North Korean Update

North Korea at night is dark. From satellite photos, the Korean peninsula is ablaze with light, right up to the 38th parallel. Then it goes dark. North Korea is dark. That assessment is literal and shows that the country is poor in that it does not even have the basic infrastructure. This observation is also metaphorical: North Korea has increased its poverty by keeping its citizens in the dark and creating its own world view and its own approach to interacting with the world community—an approach that regularly runs counter to the ideas and wishes of industrialized and civilized nations.

The current fuss has been created by North Korea’s 29-year old leader Kim Jung Un. He has been extremely unpredictable since assuming control of the nation. The latest is that North Korea announced it has pulled more than 54,000 workers from a joint Korean industrial park. The Kaesong factory park produced its first products in late 2004. It is located just north of the western edge of the inter-Korean border and has shown how the two Koreas could cooperate to overcome decades of political hostilities, even giving hope for an eventual reunification.

The two Koreas worked together to clear their heavily armed border, removing minefields and relocating military encampments while building a cross-border road and rail line that linked Kaesong and Seoul. Since then, hundreds of South Koreans and trucks had rumbled through a border crossing each day, shipping out textiles and other labor-intensive goods from 123 South Korean factories in Kaesong made with low-cost North Korean labor.

Speaking of the factory park closure, S. Korea’s new leader Park Geun-Hye is quoted as saying “North Korea must stop its wrong behavior and make a right choice for the future of the Korean nation. If the North breaks international norms and promises like this, which country and which business will invest in the North?”

North Korea said it was forced to consider shutting down Kaesong because of tensions heightened by routine U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises and the United Nations sanctions imposed for its Feb. 12 nuclear test.

Missile Tests Create High Tension in Region

Many of the region’s nations are experienced in dealing with North Korea’s incitements. But how will these new Korean leaders, and a new Chinese leader react?  Who can say for sure? It is certain that diplomats all through the region are burning up the communications lines trying to stabilize this rift. It is ironic that this is happening in China’s back yard and China could stop the whole thing in a heartbeat by telling N. Korea to knock it off or it won’t get any more oil. Don’t hold your breath on that one.

Meanwhile, Kim seems determined to conduct his internationally condemned mid-range missile tests. If the N. Koreans go ahead with these missile launches, and if those missiles are aimed at a country instead of the ocean, what will the US military response be? What will the world response be? In an effort to diffuse the tension, the US has canceled a missile test of its own in California. The top military official in S. Korea has canceled a trip to the US because of the tenseness of the situation in his home country.

State Department officials are working feverishly to make sure S. Korea and Japan do not respond militarily to the anticipated North Korean test missile launch. Military surveillance captured photos of two mid-range missiles being loaded onto a train track for transportation to an unknown destination. Those missiles are the ones that will likely be launched from somewhere in North Korea—some officials think by as early as this week.

Kim Jong Un has had a nuclear test that was successful. He has had a successful long-range missile launch. Martha Raddatz, ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent, recently reported that the success of these tests has emboldened Kim. He has a highly militarized country and the propaganda there for decades has been that the United States is that country’s greatest enemy and greatest threat.

The american commander in S. Korea, General James Thurman was asked by Raddatz what he thought Kim’s intentions are and if he thought Kim would attack  S. Korea. He replied that the leader was acting very recklessly. He motioned in the direction of the American and S. Korean soldiers and said, “If you ask every one of these soldiers out here, it’s fighting tonight. And that’s not a bumper sticker. We’ve got to be able to do that.”

The US may find it difficult to control the response of other countries, should there be a reckless act or attack by North Korea. According to Raddatz, expect to see the US work diplomatically to diffuse this situation and at the same time ratchet up its defensive response to North Korea by positioning more Patriot missile batteries and other defensive measures.

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