[KS] Tariq Ali's Diary about North Korea

Ruediger Frank ruediger.frank at univie.ac.at
Sun Jan 22 06:25:54 EST 2012

Dear Scott and all,
in 2003, trying to get an understanding of the (then new) sòn'gun policy, I wrote: "Is the bomb intended to be the wedding gift of the North Korean bride to her rich, but militarily second-class South Korean groom, so that the new family can rise as a new star in the East?" (for the full version, see http://www.nautilus.org/publications/books/dprkbb/transition/Ruediger_Socialism.html). 
In 2005, when I was working at a relatively conservative university in Seoul, I met a gentleman who bluntly told me that based on his calculations, unified Korea would need about 20 nuclear warheads to maintain its charip vis-a-vis China and Japan. 
This is NOT to say that the South Korean government is actively pursuing the development or acquisition of nuclear weapons; but for some individuals, that path seems to be an option. And since domestic production is unthinkable for political reasons (mainly the alliance with the USA), quasi-import through unification would be the only way.
In any case, it does make a lot of sense to think about the position of a unified Korea in the international relations of East Asia. Japan is a sleeping military giant: if it eventually wakes up, Korea will find itself in a situation that will uncomfortably remind it of the late 19th century. Hedging against a repetition of history is not a bad idea in principle; we will see which means are being chosen.

on Samstag, 21. Januar 2012 at 12:23 you wrote:

In the current issue of the London Review of Books, there is rather amusing and dishy account of two of Tariq Ali's visits to North Korea in the early 1970s:


Ali makes some interesting claims, especially near the end:

"At one stage it appeared that the United States was going to buy out the North Koreans. Clinton despatched Madeleine Albright to Pyongyang in 2000 to do a deal – loadsamoney for the Kims, denuclearisation of sorts followed by a soft reunification with the South – but it didn’t go through. Bush had no interest at all in contact. Why? I got an answer of sorts after a public debate on the Iraq war in Berlin in 2003. My opponent was Ruth Wedgwood from Yale, an adviser to Donald Rumsfeld. Over lunch I asked her about their plans for North Korea. She was cogent. ‘You haven’t seen the glint in the eyes of the South Korean military,’ she said. ‘They’re desperate to get hold of the North’s nuclear arsenal. That’s unacceptable.’ Why? ‘Because if a unified Korea becomes a nuclear power, it will be impossible to stop Japan from becoming one too and if you have China, Japan and a unified Korea as nuclear states, it shifts the relationship of forces against us.’"

Fun stuff!

– Scott Bug

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