April 13, 2013

Blame Western ‘demonists’ for Pyongyang’s belligerence

Ten years after the U.S. attack on Iraq the question remains: Were U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair cunning liars with their claims of weapons of mass destruction? Or were they just stupid?

A Moscow experience I endured many years earlier over a very different war — Vietnam — suggests that belligerence more than makes up for any lack of intelligence suffered by our leaders. I relate that experience belatedly since it is very relevant to what is happening today over North Korea. It could also throw some light on a hitherto secret corner of big power confrontation history.

In November 1964 an urgent message arrived at the Australian Moscow Embassy where I was stationed saying that Australian Foreign Minister Paul Hasluck wanted an immediate meeting with the top Soviet leadership. He had an important message to pass on over Vietnam. Normally Moscow would not want to give ear to a little-known foreign minister from a distant country. But there were also hints that the United States was behind his message. A few days later I found myself sitting beside Hasluck at the standard Kremlin green baize table facing Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin and Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko.

In urgent tones the Australian minister set out to warn the Soviet leaders about the threat of Chinese global aggression. Even we in Australia knew how the Chinese were threatening Moscow’s control over Sinkiang and its Siberian Far East district. Now they were using Hanoi to invade South Vietnam and push further into Asia, creating a direct threat to Australia. The Soviet Union, he said, should join us and the United States in Vietnam to use its power (translated as sila, which also means force) to put an end to China’s aggressive ambitions.

Our meeting soon ended, in a welter of misunderstanding. Kosygin had interrupted to say Sinkiang had long been Chinese territory, and that the Chinese had never made any claim to Russia’s Far East territory. He went on to say in a pointed reference to Vietnam that Moscow rejected the use of “force” to solve international problems. As for supporting us in Vietnam, he would like to state clearly that the Soviet Union would always stand by the side of the brave Vietnamese people resisting U.S. imperialist aggression, and he only wished the Chinese would do a lot more to help.

But Hasluck was unfazed. Back in Australia he said he had visited Moscow to be the first Western leader to congratulate the new Soviet leadership after the October 1964 ouster of Nikita Khruschev. He continued to accuse China of aggression in Vietnam, “using in the first instance its puppets in Hanoi.”

Even after it was obvious that Beijing and Hanoi did not like each other, and China was blocking some Soviet transit materials to Hanoi, Canberra continued to beat the “China aggression” drum.

In an in-depth BBC interview over Iraq war origins, Blair also blamed group-think. And that too is a factor. Once our leaders identify some unfortunate nation as an imagined enemy, influence-seeking bureaucrats, politicians, think tanks, and media pundits plus military-industrial types keen to get larger budgets and test out new weapons on live targets quickly climb on the bandwagon to help demonize that enemy. At the time of our Moscow meeting China was being heavily demonized, even though it was then controlled by moderates such as Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping trying simply to deter U.S. attacks and repair the damage from Mao’s foolish Great Leap Forward. Accusations it wanted to take over the world were part of the demonic scenario.

Currently we see the same demonization process in action over North Korea. And while that regime deserves no sympathy for the way it has impoverished and oppressed its people, most who have met its leaders agree that they talk and act rationally.

In 1994 under the threat of imminent U.S. air attack they agreed to end their nascent nuclear program in exchange for a form of U.S. recognition. But the U.S. soon went back on that promise, arguing that the North Korean regime was about to collapse. So North Korea went back to its nuclear preparations, only to be targeted by the U.S. as part of the “axis of evil” with which the civilized world could have no truck.

Since then, Pyongyang has often pointed to Iraq as an example of what happens to an “axis of evil” nation without the weapons to defend itself. And it will tell anyone who cares to listen that it is still willing to halt nuclear development if it can gain that once-promised U.S. recognition.

It is almost certain that the belligerent noises and bluster we see and hear today are designed to ward off a pre-emptive attack similar to that threatened in 1994. But for our demonists the noises are proof North Korea really is crazy, belligerent, addicted to “provocations” and deserving to be attacked or at least strongly restrained. They say nothing about the belligerence and provocation that started it all: the U.S. threat to attack the North in 1994. Pyongyang’s calls for talks with the U.S. are simply a plot to make us drop our guard, they tell us. And so on.

The similarities with China’s situation in the early ’60s continue. Beijing had been threatened with U.S. nuclear attack three times in the ’50s — once in Korea and twice over its efforts to capture offshore islands held by the rival Taiwan regime. With a promise of Soviet help it had set out to develop its own nuclear deterrent, which it achieved in October 1964 just before our Moscow meeting.

And fearing a pre-emptive U.S. attack it too had begun to make belligerent noises, including the claim that it could lose hundreds of millions in nuclear war and still survive. Those noises were then used by the demonists to prove that China really was a crazy, dangerous nation deserving to be attacked.

This in turn was to create the bizarre chain of events leading to our futile Kremlin meeting. Fearing confrontation with the U.S. over the Taiwan problem, Moscow in 1959 had withdrawn its nuclear aid promise to Beijing. The Chinese retaliated with a torrent of anti-Moscow abuse, accusing the Soviets of selling out the communist cause to the U.S. enemy.

This in turn had been seized on by the anti-Chinese demonists in Washington and Canberra to prove that the Chinese were indeed bad communists, bent on global aggression, and restrained only by the good communists in Moscow. Hence the rushed Hasluck visit to Moscow in a bid to persuade the Soviets to join us in Vietnam.

Absurd? Of course. But demonists never sleep. The same fantasies are being concocted almost daily over a North Korea that almost certainly only wants to protect itself from yet another threat of U.S. attack as it goes about the business of restoring its wrecked economy.


 アメリカのイラク攻撃から10年が過ぎたが、疑問は残る: 大量破壊があると主張した米大統領ジョージ・ブッシュと英首相トニー・ブレアは巧妙な嘘つきだったのか。それとも単なる馬鹿だったのか。

 ずっと以前、これとは大きくちがう戦争― ベトナム― に関して私がモスクワで得た一つの体験によると、攻撃的威嚇というものは、われわれの指導者のインテリジェンス不足を補って、なお余りある大きな役割をはたすものだということを示している。すでに遅いとはいえ、私がその昔の体験をここで繰り返すのは、それがいま北朝鮮を巡っておこっていることと大いに関係があるからだ。またそれが、大国同士の対立の歴史の隠れた一隅に光を当てることになるかもしれないからである。

 1964年11月のこと、私が駐在していたモスクワのオーストラリア大使館に緊急通達が入った。― いわく、オーストラリア外相ポール・ハスラックが緊急にソ連首脳と会見したい。ベトナムに関して、ソ連首脳に伝えるべき重要なメッセージがあるという。通常モスクワは、遠い国の著名でない外務大臣のメッセージに耳を貸したいとは思わない。だがこの場合、このメッセージの背後にアメリカがいるらしいと考えるべき兆候があった。数日後私は、ハスラックと並んで、クレムリンの定番の緑のラシャ敷きのテーブルに、ソビエトのアレクセイ・コスイギン首相とアンドレイ・グロムイコ外相と向き合って座っていた。

 オーストラリア外相は、ソビエト指導者に、切羽詰った口調で、中国によるグローバル攻撃の危険性について説き始めた。― シンキャン(新疆)のモスクワ支配やシベリア極東地域に対して、中国が脅しをかけていることは、オーストラリアの我々でさえ知っている。そしていまや中国はハノイを使って、南ベトナムへ、さらには深くアジアへと侵攻しようとしており、それがオーストラリアへ直接的な脅威になっている。したがってソ連は、ベトナムで、われわれオーストラリアやアメリカとともに、中国の攻撃的野心を止めさせるために、力(スィーラと訳された、それは武力の意味もある)を行使しなければならない、― とハスラックは言った。








 われわれが今日見聞きする北朝鮮の好戦的な発言や咆哮は、彼等が1994年に緊迫したときのような先制攻撃を受けないための施策である。ところが我らがデモ二スト(悪魔作り人)に言わせると、それは北朝鮮が真に狂っており、威嚇的で挑発好きである証拠だから、先制攻撃に値する、あるいは少なくともがっちり押さえ込む必要がある、となる。彼らデモニストは、そもそもこうした事態の原因となった威嚇行動や挑発については、何も語らない― つまり、1994年に北朝鮮を攻撃するぞというアメリカの威嚇である。アメリカと対話したいという平壌の呼びかけは、単にわれわれの警戒心を解くための陰謀なのだ、というのが彼らデモニストの言い分だ。万事がその調子。

 1960年代はじめの中国の場合と北朝鮮の場合が似ている点は、まだ他にもある。北京は1950年代アメリカから核攻撃の脅しを3回受けている― 一度目は朝鮮で、他の2回はライバルの台湾政権が握っていた沿岸諸島を取り返そうと試みたときだった。ソ連が支援すると約束して、中国は自身の核抑止力を開発しようと着手し、それが1964年10月、ちょうどわれわれのモスクワ会談の直前に完成したのだった。