Saturday, September 25, 2010

Interview with RCI on DPRK

Audio of my interview with Marc Montgomery on recent comments by a Russian diplomat who maintains that war between North and South Korea may be imminent can be heard here:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

AFP: EU to press China on rights at summit: trade chief

From AFP report:
De Gucht said the EU wants to take a "forward-looking" approach and "act as partners" with China on global challenges such as climate change, international stability and the need to maintain open markets and equal access to raw materials.
But he made clear that human rights would also be addressed again with the communist-ruled country.
"There is a strong international expectaction that China should live up to internationally-recognised standards in all fields of human rights," De Gucht said.
The EU trade chief urged China to ratify the international covenant on civil and political rights, saying it would be "the most tangible sign of China's commitment to respect human rights."

AFP: EU to press China on rights at summit: trade chief

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vaclav Havel Op-Ed on Liu Xiaobo

"Despite Liu's imprisonment, his ideas cannot be shackled" - Vaclav Havel calls for Nobel Prize for Liu Xiaobo:

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Chinese Report on DPRK Worker's Party Congress Delay

Below is a Singaporean report on the strange delay in opening the DPRK Worker's Party Congress. The gist of it is that there is an unresolved split over economic policy reform and over the timing of Kim Jong-Un's succession. The recent disastrous currency reform is also attributed to Jong-Un.

  韩国对朝广播媒体"开放的朝鲜广播"也说,党大会推迟的最大原因是金正日的健康问题,接下来是朝鲜还没决定,金正银上台后,要采取多大范围的改革开放路线, 因为朝鲜内部对改革开放政策出现意见分歧,朝鲜可能在商讨这方面的问题。

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Still no word from N. Korea about conference delay, but much speculation

The Washington Post issued the report linked below, repeating speculation that it is due to Kim Jong-il's poor health that the delegates to the Worker's Party Congress have been cooling their heels in Pyongyang this past week with no Congress having opened.

I am more inclined to think that this is really about resistance to the installation of Kim Jong-un as hereditary successor. This could be a time of significant court intrigue at the Presidential palace. It is very unlikely to be indicative of anything good going on. If Kim Jong-il does die one could not assume it is necessarily due to natural causes for example.

The delay in opening this Congress is a very worrying development in my judgment.

Still no word from N. Korea about conference delay, but much speculation

Q&A: Where is the China-Japan sea dispute headed? | Reuters

Helpful guide to what is going on in current crisis in Sino-Japanese relations:

Q&A: Where is the China-Japan sea dispute headed? | Reuters

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Diplomats don't have needed skills: Harder - Northern News - Ontario, CA

"Only 33% of Canada's diplomats have the necessary foreign language skills to do their job, recently released figures show.
Auditor General Sheila Fraser took the federal government to task in 2007 after discovering only 16% of the 180 foreign service officers who were required to have advanced foreign languages skills for their positions, could speak the needed language."

Diplomats don't have needed skills: Harder - Northern News - Ontario, CA

Monday, September 06, 2010

Response to a Ph.D. Student on My China-Korea Op-Ed


My interpretation of the China-Korea dynamic is bascially shared by a number of my colleagues in Communist Party policy research institutes in China. I think that their leaders are more or less at wit's end with Kim Jong-il. Over the years he has come to China by train a number of times. They show him the Shanghai stock market, the special economic zone at Shenzhen, new housing estates, etc. etc. He always expresses enthusiasm and agrees with apparently sincerity that the DPRK should also do opening and reform too and then asks for more grain and oil in the meantime. The same pattern has repeated so many times (including at his recent get together with Hu Jintao). 

No one thinks anymore that the Kim family regime is actually prepared to undertake opening and reform. After all the example of China suggests that the people in political power when the economic reform program begins are out of power in a matter of a few years. Mao's successor Chairman Hua Guofeng was eased out rather elegantly as the Mao cult was wound down. A similar process in the DPRK would be ideal --- gradual reinterpretation of Juche and re-evaluation of the past (Mao was given the official 70% good/30% bad assessment 5 years after his death). 

I don't propose that China should send in the PLA. They know they would likely end up in an Afghanistan-like polarized situation if they did that. I just judge that pervasive popular discontent with the idea of Kim Jong-un taking over would provide an opportunity for China to identify and support a pro-reform element in the military and Party. It is hard for China to play this for two reasons: 1. very strong Korean nationalism/xenophobia; and 2. the effect in China domestically if the DPRK's Stalinist institutions collapsed (because China's political system is based on the same model initiated by Lenin to suit the situation in post-Czarist Russia). But the DPRK leadership does see China as a kind of patriarch, I think, albeit one that they think has gone "soft" over the years. That is why they do China the honour of a ritual presentation of the successor for "approval." 

I expect that the ROK would probably go along with China's "assistance" to the DPRK. If the ROK gets involved too early on things could go disastrously in my view. 

I would further judge that reunfication of Korea would only come once China abandons Stalinist political institutions itself. I remain confident that that will happen before I retire from Brock.



Sunday, September 05, 2010

"Katy Hill" Bluegrass with Chinese Indigenous Musical Instruments

Response to a Romanian Friend Who Wrote to Me in Praise of my Op-Ed on North Korea

It really is a commentary on human frailty that Ceaucescu would decide that he should force the Romanian people to refer to him as "the Genius of the Carpathians" and that his family members should become like super privileged socialist nobility. But Romania seems to have been able to put that awful period behind it, thank God. Actually it appears to me that only some people living in democracies believe that democratic institutions are not the best for all peoples. It is hard for them to understand that no nation that has made a transition to democracy ever wants to go back to authoritarian dictatorship. Seems that one needs the experience of living under an oppressive regime to really appreciate how precious democratic freedoms really are.

For an article on how Ceaucescu was inspired to start his own personality cult after a visit to Pyongyang in 1971 see:

Wait's Over for Political Reform in China _English_Caixin

This is a very powerful editorial by Hu Shuli:

"(Beijing) - The 30th anniversary of the Shenzhen special economic zone recently reignited debates over China's reform process. In particular, discussions focused on a speech made by Premier Wen Jiabao in Shenzhen a few days before the anniversary in which he said political and economic reform must go hand-in-hand.
Without political reform, Wen said, the nation's economic gains cannot be sustained, and the drive to modernize will fail.
The premier's remarks were not prominently reported in the official press, but they sparked strong reactions at home and abroad, underscoring the depth of citizen angst for political reform."

The whole text can be read here: