Global Independent Analytics
Pedro Marin
Pedro Marin

Location: Brazil

Specialization: Latin America, Ukraine, North Korea

North Korea’s Test: Carrying out Songun to Protect the Sovereign Nation

The government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DRPK) has announced last Wednesday that it had successfully tested its first hydrogen nuclear bomb (also known as H-Bomb).

It happened after a South Korean weather agency reported signs of an artificial quake near a North Korean nuclear test site.

The announcement prompted rapid declarations by Western leaders. The White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said Washington has yet to confirm the claims, but condemned “any violation of UNSC resolutions” and again called “on North Korea to abide by its international obligations and commitments.”

The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, declared the test is "deeply troubling" and "profoundly destabilizing for regional security," demanding the country to “cease any further nuclear activities and meet its obligations for verifiable de-nuclearisation." And of course, Human Rights Watch, with its usual aggressive attitude, said that “the only birthday present that Kim Jong-un should get from the international community is a one way trip to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he should be put on trial for crimes against humanity.” Australia, France and China also condemned the test, which was followed by the UN Security Council’s decision to condemn it as well. Uruguay's Ambassador Elbio Rosselli, this month's Council president, said there will be further “significant measures.”

In its turn, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s government also released a statement, saying that “nothing is more foolish than dropping a hunting gun before herds of ferocious wolves,” and adding that “there can neither be suspended nuclear development nor nuclear dismantlement on the part of the DPRK unless the U.S. has rolled back its vicious hostile policy toward the former.”

Despite of the mainstream media attempts to frame North Korea as a stateruled by lunatics, the government’s statement is nothing but true and sane. In fact, political scientist Lee Jae-Bong said the exactly same thing in an article for The Asia-Pacific Journal, in 2009: “North Korea seeks, through development of nuclear weapons, to secure international recognition as well as economic aid and national security. Thus for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, provision must be made for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons without a sense of insecurity. In addition, it is unrealistic to urge North Korea to unilaterally dismantle its nuclear weapons without a breakthrough in U.S.-North Korea relations, preparing the withdrawal of U.S. forces in South Korea, eliminating the U.S. nuclear umbrella for South Korea, and abolishing the U.S.-South Korea Alliance.”

According to a paper by Dr. Alexandre Y. Mansourov, North Korea’s nuclear program started in the 50’s – which included a search for radioactive material in the country’s territory in 1952, the establishment of a physics departments in Kim Il-Sung National University in the mid-1950’s and the signing of cooperation agreements with USSR for the nuclear program in 1956.  In 1967, the country started operating its first nuclear reactor, joining the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in September 1974. But it was only in the late 1970s that the country started to build its nuclear weapons, after South Korea started its own nuclear program (the country already had United State’s nuclear weapons stationed before that).

By contrast, the US has been developing nuclear weapons since the 1940s, and currently has an arsenal of 4,760 warheads. Plus, it was the only country in the world to actually use nuclear weapons, when it bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Although South Korea ended its nuclear program after the President Park Chung-hee assassination, in 1979, the American tactical nuclear weapons were only withdrawn from the country in 1991.

Shortly after that, North and South signed a Joint Declaration of commitment to a nuclear weapons-free Korea, which ended up collapsing, due to the countries’ dispute over mutual inspections, as North Korea refused the South’s inspections unless it could inspect US military bases as well (which was refused). North Korea’s threats to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) led to talks with US President Bill Clinton. The country agreed to suspend its withdrawal after Clinton suspended the Team Spirit military drills in Korea. In 1994, the DRPK government invited former-President Jimmy Carter to visit the country. It led to the Agreed Framework between North Korea and United States, in 1994. The agreement stated that North Korea would immediately stop its nuclear program, dismantle its nuclear facilities until 2003, stay in the NPT and let the IAEA inspections take place. In return, US agreed to help the country’s energetic needs, by building two water reactors until 2003 and, until then, supply North Korea with 500,000 tons of crude oil. But the agreement ended up collapsing as well, as US didn’t provided what it had promised.

As the 90s were so harsh on North Korea, as the economy crashed after USSR collapsed and their dear leader Kim Il-Sung died, the country had to rethink its foreign policy. By then, North Korea had been benefiting from the Sino-Soviet split, as both countries fought for the country’s sympathy. It included, of course, making deals in exchange for aid, which allowed the country to remain independent and keep growing. It was a part of the country’s main philosophy – the Juche idea – which is, according to Kim Il-Sung, “in a nutshell, being the master of revolution and reconstruction in one’s own country. This means holding fast to an independent position, rejecting dependence on others, using one’s own brains, believing in one’s own strength, displaying the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance, and thus solving one’s own problems for oneself on one’s own responsibility under all circumstances.”

After the Soviet Union fell apart, the country couldn’t depend on its complex diplomacy towards USSR and China anymore. That’s when the Songun policy, which basically is putting the army before everything else, was born. If Juche is the idea that one is the master of the revolution, Songun is the idea that one has to be able to protect the revolution. These ideas, along with North Korea’s nationalist agenda, are the answer that the nation found after years of brutal colonial oppression and exploitation. Before the defeat of the Japanese on the WWI, the Korean Peninsula lived under Japan’s imperial rule. Apart from the colonial economic exploitation, Korean nationalism and was strongly suppressed, as Koreans had to adopt Japanese names and speak Japanese, and lived under a massive political repression – which, according to Park Eunsik’s The Bloody History of the Korean Independence Movement, included the murder of about 7,500 people and the arrest of about 40,000 people when the nationalist movement had its first march, in 1919. Maybe the most perverse element of the Japanese crimes were the comfort women – thousands of Korean women who were sexually enslaved and constantly raped and tortured.

Although both Koreas have freed themselves from the Japanese empire, the situation didn’t get much better. During the Korean War, General MacArthur requested the use of nuclear bombs in numerous occasions. In fact, according to Korea specialist Bruce Cumings, Mac Arthur once said that he’d have dropped “between 30 and 50 atomic bombs… strung across the neck of Manchuria” and spread “a belt of radioactive cobalt, which has an active life of between 60 and 100 years.” In November 30, President Harry Truman said that “there has always been consideration” of the use of atomic bombs against North Korea’s forces. When asked by a journalist if the use of atomic bombs would depend on United Nation’s authorization, the President answered the following: “No, it doesn't mean that at all. The action against Communist China depends on the action of the United Nations. The military commander in the field will have charge of the use of the weapons, as he always has.”

Ironically, now the US government accuses North Korea of violating UNSC’s violations. That’s why the DRPK keeps its nuclear program: they need guns before the ferocious wolves.

The big question here is the following: Why is a country that has the world’s biggest military infrastructure and the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal so eager to stop North Korea’s nuclear program, that according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, enabled the country to produce “up to eight rudimentary nuclear weapons”?

As it has been since the beginning of North Korea’s nuclear program, having nuclear weapons enables the country to negotiate. The American government knows North Korea won’t simply attack them nor to South Korea, as it would mean the country’s total destruction. It’s the same old Cold War tale: no one wants to press the button, although everyone threatens to. Plus, it’s for sure in the US government plans to seize North Korea, as it share borders with both Russia and China, and thus works as a buffer zone for Beijing.

The media will keep picturing the North Korean government as a constant threat, framing it as crazy place where people can’t choose their own haircuts and where Ministers are executed by anti-aircraft guns. It’s good old propaganda, which aims to create fear among the people and make they believe it isn’t only necessary to take North Korean government down, but it actually would be a favor for its people. After all, how else would people believe North Korea is a threat, with its 7.5 billion dollars a year military budget, and South Korea (which spends almost 5 times fold more with military than North Korea) or the US is not?

The thing is, that if a country which is constantly involved in wars and has actually used nuclear bombs against civilians has the right to have up to 4,000 nuclear weapons, it seems to me that so does North Korea. After all, how many countries has insane North Korea invaded since its creation? How many has the United States?

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