Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
PRC Premier Wen Jiabao and the Chinese government, according to Yonhap, “welcomed Lee’s ‘grand bargain’ dubbing it ‘the great exchange’ in Chinese ” after a meeting between China, South Korea and Japan. And yet there was more emphasis not so much on endorsing the pathways proposed by the South Korea-Japanese axis, as calling for the need to return to the negotiating table. Because we’re working through English translations of two Asian languages (is this a triple translation?), it is not constructive to parse “welcomed.” It seems the Chinese, as the hosts of the Six Party Talks, are welcoming all ideas and proposals, which is what a good mediator does, and that the Six Party Talks will not succeed if the DPRK’s regional neighbors pursue a policy akin to diplomatic gangbanging.
The Washington Post reports today that the DPRK has increased the spending and training of its “special forces.” The article is rather vague as to what special forces units are receiving training in “Iraqi-style roadside bombs.” One has to assume this article refers to the elite members of the Operations Department which is under the supervision of Gen. O Kuk-ryol, Vice Chair of the National Defense Commission. The Operations Department is trained and tasked for commando-style raids and initial infiltration of South Korea in the event of an invasion. Around the time of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly, control of the Operations Department was transferred from the Korean Workers’ Party to the National Defense Commission. This article is also missing a valuable resource in the person of Joseph Bermudez, the Boswell of the DPRK military.
In other news, the International Herald-Tribune reports Japan and South Korea have created their own united front to deal with the DPRK. The newly installed Japanese government has signed on to the Lee Administration’s delusively designed “grand bargain.” While one appreciates the South Korea-Japan position, if only to buoy their respective domestic political support, it is positively baffling why they would select a course of action that will be summarily rejected by the North Koreans. It plays right into the DPRK’s propagandic ejaculations about South Korea being a puppet state of (take your pick) the US or Japan. It also does not expedite the North Koreans once again taking their seats at the Six-Party Talks. South Korea and Japan seem to be betraying their own insecurities, their roles as East Asia’s reigning powers have subsided with a rising China. South Korea seems to have vacated residency in the reality-based community. In terms of Inter-Korean relations they have floated rather strange contractual obligations with the DPRK, about which Curtis Melvin writes here. And then there were the mumblings of South Korea’s foreign minister when he undiplomatically trashed business deals (about which South Korea had no solid material information) signed during Wen Jiabao’s DPRK visit this week. Did he honestly think China would violate the UN sanctions? And to think Premier Wen is meeting this weekend with South Korea and Japan. Awkward much?
N. Korea Swiftly Expanding its Special Forces
Blaine Harden, 9 October 2009, Washington Post
Japan and S. Korea Agree to Joint Stance on North
Choe Sang-hun, 10 October 2009, International Herald-Tribune
S. Korea raises concerns over China-N. Korean economic deals
Lee Chi-dong, 6 October 2009, Yonhap News Agency