All posts tagged: North Korea

North Korea is not the biggest nuclear threat to the world

North Korea is not the biggest nuclear threat to the world

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and its dictator, Kim Jong-un, seem determined to demonstrate to the world, and particularly the United States, its nuclear weapons capabilities. With a possible hydrogen bomb test and two missile launches that have passed over Japan this month, tensions have been raised, with U.S. President Donald Trump implementing further sanctions and threatening to rain down “fire and fury” on the country. But does North Korea pose such a threat with its ongoing testing? Why is the U.S. not considered a threat in similar terms? For one thing, it’s the only country to have actually dropped a nuclear bomb on a civilian population, two in fact, on Japan to supposedly to avoid a land invasion, save lives and bring about a “swift end” to the Second World War. Yet this official narrative, pushed for decades, is being questioned by modern historians and no longer appears to hold up as it once did, especially as high-ranking U.S. officials themselves have questioned their use. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was a …

Perils of North Koreans fleeing to China

Perils of North Koreans fleeing to China

China shares a border with North Korea, it has become the first destination for desperate North Koreans who risk their lives to escape. An unofficial figure estimates that there are between 50,000 and 200,000 North Koreans living in China. The Chinese government denies most of them refugee status, instead treating them as economic migrants who have illegally crossed the border to seek work. Most have no formal identification or legal status. In addition, Beijing works together with Pyongyang to capture defectors and send them back, making their lives as escapees completely untenable. In the interviews many North Koreans now settled in the UK. Many of them said they had been caught by the Chinese police and repatriated to the north a number of times, but managed to escape again and again. The combination of desperation, the denial of legal status and the terror of the Chinese police operation exposes these people to gross exploitation – especially women. Among those who successfully leave North Korea, women make up the majority. In their search for freedom, many …

What happens to North Koreans who flee their country?

There is no shortage of commentary on what should be done about North Korean weapons programmes. Op-eds in major news outlets variously advocate for talks, a strategy of deterrence combined with progress on humanitarian and economic issues, and even regime change. But while rhetoric about North Korea heats up, the abstract talk about military options, sanctions, and engagement obscures the people at the centre of it all: millions of ordinary North Koreans. When demonising the “rogue” behaviour of an enemy state, it’s easy to vilify its citizens or tar them all with the same brush. But the reality is more complicated. North Koreans are neither brainwashed robots nor aspiring democracy activists desperate for liberation. Here I want to focus on a small subset of North Koreans: those who have left. Over the last six years, I have interviewed 60 of these North Koreans about their experiences, and they’ve told me a great deal about life in the north as well as their escape and new lives in the south. I’ve written before about their stories, …

Failed sanctions to reining in North Korea

North Korea’s increased nuclear sabre-rattling has the world on edge. With South Korea’s opposition party pushing for potential dialogue with the country’s authoritarian northern neighbour, TC Global is resurfacing this relevant analysis, originally published in February 2017, of how to better deal with the country’s nuclear threat. North Korea has launched its first ballistic missile since the start of Donald’s Trump’s presidency, just as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the US to shore up support for the alliance between the two countries. The move led to a joint statement by the US and Japanese heads of state condemning the missile test. The US has reportedly been reviewing its policy on North Korea, and in his inaugural visit to East Asia earlier in February, US Defence Secretary James Mattis reassured allies that use of nuclear weapons by North Korea would lead to an “overwhelming” response from the US. Clearly, all that has not deterred Pyongyang. The question now is what can be done in light of lessons from previous attempts to rein in the isolated …

The Real Nuclear Threat

Donald Trump’s candidacy has been a source of anxiety for many reasons, but one stands out: the ability of the President to launch nuclear weapons. When it comes to starting a nuclear war, the President has more freedom than he or she does in, say, ordering the use of torture. In fact, the President has unilateral power to direct the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances. Cabinet members may disagree and even resign in protest, but, ultimately, they must obey the order of the Commander-in-Chief. It’s all too easy to imagine Trump issuing an ultimate, thermonuclear “You’re fired!” to China, Iran, or another nation—and perhaps to the whole human race.* Richard Nixon, famously, conducted his foreign policy according to the “madman theory”: he tried to convince enemy leaders that he was irrational and volatile, in an attempt to intimidate them. But this was a potentially useful approach to foreign policy only because it was an act. Trump, on the other hand, genuinely seems to be a man who speaks and acts without significant forethought. …