Editorial, Featured

We Shouldn’t Normalize North Korean’s Brutality

May 3, 2018

By Arturo Castañares / Publisher and CEO

Just a few months ago, N. Korea’s dictator was considered a ruthless killer.

Kim Jong-un has brutally eliminated political rivals by poisoning them, by shooting them at close range with anti-aircraft weapons, and even famously having his own uncle eaten by a pack of hungry dogs in front of horrified spectators.

For the past two years, Kim has threatened to unleash nuclear weapons against South Korea and the United States, prompting President Donald Trump to threaten his own preemptive nuclear attack. Kim has repeatedly used his new arsenal of nuclear weapons to threaten and harass the civilized world.

But, within the past few weeks, Trump has suddenly reversed course and called Kim honorable and a good man, and quickly agreed to meet with the young despot in a proposed summit that could be held as soon as this month.

Trump’s sudden change of heart has come after Kim became the first North Korean leader to visit South Korea, and Kim signaled he would stop testing his nuclear weapons and to close their nuclear research facility.

Some Republican members of Congress are so excited about the sudden turn of events that they are calling for the Nobel Peace Prize committee to bestow its annual humanitarian award upon Donald Trump for his work to de-escalate tensions with the rogue nation.

Although the talk has been promising, experts caution that so far, the 30-something-year-old leader is doing nothing more than posturing, and not any more committal than similar unfulfilled promises made by both his grandfather and father when they each led the secretive country.

In fact, all Kim is saying is he would cease development of nuclear weapons, not dismantle the ones he claims to already have. His entire campaign to develop weapons of mass destruction was aimed at reaching the table with the world’s most powerful countries, namely China and the U.S.

Since the young Kim became the ruler of North Korea in 2011 after the death of his father, he has sought to project himself and his impoverished country as players of the world stage, even though millions have died of starvation as the country has maintained its military-first posture.

Kim has calculated that, by developing nuclear weapons, he could force commitments from the U.S. and China to remove U.S. troops from South Korea, a resolution that would be beneficial to both North Korea and China, and put Kim on the same level as the leaders of the two superpowers.

And Kim knows that a meeting with the President of the United States would cement his credibility with his own people as a true world leader, the one thing neither his father or grandfather ever achieved as Dear Leader.

North Korea’s history with nuclear deals is troubling, though, and should cast a long shadow on its current promises: In 1985, N. Korea signed a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but didn’t keep its commitments; in 1992, it signed a joint declaration to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and “not test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons”; and, in 1994, it agreed to freeze and dismantle its weapons program, but, in 2002, the Bush Administration revealed N. Korea had instead been operating a secret nuclear weapons program in violation of the 1994 agreement.

So far, Kim has offered nothing new in his overtures to secure a meeting with Trump. He hasn’t committed to permanently dismantle his nuclear weapons, or improve human rights among his own people. All he has done is open the door to a meeting, and Trump impetuously took it without securing any real concessions in exchange.

Americans may forget our own troubled history with North Korea.

In 1962, the USS Pueblo was seized by N. Korea while conducting surveillance operations in international waters in the Sea of Japan.

Several North Korean ships, boats, and Soviet-made MiG fighter jets intercepted the Pueblo and eventually captured her crew. One crew member was killed in the attack, and the remaining 82 sailors were starved and beaten while being held in POW camps for 11 months.

Even after the crew was freed, the North Koreans refused to release the ship, and they now display the USS Pueblo in their capital city of Pyongyang, along side their Fatherland Liberation War Museum. The ship is still a U.S. Navy commissioned ship, even though it has been held captive for over 50 years.

In the last 20 years, the North Koreans have also held 13 Americans as captives for allegedly entering the country illegally, or, in one case, for leaving a Bible at a nightclub.

Most of the detainees were eventually freed unharmed, but one, a University of Virginia student seized in January 2016, was released after 17 months, but he was in a coma at the time and died a few days later. Today, three Americans are still being held, one of them since October 2015.

North Korea’s record on human rights is abysmal, too. Just last month, the U.S. State Department labeled it, along with China, Russia, and Iran, as “morally reprehensible” because they violate human rights within their borders on a daily basis, making them “forces of instability.”

Kim Jong-un is a ruthless authoritarian leader than has used his country’s resources for his own political survival at the expense of his 25 million citizens. He has bullied his way onto the world stage by threatening to incinerate his neighbors and the U.S. with his new nuclear toys. And, he has killed his closest rivals in brutal ways to scare others into submission.

Now, Donald Trump is grandstanding with Kim and rewarding his horrific behavior without demanding real, verifiable concessions before sitting down face to face with him. Even a meeting with Trump that ends with no deal is a win for Kim, so the U.S. should secure guarantees on denuclearization, human rights, and economic relations before Trump even arrives.

If not, Trump will only empower the young leader to continue his reign of terror, both internally and internationally, and make it even harder to de-escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula and China.

Once Kim is accepted as an equal to the U.S. President, he will be more credible among international bodies like the United Nations, and will make any unilateral military actions by the US nearly impossible to defend.

Congressmen, don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Talk of a Nobel Peace Prize is premature, as is claiming “Mission Accomplished.”


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