‘It’s déjà vu all over again’ on North Korea

It’s déjà vu all over again.” – Yogi Berra

The headline at POLITICO reads As Korean leaders make history, Trump stands ready to take credit:

KoreanLeaders

A dramatic Friday meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea is stoking optimism that President Donald Trump might strike a historic nuclear deal with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un — leading skeptics to worry that expectations are growing dangerously high.

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Trump sycophants in the personality cult of Trump are already spiking the ball before having scored in the end zone, saying that Trump – rather than the leaders of North and South Korea – should get a Nobel Peace Prize.

Trump himself wasn’t talking about peace prizes on Friday. But as remarkable images emerged of the bellicose Kim stepping for the first time across his country’s border with South Korea, the president’s excitement — and desire for credit — was plain to see.

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However stirring the images of Kim’s visit to south were, the resulting talks between the Koreas produced few specifics and left open numerous crucial questions, including whether and how the Korean War — which halted in 1953 without a formal peace treaty — might be ended.

It remains unclear, for instance, whether Kim is truly willing to trade away his nuclear weapons capability, as Trump insists. And many jaundiced North Korea observers worry that Trump may be seduced into a bargain that features grand promises from Kim on the front end but conveniently leaves difficult details for later.

Some longtime Kim watchers fret that Kim grasps Trump’s psychology all too well and may be playing the president, who has called the brutal dictator’s early negotiating moves “very honorable.”

Caution and skepticism are warranted. We have been here before in 2000 and 2007 and neither peace overture lasted.

Max Boot writes at the Washigton Post, Don’t let the Korea summit hype fool you. We’ve been here before.

The meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea was acclaimed as “historic.” The two leaders hugged, “smiled broadly, shook each other’s hand vigorously and toasted each other with glasses of champagne.” Reporters notedthat the “opening formalities seemed surprisingly relaxed, exceeding the expectations of many people, including perhaps those of the principals themselves. The South Korean leader said we must “proceed together on a path of reconciliation and cooperation.” The North Korean leader replied that “you will not be disappointed.”

Sound familiar? It should, because the news coverage of the 2000 meeting between South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang parallels the euphoria over Friday’s meeting in Panmunjom between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un, Kim Jong Il’s son. If anything, the 2000 meeting produced more tangible results: Not only declarations about ending the Korean War and uniting the two countries, but also concrete steps toward creating a joint South Korean-North Korean industrial park in Kaesong , allow South Korean tourists to visit the North, and to reunify families long divided by the demilitarized zone. Between 1998 and 2008, South Korea provided some $8 billion in economic assistance to North Korea in the hope that all of this aid would create a kinder, gentler regime. Kim Dae-jung won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his efforts.

And yet the Sunshine Policy, so widely heralded at the time, is now widely judged a failure. Despite North Korea’s promises, it did nothing to ease the repression of its populace or to end its nuclear and missile programs. It turned out Kim Dae-jung only achieved that “historic” 2000 summit by offering Kim Jong Il a $500 million bribe. Another summit was held in 2007, arranged by Moon Jae-in, then an aide to President Roh Moo-hyun, and it too was rapturously acclaimed. But the next year, a conservative government took power in Seoul and ended the Sunshine Policy.

It is worth keeping that sobering history in mind before we get too carried away over the latest inter-Korean summit. Yes, it’s a good thing the two Korean leaders are meeting and talking. It is certainly better than the saber-rattling we saw last year, with North Korea testing nuclear weapons and missiles, and President Trump responding with threats to rain down “fire and fury.”

But let’s not imagine that Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un are making “historic” breakthroughs with their summit declaration. It is full of lofty but empty language promising “no more war on the Korean Peninsula.” The two leaders agreed to transform the demilitarized zone — actually the most heavily militarized area in the world — into a “peace zone,” and to conclude the Korean War with a “robust peace regime.” They even pledged a “nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

”Yada, yada, yada. Upon closer examination, there is very little of substance here — certainly nothing to justify Trump’s hyperbolic tweet: “KOREAN WAR TO END! The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!”

The two Koreas do not have the power to conclude a peace treaty because South Korea was not a party to the 1953 armistice. It was an agreement between the United States (acting on behalf of the United Nations Command), China and North Korea. If there is to be a peace treaty, it will involve those powers, not just South Korea.

Kim will welcome a peace agreement if it hastens the departure of U.S. troops, but he will try to deal with the United States directly. He will not want to officially recognize South Korea as an independent state, because doing so would force him to renounce 70 years of regime propaganda that the Kim family is destined to rule the entire peninsula on behalf of the Korean “workers.” As Nicholas Eberstadt noted in the New York Times, “The decision would call into question why, exactly, North Korea should hold power at all. It would be system-threatening — a mistake on the scale of the string of blunders by President Mikhail S. Gorbachev that doomed the Soviet Union.” Likewise, for all the empty blather about “denuclearization,” Kim Jong Un has no intention of giving up a nuclear arsenal that he sees as his guarantor of regime — and indeed personal — survival.

There is no reason to think Kim is another Gorbachev — a genuine liberal reformer who just happened to rise to the top of a totalitarian system. Human rights violations in North Korea are as awful as ever — a fact highlighted by the death of the American student Otto Warmbier shortly after being released from North Korean custody. The North Korean nuclear and missile programs are more advanced than ever. Kim is not suddenly being reborn as a liberal peacenik; he is pursuing his family’s old policy of mixing provocations such as missile tests with peace offensives designed to convince the West to relax sanctions and extend his odious regime a life line. We would be well advised not to fall for this gambit — again.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reportedly told South Korean President Moon Jae-in that he would carry out the closing of the nuclear test site in May. North Korea nuclear test site to close in May, South Korea says. This too is not all that it appears to be. Why Is North Korea Shutting Down Its Nuclear Test Site?

North Korea announced that it will cease all nuclear testing and will shut down its main testing facility at Mount Mantap. Although some believe the decision came because of easing tensions between the country and the world, others think Mount Mantap may have come down with a bad case of “tired mountain syndrome.”

But what exactly is tired mountain syndrome, and how does a mountain “catch” it?

It turns out that repeated nuclear blasts can weaken the rock around underground nuclear test sites, eventually making them unsafe or unusable — which might have happened with North Korea’s preferred testing grounds.

The hermit country’s latest nuclear test, conducted in September 2017 at Punggye-ri, was at least 17 times more powerful than the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945, according to The Washington Post.

In fact, the explosion registered as a magnitude-6.3 earthquake, and before-and-after satellite shots showed visible movement at Mount Mantap — a 7,200-foot-high (2,200 meters) mountain under which deeply buried tunnels house most of the tests. Some geologists think that the mountain is cracking under the pressure.

When a nuclear explosion goes off inside a mountain, it breaks the surrounding rock, and the energy propagates out like a wave (imagine throwing a pebble into a lake). But as more explosions go off around the same — but not exact — spot, rocks that are farther away also begin to crumble under repeated stress.

“The accumulated effect of these explosions that weaken rocks and create that fracturing [farther away from the point of explosion] is what we call tired mountain syndrome,” Anderson told Live Science.

Tired mountain syndrome can also stymie scientists trying to measure how strong an explosion is, he said. The propagating energy scatters around these fractured rocks before reaching the sensors, so the explosion registers as a lot weaker than it actually is, he added.

But this effect “has nothing to do with being able to use the facility,” said Dale Anderson, a seismologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

In fact, a country can keep using the site but must adjust the mathematical equations it uses so that the final magnitude of the explosion takes tired mountain syndrome into account.

So what is happening on the Korean peninsula may not be all that it appears to be. Don’t get too excited before there are any concrete substantive agreements.

3 responses to “‘It’s déjà vu all over again’ on North Korea

  1. Sen. John Kavanagh

    Clearly it’s not over till it’s over but your failure to give Trump any credit displays your severe anti-Trump bias. And this coming from somebody who probably had no criticism of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee awarding Obama the prize for what he might do, which in the case of the Koreas was nothing.

    • AZ BlueMeanie

      Wrong, Trump sycophant. The Nobel Committee has made questionable decisions many times. The most glaring recent example is Aung San Suu Kyi (1991), who is now the de facto leader of Myanmar. Since her rise to power in 2015, her military has engaged in genocide of the Rohingya ethnic group in Myanmar. Fellow Nobel laureates have called for her award to be rescinded (for which there is no policy).

      The Nobel Committee was wrong to award a preemptive Peace Prize to Barack Obama for the stated purpose of encouraging a leader who had ambitious global plans for scaling down a militaristic American foreign policy. This of course did not happen.

      President Moon Jae-in of South Korea staked his political career on establishing peace on the Korean peninsula. He ran for office on it and is now taking all the risks to follow through on his goals. Donald Trump spent the past three years threatening to invade North Korea to destroy its nuclear program, and even threatening to destroy North Korea with “fire and fury,” nuclear war. The mentally unstable Trump is the one person who could blow up the peace efforts of President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, and return to his belicose military threats against “little Rocket Man.” He does not deserve a Nobel Peace Prize for that.

    • For Sure Not Tom

      Most of us know the rest of the world gave Obama a Nobel for not being GW Bush. Even Obama knew that and played it down.

      The world was unhappy with the US after Bush’s Iraq invasion and Bush’s neverending war in Afghanistan.

      Let’s review:
      “The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced the award on October 9, 2009, citing Obama’s promotion of nuclear nonproliferation and a “new climate” in international relations fostered by Obama, especially in reaching out to the Muslim world.”

      Obama’s comments on the award:
      “Obama said he was “surprised” and “deeply humbled” by the award. In remarks given at the White House Rose Garden on the day of the announcement, Obama stated, “I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments but rather an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.”

      Now let’s contract Obama’s remarks with Trump’s from Saturday night:
      “‘What do you think President Trump had to do with it? I’ll tell you what, like how about everything.”” – Donald “me me me” Trump

      Trump will not get a Nobel because he believes there are “good people on both sides” of a Nazi march, he’s deporting hundreds of thousands of refugees as I type (in violation of Jesus Christ’s direct orders), his racist talk and policies against Mexico, his work to destroy the First Amendment and a free press, his stealing from the poor tax plan (again, against the teachings of your pal Jesus), his abandonment of 4 million American’s in Puerto Rico, his illegal bombing of Syria, his allowing Russia to attack American democracy, again, ongoing as I type, his support for murderous dictators around the world (like Rodrigo Duterte)…

      …and he’s just getting started.

      I do think he’s helped with Korea, I don’t think it’s nearly enough to overcome all the incredibly un-American and un-Christian things he does on a daily basis, or the harm he’s causing the rest of the world.

      You fail history and current events. How do you keep getting elected?