There are many ways to kill someone. Humans have been killing one another since the very first of us walked the planet and over the millennia, we have gotten quite good at it.
Political assassinations almost always lead to high ratings for news agencies. Whether we are talking about the attempted assassination of Viktor Yushchenko or the successful assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, such acts become news fodder very quickly. So unless the person giving the order wants to send a clear message, either to his intended victim or to anyone else, the methods employed tend to allow them deniability.
A perfect example of this was the death of Kim Yang Gon, a man who only four months prior to his death was involved in “marathon” discussions at the Panmunjom truce village to ease the tension between the two Koreas after the North Koreans fired at South Korea’s propaganda speakers. Did he really die in a car accident in a country where there is little to no traffic? Or was it made to look like an accident? After all, there seems to be a history of strange car accidents in that country involving former officials who have fallen out of favor for one reason or another.
There is just no way to know for sure. And that is one of the hallmarks of a successful political assassination – the removal of “troublesome” individuals with no absolute way to trace the order back to whoever issued it.
Kim Jong Nam’s death was the very antithesis of that. He was killed in a crowded international airport in a country that was, until recently, friendly toward North Korea. There were at the very least hundreds of people within his immediate vicinity. There were CCTV cameras all over the place.
The two women (who may or may not be victims themselves) who killed him were identified, arrested, and formally charged with murder. The weapon of choice, a weapon of mass destruction, was VX nerve gas; not exactly the sort of thing two supposed pranksters can easily cook in their kitchen.
Kim Jong Nam’s death has done nothing to expose anything that we didn’t already know about North Korea
A VERY PUBLIC DEATH
There were many ways to kill Kim Jong Nam. But this very public and incredibly difficult to deny murder in broad daylight was the method chosen. So what was the intended message?
It’s quite obvious. The message was: “It doesn’t matter where you are. We will find you and we will kill you. We don’t care about witnesses or possible collateral damage. And we won’t bother trying to pretend it wasn’t us because we are untouchable.”
CCTV footage of the Kim Jong Nam assassination
So if your name happens to be Thae Yong-ho, if you were a former colonel from North Korea’s General Bureau of Reconnaissance, or you are a North Korean diplomat who wants to defect but have not done so yet, then the message was loud and clear.
Kim Jong Nam’s death was more than just another political assassination. Considering the specific message that it was sending to others, it was also an act of terrorism – the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
Furthermore, considering the weapon that was used – and North Korea has long been accused of human vivisection and testing chemical and biological weapon on political prisoners – it can be convincingly argued that it was also a crime against humanity; and possibly an ongoing one at that.
In short, Kim Jong Nam’s death has done nothing to expose anything that we didn’t already know about North Korea. It is a criminal regime that is led by gangsters whose sole purpose is to remain in power, no matter how many corpses are stacked on top of each other.
So what exactly do pro-engagers think they will achieve by convincing the South Korean and United States governments to, as they say, “talk” to North Korea?
Even if the allied nations convince the North Korean regime to send its next car accident victim to take part in negotiations, and assuming that the talks don’t get canceled because someone got offended that the Boy King of the North was called a fat lard, what do people expect the results to be?
Do they expect the North Korean regime to stop targeting its political enemies or prisoners with biological or chemical weapons of mass destruction? Do they expect human experimentation to cease?
North Korea has never been a normal country that acts and reacts accordingly toward incentives and disincentives
Do they expect the North Koreans to allow UN inspectors into their political prison camps to ensure that war crimes and/or crimes against humanity are not taking place? Do they expect the North Koreans to verifiably freeze all of their WMD programs and do it permanently this time?
Or do they think that “talking” to North Korea will convince it that war is not the way forward and that the only ways to ensure their survival are through peace and commerce? Is that what they think whenever North Koreans pathetically dangle their promise of a so-called peace treaty?
If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” then there will be yet another round of profound disappointment to be had.
North Korea has never been a normal country that acts and reacts accordingly toward incentives and disincentives. Had that been the case, peace and commerce should have blossomed all over North Korea not long after the Kaesong Industrial Complex had been opened up.
The wonderful benefits of trade, the dividends of peace, and the promise of democracy should have convinced the North Koreans that their nuclear weapons and stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction were pointless and an unnecessary expense.
North Korea has demanded a lot of things – recognition as a nuclear power, a peace treaty with the United States but not with South Korea, withdrawal of American troops from the Korean Peninsula, a lifting of sanctions that they claim do not bother them, and a cessation of insults and propaganda leaflets (from anyone other than themselves) just to name a few.
The only kind of peace that the North Koreans will not dare to challenge is one that is backed up by lots of firepower
But one thing North Korea has never demanded is foreign investment. The Kaesong Industrial Complex was a South Korean initiative, which was repeatedly held hostage by the North Koreans before it was finally mothballed.
North Korea has never truly desired peace; at least not any kind of peace that it doesn’t get to dictate. It simply desires control over the Korean Peninsula – a capability that it is intent on improving.
And if a single concession is made, North Korea would only be emboldened to continue what it has been doing. Why would it give up the tools that would have allowed the most powerful and wealthy nations in the world to bend the knee? Anyone who expects the North Koreans to behave in any other way clearly has no concept of how blackmail works.
HOW TO RESPOND?
The only language that North Korea understands and, more importantly, respects is strength. And the only kind of peace that the North Koreans will not dare to challenge is one that is backed up by lots of firepower and the willingness to use it.
When U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis visited Korea last month, he said that any use of nuclear weapons by North Korea would be met with an “effective and overwhelming” response.
Since Kim Jong Nam’s assassination, there have been increased calls to re-list North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. Even China, albeit unconvincingly, has promised to implement UN sanctions on North Korea.
Now assuming that the next South Korean president is able to distinguish political realities from his whimsical fancies and understands that the early 2000s have come and gone and will never return, South Korea may yet remain safe from a fascist dictatorship. At least one can hope that the worst shall not come to pass.
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