Kim Jong Un’s new line more bark than bite – Asia Times

Kim Jong Un’s new line more bark than bite - Asia Times

This is component two of a two- part series on the implications of North Korea’s new formal change of stance toward South Korea, and is adapted from the author ‘s&nbsp, new chapter&nbsp, in&nbsp, Analytical Connections: A Triannual E- journal of Bilateral Relations in the Indo- Pacific.

Many of the same people were recalled to Pyongyang for the 10th Session of the 14th Supreme People’s Assembly ( SPA ) on January 15 after the December Workers ‘ Party of Korea Plenum was over fortnightly. The title of this year’s meeting of the rubber-stamp legislature in North Korea was lavishly read,” On the Immediate Tasks for the Prosperity and Development of Our Republic and the Promotion of the Wellbeing of Our Individuals.”

As that suggests, like at the chamber the emphasis was once again on monetary policy. However, addressing the SPA, Kim began with a reminder about the worsening safety culture. At Seoul, there was a vehicle as part of this:

The ROK’s unconditional submission to the US is fueled by our nation’s animosity, which provides a affordable and comprehensive justification for expanding military capabilities and accelerating the improvement of the country’s obstinate nuclear war deterrent.

Kim now acknowledges the existence of this other state, but she does n’t seem to agree with Kim’s.

Military risks loomed significant in Kim’s SPA statement. He reiterated the DPRK’s longstanding inability to acknowledge the Northern Limit Line ( NLL), which is the de facto maritime border between the West and the Yellow Sea:

” As the southern boundary of our nation has been obviously drawn, the illegitimate’ northern limit line’ and any other barrier can never be tolerated, and if the Korean violates even 0.001mm of our geographical land, air and waters, it will be considered a war provocation”.

Kim therefore moved on to revising the law. He complained that the ROK charter does not make for a claim, while the DPRK law does not. So, “it is necessary to take legal actions to legitimately and correctly define the regional realm in which the DPRK’s status as an independent communist state is exercised” is important.

If that seems fair, what follows is startling:

In my opinion, we can enact a constitution that specifically states that we must completely occupy, subjugate, and reclaim the ROK and annex it as a part of our Republic’s territory in the event that a war breaks out “on the Korean Peninsula.”


It is necessary to delete such expressions in the constitution as” northern half’ “and” independence, peaceful reunification and great national unity.”

Instead, the constitution must specify that

The strong notion that ROK is their primary enemy and invariably their principal enemy should be reinforced in education.

Kim cannot have it both ways. If the ROK is a wholly separate entity, such that” northern half “is a wrong term, then on what conceivable basis can the DPRK lay any kind of claim to it, let alone the right to occupy, subjugate, reclaim, and annex it? He talks as if this were a matter of territory alone– but what of 52 million South Koreans, who ( whatever he says ) remain compatriots by kinship, language, culture, and history?

It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how the amended constitution tries to square all these circles. Before a new SPA is elected to approve whatever he proposes, the existing Supreme People’s Assembly will likely be reconvened later this year to amend the Constitution in accordance with Kim’s wishes.

Practical tasks are also dictated by the new line. Kim called for cross- border railways to be cut off, physically, completely, and” irretrievably. ” Furthermore”, we should also completely remove the eye- sore’ Monument to the Three Charters for National Reunification ‘ ]in ] Pyongyang. ” The monument&nbsp, seems&nbsp, to have come down promptly, with the railway and other work following some months later.

Kim’s speech ended in a welter of militancy and contradictions. The DPRK’s military buildup does not, he insisted, presage any” preemptive attack for realizing unilateral’ reunification by force of arms.’ “

Ah, so this is purely for self- defense?

My nuclear force has already made a second mission clear, in addition to its fundamental duty of deterring war.

A pre-emitive nuclear strike is permitted by this second mission. In other words, Kim still has the right to strike first if he feels threatened or enraged.

He concluded:

We do n’t want war, but neither do we intend to stop it. We will never try to avoid a war because there is no justification for choosing to go to war, and we will do so in a perfect and prompt manner after having thoroughly prepared the action we had planned. The Republic of Korea will be completely destroyed by the war and put an end to its existence. Additionally, it will cause the US to suffer an unfathomably crushing defeat.

The pro forma protestation of not wanting to fight is misplaced by the enthusiasm with which the prospect is enjoyed.

Less than appears as expected

What to make of all this? First, this whole turn should be seen primarily as an event in DPRK domestic politics, rather than inter- Korean relations.

It reflects Kim’s frustration, shared by his predecessors, at the fact that South Korea exists: right there, on his doorstep and in his face, ever more successful and infinitely more prosperous. That presents a significant challenge on many levels. In theory and practice, any North Korean government must find a way to account for and handle the South.

Second, I suspect this is Kim’s own idea. His visceral dislike for the ROK was the subject of a previous incident: the demolition of Southern-built structures at the former Mount Kumgang tourist resort.

Kim’s remarks at the time betrayed a shivering rage over the idea of South Korean ownership in northern areas. He appeared to be opposed to cooperation as a whole, not just upset about how this project had turned out.

Third, another factor to credit Kim with this idea is the above-mentioned incoherence. What does he mean by” ROK”: Regime? Territory? People? He slips between all three, especially the first two. And if ROK is a distinct state, what justifications does the DPRK have for subjugating it?

Put another way, this bears the hallmark of Kim Ki Nam’s retirement. Such a crass idea would surely never have been approved if the master molder of DPRK ideology and propaganda over many decades had still been on the case – he died at age 94 on May 7 having retired some years earlier. Because it produces a number of new problems without solving any of them.

Whatever Kim says, North Koreans are well-versed in the fact that South Koreans are their kin in general and in particular, regardless of what Kim says. Highly publicized family reunions, whatever their inadequacies, are not a distant memory.

People will be puzzled, to say the least, at now being told otherwise. Moreover, this runs directly counter to the line decreed by previous Kims. Kim Jong Un’s legitimacy is largely dependent on his fidelity to his father and grandfather, so it must be risky for him to publicly defy this legacy.

Bark or bite?

What will Kim do despite what we know now? At risk of sounding complacent, my bet is: Nothing much.

First, Kim’s keenness to snuggle up to both Russia and China by no means creates a strong, united troika. Both Xi and Putin are cautious that this Kim might imitate his grandfather and stifle their costly and distracting conflict from the formal bonhomie. China, in particular, which holds the purse strings, will not tolerate peninsular adventurism.

A second point: If Kim seriously intended to cause trouble at the Northern Limit Line, for instance, would he really give advance warning? Before October 7, Hassas did not go around shouting like this or to warn of their intention to cut Israel’s border fence.

A third reason is Kim’s record. Readers may recall the 2020 summer of political dread. Although this was not intended as a change of line, Pyongyang frothed with the idea of marching south. It all ended explosively, but no one was hurt when the North blew up the ( by then unoccupied ) former inter- Korean liaison office near Kaesong.

None of this suggests a peninsula that is close to war. The North’s new doctrine is alarming if taken at face value, and both sides are pushing the envelope, but that is the problem. Kim Jong Un has a lot of issues at home. The South’s oppression solves none of them, but it may – or may not – briefly divert his people from their suffering.

While vigilance remains essential, Kim’s lurid new stance looks very like a new variation on a very old theme of fire- breathing performativity.

Aidan Foster- Carter ( [email protected] ) &nbsp, is an honorary senior&nbsp, research fellow in sociology and modern Korea at Leeds.

This article was originally published by Pacific Forum, and it is now available for resale with permission.