Saturday, November 15, 2003

North Korea Makes a Difference to the Sheep

It Makes a Difference to the Sheep has a great post about North Korea, food aid, and NGO efforts inside the country. Choice bacon slice:

The fact that North Korea can't seem to cooperate with well intentioned non-governmental groups in the vital task of providing food for its starving citizens and was unwilling to allow monitoring of where the food went does not bode well for the prospects of a deal on the nuclear issue any time soon. If North Korea can't trust outsiders to simply observe where food aid goes, why should we think that they will willingly open up sensitive defense-related operations to full inspection and monitoring.

As part of my own large project about NK starvation and its relationship to the military-first (seon-gun, lit. "first military/soldiers") policy, I'll be giving a book report on A. Natsios's The Great North Korean Famine, which highlights many of the same problems and issues, including the question of how to verify whether there even is a famine going on in NK.

Sheep also posts on NK's nuclear program:

Given the usual paucity of evidence or source materials the CIA and other intelligence agencies offer to support their contentions (at least in declassified settings) and given the less than stellar track record of American intelligence on Iraq, India-Pakistan etc., I'm not entirely convinced about the prospect of North Korea allegedly acquiring a nuclear capability without actually testing the weapons and delivery systems. Given the DPRK's nearly collapsed economy, lack of friends among the developed world, and relative isolation from the outside, I think the burden of proof would probably be on North Korea to demonstrate that it has actually overcome these barriers rather than American intelligence simply assuming that because it is possible the DPRK has actually crossed the nuclear rubicon.

There certainly is reason to wonder. This is doubtless why the Infidel contended, so long ago, that this is all bluster. I'm willing to acknowledge the possibility regarding NK's nuke program; what's motivated my own admittedly haphazard research is the question of the degree to which NK's danger lies in its ability to prosecute a conventional war on the peninsula. The country is starving, but are the NK troops? They're hungry, yes (at least some are), and they're apparently stealing from the citizens, but does this mean the SK and US/UN forces would be facing emaciated Ethiopians across the DMZ? I somehow doubt it, and since soldiers all over the world have fought, if need be, on empty stomachs, I'm not impressed by the argument that hungry troops can't fight well or long. If I can establish that the conventional threat NK poses is real, then that gives us a better idea of where NK is bluffing and where it isn't. At this point in my research, the jury's out.

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