Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What Does North Korea Want?

North Korea has an uncanny ability to shape its geopolitical reality despite the weak hand it's dealt itself, noted author and Korea expert Gordon G. Chang during a Commonwealth Club speech May 25, 2007: "[The U.S. is] the strongest nation in history. North Korea is one of the most destitute states. Yet for more than five decades, the regime run by the Kim family has outmaneuvered us at almost every turn. The situation is even more peculiar than that, because North Korea is not only outmaneuvering us; it's outsmarting the rest of the world." [Listen to entire program.]

Global attention is once again focusing on North Korea amid reports that Pyongyang is preparing a long-range missile test sometime around July 4. As a result, additional protections have been ordered for Hawaii in the event a missile is launched. While North Korea denies it is threatening the United States, the North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun stated, “As long as our country has become a nuclear power, the U.S. should take a correct look at whom it is dealing with.”

In an interview with CBS News’ Harry Smith, President Barack Obama said he did not want to “speculate on hypotheticals.” But at the same time, Obama stated, “This administration – and our military -- is fully prepared for any contingencies.”

Meanwhile, North Korea also claimed last week that Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the two U.S. journalists who had been sentenced to 12 years in a labor camp, admitted entering the country illegally in order to slander the country’s human rights record. There are no independent accounts of exactly where the journalists were captured, and the U.S. has asked for the release of the two women. However, many speculate that the journalists are being used as bargaining chips by North Korea against the United States.

As we near the possible launch of the missile toward Hawaii and we await an outcome of the prisoner saga, it might be a good time to dig a bit deeper into Korean politics, culture, and history. In recent years and months, The Club has hosted many programs concerning North Korea, featuring experts from a variety of viewpoints. Several of these discussions were moderated by Club President and CEO Dr. Gloria Duffy, who served as U.S. Special Coordinator for Cooperative Threat Reduction and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in the 1990s. To view these programs, visit our video partners at Fora.tv.

--Commonwealth Club Media and Public Relations Department


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