Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Little Kim, Big Bomb

Ah, you can trust Fox News to delve into an issue, and make a complete mockery out of it. You can trust it for asking questions to which it does not want to hear answers- because the questions are just statements of fact disguised with a '?' at the end. No, no, I'm not talking of the Clinton-Wallace interview [which was great TV by the way, see it on youtube if you haven't] but of the latest headline I saw from Fox---- WILL THE NORTH KOREAN NUCLEAR THREATS HELP THE REPUBLICANS IN NOVEMBER?

I hope I don't need to explain my problem here.

Alright, to the meat of the matter. I know what America is going to do under Bush, I'm pretty sure screwing everything up is part of the plan. But more importantly, what does this mean? What is China and Japan's role and reaction in the matter- being neighbours- and what is India's position?

Mr Blair has been nice enough to point out there are no parallels between the N-tests in North Korea and India. Manmohan Singh that this test increased the "danger of clandestine proliferation" which actually brings me back to my old friend, Mr Ahmadinejab of Iran. Remember him? Iran and North Korea have been keeping an eye on eachother, and the reaction of the international community with regards to this latest development will have major repurcussions for world affairs. B. Raman has rightly pointed out that Iran will look for a mild protest in hope and Israel with concern. He writes (and I quote): North Korea's nuclear test has proved the limits of the much-vaunted Chinese and Russian influence on Pyongyang. It has also shown the incapability of Japan and South Korea to act decisively. Condemnations such as "brazen defiance", "unacceptable" etc are not going to have any impact on Pyongyang. Nor will economic sanctions alone.

Yes, well lets talk about that. Kim Jong II only warned Beijing 20 minutes before the test. Now considering this is a nuclear bomb that will effectively change the landscape, water, air of the entire area, that was rather polite of him. But, on a more serious note, it does show that North Korea and China have a fairly stable relationship. In 2005 their trade deal worth $1.5 billion made China its biggest trading partner. China was active in the arranging the six-party talks with North Korea and even extended an invitation to Kim Jong to see China- perhaps to show him he could develop along the same lines too. But now, what should China do? In the world, which sometimes I think of as a massive high school, America is clearly the alpha male, but China has maintained its position by non-interference in others affairs; it did not even condemn the missile tests that North Korea had last summer, but now it needs to think of its reaction viz-a-viz Japan's reaction. Not only that, but economic sanctions against North Korea could lead to an influx of starved refugees who would cross over to China. Will this move force Japan to militarilize? As a deterrant againt Kim Jong, would Japan want to build its own bomb?

And Israel must be getting worried. Iran is predictably estatic with this development, faulting western (read: American) actions that have forced countries to develop their own bombs. I bet Ahmadinejad will make this all about him. The nerve!

Now, the way I see it is this: the bomb represents many dilemmas all around the world. I can't pretend to know what Kim is thinking: the most I've seen of him is his solo in Team America where he was ronwery (lonely). But I do like how Fox News has gone straight for glory. And the question is almost rhetorical. They've found their next scare tactic. As for me, the cocktail I'm sipping is a curious mix of worry and confusion. Oh give it time. Come november, I'll be swigging straight from the new alcoholic beverage from Fox, called Little Kim, Big Bomb.

Lets hope, for ONCE, a debate can be around the real issue, and not wasted time in a drunken haze. Only time will tell.


Saurabh said...

Stumbled on your blog courtesy Nishant K.
Anyway, my two bits about North Korea.
There are six countries here and a lot of baggage.
the two koreas, China, Japan, the US and I think even Taiwan.

China wants Taiwan sometime in the future, US wont let it (dont really know why - slightly anachronistic), Japan has a history of violence and now a pacifist constitution and interests in China (investment, but also issues with the growth of its military) and in South Korea.
in the middle of all this, North Korea's bomb (more of an atomic firecrackers actually) shouts out loud that no one entertain dreams of regime change or nonsense like unification with the south...

The US hates the bomb really because of the Iran angle ( which is funny the way you put it) and the NPT angle.

But yes, wait and watch and let us see how tightly China screws on the lid of sanctions.

Aye Davanita said...

I think the whole thing is brilliant. For some time now the US has flexed and bared its teeth, hissing like a cat ready to strike. N Korea has done what its wanted to regardless. I'm not discarding any of your observations regarding some potential and some obvious repurcussions of lil' Kim's actions. Mostly, I don't like the idea of him having "the bomb" - but f- it. Who am I or anyone (U.S.) to decide who is responsible enough to handle "the bomb"? The 'Big Stick' policy has withered and died and U.S. has finally been reduced to having a bark worse than its bite.

Go lil' kim! Do your thing!

Anonymous said...

there was a curious article written by m j akbar of the asian age, about this. he suggested that china had more than a small hand to play in n korea's bomb. the logic, in short, was this:
china, in its bid to become a superpower, realises that it needs to counter the growth of the dominant countries of the region, namely, japan and india. what better way to do this AND keep its nose clean than by outsourcing the dirty work to pakistan (for india) and n korea (for japan). give them bombs, keep them belligerent, keep the neighbours occupied, do your own thing.

probably balls, but a thinker of an argument.

Claudio said...

Dear Mahima,

I won't pretend to provide a complete and self-sufficient answer to this issue. Actually none of us can. The North Kora (NK) test still leaves the Pandora box unopened, the future will tell if we did open it or not.

However, I would like to add some lines about the general nuclear bomb issue.

I have the weakeness to believe that the question of the nuclear bomb is an old heritage of the Cold war. During this short century (Hobsbawn) the USSR and the US showed the world how to protect and lock their own socio-economic pattern. Let me dig this a bit further.

Between 1945 and 1989 (or 1991 depending if you take the fall of the Berlin wall or the end of the Soviet Union) two nations shared the world balance of power: the US and the USSR. Whether these two nations could actually live side by side is not relevant at this stage. The point I want to stress is that in order to protect a certain type of socio-economic model, these two countries equiped themselves with the ultimate kind of weapon: the weapon that cannot be used. Strange isn't? The political and military interest of having nuclear warfare is simply to have it, not to use it. How does that help our discussion in any ways? The real question may be then why or when has the balance of power changed? In this matter i believe there is no friend nor foe, no ideologies nor values; it is only a question of short-term interests. In this sense I do agree with Wallerstein when he believes that the hawks (i.e. the conservative North-American policy-makers and school of thought) are land crashing. In fact, it is not a coincidence that both Iran and NK are aiming (or seem to aim) to further develop some kind of nuclear military arsenal. More precisely, or the way I see it is that the actual losers from 1989 are the United States of America. Since the moment their enemy disappeared the US slowly but steadily began their downfall. All the discussions surrounding the UN Security Council extension, the recent and forthcoming accession of new countries to the WTO, the debating about the relevancy of the actual structure of NATO, all these debates have only one central question: what is the new ocnfiguration of the world order? I believe the NK nuclear test must be therefore analysed as an attempt from NK to take a piece of the pie at the international level, the same pie the US left on the table since the end of the Cold war.

But as I said, I don't pretend these observations to fully solve this huge debate...