Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The diligent historians laboring at The Cold War History Project have been busy translating decades of diplomatic material from the archives of the former Eastern bloc satellites on North Korea's strange and often rocky relationship with the rest of the Communist world. KimIl-Sung, the father of the current dictator proved to have been a major headache for MoscowAn excerpt:

“These documents from North Korea’s former allies give us a record of what constrained the DPRK-—what worked and what did not,” said Kathryn Weathersby, senior associate and coordinator of CWIHP’s Korea Initiative. As U.S. policymakers differ on whether to take a hard or soft approach toward North Korea, this new material brings a level of reality to that debate, she said, “by revealing the evolution of North Korean thinking about the use of military force against South Korea and about the perception of threats to the DPRK...

...The “Stalin formula” had two main tenets. First, North Korea could not decide on its own whether to invade South Korea, but had to consult its allies and await decision from Moscow. Second, North Korea was permitted to defend itself from a U.S. or South Korean attack. The DPRK took full advantage of this latter point, said Weathersby, “a loophole that inadvertently encouraged Kim Sung Il to stage provocations disguised as attacks from the South.”

Thus, in January 1968, North Korea sent 30 commandos disguised as South Korean guerillas to the Blue House in Seoul to kill South Korea’s President Park Chung Hee. Kim Il Sung had hoped this action would incite an uprising in the South and a subsequent request for military aid from the North, thus leading to reunification. But the commandos were captured, all but one were killed, and the failed plot was exposed. To divert attention from this embarrassment, North Korea seized an American intelligence ship, the USS Pueblo, charging U.S. aggression. One crewmember was killed, several wounded, and the 80 surviving crewmembers were taken hostage for 11 months.

In the United States, the Johnson administration assumed the Soviet Union was behind the Pueblo attack and took steps to reinforce its military strength along the Soviet border. The new evidence, however, reveals that North Korea did not consult any of its allies before the attack. “The Soviets were ignorant of the plot but after the Pueblo attack, they used their influence to restrain North Korea and make them take less provocative actions,” said Weathersby. But when Kim sent a note to Moscow asking for reassurance that the Soviet Union would indeed offer assistance should North Korea be attacked, “Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev made it clear to the North Koreans that the Soviets would not get dragged into war with the United States by North Korea—-that the alliance was strictly defensive.”

To relay this message, Brezhnev summoned Kim to Moscow but with remarkable impudence Kim declined to go, sending his defense minister in his place. Nonetheless, despite their anger, “the Soviets had to publicly defend North Korea in part to rebuff what they saw as U.S. arrogance. Privately, though, the Soviets pulled the Koreans back and the situation was calmed,” said Weathersby. “Although North Korea kept pushing the envelope,” she observed, “it still stayed within the ‘Stalin formula.’”

It may be that Pyongyang's rattling of nuclear sabres causes more of a spike in Maalox consumption at the Chinese Foreign Ministry than at the White House.

UPDATE: TM Lutas examines how DPRK nuke tests might affect Beijing

UPDATE II: Dr. Barnett says that Kim Jong-Il " must go down".
I only know one Russian, but I think of her as my daughter. If I had raised a daughter I would have wanted her to be as brave, smart, and tough as she is. If I can use my relationship and the time spent with her to evaluate the horizontal force of the Russian society then it becomes obvious why North Korea and Russia don’t get along that well. While the implicit laws of the two countries are similar, Koreans want their leader to watch over their country and Russia want their leader to be as tough as the people of Russia are. China and Korea has their benevolent leaders, Russian has their Stalins. They simply mistook his insanity as strength and then it was too late.
Hey Larry

I more or less agree with you. Russian preference for a strong "Vozhd" is pronounced in their history. I'm a lot less familiar with Korean culture though I realize it retains a deep current of Confucian influence and the concept of " face".
I think the Chinese are thoroughly enjoying the situation. THEY have helped spread nuclear technology to Pakistan and to an extent North Korea. It seems to me that they are happy with the spread of nuclear technology to states not friendly to the U.S. There is little downside for them. They know that Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and anyone else that is a U.S. "ally" already has the technology to go nuclear anytime they want. By spreading nuclear weapons, China helps themselves strategically by constraining the U.S.

Hi Mark,
I am not really familiar with Korean culture either except for what I see on TV. The picture I see is one of a benevolent leader. I mean how more benevolent can you get than uniting a nation. I just would not have the stomach for his methods.

I am not sure China is laughing. While they understand that our president cannot react in the retaliatory 3.5 minuets that he has, the amount of Russian missiles that can hit the US would probably destroy the earth. After all the sum of the forces in our galaxy is not zero. We are free falling towards the sun all the time. I am guessing, but a little change in the forces could change this condition. Not to mention the fall out from a missile hitting every city of 25,000 or more. Maybe they feel what are a couple more missiles going to hurt as long as they don’t fire all of them? Maybe the situation doesn’t have any downsides for them as anonymous says. That could be another reason why China isn’t negotiating.
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