North Korea and Mr.Trump in the Temple of diplomacy – Story of a paradox

External Relations

On September the 20th President Tusk addressed the UN General Assembly on behalf of the EU. It was a deep and interesting speech, taking into account the liquid and even more violent international context we are getting used to nowadays.

Here is a short sample of the President’s speech:

“The EU and the UN were created in answer to the atrocities of the Second World War. Our European priority will always be to vigorously react against evil, violence and lawlessness.

Many people in the world still believe that in this room have gathered those who have not given up on the ethical dimension of politics in the name of their own egoistic interests.”

Few days later, Mr Trump, President of the United States of America, would have taken the stage to give a profoundly aggressive speech.

Donald Trump who is striving taking the reins of the situation against a more and more aggressive North Korea, he is however well known for not being a great player in a multilateral arena. Without mentioning the gaffes and the surprisingly limited number of “Mr.Bean situations”, Mr Trump’s first appearance at the UN General Assembly will be remembered for the “Rocket Man Speech” and his threat to “totally destroy” North Korea.

Meanwhile from one point of view, that could be seen as just a common statement of a common threatened country, it is utterly evident the inconsistency of those words, spoken in a chamber intended to be the globe’s temple for diplomacy, compromise and peace. Furthermore, underlining the opportunity to push the “red-button” and set fire to an earth-ending nuclear war, as a deterrent, well, this did not sound very encouraging among the members of the Assembly. In particular, Mr. Trump wanted to reconnect his foreign policy to the legacy of the former President Bush. President Trump reaffirmed in fact his effort in monitoring, sanctioning and weakening the so-called “Rogue States” – from Iran to North Korea, and Venezuela as well.

It was not made clear why Venezuela, a country that nowadays is torn apart by inflation, poverty, corruption, and a beginning civil war, was listed alongside Iran and North Korea. These two might be perceived much more threatening in terms of advanced weapons or exporting revolution, than the impoverished Venezuela.

Mr. Trump’s statement had of course immediate implications, throwing gasoline on the fire and provoking the North Korean leadership to run dangerous “chicken game” with the United States. Kim Jong-un responded to Trump’s speech by calling him a “mentally deranged US dotard”. Some hours later, Trump fired back on Twitter saying that the Korean leader was nothing more than “a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people” who would be “tested like never before!”, the Guardian reported.

Let us observe a simple fact. Mr. Trump did not create the North Korean crisis, while on the other hand he is doing nothing but making it worse. The United States with fierce hubris are more and more inflating sanctions against North Korea – with the participation of the international community -, stimulating this country searching for new ways of self-sustenance. Those imposed sanctions, tailored in a bizarre manner on the Korean case, revealed their inner weakness, without efficiently contrasting or limiting the Korean nuclear arms race.

When everybody looks at your right, go left. When everybody looks at you coal exportations and oil importations, you invest on other sector. This is the self-learned lesson that leads the Korean investments plan. The country activities are organized and implemented by three levels of actors, thanks to which North Korea is able to edulcorate the sanctions’ impact.

First of all, the Korean government, which plays as a trader purchasing weapons and supplies for its own nuclear tests. These kind of “purchases” serve to gather, thanks to political and ideological peculiarities, relevant popular consensus and loyalty of the closest officials.

A second level is represented by the officials and civil servants. Ambassadors, for example, who are now being expelled by foreign countries – like it happened in Spain – are those who are in charge of building a strong network in order to guarantee exports in goods, as well as illegal ones, like weapons, drugs, taking advantage of their position abroad. Working as intermediaries they have the power to reduce the negative effect of sanctions. From the prohibition to trade, to the patrolling operations over ships and airplanes heading to North Korea, these actions are punctually avoided thanks to Korean diplomats and officials thanks to their parallel network and connections. Thus, Pyongyang has stopped to appear on documents and lists, while keeping on trading abroad.

Last, the third level, the most popular one, mainly composed by women – excluded from the labour market, which has helped in growing a deep-rooted domestic market more and more flourishing.

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