Red Countries> North Korea

North Korea is an old bogey on the world scene. Since the end of World War 2 they became one of the front lines of the Cold War after the Korean peninsula was liberated from the Japanese by the allies. It was then split amongst them with the Communists getting the North and the Western nations the South. This of course led to a massive war that was waged in the 1950’s on the peninsula. The war has never officially been ended and so the area is still technically in a state of war and is always in a heightened state of alert. The North Korean regime is still a Stalinist regime that has been influenced by neighbouring Russia and of course, China. Indeed some see the Maoist Chinese as basically holding North Korea as a puppet state that can do its bidding when it wishes.

George Bush managed to neatly tie them into the current World War with his state of the union speech that included them in the “Axis Of Evil” as a ‘terrorist state’ alongside Iraq and Iran. Thus they suddenly found themselves part of the growing world destabilisation even though they had little if nothing to do with the events of 9/11 or any of the classic conflicts in the Middle East. This makes some sense though, if this conflict has all along been an elaborate ploy to combat China’s growing dominance in the world economy. Given the isolationist policies of the North Korean regime they have indeed been completely reliant on China to provide the raw resources necessary to keep the state functioning viably. China supplies all the power and food to the nation state. Thus they do have an exceptionally close relationship with this country. Suspicions are often held that China uses North Korea as a proxy when it wants to make geopolitical manoeuvrers without directly implicating itself. So anyone wishing to take part in a similar ploy against China would need to make sure that North Korea could be taken care of if the need arose.

Since classifying them in this same category as Iraq and Iran, many neo-con publications have talked about regime change being enforced in North Korea as well. The North Koreans have been paranoid of attack even in good years. So now with a group that has shown when it talks about regime change it actually means regime change pointing the finger at them they have been slowly driven into a frenzy over the last four years. Now that Iraq has actually had regime change occur and Iran was well and truly on the chopping block as war preparations were being made earlier this year, 2006, the Koreans must have been feeling exceptionally at threat. So it is little wonder that they began breaking many of the international promises that they had been making to try and come back into the international fold.

Back in July 2006 they engaged in a missile test without warning that again put their region on high alert. It was only a week after this that the Lebanon war erupted. So it is possible that there was some interconnectivity with these events. Indeed, the US media was accusing Iranian military officials of having attended the launch again enforcing an “Axis Of Evil” link. The UN held an emergency session and passed a resolution that demanded the North Koreans desist their weapons program or face further sanctions. The North Koreans declared that this resolution was a prelude to a “new war on the Korean peninsula”. Their troops along the border with South Korea were put on high alert and there was even a small gun battle. It seemed highly likely at the time that if the Lebanon war had engulfed Syria and Iran that maybe the North Koreans would have used this chaos to attack the South. But the Lebanon war quietened again and things seemed to stabilise.

Then as word was trickling out to the public that an assault on Iran might again be imminent in October, the North Koreans once more arced up. This time they announced they were going to detonate a nuclear bomb in a test firing that would prove to the world they were now a nuclear nation. The North Koreans have long been suspected of having an untested nuclear bomb already, having received assistance from the Pakistani Dr Khan in their making of it. Interestingly, the other source of assistance that has helped them go nuclear was a US firm that in 2000 sold them nuclear power reactors. One of the directors of this company at the time was none other than Donald Rumsfeld.

Conducting such a test would destabilise the whole area as it could lead to a massive arms race in the region. Their traditional enemies, Japan and South Korea, could then try and make a weapon, which would be very displeasing to China. The weekend before the test their military along the border was again on high alert. And again a firefight erupted between North and South Korean soldiers. So tensions are running very hot at the border. The North Koreans of course, then actually came good with their threat and have detonated a bomb. This has sent shock waves through the region and seen another military build up in yet another potential theatre of the world war.

The world has been fairly unanimous in its condemnation of the test. Even Russia and China have said they are very displeased with what North Korea has done. This has lead to two schools of thought in analysis of what is happening in that region right now. Possibly the North Koreans have become so paranoid of what they see as an impending US attack, in order to force regime change, that they are now taking actions even well outside what their closest ally China would want. It really isn’t in China’s interest to see an arms race in the region. And publicly, China is certainly being very stern in its berating of North Korea.

Alternatively, the Chinese could have secretly asked the North Koreans to create the international incident in an attempt to outflank the Americans and put the breaks on their impending attack of Iran. The Chinese would not wish to see their supplies of oil out of Iran interrupted by the war or a new US influence over their oil supplies if such an attack occurred.

At any rate, Bush was quick to announce in the hours after the test that as well as detonating a bomb North Korea was selling missiles to Syria and Iran -- again placing them very squarely in the category of the “Axis Of Evil” which some Neo-Cons do openly call for all out war against. At this point the Americans deny they will attack North Korea, but the region is on tenterhooks. The North Koreans have announced they will detonate another nuclear device in the coming weeks, most probably right before the day of the US Mid-Terms. So they are keenly aware of what effect their actions are having on US domestic politics.

The UN has passed another round of sanctions against North Korea to punish it for its actions. But the North has declared that this amounts to an ‘act of war’ against them. There is still a chance that should the bombing of Iran go ahead the North Koreans might capitalise on this, or feel so threatened they have no choice, and invade the South. Such an invasion would be a costly war to all sides and would see the North Koreans in conflict with at least the South Korean and the United States military, if not other nations in the region like Japan. It would probably just be a conventional war despite all the North’s warnings that an all-out nuclear war on the peninsula could be imminent. It does not seem likely that the North has very many nuclear weapons, but it has a frightening array of conventional weapons at its disposal. And such, a war on the peninsula could eventually drag China in and it may not be on the side that the Americans would be expecting.

Map of North Korea