North Korea is China’s deniable Ally for Global Nuclear Proliferation.
[Posted by Lara Keller 17/12/2017 , Updated 12/01/18]
Acquiring nuclear armed intercontinental missiles, by regimes that are covertly hostile competitors to the West, is a big deal. Previously Russia and China were the only nuclear states hostile to the West. Now we have North Korea rapidly approaching membership of this group. When diplomatic and business niceties are stripped away, the reality is that Russia and China – as well as North Korea – are aggressive competitors against the interests of ordinary people of Western democratic nations. Western elites on the other hand have some interest in limited conflict and a “strong enough” opposition.
Other non-Western nuclear states are currently India, Pakistan and Israel. Neither India or Pakistan are hostile to the West, and they direct their weapons against each other. Clearly Israel is a semi-colonial Western state forcibly transposed by Western antisemitism to the Levant.
The North Korean regime of Kim Jong-un is widely reported as an extremely repressive state, that is far more extreme than either of it’s superpower allies Xi Jingping’s China and Putin’s Russia.
Both Russian and Chinese communist regimes, have a history of early utterly extremist authoritarian leaders (Stalin and Mao) who brought mass suffering and risked disaster to these one party dictatorships. On their deaths internal opposition within the inner cliques of the ruling parties lead to reform. In Russia Stalin was directly criticized, while in China Deng Xiaoping criticized the excesses of the Maoist era. Mao is still official revered as the father of the “revolution”, while Putin is attempting to resurrect Stalin’s reputation.
North Korea is not a satellite of China, but China is its only powerful ally, North Korea is internationally isolated, China’s population is 56 times greater than North Korea, and they share a border that is nearly 900 miles long. It is reasonable to suspect that China has the power to increase or decrease the influence of groups within the North Korean regime who struggle for power during successions. It is therefore in principle easier for extreme (or equally reformed) dictatorships to survive succession crises with foreign superpower support. This may well have happened in North Korea, despite the official propaganda news agency cover about strained relationships. It is not in China’s interests to admit that rogue criminal North Korea is a close ally, when it wants to maintain lucrative trade relations with the West. Political theater is needed, and their state controlled news agencies supply it.
The point is that Kim Jong-un’s highly repressive and aggressive North Korean rogue state exists only because the Chinese government approve of it. North Korea is already a major exporter of advanced weapons and banned chemical weapons to rogue regimes around the world in the Russia-China sphere of influence (notably Assad’s Syria). North Korea has a large army, with the militarily support of China just over the border, it has no need for nuclear missiles for defense.
There is the soap opera explanation that Kim Jong-un is preening his vanity. A more likely explanation is that North Korea is developing the capacity to manufacture nuclear missiles. The products of this technology can then be sold on to rogue states in the Russia-China sphere of influence. The most obvious candidates would be the Iranian theocracy, Assad’s Syria and Maduro’s Venezuela. In this scenario the foreign policy objectives of Russia and China can be advanced, while these regimes can claim innocence by this “hands off” route.
The advantage of acquiring nuclear weapons for a repressive dictatorship is that the regime becomes immune to direct foreign intervention. Nuclear weapons are particularly useful for dictatorships in confrontations with nuclear armed democracies, because public fear has a bigger impact on government behavior in a democracy. During the Cold War genuine pacifist pressure was vastly stronger in the West, obviously discounting communist state directed “World Peace” propaganda campaigns.
A world with hostile dictatorships, armed with intercontinental nuclear missiles, that are subordinate allies of Russia-China will be very different. These new nuclear armed dictatorships will then be in a much stronger position to support elites creating similar regimes in neighboring countries. See that since the Cold War their is no ideological content to Russian-Chinese imperialism. This means that they can support both established or emerging elites, that are seeking to maintain or create dictatorships. Therefore Russia-China can now easily be successful allies of both the Iranian conservative theocracy, and the semi-revolutionary leftist authoritarian Venezuelan regime.
During the Cold War there was a short-sighted attempt to “contain” and “deter” the two communist superpowers. Right wing authoritarian governments were particularly encouraged in surrounding countries. Obviously a long sighted policy of encouraging representative democratic governments would have been both ethical and sustainable, and prevented the current even stronger resurgence of Russian-Chinese imperialism. Obviously you need to discount Cold War Western fake propaganda about spreading democracy. The policy of nuclear deterrence during the Cold War created periods of anxiety, genuine near disasters, but did manage to prevent major conflict.
You cannot assume that calculations in a future world of nuclear armed Russia-China allies will work in the same way. Looking at the arguments above you see that “containment” will be much harder.
In a dictatorship that is subordinate ally of Russia-China there would naturally be a different internal dynamic, that makes the use of nuclear weapons more likely.
Both Russia and China have a long history of frustration, against a reasonable perception that they should be world powers, and have been cheated. This has created an almost sacred nationalistic mindset, that is now strongly expressed and overshadows political ideals. It is clear then no leader of such a state would risk its nuclear annihilation and still be safe from rivals within the regime. Painfully obviously public opinion within a dictatorship is muted by fear.
Within a subordinate dictatorship, the state can be seen as the personal property of the ruling clique, rather than a sacred entity. Syria under the Assad dynasty is angrily described as being ruled as if it was Assad’s personal estate, not a country but personal property. The ruling clique of a subordinate dictatorship has the support of a much more powerful foreign superpower, a smaller ruling clique and a fearful muted public opinion. You see under this scenario that a dictatorship would be more likely to respond to pressure to risk the use of nuclear weapons.
Lastly it would be idiotic to wait and see, as obviously dictatorships strengthened by nuclear missile possession, are going to be less susceptible to pressure to abandon them. As President Trump is utterly, absurdly and disastrously wrong about climate chnage, he is utterly right about the risk of nuclear proliferation out of North Korea. You can have political self righteousness or progress. Make your choice, getting late.
[Update 11/1/18] Since writing the above Kim Jong-un has made another verbose semi-mechanical New Years Speech. The speech contains the usual dynastic revolutionary cant, claims of broad industrial progress, intentions to reunify with South Korea etc…. It also contains comments about the North Korean nuclear missile manufacturing industry which add significantly to those in 2017.
“An outstanding success our Party, state and people won last year was the accomplishment of the great, historic cause of perfecting the national nuclear forces. On this platform one year ago I officially made public on behalf of the Party and government that we had entered the final stage of preparation for the test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. In the past one year we conducted several rounds of its test launch, aimed at implementing the programme, safely and transparently, thus proving before the eyes of the world its definite success.
By also conducting tests of various means of nuclear delivery and super-intense thermonuclear weapon, we attained our general orientation and strategic goal with success, and our Republic has at last come to possess a powerful and reliable war deterrent, which no force and nothing can reverse.
Our country’s nuclear forces are capable of thwarting and countering any nuclear threats from the United States, and they constitute a powerful deterrent that prevents it from starting an adventurous war.
In no way would the United States dare to ignite a war against me and our country.
The whole of its mainland is within the range of our nuclear strike and the nuclear button is on my office desk all the time; the United States needs to be clearly aware that this is not merely a threat but a reality.
We have realized the wish of the great leaders who devoted their lives to building the strongest national defence capability for reliably safeguarding our country’s sovereignty, and we have created a mighty sword for defending peace, as desired by all our people who had to tighten their belts for long years. This great victory eloquently proves the validity and vitality of the Party’s line of simultaneously conducting economic construction and building up our nuclear forces and its idea of prioritizing science, and it is a great historic achievement that has opened up bright prospects for the building of a prosperous country and inspired our service personnel and people with confidence in sure victory.
I offer my noble respects to the heroic Korean people who, despite the difficult living conditions caused by life-threatening sanctions and blockade, have firmly trusted, absolutely supported and dynamically implemented our Party’s line of simultaneously promoting the two fronts.”
So Kim Jong-un acknowledges that the nuclear missiles manufactured in North Kora now appear on the international stage as viable. He excuses his elitist kleptomaniac regime by thanking the people for their sacrifices. He claims the nuclear missile program is purely defensive. although powerful China is just over the border, and North Korea has thousands of artillery guns trained on Seoul. He later states:
“My warm, comradely greetings go also to our defence scientists and workers in the munitions industry who made devoted efforts all the year round, to demonstrate to the world that the plans and decisions of the Party Central Committee are a science and a truth and that they automatically mean their materialization.”
This munitions industry is a major exporter of advanced weaponry to repressive regimes around the world, including banned chemical weapons. Assad’s Syria is one of its customers. He repeatedly comes back to the line that the nuclear missile industry will bring fresh progress.
“We should make constant innovations and continued progress until we win the final victory of the revolution by carrying on the tradition of heroic struggle and collective innovation which adorned the founding and course of development of Juche Korea. A revolutionary general offensive should be launched to achieve fresh victory on all fronts of building a powerful socialist country by taking the historic victory in the building of the DPRK’s nuclear forces as a springboard for fresh progress.”
The regime clearly intends to make a profit from it’s nuclear missile technology, both the manufacture of the rockets and warheads, and so must intend to export them. He makes this explicit towards the end of the speech:
“The nuclear weapons research sector and the rocket industry should mass-produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles, the power and reliability of which have already been proved to the full, to give a spur to the efforts for deploying them for action. And we should always be ready for immediate nuclear counterattack to cope with the enemy’s manoeuvres for a nuclear war. The political and ideological might is the first and foremost strength of our state and the great propellant for opening up an avenue for building a powerful socialist country.”
The intention of mass producing warheads and missiles was made in the 2017 New Year Message as well. This implies export not defense, and fits the pattern of exporting banned chemical weapons, by this repressive criminal regime.
Kim Jong-un’s 2018 New Year Message should be seen as another clear sign of imminent disaster. If the West does not act decisively its leaders will be faced with a dozen North Koreas in a few years time. It appears that Russia did want a President Trump in the White House at this critical time. Not as an ally, but as a figure incapable of unifying America, which is vital if it is to decisively counter Russia-China expansionist foreign policies. Especially the North Korean regime which is their nuclear proliferation proxy.
Currently Trump is being misrepresented as “insane”, and would not therefore be trusted to undertake a risky confrontation over North Korea. If his administration attempted this, there would be strenuous self-righteous attempts to have him impeached or declared unfit to serve. The progressives should not be swayed by their loathing of Trump’s reactionary identity politics into not seeing the existential threat from Russia-China directed North Korean nuclear proliferation. Perhaps they could also acknowledge (if visited by the ghosts of the past) that their emphasis on progressive identity politics to the expense of the practical politics of wealth redistribution made Trump possible? Trump supporters and the man himself might (if visited by the ghosts of the future) reflect that the spread of Russia-China directed authoritarianism, is just what the world does not need, as it slips into catastrophic climate change chaos, whose fundamental scientific reality Trumpians refuses to acknowledge? After Obama and Trump where is there some Hope?”