One thread in a tangled web : US foreign policy and North Korea

30 October 2006.
  • *Gregory Elich's analysis of the present US administration's policy toward North Korea was published yesterday on Global Research's website. To my mind, the title of the Global Research article, Why Bush is seeking confrontation with North Korea is somewhat misleading ; rather than analysing the motives behind this policy - something I attempt to deal with in my own review of the article in my posting to StumbleUpon, infra, wherein, however, I do not touch upon the little-remarked but not unimportant fact that the US administration is here trying to effect regime change not only in North Korea, but in South Korea as well, by ensuring the failure of the Roh government's «Sunshine Policy» towards the North - Mr Elich analyses in great detail the steps by which this disastrous policy is in the process of being implemented). He details how, after a statement of principles on nuclear disarmament was signed between the US and North Korea at the six-party talks on 19 September 2005, the U.S. immediately violated one of the agreement's main points :
    Although the U.S. was required under the agreement to begin normalizing relations with North Korea, on literally the very next day it announced the imposition of sanctions on North Korean accounts held in the Macao-based Banco Delta Asia, allegedly because they were being used to circulate counterfeit currency. The Bush Administration, however, viewed its signature on the agreement as only a tactical delay. During negotiations it had firmly rejected the statement, and was brought around only when the Chinese delegation warned that it would announce that the U.S. was to blame were the six-party talks to collapse.
    Moreover, which may well come as a surprise to readers who rely mainly upon mainstream media for their information on the crisis, Mr Elich shows that no evidence for this accusation has been presented, while much evidence indicates that this may be a psyop run by US agencies themselves :
    German counterfeit expert Klaus Bender believes that since U.S. currency is printed on specially made paper in Massachusetts, using ink based on a secret chemical formula, “it is unimaginable” that anyone other than Americans “could come by these materials.” The printing machines that North Korea obtained three decades ago, Bender says, are “outdated and not able to produce the USD supernote, a high tech product.” He strongly implied that the CIA could be the source of the counterfeit currency as it “runs a secret printing facility equipped with the sophisticated technology which is required for the production of the notes.” That the CIA has the capacity to print money does not prove that it has done so. It would, however, have a motive, and the source has not been traced. Wherever the counterfeit supernotes came from, the Bush Administration was ardently using the issue as a pretext to take action against North Korea. Despite that, Bender reports, “the opinion of experts” is that the U.S. allegation against North Korea “is not tenable.” (1)
    The consequences for North Korea's foreign trade were drastic and immediate :
    he measures taken against Banco Delta Asia deprived North Korea of a major access point to foreign exchange, and served also as a mechanism for magnifying the effect of sanctions. By blacklisting Banco Delta Asia, the U.S. caused other financial institutions to curtail dealings with the bank, until it was forced to sever relations with North Korea. The campaign soon took on global significance. The U.S. Treasury Department sent warning letters to banks around the world, resulting in a worldwide wave of banks shutting down North Korean accounts. Fearing U.S. retaliation, banks felt it prudent to close North Korean accounts rather than risk being blacklisted and driven out of business. U.S. Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey observed that sanctions and U.S. threats had put “huge pressure” on the DPRK, leading to a “snowballing…avalanche effect.” U.S. actions were meant to undermine any prospect of a peaceful settlement. From now on, a senior Bush Administration official revealed, the strategy would be: “Squeeze them, but keep the negotiations going.” But talks, the official continued, would serve as nothing more than a means for accepting North Korea’s capitulation. A second U.S. official described the goal of talks as a “surrender mechanism.” Indeed, even before the signing of the September 19 agreement, the U.S. had already decided “to move toward more confrontational measures,” claims a former Bush Administration official. (4)

    As general manager of Daedong Credit Bank, a majority foreign-owned joint venture bank operating in Pyongyang and primarily serving importers, Nigel Cowie was in a position to witness the effect of the Treasury Department’s letters. “We have heard from foreign customers conducting legitimate business here, who have been told by their bankers overseas to stop receiving remittances from the DPRK, otherwise their accounts will be closed.” To illustrate the lengths to which U.S. officials were prepared to go, Cowie described an operation that involved his own firm, from which, he said, “you can draw your own conclusions.” An account was opened with a Mongolian bank. Arrangements were made for legal cash transactions. But when the Daedong Credit Bank’s couriers arrived in Mongolia, they were detained by Mongolian intelligence officials, and their money confiscated. Accusations were made that the couriers were transporting counterfeit currency from North Korea. A leak to the news media from an unidentified source led to reports charging that “North Korean diplomats” had been arrested for smuggling counterfeit currency. After two weeks, the Mongolian “intelligence officials in a meeting with us finally conceded that all the notes were genuine; the cash was released.” In the final meeting, Mongolian intelligence officials “appeared rather embarrassed that they had been given incorrect information.” It requires little imagination to guess the source of that incorrect information. (5)


    Concerned over the direction events were heading, Selig Harrison, director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Policy, visited the DPRK and reported on what he saw. “I found instances in North Korea authenticated by foreign businessmen and foreign embassies in which legitimate imports of industrial equipment for light industries making consumer goods have been blocked. The North Koreans understandably see this as a regime change policy designed to bring about the collapse of their regime through economic pressure.” Harrison said the message he heard from North Korean officials was essentially, “We want the U.S. to show us it is ready to move toward normal relations in accordance with the September 19 agreement. If the U.S. won’t lift all of the financial sanctions, all at once, then it should show us in other ways that it has got its act together and is giving up the regime change policy.” (8)
    The consequences this policy had upon the talks, which ostensibly deal with the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, are not hard to guess :
    North Korean officials were understandably miffed at the Bush Administration’s immediate violation of the September 19 agreement on principles. As the U.S. continued to tighten the screws, North Korea announced that it would not return to the six-party talks until the U.S. honored the agreement it had signed. Sanctions would have to be lifted. At a minimum, dialogue should take place on resolving any questions surrounding the accusation of counterfeiting. U.S. officials said the sanctions were not up for discussion, and demanded North Korea’s return to the six-party talks. The image presented to the American public was of North Korean obdurate behavior and refusal to negotiate. Unmentioned was how the Bush Administration had deliberately torpedoed the talks.

    South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun visited Washington in September 2006, asking for the U.S. investigation into Banco Delta Asia to be brought to a speedy conclusion. Roh said it was also important that the U.S. refrain from imposing further sanctions since such actions made the resumption of six-party talks impossible. (9) Predictably, his requests were rebuffed. Instead, the U.S. State Department allocated $1 million to three radio stations to broadcast hostile programs into the DPRK. (10) “I think our sanctions have had real impact,” Stuart Levey claimed in a speech before the American Enterprise Institute just one month before the DPRK’s nuclear test, “but the real goal, I think, is to see a real change in North Korea. So we are not satisfied with what has happened so far.” (11)

    Any hope for a resumption of the six-party talks had vanished. The Bush Administration wanted regime change in North Korea and could be expected to increase tensions. The North Koreans had earned a reputation for their proclivity for responding in kind: by negotiating when approached diplomatically, and with toughness when threatened. North Korea decided to proceed with a nuclear test so as to discourage any thoughts in Washington of military action. A statement was issued by the DPRK Foreign Ministry, in which it was said that the U.S. was trying to “internationalize the sanctions and blockade against the DPRK.” A nuclear test would be a countermeasure “to defend the sovereignty of the country” against the Bush Administration’s “hostile actions.” (12)
    As a brief analysis of how one particular thread in the tangled web of US foreign policy has been woven, Mr Elich's article must be one of the very best I have seen. Global Research is to be thanked for its publication. One can only wish - in vain, of course - that all those who can overcome the difficulties placed in their way and who succeed in voting in the up-coming US Congressional elections could read it. Below, in any event, my response in a posting to StumbleUpon :

Since WW II - and during the last six years in particular - US foreign policy has been, at least in its more public manifestations, predicated upon demonisation, i e, the denomination of an object which is claimed to embody all the world's Evil, against which the Forces of Light - led, of course, by the United States, with rear support from God - are engaged in an eschatological struggle, which, it is said, should mainly be carried out by military means. The appeal of this strategy to certain elements in the United States who view the world in Manichaean terms is obvious, but the government of that country, despite a subservient media, has not always been able to implement it in the real world. After its experience in Indochina, the US government found it necessary to introduce certain real-world constraints on its policies ; military adventures were limited to opponents whose prospects of defending themselves were minimal - remember how Ronald Reagan defended «freedom» by attacking Grenada and Panama ? At the same time the US began a rearmament programme which has led to a military budget which exceeds that of the rest of the world combined. Thus encouraged, the United States was able to attack Iraq, weakened by eight years of internecine war with Iran (in which the US helped both sides), then that major Balkan power, Jugoslavia, then that Central Asian hegemone, Afghanistan, and finally (?) Iraq, now further weakened by 12 years of sanctions under the aegis of the UNO, again. Now, as if to celebrate its success in bringing «democracy» to Afghanistan and Iraq, the court of King George has turned its eye toward North Korea, that constant thorn in the side of US policy makers (who have never allowed the 1953 armistice to be replaced by a peace treaty). No adventures here either : as the North Korean state has shown itself both willing and able to defend itself, an immediate military attack does not seem to be in the cards ; rather sanctions, designed on the Iraqi model to weaken the country by strangling its trade to the point where its ability to resist a military invasion - with or without the participation of Korea's former colonial master, Japan - no longer constitutes a problem, are to be applied first, and only thereafter will that appeal to arms for which the chicken hawks have so great a predilection be made. Gregory Elich here provides us with a detailed and well-documented account of this latest episode of Imperial smoke and mirrors....

*Here the notes accompanying the those portions of Mr Elich's article reproduced in my review :
1. “Sharply Increased US Sanctions are Based on the USD Supernote Accusation against North Korea. But Counterfeit Experts Say the Accusation is Baseless,” European Business Association (European Chamber of Commerce in Pyongyang), April 2006. “An der ‘Supernote’ Stimmt Fast Alles,” Associated Press, April 19, 2006.

4. Christian Caryl, “Pocketbook Policing,” Newsweek, April 10-17, 2006. Joel Brinkley, “U.S. Squeezes North Korea’s Money Flow,” New York Times, March 10, 2006.

5. Nigel Cowie, “US Financial Allegations – What They Mean,” Nautilus Institute, May 4, 2006.

8. Selig S. Harrison, “N.K. Nuclear Test Depends on U.S.,” Hankyoreh (Seoul), October 2, 2006.

11. “U.S. Not Yet Satisfied with Impact of N.K. Sanctions: Levey,” Yonhap (Seoul), September 9, 2006.

12. “DPRK Foreign Ministry Clarifies Stand on New Measure to Bolster War Deterrent,” KCNA (Pyongyang), October 3, 2006.

No comments: