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North Korea, Japan and the illogical nature of U.S. foreign policy.

April 7th, 2009 · Greg Atkinson · 2 Comments

The interesting thing about North Korea’s latest long range rocket launch was not that it happened, but rather the fact that it highlights once again the illogical nature of United States foreign policy especially in North Asia. Perhaps the best outcome from this latest action by North Korea would be for the U.S. to step back a little and let China, Japan, Russia and South Korea work out a solution with North Korea, after all it is their part of the world.

As I watched the coverage of the rocket launch on Japanese T.V. (complete with live pictures from an anti-missile launcher sitting amongst the cherry blossoms) I pondered what would happen if instead of North Korea launching the rocket it was Cuba? Would the U.S. merely put out a strongly worded criticism? Would the U.S. tolerate Cuba developing long range rocket technology and allow them to have a covert nuclear weapons programme? Of course not, and the last attempt by a foreign nation to place nuclear weapons anywhere near the U.S. (i.e. during the Cuban Missile Crisis) almost started World War 3.

In fact it was not that long ago that U.S. invaded Iraq because they thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction so why is Cuba, Iraq and North Korea different in U.S eyes? I am sure there are probably good reasons (?) but to many people this is just another example of how illogical U.S. foreign policy is, and why in my view some regions of the world would be much better off if the U.S. took a back seat.

The The six-party talks which are aimed at finding a peaceful end to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program have been dragging on since 2003 and not a lot has been achieved. North Korea has clearly advanced it’s ability to deliver a nuclear weapon and many experts believe that it now also capable of developing a nuclear weapon and may actually already posses such a weapon. This of course is a major worry for South Korea and Japan who are often the target of threatening rants from the regime of Kim Jong-Il, and the thought of having this dictator with the ability to launch a nuclear should also worry China and Russia.

But the issue of getting North Korea to give up the development of nuclear weapons is complicated by the fact that they believe they need to have such weapons to protect themselves from a U.S. attack or invasion, and if you look at things from their side they do have a point.

After all the U.S. has a bit of a track record recently of invading countries and when it comes to weapons of mass destruction; the U.S not only has the biggest collection but has actually used them. (i.e. when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan during World War 2) Maybe U.S. allies feel comfortable with the U.S. having nuclear weapons and a massive military deployed around the world, but I certainly can see why countries not on friendly terms with the United States would be nervous.

So perhaps U.S. involvement in the six-party talks is actually counter-productive and the time has come from the U.S. to take a back seat or even withdrawal from these talks? Surely China, Japan, Russia and South Korea are more than capable of handling their own regional affairs without the U.S? Besides the standard position these days of Russia and China seems to be the opposite of whatever the U.S. stance. is, so one wonders if there will ever be an agreement between the six-party members anyway.

I would guess that the Japanese Government would prefer the U.S. to remain in the six-party talks and also engaged in North Asia, but it would probably be better for Japan’s long term relationship with it’s neighbours if it begun to rely less on U.S. support and guidance. Japan and North Korea have a complicated relationship (made more complicated by the kidnapping of Japanese citizens by North Korea) and finding a solution to the North Korean nuclear weapons issue will be difficult. In addition Japan also has some historical hurdles to overcome since it’s relationships with it’s neighbours are tainted by it’s World War 2 actions and colonisation of the Korean peninsula.

But surely the time has come for Japan and the other powers in the region to move ahead in the 21st century without the U.S. looking over their shoulders. The six-party talks have simply failed to deliver an end result; the time has arrived for a change in strategy.


2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Pete // Apr 7, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Nice article. Couldn’t agree more. I don’t think anyone really bothers to try and see things from the North Koreans perspective.

    Besides, if North Korea detonated a nuclear weapon on ANY country without provocation, the entire world would be up against it. It would be suicide. But it makes an excellent defence mechanism.

    That said, yes it is a worry when seemingly unstable countries like this posses such arms. But exactly as you have said, the US are not exactly “stable” in that they will go to war with another country if they choose to, under the guise of a mass of PR and political stunts.

    Although I think the US will be looking for a battle sometime in the coming years to stimulate its economy. I certainly wouldn’t be provoking them.

  • 2 Greg Atkinson // Apr 8, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Pete I am not a fan of anyone having nuclear weapons and now that India and Pakistan both seem to have such weapons that makes things even more scary. But it is going to be hard to eliminate these weapons when some countries seem to think they have some sort of right to these weapons and then in turn think other countries do not. I wonder what exactly gives a nation the right to have nuclear weapons?

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