CHESTER HAS MOVED!: Is Kim losing control?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Is Kim losing control?

The Christian Science Monitor details some interesting developments in North Korea. Excerpts:
Small signs often portend big changes in closed societies, especially in the secretive court of North Korea's Kim dynasty. Observers are wondering if this is just another mad whim from the palace - like the edicts forbidding women to wear red trousers or to eat hamburgers. Or if, after 3 million deaths from starvation on his watch, Kim Jong Il's star many finally be falling - something suggested by numerous North Korean refugees in recent interviews.
Interviews with dozens of North Korean refugees in China and South Korea reveal a popular disillusionment with Kim. The refugees blame him and hate him in a way they never hated his father, Kim Il Sung. They suggest he hid the collapse of the economy in the 1980s from his father by feeding him a string of false statistics. People first began starving to death in the 1980s, but Kim Jong Il persuaded his father to accelerate the nuclear-weapons program and inflate the size of the military. Kim Jong Il may have felt vindicated by these policy choices when so many other Communist dictators were swept away after 1989. Yet he barely hung on after his father's death. Refugees speak of plots to assassinate Kim Jong Il in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1995. In Pyongyang he narrowly escaped an attempt in March 1998 and another in 2001; this year he escaped by minutes an explosion at Ryonchon as his train returned from China.
By then, even the military and party elites were dying of hunger and Kim had to terrorize the population into submission. In February 1998, troops backed by 150 tanks occupied Songrim where the steel mill had shut down and hundreds of workers had already died of hunger. The troops stayed there for three months, staged public executions, and send hundreds into camps. He staged similar exhibitions of naked power in other key industrial cities, say refugees. Refugees also indicate that opposition has become more open and daring. More and more pamphlets and banners are appearing calling for Kim's overthrow. Almost all refugees report seeing slogans such as "Down with Kim Jong Il" painted on walls, pylons, and railway carriages throughout the country. Statues and murals of the Kims have been defaced, and the halls erected for worship of the Kim family have been burnt down. Some officials have been found killed in their homes. Although the food crisis is easing, with the World Food Program reporting a good harvest for this year, the country remains on the brink of starvation. Kim has survived so far but he is coming under increasing pressure from outside. China has stationed an estimated 30,000 troops on the border and is pressing him to respond to Bush administration's renewed demands that he abandon his nuclear weapons. China's top leader will pay his first visit to both Koreas next year to help bring an end to the stalemate.
Can the North Korean regime survive the coming tidal wave of outside information about the world? During the height of the Cold War, when Soviet families would be exposed to the West, they often felt extreme anger at the lies that had been told them about our poverty -- when in fact ours was the highest living standard in the world. What is the disposition of the Chinese forces on the border? Are they merely a border security force or do they have the ability to invade North Korea? If memory serves, they are more than a mere border force. Could the Chinese have them positioned there for humanitarian relief efforts should the regime collapse? There is no reason why humanitarian missions must be US or NATO-led. Such a move by the PRC would give it quite a bit of prestige among world militaries. Perhaps an Alert Reader or two has some more in-depth knowledge of the history of large-scale Chinese military operations beyond their own borders -- like their wars with India for example. Once the floodgates of information increase from a trickle to a waterfall in North Korea, it is difficult to imagine that the regime will be able to survive. We should open North Korea, overtly or otherwise, to the free-flow of information and trade. Information will undermine Kim's regime and trade will allow us to infiltrate it with spies. Regime change in the world's most isolated, fanatical country is entirely possible with not a shot fired, given some creative covert moves. The trick would be to remove the government without completely destabilizing the region -- and losing control of their nukes.


Blogger Adam said...

more info here:

December 1, 2004 at 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Chinese PLA has never shown a great capability for
operations outside of China. The Tibeten operations
against the Indians were supported from within China; arguably their lines of supply were shorter than those of the Indians. If memory serves, the late 1970's mini-war with VietNam extended less than 40 miles out of China when the shooting ceased.

However, it is worth noting that the PLA has been
studying Western forces in general and the USA in
particular for some time, with a lot of changes in
the late 1980's and 1990's. It appears that the PLA
abandoned the idea of sheer mass in the 1990's,
in favor of more sophisticated forces, including mechanized and airmoble ones. Their transportation capacity within China has to be greater than 20+
years ago and thus their force projection abilities
in areas adjacent to China also could be greater as well.

I have to wonder how much of N Korea's military is
fixed in place down South by the DMZ. Certainly there
cannot have been as much effort in building obstacles/
fortifications/etc. up along the Yalu as has been seen
around the DMZ for generations. If the reports from
refugees are true, the N. Korean military likely would
not resist Chinese forces beyond a token level anyway.

It certainly appears that Kim Jong Il has lost
the "mandate of heaven", and the PLA wants to prevent
a huge flood of refugees into Manchuria in the event
of a coup d'etat or worse. It remains a open question
whether China has any goals beyond stability of a
North Korean government that is friendly (or at least
not actively hostile) to China's interests. Possibly there are concerns in Peking about a Berlin-wall style reunification in the wake of Kim falling from power?

Certainly they would want any NBC weapons the Norks
may have to be kept under tight control...

December 1, 2004 at 12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps Bush and the Chinese leaders should have a secret meeting. I'd envision something along the lines of...

"You take care of NK. We won't raise a fuss. We'll take care of Iran, but leave oil for you...don't raise a fuss".

December 1, 2004 at 12:29 PM  

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