There is now an extraordinarily insightful paper by Fu Ying on the DPRK-USA tensions. She was the head of the Chinese delegation involved in bringing together the USA and the DPRK a decade or more ago and she is now chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress. Fu Ying is the most experienced Chinese foreign relations expert, with a deep understanding of North Korean concerns. Her recent detailed assessment can be found here.

She shows consistently how direct dialogue has eased tensions, how the DPRK has responded and continues to respond to US provocation and reneging on agreements, how vulnerable the DPRK feels and the failure to understand this vulnerability. In her careful diplomatic way, she makes it clear that just when agreements had been reached, the USA started ramping up sanctions and bellicose actions. Obviously, this was viewed as a betrayal of the agreements in the DPRK. In fact, sanctions came first and the DPRK’s response second. Again and again, the DPRK has been quite willing to shut down its nuclear weapons capacity, anticipating that the threats and sanctions would be removed. The USA had not reciprocated, since it is clearly unwilling to compromise. In fact, its agenda is for the DPRK and its communist system to be destroyed. The DPRK views this position as non-negotiable. Now we are in a situation where China (and indeed Russia) want an end to US build-up of weapons in the Korean Peninsula – especially THAAD – and an end to joint large-scale military exercises between the USA and South Korea. In exchange, the DPRK would denuclearise and achieve the peacetime stability it desperately craves.

Through the whole piece is the consistent position that China seeks peaceful resolution, since it shares a long border with the DPRK.

There are many good points in the long article, but I really love this section, in the midst of discussing the dialogues of 2003:

I remember during one visit to Washington, the U.S. side stated: “We agree to talk, but the military option is also on the table.” The Chinese side disagreed with this and argued that if the U.S. insisted on keeping the military option, North Korea would also keep the nuclear option. In a later meeting in Washington, the U.S. told us that the wording had been adjusted to “The military option is not off the table.” It was quite hard to see the difference between the two versions, especially for non-English speakers, but the American side insisted that these were the president’s words. I jokingly asked an American colleague: if the military option “is not off the table” and not necessarily on the table, then where could it be? And he said that one could only use one’s imagination. When I conveyed this sentence to my North Korean counterpart Ri Gun, he looked at me, eyes wide open, and asked, “Then where is it now?”

 

Might it possibly be the case that we will begin to hear more of the DPRK’s view? Perhaps it is the recklessness of that rogue state known as the USA, perhaps it is the destabilising drive from South Korea’s conservative government, perhaps it is a newly belligerent Japan – all of these may be forcing a few people to ask: what is the DPRK’s position?

A hint may be found in an extraordinary interview on the BBC, of all places. In response to some rather aggressive questions, the Vice-Foreign Minister of the DPRK, Han Song-ryol, offers carefully considered and calm responses. It is worth watching.

Apart from the obvious point that the DPRK has been forced into a weapons program to defend itself from external aggression, especially by the USA, I am taken with the point that the DPRK has taken a particular path of socialism and they do not appreciate being told by others how to live. So also have you taken a path, says Han to the journalist, and you would not take kindly to someone else telling you what to do.

Since the DPRK (North Korea) is in the corporate news, and full of the usual misrepresentation, I thought I would reprise a section of an article I wrote a couple of years ago on Korean reunification – from the perspective of the north.

Reunification been a consistent policy of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea since its earliest days. But on what terms? A northern takeover of the south? Not at all. The policy is that reunification would be undertaken without outside interference, peacefully and in terms of a federal system, socialist in the north and capitalist in the south. This position was made explicit in the Communiqué of 1972, after the leaders of both countries had secretly met. In 1973 and again in 1980, Kim Il-sung reiterated this position, proposing a Democratic Confederal Republic of Koryo.

However, the most significant movement happened after the June 15th North–South Joint Declaration of 2000, between Kim Jong-il of the north and Kim Dae-jung of the south. Given that reunification has been a core northern policy, the change was obviously in the south. Here more progressive governments became open to the idea and agreed to the declaration. The change began with Kim Dae-jung’s ‘Sunshine’ policy of 1998. The result was the opening of borders, family reunions, a series of meetings between leaders of north and south, sports, cultural and economic exchange, and even the two Olympic teams marching together at the opening ceremonies in 2000, 2004 and 2006.

But as is the way with the vagaries and uncertainties of bourgeois democracies, the south changed its tune in 2008 with the new president, Lee Myung-bak. His right-wing policies led to a hard-line approach more in tune with United States foreign policy. Cooperation ended and tensions once again escalated – the situation in which we find ourselves now. Perhaps an opening up from the south may be possible once again if Moon Jae-in wins the elections this year. Who knows.

But the north Koreans I have met continue to hope ardently for an eventual reunification along federated lines.

Carla Stea has written a great piece on the DPRK (North Korea) and UN Security Council Resolution 2270. It is called ‘The Crucifixion of North Korea, The Demonisation of the DPRK’ and is published in the Australian Marxist Review.

Some photographs, taken by me and Aina Skoland (who was in our group). As you can see, people like to dress well and go about their daily lives as one might expect.

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Yes, indeed. This is from the train that took me last year from Pyongyang to Beijing. A preparation for a series of photographs on the DPRK (North Korea) – which I have at last finished processing:

2015 June 267 (640x480)

It reads: xian ren zhibu, which would be better translated as ‘no loitering’.

Two stray thoughts that have no obvious connections.

First, I cannot for the life of me understand how anyone can see David Bowie as in some sense ‘radical’. I do not mean the famous ‘theatrical’ comments about fascism in the 1970s. I mean the supposed radicality of his gender bending. Apart from the fact that this was a pop artist unusually adept at exploiting commercial mediums to be noticed, it is a sad reflection of what radical means in some parts of the world when it primarily refers to sexuality.

Second, since I have been to the DPRK (North Korea), I tend to notice occasional news items when they turn up – the latest being the recent nuclear test and predictable reactions to it. Whenever a picture is shown of South Korea, it carefully depicts South Korean soldiers. Strange how the many US forces never seem to feature, especially in light of their ubiquitous presence (on which I have written in ‘Brazen American Imperialist Aggressors‘). And when items refer to any exchange of warning shots, they strangely fail to mention that it would be US forces firing at the north.