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Does Kim Jung Il read the newspapers?

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If Kim thumbed through today's news he would have seen the limp and bloodied body of a dead Palestinian boy being rushed away from the site of Israel's latest attack in Gaza. He would have read about the mysterious explosions that rocked Kabul overnight and the 30 or so "alleged" Taliban that were blown up in America's carpet-bombing campaign of southern Afghanistan. He would have seen that 24 new bodies of bound and brutalized Iraqis had been dumped at the Baghdad morgue after being abducted and tortured by the roaming death squads which control the capital.

He might have spotted a story about America's intrusion into Central Asia where the thirst for oil and natural gas has Bush's NGOs toppling governments right and left in the name of "democracy". Or, he may have noticed Bush's latest saber-rattling tantrum at Iran for their "alleged" nuclear weapons program.

Wherever he looked, he would have found examples of the United States and Israel rampaging through Muslim countries; ignoring international law and flaunting the human rights of the native people.

Doesn't this explain why Kim believes that he needs the protection of a nuclear arsenal to ward off an American attack?

How can we expect North Korea to stop building nukes when 2 of the world's most powerful nations have just doused the planet with gasoline and are reaching for the matches?

Like every other world leader, Kim simply wants to avoid ending up like Saddam Hussein. His missile tests were designed to send a message to Washington that North Korea has no intention of being the next victim of Bush's "democratization" program. And, while the tests may have been condemned by the pro-American media, we can at least appreciate the logic of his motives.

But, does that mean that North Korea is a threat to American national security or to the region?

Kim has had plenty of opportunity to cause trouble if that's what he wanted. For 6 years the Bush administration has treated the reclusive Kim with complete contempt, and yet Kim has not retaliated. In 2001 North Korea was included in Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech, a provocative list of the administration's "target states". In 2003 Dick Cheney followed up with a not-so veiled threat saying, "I have been charged by the President with making sure that none of the tyrannies in the world are negotiated with. We don't negotiate with evil, we defeat it."

In case Kim hadn't gotten the message from the V.P., John Bolton offered this blistering warning: "The end of North Korea is our policy," adding that the Pyongyang regime was a "hellish nightmare".

Not to be outdone, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld leaked a memo to the UK Telegraph in April 2003 which called "for regime change in North Korea."

Kim's "crash course" in nuclear weapons technology is due entirely to incitements by the Bush administration. His behavior tells us that he's taking the threats seriously and is rushing to create a credible deterrent. It's clear that his intentions are purely defensive and that he poses no danger to his neighbors or the United States.

The same rule applies to Kim's missile tests which have rattled the US, Japan and South Korea. The tests were meant to send a "hands off" message to Washington but, unfortunately, they splashed helplessly into the sea. This could have the adverse effect on the overall situation by emboldening the administration hawks to reconsider military action. The the real risk of violence comes from the American battleship group which has moved into the waters just off the coast of North Korea; if fighting breaks out, that's where it will begin.

So far, Kim has acted predictably. He probably would prefer to feed his starving people than to build nukes, but feels that he has no other option. The onus for proliferation lies entirely with Bush and his team of armchair warriors. Rather than agree to bilateral negotiations, Bush has stubbornly refused to sit down with North Korea and, thus, escalated the situation into another crisis. The irony is that Bush knows exactly what Kim wants, but refuses to yield.

More than anything, North Korea wants assurances from the administration that they will not be attacked. The issue is downplayed in the media because the forth estate would like to obscure the fact that the US rules the world through the threat of force. The administration will not sign a "non-aggression pact" with North Korea because that would undermine its role as the global Mafia chieftain who keeps the weaker states in line by breaking legs. The Bush people think it would be unseemly for the world's only superpower to seriously address the security needs of its underlings.

The media has done an admirable job of concealing the facts about America's involvement on the Korean peninsula. Ever since the end of the Korean War in the 1950s the US has maintained a massive military presence in the south (which at one time included nuclear weapons) which has always been an irritant to the North. As Gary Leupp noted in a Counterpunch article "Basic Facts People should know about North Korea", Koreans are "one of the world's most homogeneous groups, and united from the 7th century through 1945, is now divided into 2 nations due primarily to the actions of the Truman administration and the US military". "Reunification" of the peninsula is not in America's geopolitical interests and the US government has done everything in its power to block progress in that regard. The Bush administration has taken a hammer to South Korea's "sunshine policy" and exacerbated tensions with its hard-line policies. This guarantees that the US will be allowed to maintain its basing rights in the south which they see as critical to America's long-term interests in the region.

The media focuses exclusively on the bizarre personality of Kim Jung Il rather than historical facts which might clarify the real issues. What possible difference does it make if Kim is an oddball or not? The lazy media is simply demonizing him to divert attention from the facts. In 1994 the Bill Clinton committed to the "Framework Agreement"; a deal which promised to provide food, fuel and 2 light-water nuclear reactors in exchange for North Korea's abandoning its nuclear weapons programs. The North agreed to these terms but the U.S. HAS NEVER HONORED ITS OBLIGATIONS. This isn't information that we should expect to read in the newspapers since it clearly shows that America is responsible for the current standoff.

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Mike is a freelance writer living in Washington state.

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