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Kim wants the Korean reunion

Saturday, September 9th, 2017 | World News

The latest nuclear weapon test in North Korea frightens the world. The US is now calling for a halt to oil supplies and firing back verbally. East Asia expert Rüdiger Frank speaks in an interview about what could still happen.

The tone in the dispute over North Korea's nuclear weapons program is exacerbating. What are the ways out of the crisis? Frank says the US would have to jump over "its shadow". An escalating conflict will, in his opinion, also cost Europe. The scientist is considered one of the leading North Korean experts. He regularly visits the isolated country and heads the East Asian Institute of the University of Vienna.

Pyongyang does not want to give up his Atomprogramm at any price. Will President Kim Jong Un speak at all, and what would be a convincing offer for negotiations?

Rüdiger Frank: North Korea wants to talk in any case. The Atomprogramm is not a self-purpose. It is intended to strengthen North Korea's negotiating position to achieve Kim Jong's real goals. This includes, in the long term, a Korean reunification in the form of a confederation. On the way, North Korea wants a peace treaty with the US, a normalization of diplomatic relations with Washington, and, above all, access to the world market for goods and financial resources.

Next, the development of the North Korean economy is on the agenda. For all of this, however, Kim Jong Un sees a credible nuclear deterrence as the starting point, and so he persists with this goal persistently. Negotiations that should be successful should therefore deal with the question of how we deal with this reality.

 North Korea also describes the conflict as a force with the USA. Does Pyongyang not underestimate a possible military response from US President Donald Trump?

There is a lot of rhetoric in the game. North Korea would like to present itself as David in the fight against Goliath, both to his own people as well as to the international community. It was quickly recognized in Pyongyang that Donald Trump is not very popular internationally, and is using this circumstance for propaganda.

  In fact, it is primarily a verbal force measure. Economically and militarily, North Korea has no chance against the US, and the leadership knows very well. At least since the invasion of Iraq, the North Koreans have no longer underestimated the US.

Will sanctions, such as an oil embargo, put pressure on the leadership?

An oil embargo would be painful but not for the military. The North Koreans are not stupid, they expect an embargo for a very long time and are prepared accordingly. There are reserves, and there has also been a substitution of oil by local resources. Moreover, this sanction would strike the simple people, and this would be hard. This goes down to food shortages, because petroleum is an important raw material for fertilizer production and agriculture requires high inputs of fuel, for example irrigation systems.

Do you see a further escalation of the situation in the coming weeks and months?

North Korea will try to keep up pressure as long as Donald Trump has not really determined. In addition, the North Koreans will continue their tests completely independently of this until they have a credible deterrent. The Americans, on the other hand, do not abandon their maneuvers; the next are planned for the beginning of next year. In addition, the rivalry between Washington and Beijing is not likely to improve, and that is the point of the conflict.

What is the way out of the crisis?

Either North Korea collapsed; then this crisis would be over, but other serious problems and risk factors would immediately arise. Or the US jump over their own shadows and begin negotiating with North Korea on a reasonable regulation of their status as an ATPOINT. This is, however, very unlikely.

Ultimately, it is likely that everything will go on as before, combined with the hope that nobody will go too far. This is a little satisfactory situation, in every respect. Among other things, the people and the human rights in North Korea remain on the line, which has been said to have been scarcely discussed in recent months.

Why does the conflict in Germany and Europe at all matter to us and what role should the EU occupy?

The EU has significant economic interests in the region. China, Japan and South Korea are important trading partners. A conflict in Korea would be very expensive for us, and it would probably expand globally, as the US and China, and possibly Russia, are also being challenged. This is definitely not in our sense. At the moment, however, the EU is more concerned with the debt crisis, the refugee problem and the brittany. What remains of energy flows into the management of the conflict in the Middle East.

If not a Mr. Trump President, then Berlin and Brussels would simply follow Washington's line in the sense of the transatlantic partnership. Since our economic relations with North Korea are almost zero – Germany has exported goods for under 7 million euros to North Korea in 2016 – and the EU is a dwarf without NATO, we have no real influence on the Korean peninsula. This still looked quite different in 2001; we have lost our leverage by a hasty dismantling of relations.

Can you assess the extent to which the North Koreans are behind the leadership policy? Are there any cracks?

These cracks are there, I have experienced on the spot. They are a result of the market reforms that began around the year 2000. The income and prosperity gap continues to spread, and above all, clearly visible, in a country built on the idea of ​​equality. Such a thing creates considerable problems. Moreover, the information monopoly of the state is no longer as stable as it was 20 years ago. On the other hand, you will not find a Korean who would not sacrifice everything to protect the country's independence.

This is precisely the story the leadership tells its people: we must do everything we can to ward off the American aggression. That is why I consider the hard course of the West to be false; he strengthens the North Korean leadership in domestic politics. The Eastern bloc has been brought to a halt by a combination of economic cooperation and contests. In the case of North Korea, we leave half away and wonder why it does not work.


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