TWO KOREAS CHARGING HEAD FIRST TOWARDS REGIME CHANGES
Shortly after noon on September 3, North Korea tested a hydrogen bomb which can be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile. The state-run Korean Central Television declared it “a perfect success,” treating the growing anger and concern of the international community with disdain.
With North Korea having crossed the red line with its recent nuclear test, the geopolitical situation in North Asia has been hurled into a completely new dimension that could ultimately evolve into possible regime changes in both South and North Koreas.
Intelligence recently obtained in Seoul by Professor Tsutomu Nishioka, an expert on Korean affairs, reveals Kim Jong-un’s strategy in dealing with President Donald Trump and the extent to which the dictator is prepared to fight against the US. (Nishioka is a director of the conservative private think tank I head—the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.) Explains Nishioka:
“These materials detail Kim’s instructions, allegedly issued in July or August this year, to exert maximum pressure on the US by conducting nuclear tests, launching more missiles, including SLBMs, and building large-sized submarines capable of deploying SLBMs—although they are not capable of building nuclear submarines at this point. The US would be unable to intercept the North’s missiles if 100 of them were launched simultaneously. By exerting military pressure on the US, Kim intends to drag the US to the conference table.”
Quoting his source in Seoul, Nishioka notes that Kim has told the operations section of the North Korean People’s Army that his strategy is designed to negotiate directly with the US, have Washington recognize North Korea as a nuclear power, and conclude a peace treaty with the US.
The Korean source also told Nishioka that, as of last May, Pyongyang had been prepared to test a miniaturized 100-kiloton nuclear bomb, by far its most powerful, and that if the test proved successful Pyongyang’s program to miniaturize a nuclear warhead would be completed.
This month, the Japanese Defense Ministry initially estimated the power of North Korea’s latest nuclear bomb at 70 kilotons, proving the reliability of the information Nishioka obtained. Four days later, on September 5, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said it could have been 120 kilotons. One feels, therefore, that the information provided by Nishioka’s source on Kim’s remarks can also be trustworthy.
Realistically, however, there can be no chance of Trump agreeing to negotiate with Pyongyang or to conclude a peace treaty. After all, a peace treaty is an agreement on non-aggression as well.
A peace treaty would mean America’s withdrawal of its forces from the Korean Peninsula, leaving the North’s nuclear program untouched. Clearly, that alone would constitute an obvious defeat on the part of the US, leading to a collapse of the world order. Whatever would happen to the whole of Asia if such an eventuality were to occur? Very likely at least a few nations would turn to nuclear weapons for self-defense.
Kim’s Fear of “Beheading”
There is absolutely no possibility whatever of the US ever choosing such an option. And yet, Kim has obviously issued the afore-mentioned instructions. Why? What makes Kim forge ahead with so rapid a succession of missile and nuclear tests?
Hong Hyun, editor-in-chief of the Toitsu Nippo, a Japanese-language daily read by Koreans in Japan, sees this as a reflection of Kim’s impatience, explaining:
“I believe Kim feels he is backed into a corner. Vladimir Putin probably is the only world leader willing to stand with him, although the Russian leader cannot likely be counted on to help him much. The Russians gave the okay for the North Korean freighter Man Gyong-bong to enter port in Russia, but the freighter has since been unable to do so as it is unable to pay the harbor charges. Obviously, Kim has a very thin purse now.
“North Korea may be running short of funds. Apparently, Pyongyang has repeatedly issued orders to its diplomatic offices around the world, demanding hard currently transfers.”
This means that “Room 39” of the Central Committee of the Korean Worker’s Party, charged with managing illicit funds for the party’s leader, is running short of funds, which is tantamount to Kim losing the source of his brutal control. This must make Kim immensely insecure.
An objective analysis of the situation in both Koreas makes it plain that in the long run the current state of affairs favors the North. After all, the South’s president is pro-Pyongyang. Moon Jae-in has taken steps to effectively disband the National Intelligence Service (NIS), which has over the decades controlled North Korean operatives that have infiltrated the South.
If the NIS is dissolved, significantly reducing the government’s power to track infiltration from the North, the South will eventually allow itself to fall into the hands of the North. And this will not be in the distant future. But still Kim knows that he cannot afford to wait until that day comes.
Worse than the suspected shortage of funds is Kim’s fear of an American operation aimed at “beheading” him. Kim Jon-il, Jong-un’s father, was compelled to make concessions in 1995 when he was made aware that an indignant US was determined to attack the North. Explains Nishioka:
“In June 1994, North Korea arbitrarily banned inspectors from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and began removing spent fuel rods, which would make extraction of uranium possible. Convinced that the North Koreans were developing nuclear weapons, President Clinton decided to bomb the North.
“The Clinton administration was determined to kill Kim Jong-il, even though the projected attack could involve a significant number of collateral victims. At that juncture, Jong-il backed away and his father Il-sung came to the fore to negotiate with former President Jimmy Carter, agreeing in the end to respect the American position.”
Although ever ready to take lives of others in cold blood, members of the Kim dynasty are intensely fearful when their own lives are threatened or when their fate shows signs of taking a turn for the worse. The impetuous and offensive posture demonstrated by Kim the past few months obviously reflects his deepening fear of America personally targeting him.
Nishioka, who believes the Kim Jong-un regime is nearing its end, quotes his sources as saying there has been an endless stream of defectors from the North pouring into the South, noting:
“Apparently, top officials of the Workers’ Party and the State Security Department (secret police) get in touch with appropriate parties in the South almost daily, asking specific questions such as: in case we decide to defect to the South, how will our personal security be safeguarded and how will the South treat us? It is indeed ironic that against such a backdrop, the Moon administration is shrinking its section dealing with North Koreans.”
The administration of former President Park Geun-hye pursued programs to disseminate information to the North, encouraging defection in anticipation of a collapse of their system. The former administration guaranteed that all funds brought into the South would not be confiscated, as they would be regarded as private cash. This approach succeeded in enticing no small number of top government bureaucrats and army officers to slip into the South. On the contrary, however, the Moon administration has been restricting these measures while inquiries from the North are increasing. This obviously is proof that a growing number of North Koreans are feeling uneasy about their current wellbeing.
Isolated and with no support from any other country, Kim Jong-un has persistently aggravated international tension. There may be some nations that would want to at least prevent a collapse of North Korea as a nation, but even China would not want to protect Kim himself.
A regime change in the North is unavoidable. When that happens, it looks highly likely that the Moon administration will follow a similar path to a collapse. And, if a collapse of the North regime brings with it the revelation of government documents and other intelligence, Moon’s dark involvement with the North will come to light—as was the case with former President Roh Moo-hyung, who took his own life after his evil deeds involving the North were revealed.
Now that there is a possibility of a regime change for both Koreas, the primary objective for Japan must be the return of Japanese abductees still held in the North. In addition, Japan must contribute to a peaceful and democratic reunification of the Korean Peninsula, doing whatever it can to generate support for such an objective.
This will become possible only when Japan forges ever closer ties with the US, making political and military contribution far greater than before. For that purpose, it is extremely important for Japan to adopt hard-nosed diplomatic and security policies—including developing a capability to strike enemy bases—that reflects the harsh reality surrounding us. We must bid farewell to our exclusively defense-oriented security policy—a policy which we all know is absolutely useless in times of crisis.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 769 in the September 14, 2017 issue of The Weekly Shincho)