Roland Watson
November 2006

North Korea tested a nuclear weapon on October 9th, and it also has ballistic missiles (last tested in July). It further seems likely, with additional technical development, that it will be able to manufacture nuclear warheads for the missiles, thereby threatening all of East Asia and even potentially Alaska and Hawaii.

North Korea also presents a severe risk of nuclear proliferation, and it has close ties to Iran and Pakistan. There is a real possibility that it will sell a nuclear weapon to Islamic extremists, which weapon could then be smuggled to and detonated anywhere in the world.

This constitutes a grave threat to international security. Even China, North Korea’s main ally, is upset over the test, and agreed to support United Nations Security Council sanctions.

At least, that’s the conventional view. Dictator Watch, opposed to conventionality in all its forms, has an opposing perspective.

The nuclear crisis in North Korea has been orchestrated – stage-managed – by China, as a way to take advantage of the Bush Administration’s preoccupation with Iraq. The dissolution of the Soviet Union left a power vacuum, for a leader opposed to the U.S., which China is rushing to fill. The country has embarked on rapid economic development, not as a means to improve the circumstances of ordinary Chinese, but to fund military expansion to secure the might it requires for this role. It is also creating its own powerful axis, or front, by enabling North Korea’s nuclear development, which process is also underway with its other regional client, Burma (see associated article, Nuclear Proliferation and Burma, the Hidden Connection). Both North Korea and Burma are effectively vassals of China: in many ways, like Tibet, annexed provinces.

The leaders of China are old school. Power is grounded in arms. They recognize that economic competition is now supplanting military competition around the world, but to their way of thinking, which is the norm for political dictators everywhere, nothing can replace the gun.

Kim Jong-il is rumored to have made a secret trip to China before the nuclear test. The evidence for this is that one of his personal trains left for the Chinese border on September 5th. I believe this trip was made, and further that its purpose was to secure Chinese permission to conduct the test, which permission was given.

Everyone is blaming North Korea, but the real enemy is China. The Chinese dictators must pay for creating this new threat to world security.

For this, it is important to recognize that China has a weakness. The economic development in the country is changing its social landscape. China is now experiencing its own “Roaring 20s.” The country even has billionaires. But the new riches do not extend to everyone. The country is undergoing the most profound transformation of class structure any society has ever experienced. The “Iron Rice Bowl” of communism, and its inherent assumption of equality, has been destroyed. In its place are the new elites, supported by armies of factory workers, who toil slavish hours and in appalling conditions, and with the rural agricultural communities left far behind, in many cases in extreme poverty.

The Chinese economic boom is largely export driven. Were foreign demand for Chinese goods to collapse, the whole society would be shaken, most importantly the power of the dictatorship. This would be a trigger for the people to get rid of their rulers once and for all. What began in Tiananmen Square in July 1989 would finally be achieved.

The Roaring 20s in the United States came to an abrupt end. We should strive to see this occur in China as well.

The rest of the world can help. International consumers, particularly American consumers, should punish China. Anything “Made in China” should be boycotted in the upcoming holiday season, and beyond. Further, not only will this disrupt the leading threat to international security and peace, it will also reduce gasoline prices. (Energy demand has skyrocketed to meet the needs of Chinese industry.)

International response to the North Korean test

The world responded to North Korea, seemingly with decisiveness. But was this really the case, or is the conventional wisdom once again flawed? To evaluate the response, I will compare it to the actions of President John F. Kennedy after the Soviet Union positioned nuclear missiles in Cuba, using excerpts from his October 22, 1962 speech.

This government feels obliged to report this new crisis to you in fullest detail.”

The threat from North Korea is equivalent to the Cuban threat. Just as Cuba could have launched a missile against America at any moment, a nuclear weapon of North Korean origin can now be detonated in the United States without warning. President Kennedy addressed the Cuban/Soviet threat decisively and openly. President Bush’s response has been to keep the American public informed only indirectly and in a limited fashion, largely through statements from Secretaries Rice and Rumsfeld.

This secret, swift and extraordinary buildup … is a deliberately provocative and unjustified change in the status quo which cannot be accepted by this country, if our courage and our commitments are ever to be trusted again by either friend or foe.”

The Cuban missile crisis developed rapidly. North Korean proliferation, on the other hand, has been in the works, and public knowledge, for years. Neither Bush, nor Clinton before him, mounted a real challenge. However, the greater responsibility lies with the Bush Administration, which accused the North in October 2002 of having a secret weapons program (in contravention of the 1994 Agreed Framework between the two countries), but which in the following years did not act to suppress it, just as the Administration is now also failing with Iran.

North Korea blackmailed both South Korea and the U.S., using the implicit threat of an invasion of Seoul with its large number of troops positioned just across the DMZ. South Korea appeased the North, giving reportedly close to $1 billion in aid, which funds were then used for the North’s missile and nuclear development. The U.S. stood by and let this happen, so as not to jeopardize its 29,000 troops stationed in the South.

North Korea, with Chinese backing, is now attempting to expand its extortion to the entire world.

This situation, far more than the war in Iraq, is the definitive test of the Bush Presidency.

To halt this offensive buildup, a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated.”

Our resolution will call for the prompt dismantling and withdrawal of all offensive weapons in Cuba, under the supervision of U.N. observers, before the quarantine can be lifted.”

The United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions banning trade with North Korea in major weapons and materials usable in ballistic missiles and unconventional weapons programs. This is similar to Kennedy’s quarantine on Cuba, and likewise it requires interdiction at sea. The test of Bush’s resolve is whether this interdiction will take place; whether China will be pressured to ban such shipments along its land border; and finally that the sanctions will remain in place until North Korea has dismantled its nuclear program. Any shirking of this responsibility by Bush will severely damage the credibility the United States’ courage and commitments. It will also put the United States at direct risk of nuclear attack.

Already, North Korea, in an extension of its blackmail, has warned South Korea against implementing the sanctions. It has also said that it will return to the negotiating table, which will likely motivate China to try to end its own enforcement responsibility.

The United States cannot allow either South Korea or China to back down. If the U.N. sanctions are ended or circumvented before the nuclear program is dismantled, the Chinese-North Korean strategy will have worked. It will also reveal Bush as being spineless.

The North Korean crisis further demands a comment regarding diplomatic engagement, which is another conventional belief that is widely held around the world. This is the idea that you don’t break off relations with criminal regimes, no matter what they have done, up to and including genocide. Your keep your ambassadors in place, and you allow the countries to remain in multinational organizations such as the U.N., in other words, you keep the communication channels open.

Diplomatic engagement is nothing short of a religious faith in the efficacy of talk, which I believe is entirely unfounded. Its alternative is to comprehensively break off relations. The proper approach to a regime like North Korea is isolation, quarantine, and cure. When the North Koreans reach the point where they want to talk, the rest of the world isn’t hard to find. Communication can be restarted at any time. All they have to do is raise a white flag.

The only thing diplomatic engagement accomplishes is to give weak and brutal dictators the time and resources they need to get strong.

Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General-elect, made the comment that if North Korea conducts a second test, the international consequences would be “much more serious.” What an absurd remark! The definitive act is the loss of virginity. North Korea is now a nuclear power. The time for decisive action is Right Now, not after a second, or third, or tenth test.

Diplomats are still ignoring the reality in North Korea, that a modern day Hitler has nuclear weapons, as a means to avoid their personal failure to stop the proliferation.

Further, international business is the single driving force behind diplomatic engagement. The main reason why no one has stood up to North Korea is that they don’t want to imperil business relations with China. Jacques Chirac just visited China, and was obscenely given a 21-gun salute at the 1989 killing ground, Tiananmen Square. He received billions in business contracts, and pledged to end Europe’s weapons trade ban. (The E.U. also recently sent a delegation to meet President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, responsible for the genocide in Darfur.) American businesses want a piece of the pie as well (one recalls Bill Gate’s April 2006 house party for President Hu Jintao), and lobby Washington to ignore China’s serial human rights abuses. They call it diplomatic engagement, but what is really happening is that the politicians and businessmen have been blinded by greed.

It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched by Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.”

The greatest danger of all would be to do nothing.”

The United States has announced that it will defend Japan, and also South Korea, against North Korean aggression. This is insufficient. President Bush, personally, should declare that any detonation of a nuclear device, anywhere in the world, will be met by swift and decisive retaliation against North Korea – and China. The policy should be one of “Assured Destruction.”

In addition, the United States should withdraw all its troops from South Korea. There is no need to put U.S. ground troops at risk for a nation the leaders of which actively appease if not conspire with the North.

President Roh Moo-Hyun recently fired the head of South Korean intelligence, for investigating North Korean spies.

In a February 2006 survey by the Korean Times, forty-eight percent of a sample of 1,000 South Korean young adults said that they would support the North in a war with the United States.

I have no doubt that most Cubans today look forward to the time when they will be truly free – free from foreign domination, free to choose their own leaders, free to select their own system.”

The diplomats of the world are afraid that North Korea will collapse. This should not be our fear; it should be our goal! Only when Kim Jong-il’s regime has been swept away will the people be free.

North Korea is organized like a cult, although it is difficult to know how much of the population belongs. The hysteria in Pyongyang at the death of Kim’s father, the Great Leader, was certainly real, but there is no way to judge how far it extended into the country. The many people fleeing, at risk of death, testifies to the fact that the desire for change is widespread.

The challenge, of course, is how to help the North Koreans win their freedom. A good place to start is to force China to end its support for Kim. Without China to lean on, his regime would fail.


It is not only nuclear proliferation for which China is responsible. The country, including through its leaders and companies, commits all manner of abuses. It continues to develop chemical and biological weapons. The repression and colonization of Tibet has accelerated. Taiwan remains under threat. Its factories are sweatshops, and the rivers, land and air are poisoned. (Chinese air pollution even reaches North America.) Dissidents, including religious adherents and the followers of Falun Gong, are imprisoned and killed, as are rural and worker protestors. China also reportedly executes more prisoners than the rest of the world combined.

Beijing says that it disagrees with the West on the issue of human rights, but this is a mischaracterization. The subject is not open to debate. China is wrong. It’s treatment of its own people, and derivatively of the people in the repressed societies that it supports, is wrong.

The country backs many of the worst regimes on the planet, including North Korea, Burma, the Sudan, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, and Zimbabwe. It consistently blocks Security Council action on such countries. China is not a member of the U.N. to help it achieve the organization’s goals; it only uses the U.N. as a means to its own ends. Through its veto power, it is effectively the dictator of the Security Council.

Having cut down its own trees, China is responsible for clear-cutting some of the world’s last remaining biodiversity hotspots. This includes Borneo and Papua New Guinea, where tropical hardwoods are now being logged for Chinese consumption, including reportedly for Olympic facilities. (An active and worldwide boycott of the Beijing Olympics is already planned; this is one more justification for it.) Chinese consumption is also driving many endangered species, most notably tigers, which Mao Zedong referred to as “pests,” to extinction.

The world faces many threats. Those receiving the most publicity include Islamic extremism and terrorism; Bush’s military adventurism (both the conflict in Iraq and the policy of preemptive action); and the environmental destruction that is an inevitable consequence of global warming (and also overpopulation and over-consumption). The other main threat, which receives less recognition, is China, not only through North Korea but via its other actions as well. To repeat a long-standing Dictator Watch imperative, China must become a democracy. The best and certainly the least violent way to trigger this is to disrupt its economy. It is hard medicine, but it’s what the patient needs.

Boycott China!

© Roland O. Watson 2006