Has Pyongyang Shifted Survival Tactics?
by Charles Lemos, Mon May 25, 2009 at 02:30:12 PM EDT
The aim of any regime is to perpetuate itself in power and in this the Juche regime in the DPRK is no different. There is little question that ruling cadre in Pyongyang see itself under threat and while its population may not be acutely aware of the regime's failure, Kim Jong-il's government most certainly does see the failure and the threat of internal collapse. The DPRK has in effect become a dynastic enterprise and Kim Jong-il intends for the regime to survive his passing.
An article published this past week on the Asia Times by Kim Myong Chol, who is often referred to as an "unofficial" spokesman for the regime, suggests that North Korea has shifted tactics from reaching an accommodation with enemies of the regime to a military-first approach.
Plan A called for the DPRK to consider exploring a shortcut to enhanced independence, peace and prosperity through rapprochement with the US. Plan A obliged the Kim Jong-il administration to negotiate away its nuclear weapons program as part of a verified denuclearization of the whole of the Korean Peninsula in return for Washington's strategic decision to co-exist peacefully with Pyongyang.
Plan A assumed the US would decide to leave behind its policy of hostility to the DPRK, conclude a peace treaty with North Korea, and pledge in a verifiable way it would not attack it with nuclear and conventional arms. It also assumed the US would establish full relations with North Korea, show respect for its sovereignty and independence, lift sanctions imposed on it, and provide it with fuel oil and light-water reactors.
Plan A was the engine behind the 1994 Agreed Framework with the Clinton administration and a series of nuclear agreements from six-party talks with the Bush administration, including the September 19, 2005 joint statement, the February 13, 2007 agreement, the October 3, 2007 agreement and the July 12, 2008 agreement.
Despite plan A, the US has remained hostile to North Korea as it is bent on its nuclear disarmament, painting it as a criminal state, and toppling its regime.
The Clinton administration did not want to fulfill the US's obligations under nuclear agreements and procrastinated for years, secretly betting on the collapse of the DPRK. The Bush administration was more overtly antagonistic, branding the DPRK as part of the "axis of evil", singling out it as a prime target for a nuclear pre-emptive strike, and moving to discard the nuclear agreement.
The US has not adopted a "live and let live" policy towards the DPRK, and it has refused to take any specific steps to reduce its nuclear threat to it, while North Korea was close to accepting full normalization of ties and a peace treaty with the US.
The Obama administration, which was launched with much fanfare and vows to reverse the disastrous policies of the Bush administration, has struck the Kim Jong-il administration as unmistakably no different from it in terms of hostility to the DPRK.
Kim Myong Chol argues that the Pyongyang has come to believe that Washington remains predicated on the view that a DPRK collapse is inevitable and that thus the US will not honor its commitments in full to assist the regime in its quest for survival. Given this realization, the regime "finalized a little-known watershed decision in March to shift to a 'Plan B' after more than a dozen years of fruitlessly pursuing 'Plan A'."
'Plan B' is a military-first policy. The regime will act to ensure its own survival by building a credible deterrent and furthermore seek to earn hard currency by exporting its nuclear technology.
The Kim Jong-il administration has learned the hard way that there is no point in negotiating with the US government on a bilateral or multilateral basis while the US remains hostile with no intention of adopting a "live and let live" policy towards Pyongyang.
Plan B envisages the DPRK going it alone as a fully fledged nuclear weapon-armed state, with a military-first policy, and then growing into a mighty and prosperous country. It will put the policy of seeking reconciliation with a tricky US, a helpless superpower with a crippled economy that is losing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on the back burner.
The DPRK is equipped with all types of nuclear warheads, atomic, neutron and hydrogen, and their means of delivery puts the whole of the USA within effective range.
The Times of London wrote on April 24, 2009: "The world's intelligence agencies and defense experts are quietly acknowledging that North Korea has become a fully fledged nuclear power with the capacity to wipe out entire cities in Japan and South Korea."
The announced vow to quit six-party talks, restart nuclear facilities and conduct additional nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests is a clear message that the Kim Jong-il administration's decision to shift to plan B is irretrievable.
Plan B will help Kim Jong-il to be comfortable in the driver's seat, as he is responsible for the destiny and the wellbeing of his people, who are the inhabitants of ancestral Korean soil bequeathed by Dankun, founder of Korea 5,000 years ago and Chumong, founder of Koguryo 2,000 years ago.
Plan B calls for the DPRK to join all three elite clubs of nuclear, space and economic powers by 2012, without seeking improved ties or a peace treaty with the US, as the DPRK has built up an independent global nuclear strike force which can carry the war all the way to the metropolitan US rather than on the Korean Peninsula.
Kim Jong-il has stated: "The entire party, the entire armed force, the entire population should re-double their efforts to bring about a new revolutionary surge, convinced that victory is certain and showing the indomitable spirit and thus fling open the gate of a great prosperous powerful nation by 2012 and more strikingly demonstrate the dignity and might of Songun [military-first policy] Korea."
If Kim Myong Chol is correct then Songun is the new Juche.