Regime Change Would End North Korean Nuke Threat
In what appears to be an eerie similarity to the Iraq War runup, North Korean defectors are telling Western officials that getting rid of Kim Jon Il would end North Korea’s nuclear threat. There’s a twist, though: They think it can happen without Western military intervention.
Defectors from North Korea are hoping that international sanctions will make life so much harder, that the North’s elite class will rise up against leader Kim Jong Il and overthrow him, writes the Associated Press.
The AP also writes that the Defectors’ Alliance, a group that helps North Korean refugees settle in South Korea, says the surest end to the current crisis “is to decisively eradicate dictator Kim Jong Il and his followers and establish a democratic government for the North Korean people,” who the group says will feel the brunt of the suffering caused by the current tensions.
In an interview with the AP, Hwang Jang Yop, the highest-ranking North Korean official to defect to South Korea, agreed that only Kim’s ouster will end the nuclear threat North Korea poses. He added, however, that he doubts the UN sanctions against North Korea will have any effect.
Mr. Hwang, a longtime member of North Korea’s elite and friend to the late Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il’s father and the founder of North Korea, defected in 1997 during a trip to Beijing, where he sought refuge in the South Korean embassy. He eventually moved to South Korea, where he is under 24-hour police protection to prevent North Korean assassination attempts. Hwang is believed to have been a mentor to Kim Jong Il, and to have been one of the architects of the Juche quasi-religious ideology with which the Kims have ruled.
But while some see Hwang’s perspective as a view into the inner workings of North Korea and Kim Jong Il, others suggest that Hwang’s advice be taken with a grain of salt. In a 2003 article, Slate called Hwang the North Korean Ahmed Chalabi, a reference to the Iraqi exile whose faulty intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction helped lead to the invasion of Iraq.
Meanwhile, the CSM reports that the international sanctions on North Korea will likely prove a humanitarian disaster.
Even as missile and nuclear tests alienate humanitarian aid donors, North Korea is facing a cold winter in which it is unlikely to be able to feed its people. The danger of widespread suffering raises the critical question of how the world can unite in a forceful response to North Korea’s nuclear test – the focus of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visits this week to Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing – and still rescue the North’s hungry people.
Compelled to ask for huge donations of food at the height of a famine that killed some 2 million people in the 1990s, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was confident enough last year to order the World Food Program and other aid-givers to leave or vastly reduce their programs. But the North may again need aid – at a time when missile tests in July, followed by the nuclear test this month, have reduced donors’ desire to rush in to help.
Certainly, a coup or otherwise ousting of Kim would be far preferable to starving his people in a futile effort at affecting his nuclear policy. An Iraq-style invasion is all but off the table, President Bush’s strong talk notwithstanding, and really has been ever since it became evident in the run-up to the Iraq war that the DPRK had nuclear weapons. The prospect of Kim sending even one missile into Seoul simply makes an American invasion untenable.
The Australian reported earlier this week that the Chinese government is considering effecting regime change for us.
The Chinese Government has been ultra-cautious in its reaction. However, since Monday, Foreign Ministry officials have started to make a point of distinguishing between the North Korean people and their Government in conversations with diplomats.
Ahead of yesterday’s Security Council vote, some in Beijing argued against heavy sanctions on North Korea for fear that these would destroy what remains of a pro-Chinese “reformist” faction inside the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “In today’s DPRK Government, there are two factions, sinophile and royalist,” one Chinese analyst wrote online. “The objective of the sinophiles is reform, Chinese-style, and then to bring down Kim Jong-il’s royal family. That’s why Kim is against reform. He’s not stupid.”
More than one Chinese academic agreed that China yearned for an uprising similar to the one that swept away the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989 and replaced him with communist reformers and generals. The Chinese made an intense political study of the Romanian revolution and even questioned president Ion Iliescu, who took over, about how it was done and what roles were played by the KGB and by Russia.
If hopes and wishes were loaves and fishes and all that. Still, I disagree with Heraclitus (via his co-blogger Michael Stickings) that such open discussion works against making a coup happen. Knowing they might get the support of the PRC’s security apparatus may well embolden plotters. Then again, the Kim family has held onto power for more than half a century for good reason.