prosperous and well fed.
The DPRK also readies to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Glorious Founder Kim il-Sung next year when, among other marvels, a “new” hotel is scheduled to open in Pyongyang. Construction began twenty-four years ago but met with “unexpected” delays:
Ryugyong Hotel, a glass tower spanning 105 storeys and rising 1,080 ft high, will partially open in April next year following decades of delays, according to reports.
The long-delayed opening will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of the nation’s founder Kim Il-sung, with celebrations peaking on 15 April. It was in 1987 that the hotel – whose name means Capital of Willows – was first launched with the grandiose ambitions of creating the world’s tallest tower.
Then, the DPRK will enter an unprecedented era of prosperity and its goals for that year will be reached, as of course they must be; it has been decreed that the DPRK will become a great, powerful, and prosperous nation.
And, of course, the DPRK is (as has become customary) simultaneously preparing for more nuclear weapon and missile tests. Its uranium enrichment program seems to have been going well and to be more massive than previously thought. Last November, it shelled Yeonpyeong-do, an island claimed by South Korea (the Republic of Korea, ROK) and occupied by ROK military personnel and civilians.
Despite the things that don’t change much, there are some significant new developments in the current fruit and nut mix.
Recently, the army of the DPRK increased its military capability close to the border with South Korea:
North Korea has recently moved fighter jets near the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border, and ground-to-air missiles close to Baeknyeong Island. There is speculation that it plans a minor provocation while South Korean president Lee Myung-bak visits the U.S. since any show of unity between the two allies tends to incense the North. “The North Korean military was seen moving mobile missile launchers at a ground-to-ship missile base near the NLL,” a government source said. “There’s likelihood that the North will launch a military provocation” while Lee is away. The government is closely watching movements of North Korean artillery units. An intelligence source said, “The North Korean Army is showing movements similar to those seen right before it shelled Yeonpyeong Island last year.”
The ROK has declared a high state of alert. It may have been principally in response to DPRK movements, to the visit of ROK President Lee Myung Bak, to Washington or to both. After President and Mrs. Lee were welcomed at the White House on October 13th, President Lee became the first Korean president to visit the Pentagon, where he and
Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, presidential secretary for foreign affairs and national security Chun Young-woo, and secretary for national security strategy Kim Tae-hyo . . . met U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, and most of the chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Forces, according to Cheong Wa Dae.
They are said to have received “an unplanned briefing on the security situation on the Korean Peninsula from top military officials,” unrelated to any “special and pending issues.” It is not credible that such a briefing was unplanned and unrelated to pending issues. Is “unplanned” the same as “unexpected”?
The start of the Korean conflict, on June 25, 1950, was “unexpected” and shouldn’t have been; there were plenty of signals but we were not looking. A synopsis of the beginnings of that Korean conflict and the events leading up to it is provided here. Importantly, under President Truman’s Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson, military spending had been cut drastically:
In the early days of the Korean War, the North Korean Army, supplied with Soviet weaponry, was better armed and equipped than were U.S. troops. . . . Johnson made political hay by claiming that he had “cut the fat” from the defense budget. What he really cut was the throats of thousands of American soldiers.
Johnson ceased to be the secretary of Defense soon after the Korean Conflict broke out.
With a weak U.S. president unlikely to be reelected and a host of other foreign and domestic problems to preoccupy us, now would be an excellent time for the DPRK to invade the ROK in full force, probably better than at any previous time. Kim Jong-il almost certainly realizes that. He and his advisers must also realize that the likelihood of crippling U.S. military budget cuts is great. According to Defense Secretary Panetta,
the automatic cuts, part of a last-ditch negotiating move by President Obama and Congress, [were] both “blind” and “mindless.”
He said nearly $500 billion in defense cuts already being imposed are “taking us to the edge.” Another $500 billion would be “truly devastating,” he added.
Even under current cuts, “we’re going to have a smaller force,” Mr. Panetta said.
This apparently doesn’t worry Secretary of State Clinton, who said on October 14th that in this new age the strength of the U.S. is waning, not due to any loss of military power but due to flawed economic policies.
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