War is looming on the Korean peninsula. North Korea has declared that it possesses nuclear weapons. The United States is tightening an economic noose around the country in an attempt to force a regime change. The Bush administration is also keeping a military option on the table, a prospect that terrifies all the countries of East Asia, particularly South Korea. A terrifying spiral of tensions has resulted. The aggressive stance of the U.S. government has hardened North Korea’s position and threatened rapprochement between North and South. North Korea, meanwhile, is desperate to develop a deterrent that will prevent the Bush administration from following the Iraq scenario with a campaign of aerial bombing.The Korean peninsula, divided for more than fifty years, is stuck in a time warp. Millions of troops face one another along the Demilitarized Zone separating communist North Korea and capitalist South Korea. In the early 1990s and again in 2002-2003, the United States and its allies have gone to the brink of war with North Korea. Misinterpretations and misunderstandings are fueling the crisis. “There is no country of comparable significance concerning which so many people are ignorant,” American anthropologist Cornelius Osgood said of Korea some time ago. This ignorance may soon have fatal consequences.
North Korea, South Korea is a short, accessible book about the history and political complexites of the Korean peninsula. The first section is a snapshot of the current crisis. The second and third sections will put these current developments in a political and economic context through an exploration of the history of the Korean peninsula and the worldview of the leadership in the North. The fourth section will concentrate on the shift in emphasis in U.S. foreign policy from engagement under the Clinton administration to containment under the Bush administration. The fifth section will expand the focus to look at the regional dynamic and the U.S. policy of “gunboat globalization” that seeks to expand U.S. economic and military influence in East Asia. The conclusion will explore practical alternatives to the current policy that build on the remarkable and historic path of reconciliation that North and South embarked on in the 1990s and that point the way to eventual reunification.
Praise for North Korea / South Korea
“As John Feffer’s new book shows, Bush administration crisis-mongering about North Korea is no more believable than its intelligence on Iraq. The North Korean reactor at Yongbyon is based on fifty-year-old designs and, incredibly, still uses vacuum tubes. North Korea spends $20 a year per soldier, whereas South Korea, whose economy is 26 times larger, spends $163,000 per soldier. The Koreans themselves are fully capable of unifying the Korean peninsula-if only the Pentagon would let them. Feffer’s analysis is the most reliable, balanced report available on the Korean ‘threat.'”
Chalmers Johnson, author of Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire
“Northeast Asia is the world’s most dynamic economy, with rapidly developing industry, high technology, rich resources, and half the world’s foreign exchange reserves. South Korea’s social and political achievements are no less remarkable than its spectacular economic growth. Peaceful integration of North Korea into the region, along with desperately needed internal changes, are essential for further progress. The alternative could be military confrontation with frightful consequences. The tasks ahead are not easy ones, but they are feasible. The U.S. role will surely be critical, and it is of the utmost importance for Americans to understand the issues, their background, and the prospects. John Feffer provides a deeply informed and lucid account of all these matters, full of insight, pointing the way to constructive solutions that are within our grasp.”
“As described by O’Hanlon and Mochizuki, their “grand bargain” goes beyond “carrots and sticks” to what they call “steaks and sledgehammers.” But this approach is simply a new and more sophisticated variant of US efforts for
the past decade to use the normalization of relations with Pyongyang as a reward for the cessation of its nuclear program. After repeated failures, it is clearly time to reassess this approach, which is what John Feffer does in his lucid, hard-hitting overview, North Korea, South Korea: U.S. Policy at a Time of Crisis. Feffer visited both North Korea and South Korea frequently and represented the American Friends Service Committee in Northeast Asia. He has produced a perceptive, gracefully written book placing the nuclear crisis in a broader policy perspective that embraces the peninsula as a whole, all in 173 easily digestible pages.
The United States should uncouple normalization and denuclearization, Feffer concludes, and “immediately begin the process of establishing diplomatic relations with North Korea. Rather than a bargaining chip, normalized relations thus become a framework for addressing all outstanding U.S.-North Korean issues.” My own visits to North Korea, eight since 1972, support his view that “North Korea will not likely feel secure enough to relinquish its nuclear deterrent if it forever remains an outlier, and normalization is an important step toward a future in which North Korea is unlikely to use whatever weapons of destruction it possesses.” The idea of uncoupling the nuclear issue from normalization has also been suggested by an influential Japanese security expert, Masashi Nishihara, director of the National Defense Academy in Tokyo.”
The Nation, by Selig Harrison (excerpt)
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