North-South Relations: So Much for Détente

January 25, 2013 4:15 PM

Yesterday, we noted that North Korea’s vitriolic response to a relatively mild UN resolution seemed almost intentionally designed to block progress with both the US and South Korea. Despite the satellite launch, new administrations in Washington and Seoul provided the opening for some experimentation.

It didn’t take long for that prediction to come true. No sooner had the NDC issued its edict on the sanctions resolution than the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea—the organization tasked with managing North-South relations—issued its judgment; it is reproduced in full below.

The screed blames the LMB “puppet group of traitors” for cooperating around the UNSC resolution, and threatens a series of retaliatory measures that parallel those in the NDC statement. Some highlights:

  • As with some earlier statements in both 2006 and 2009, the South is chastised for not being appreciative of Pyongyang’s military prowess: the group of traitors “should have been pleased with the great event to be recorded specially in the national history spanning five thousand years, the event which fully demonstrated the dignity and might of the nation.”
  •  The statement nullifies the Joint Declaration on Denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula negotiated in 1991 and coming into force in 1992. No sooner was the ink dry on the agreement—permitted on the South Korean side by the US withdrawal of tactical nuclear weapons—than conflicts with the IAEA over North Korea’s safeguards declaration triggered the first nuclear crisis. Nonetheless, like the Joint Statement of September 2005—also now formally disavowed—the Joint Declaration was an important statement of aspirations for détente.
  • If the incoming administration participates in the UN sanctions—an obligation of its membership in the organization--the DPRK threatens “strong physical counter-measures” and even “a great war of justice for national reunification."

The statement means that the incoming Park administration operates from day one under threat. It could be read as a silver lining that the statement does not explicitly align Park with the outgoing “puppets,” but it has set down the unfortunate marker that Pyongyang could lump them together.

Arguably, the most logical thing to do is to simply ignore the North Korean rants, quietly comply with sanctions obligations and try to move forward. Spencer Kim makes that case for Pacnet in an editorial for the Korea Times written before the most recent set of exchanges.  The editorial, and hopes for engagement, reflect an occupational hazard. North Korea watchers—ourselves included—are inclined to think that “something must be done.”

But this stance makes the heroic assumption that our actions are pivotal to how the North Korean regime legitimizes itself. Think again; as our colleague Dan Pinkston always says, “it's the songun, stupid.” Moreover, this “do something” position fails to consider the broader question of foreign policy priorities. Should two incoming administrations with plenty of other challenges on their plates invest in an issue that appears to yield so little?  Why?

S. Korean Authorities Accused of Fabricating UN "Resolution" with Foreign Forces

Pyongyang, January 25 (KCNA) -- The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea released the following statement on Friday:

There took place another astonishing case. The U.S. and its followers cooked up a "resolution on tightening sanctions" at the UN Security Council by terming the DPRK's satellite launch for peaceful purposes an inter-continental ballistic missile launch.

The fabrication of "the resolution" this time represents the height of the hostile policy toward the DPRK and moves to escalate the confrontation with the DPRK as it is the last-ditch efforts of the hostile forces displeased with the ever-increasing authority and national power of the DPRK.

What should not be overlooked is that the south Korean puppet group of traitors took the lead in fabricating the "resolution".

When satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2 of the DPRK lifted off in December last year, the group desperately took issue with it, talking about "provocation" and "blatant challenge" against the international community. It worked hard to see the UN apply additional "sanctions" against the DPRK, vociferating about "strong counteraction" and "tightened sanctions".

The minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other mandarins of the south Korean regime visited theU.S., Japan and other neighboring countries to discuss "close cooperation at the UN" and asked them for their active participation in the moves for tightening "sanctions against the north". Not content with this, the south Korean group unhesitatingly submitted a "proposal for additional sanctions against the north" to the UN.

It is the group which clamored for "independent additional sanctions" together with the U.S. and it is again the group which was the first to utter "welcome" and "implementation of the resolution" right after its fabrication at the UNSC.

The world knows no such hordes of traitors who worked with bloodshot eyes to escalate the confrontation with fellow countrymen in league with foreign forces as the south Korean group.

The row kicked up by the group against the DPRK over its satellite launch is aimed to tarnish its image, save the face of the group that fell to the ground and deliver the anti-DPRK policy from its total bankruptcy.

The group salvaged wreckages of the DPRK's carrier rocket Unha-3 from waters of the West Sea and was stunned by the high level of its technology.

As fellow countrymen the group should have been pleased with the great event to be recorded specially in the national history spanning five thousand years, the event which fully demonstrated the dignity and might of the nation. Nevertheless, it behaved so foolishly. This shows it is betenoire bereft of an iota of reason as human beings.

The army and people of the DPRK are greatly infuriated by the fabrication of the UN "resolution" by the U.S. and its allies and the group's desperate efforts.

The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea vehemently rejects the UN "resolution" in the name of all the fellow countrymen, branding it as an unpardonable grave challenge to the dignity and sovereignty of the DPRK and the Korean people.

It, at the same time, strongly condemns the reckless behavior of the group taking the lead in faking up the UN "resolution" in league with foreign forces as the most despicable act of treachery and an unbearable provocation against the DPRK.

In view of the prevailing grave situation the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea solemnly declares the following counter-measures against the south Korean puppet group, representing the towering anger and unanimous will of the army and the people of the DPRK and all other Koreans.

Now that the south Korean puppet conservative group is more desperately kicking up a racket against the DPRK over its nuclear and missile issues with the U.S., there will be no more discussion on denuclearization between the north and the south in the future.

In this connection, we declare complete nullification of the "Joint Declaration on Denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula" adopted in 1992 and its total invalidity.

The joint declaration already proved a dead paper long ago due to the moves of the U.S. and the puppet group for a nuclear war against the north and their nuclear rackets against it. It is needless to say that there is no need for us to be bound to the declaration.

As long as the south Korean puppet group of traitors persistently pursues a hostile policy toward the DPRK, we will never negotiate with anyone.

The historical lesson shows that there is nothing to be solved when meeting with those who pursue confrontation with the DPRK and this will only bedevil the inter-Korean relations.

The group should not think about any dialogue with us as long as it sticks to the policy of confrontation with fellow countrymen.

If the puppet group of traitors takes a direct part in the UN "sanctions," the DPRK will take strong physical counter-measures against it.

"Sanctions" mean a war and a declaration of war against us.

We have already declared that "we would react to provocation with immediate retaliatory blows and a war of aggression with a great war of justice for national reunification."

The group would be well advised to stop acting rashly, bearing in mind this warning served by us.

All our service personnel and people will never allow the reckless confrontation moves of the group.

Those who dare stand in the way of our just cause will never be able to escape deadly retaliatory blows. -0-


Andrew Logie

On the topic of "something must be done" but nothing working: what's your opinion on Josh Stanton's proposal to sanction Chinese banks and companies involved with the NK regime? Almost more than military intervention, this seems to be an ultimate taboo no one wants to consider even academically. Is it simply that China is too big to challenge? For good or bad, I wonder why the idea hasn't been trumpeted by the Asian-pivot-anti-Chinese brigade.


Re: "North Korea’s vitriolic response to a relatively mild UN resolution" Do you really believe the recent SC resolution was "relatively mild"? How would the US have reacted to such a
resolution if it imposed asset freeze and travel ban on top officials of the US Space Agency? If North Korea sponosred the resolution, US Congress may have declared a war against NK and pulled out of the UN. NK's response is thus seems reasonable in comparison. So far, it is still in the UN.


John: Thanks for your interest in our blog. The resolution was "relatively mild" because it largely reiterated past demands and the asset freezes and travel bans will have very little, if any, effect on North Korea's commercial relations. The parallel to how the US would react to such a resolution makes no sense to me, because the US would presumably have to be in violation of some particular international commitment and the Security Council would have to support it; note that the resolution passed unanimously with support from both Russia and China. Despite North Korean commentary to the contrary, this was not a unilateral action.

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