The playbook and the 2013 Spring Crisis
The ‘playbook’, a US plan to escalate tensions during the joint US-ROK military exercises in March and April 2013 led to an great increase in tension designed to derail incoming president Park Geun-hye’s election promise to re-engage the DPRK. I wrote a short piece for the British magazine Red Pepper which appeared in the June/July printed version. I also wrote an updated version for their website.
2012: Turning point for the Korean peninsula?
Posted as Pyongyang Report V14 N2, 22 February 2012
The end of 2011 saw the death of Kim Jong Il and the succession of his son Kim Jong Un. During 2012
there will be elections in South Korea (for the National Assembly and for the presidency), and in
Russia, China, and the United States. We are embarking on a period of change, perhaps of
convulsion. Elections aside, we can expect an on-going crisis in the European Union and a
deterioration in relations between the United States and China and Russia. The Korean peninsula
remains a fissure line, especially between the United States and China.
However, what happens in Korea in 2012 and beyond is a product of the past, and particularly the
administration of Lee Myung-bak. Lee’s hardline policy towards the North brought the peninsula to
the brink of war at the end of 2010.
Synopsis Illustrated version Text only version
Delving deeper: Reflections on the response to the death of Kim Jong Il
Part 1 of a two part essay
Posted as Pyongyang Report V14 N1, 24 January 2012
North Korea is seldom in the news but when it is this is usually occasioned by some event, such as a nuclear test, or a rocket launch, that is seen to be portentous and so generates a deluge of articles and interviews. So it was with the death of Kim Jong Il. However, this lurch from famine to feast tends to make manifest how inadequate and tendentious the perception and understanding of North Korea, and the geopolitical imbroglio at whose vortex it sits, really is. Partly it is a matter of quantity at the expense of quality…..
However, the problems lie deeper and it seems to me that it is possible to discern a number of strands, interconnected and overlapping, that define and distort assessments
On the Death of Kim Jong Il: Contrasting Perspectives
Korean Quarterly, Vol. 15 #2, Winter 2012
The sudden and unexpected death of Kim Jong il dominated the international news at the end of
2011 and led to a plethora of articles and assessments. Journalists who were winding down for
Christmas were pressed into service and there was an explosion of instant expertise – as James
Church, the ‘veteran intelligence operative’ and pseudonymous author of the Inspector O series put
it, ’practically everyone who has ever eaten Korean food has been called on by the media to opine.’
Most of what was written and spoken was predictably nonsense, but even so there was a
considerable amount of informed or valuable assessment….
Transition and Change
With the death of Kim Jong Il and the accession to power, nominal and perhaps actual, of Kim Jong Un, many have been asking what change this will make to DPRK policy towards the outside world, and in particular towards foreign business.
The short answer is that in the short to medium term, none.
More important is whether this is the right question to ask……
The Yeonpyeong Incident of 23 November 2010 resulted in an essay with three variants. The first appeared as Pyongyang Report V12N1. This was then summarised as a Pluto blog and then a third, revised and expanded version appeared in the Asia Pacific Journal. There was also an interview with Russia Today TV in Moscow.
Korean Brinkmanship, American Provocation, and the Road to War: the manufacturing of a crisis
The exchange of artillery fire between South and North Korea on 23 November, 2010 had predictable results – a great increase of tension on the peninsula, a show of force by the United States, and a torrent of uninformed media articles and pontificating from the security industry. Zbigniew Brzezinski, who as Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor armed the Mujahideen in order to draw the Soviet Union into Afghanistan, thereby starting that long and continuing war (and paving the way to 9/11 for that matter), opined that
If these actions are deliberate it is an indication that the North Korean regime has reached a point of insanity. Its calculations and its actions are difficult to fathom in rational terms. Alternatively it is a sign that the regime is out of control. Different elements in Pyongyang, including parts of the military, are capable of taking actions on their own perhaps, without central co-ordination
[The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 8, Issue 51 No 1, December 20, 2010]
Fire Fight at Yeonpyeong: The Manufacturing of Crisis
Korean brinkmanship, American strategic paralysis, and the road to war
Summary of Pyongyang Report V12, N1, December 2010
The artillery clash between North and South Korea around the Island of Yeonpyeong on 23 November has been portrayed as an unprovoked attack by the North which involved indiscriminate fire on a civilian area. The reality is very different,. This reality can only be reached through a careful reading of the public reports combined with an understanding of the context.
[8 December 2011]
Decoding Korea: Using Context to Explain the Artillery Clash
Reading an obituary of Chalmers Johnson – the American East Asia expert who moved from being a Cold War warrior to a trenchant critic of US imperialism – I was taken with his stress on the importance of context. Talking about the need to strip away the lies of government he wrote ‘The concept ‘blowback’ does not just mean retaliation for things our government has done to and in foreign countries. It refers to retaliation for the numerous illegal operations we have carried out abroad that were kept totally secret from the American public. This means that when the retaliation comes—as it did so spectacularly on September 11, 2001—the American public is unable to put the events in context. So they tend to support acts intended to lash out against the perpetrators, thereby most commonly preparing the ground for yet another cycle of blowback’.
As with 9/11 so with the latest incident on the Korean peninsula..
[24 November 2010]
TAGS: Conflict, Military, North Korea, USA
South Korea plans to stage live fire-drills on the same island that was shelled last month in an exchange of fire with the North.
China and Russia have been calling for a restart of six-party peace talks to resolve the tensions in the region.
Hostility has been escalating since March, when the North was accused of sinking a South Korean warship.
That was followed by several rounds of naval exercises between the US and South Korean forces, which Pyongyang called a provocation.
Expert on Korea affairs Tim Beal says by staging the drills, the US is deliberately stoking the situation in an attempt to goad China, and spark a war.
“The Americans don’t need so much firepower against North Korea, which is really a very weak country, military speaking,” he argued.
“If there is a war between South Korea and North Korea, the United States is inevitably getting involved. And if the Americans are involved, we are getting, in a sense, a repeat of 1950, when the Americans attempted to take control of the peninsula and the Chinese warned them off, and the warning was not heard, or disregarded, and so the Chinese intervened. The consequences are so powerful, so catastrophic, that we presume that it’s not going to happen. But I think the underlying drivers are there that are pushing the situation perilously close to war.”