Friday, October 6, 2006

North Korea's Nukes and Ban Ki-moon

A South Korean military police walks past a signboard showing the distance to the North Korean capital Pyongyang from Imjingang Station, of the incomplete inter-Korea railway, near the demilitarized zone which separates the two Koreas, about 55 km (34 miles) north of Seoul, October 6, 2006. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (photo and caption taken from Reuters.com)

You know, when I heard about North Korea announcing to the world that it was planning a nuclear test, I just rolled my eyes in frustration.

Yes, it's serious, but the thing is North Korea is tiresome and invokes the same tired tactics all the time. The nation is like those annoying kids who pitch a fit when they don't get their way. The problem is unlike the kids who don't get their way, North Korea has weapons and technology to trade in for cash to get even more dangerous weapons and technology. Also, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that they're stupid in North Korea. North Korean specialists on the US know much more about the States and its society than vice versa. The problem also they know the world basically rolls its eyes when they make noise so they have to up the ante with each move which inevitably makes them more dangerous with each provocation.

Now that South Korea has Ban Ki-moon running unopposed for the postion of the next UN Secretary General, North Korea is making noise. Now this probably isn't just to thwart Ban at the UN, but I'm sure it plays a part. Whenever South Korea is doing well or is making positive strikes the North makes noise to take from their achievement it seems. The good thing is it doesn't matter at this point. If you didn't know, both North and South Korea joined the UN in September of 1991.

During that time South Korea has made impressive strives with its economy and democracy. In contrast, North Korea has managed to isolate itself even more than before with even its traditional allies of Russia and China slapping its wrists for its political miscalculations.

The problem is here in South Korea there is a generational divide and a lot of South Koreans aren't given and don't seek out the full story. South Koreans forget this, but the North tried to take away South Korea's glory during the 2002 World Cup. Good for me, David Scofield remembered when he wrote N Korea's military edge over S Korea:

In the closing days of the World Cup competition in 2002, a North Korean naval vessel attacked and sank a South Korean navy ship inside South Korean territorial waters. Two years later, not one politician from either the ruling or opposition camps attended the memorial for the six South Korean sailors who perished, and most of the nation's media outlets relegated the story to the back pages, if they covered it at all.
The irony is up to recently every South Korean I spoke to remembered the accident where two South Korean teenage girls were killed by a US Army tank during the same month. But when I remind or inform them that during the same period North Korea intentionally fired on a South Korean ship and killed South Korean sailors, all I get is silence.

South Korea is also back pedaling on its desire to have the US Army reduce its presence here.

So will North Korea conduct a nuclear test in spite of the UN's warning not to do so? Probably.

The problem is it's the same old guff but the stakes are escalating. North Korea has no problem with taking things to a crisis point because they have in the past. The question is if, how, and when will it stop. Let's hope that Ban can conduct another Korean miracle if he is successful in becoming the highest ranking diplomat in the world.

Here is a timeline from FACTBOX-N.Korea's nuclear gestures - it's all in the timing

(Reuters) - North Korea's announcement of its plan to carry out a nuclear test coincided with a symbolic anniversary, just as previous bold statements were timed to capture maximum attention.

Here is an overview of similar tactics by Pyongyang in the past:

- Oct 3, 2006 - Pyongyang says it will conduct a nuclear test but gives no date. The announcement comes on Foundation Day, the anniversary of the day in 2,333 B.C. that the mythical Tangun founded Korea, and while China is on a Golden Week holiday.

- July 5, 2006 - North Korea launches seven missiles early in the morning, with the launch coinciding with the U.S. Independence Day holiday.

- Feb 10, 2005 - North Korea declares it has nuclear weapons for the first time. The announcement comes as South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon is in the air on a trip to Washington to meet U.S. officials, and as much of Asia is celebrating the Lunar New Year's holidays.

- Feb 25, 2003: North Korea test fires a short-range cruise missile. The test comes hours before the inauguration of South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and other international guests in Seoul for the event. Powell says the test is "fairly innocuous" but the White House calls it diplomatic extortion, aimed at forcing a compromise in the stand-off over Pyongyang's suspected nuclear program.

- August 31, 1998 - North Korea test fires its Taepodong-1 missile, its first test in five years and fourth since 1984. The test comes as the United States and North Korea are 10 days into sporadic talks in New York about the North's nuclear program, and ahead a September congress that confirms leader Kim Jong-il as holding the highest office of state.

- November 1987 - North Korean agents blow up a Korean Air passenger jet, killing 115 people, in what South Korea says is an attempt to disrupt Seoul's hosting of the 1988 Summer Olympics.

Sources: Reuters, Global Security

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