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9 Jun, 2009 11:14

ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review, June 9

ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review, June 9

This Tuesday ROAR continues presenting views and opinions on North Korea.

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA writes that the severe sentence handed to the two American female TV reporters, who had illegally crossed the border into North Korea from the South, makes the situation on the Korean peninsula even more tense than it was before, as the US is already planning to put North Korea back on the list of terrorism-supporting nations.

Earlier a nuclear test had worsened the situation to the limit, says the paper, and the maximum punishment, 12 years of hard labor, given to the two American women (one of Chinese origin, the other one born in South Korea) who merely crossed the border (an offence usually punishable with a three-year jail term) has now put North Korea on a collision course with the US.

The paper quotes US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying that North Korea’s nuclear testing can cause a regional arms race. Besides, says the paper, the export of nuclear materials may soon be added to the existing North Korea’s export of ballistic missile technology, and that would mean proliferation on the scale that would not be tolerated by anyone in the world community, including China and Russia.

The paper quotes experts saying that the severe sentence for the US journalists is a tool by which the North Korean leadership wants to manipulate the US into bilateral negotiations on a wide range of issues accumulated between Pyongyang and Washington in the past decade. The paper, in response to that, quotes Hillary Clinton, who called the problem of the two journalists a purely humanitarian issue which has no connection to political differences between the US and North Korea.

VREMYA NOVOSTEI says that Moscow should concentrate on not losing the initiative in the collective effort of solving the North Korean issue. The author of the article, Georgiy Toloraya, the director of the Korean studies program at one of Russia’s research institutions, says that the current tough course taken by North Korea is a response to the lack of progress in the deal agreed upon six years ago: when Pyongyang promised to wrap up its nuclear program in exchange for international aid and guaranteed peace.

The academic says that of the six partners in that deal only Russia has delivered completely on the promise to supply energy to the North. Meanwhile, South Korea, under a new government, has taken several steps unacceptable for the North and the US started insisting on tighter control over the North Korean nuclear facilities. All that persuaded Pyongyang that the true intention of the West is not finding a compromise but preparing and implementing regime change.

Kim Jong Il’s illness has also played its role. The North Korean elite got frightened and turned to the proven method of consolidation of the population: warmongering and militarization of everyday life “in the presence of imminent danger for the Motherland.”

The game that North Korea is playing, says the academic, is played out carefully and thoroughly. The leadership will never allow it to get out of control. North Korea can function perfectly in the mode of a “fortress under siege” for an indefinite period of time, provided the internal pressure (famine, lack of energy, economic disaster) doesn’t exceed the limit of tolerance dangerous for the existence of the regime.

In these circumstances the only way out for the world is to engage the North in negotiations, says the academic, and adds that there may be no alternative to bilateral US – North Korean talks, and Russia, while setting up a goal of resurrecting the six-party negotiations as the first priority, may in the beginning put its main efforts in the facilitation of direct North Korean – American talks.

Russia, says the academic, should react to every twist and turn of the North Korean problem with a solution of its own, when necessary, and always with an evaluation of others’ actions. This way Russia can maintain its lead, its initiative in the process upon which, like China, Russia has more influence than the US or Japan.

In ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA Leonid Radzikhovskiy tries to figure out the reasons for the “tough” policies to which North Korea has suddenly turned in the past few months.

The columnist says that as there is no real threat of an attack from the neighbors or the US, it has to be vice versa – maybe North Korea is planning to go to war and attack one of its neighbors? Not China or Russia definitely – that would be suicidal for the nation of 22 million people. Japan or South Korea? That would be equally suicidal because attacking either of these two means attacking the United States.

Then what, asks Radzikhovskiy, is the reason for such behavior? Is Pyongyang trying to squeeze more aid from the world? Hardly, says the columnist: its main donor is China, and China is not frightened by North Korea’s nukes. What then? The tricky business of succession? But that, too, doesn’t need a nuclear salute: ordinary fireworks will do just fine.

The columnist thinks that the main reason for the tough behavior of North Korea is its ideology of “complete and absolute sovereignty”, on the rise again today because of many factors, including the erosion of ideology noticed by the leadership, and the countermeasures implemented by it to stop the erosion.

But in the modern world, continues the columnist, the world without the Socialist system and without one or two definite centers of universal power, total sovereignty may mean only one thing: being absolutely sovereign is equal to not being. To achieve it a country has to exclude itself from the world and become a black hole – not of the type that can consume the whole world if let free (like Hitler’s black hole) but a tiny black hole, letting nothing and no one in or out, with undying love to the leaders holding it together like cement, and with barbed wire guarding its entrance.

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT.