In the end of the 1990’s I had the chance occasion to have a chat with the late James R. Lilley. Lilley was at the Davos World Economic Forum and by chance had sat at my dinner table together with a delegation from the China Peoples’ Liberation Army. As I was the only westerner at the table he struck up a conversation, and as he saw I was more than conversant in global politics, he began talking, perhaps more than he should have with one he did not know.
James R. Lilley was no outsider. A member, together with his close friend, George H.W. Bush, of the infamous Yale University Skull & Bones secret society, Lilley served some three decades at the CIA along with Bush. Both Lilley and Bush were US Ambassadors to China.
Lilley’s term in Beijing coincided with the May-June 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests. I have reason to believe he played the key US role in orchestrating that clash between thousands of protesting students and the Chinese government as one of Washington’s early Color Revolution attempts to destabilize communist China simultaneously with the CIA’s role in destabilizing the Soviet Union.
At the time of Tiananmen protests, the man who developed the handbook for color revolutions, Gene Sharp, of the Albert Einstein Institute, was in Beijing until the Chinese told him to leave, and George Soros’ Chinese NGO, the Fund for the Reform and Opening of China, after Tiananmen, was banned when Chinese security services found that the fund had links to the CIA.
This background is important to better situate who Lilley was – a consummate insider of the George Bush CIA “deep state” networks that try to remake the world to their liking. In our Davos talk, Lilley told me he had been furious at President G.H.W. Bush in the aftermath of Tiananmen for refusing to make a stronger denunciation of the Beijing government, that, for a massacre that he knew never took place.
In the event, in our Davos discussion we touched on events in Asia and the ongoing focus by Washington on North Korea’s nuclear program. Unexpectedly, Lilley made a remarkable statement to me. He said, “Simply put, at the end of the Cold War, if North Korea didn’t exist we would have to create it as an excuse to keep the Seventh Fleet in the region.” Shortly before our Davos discussion North Korea had launched a missile over Japan, causing huge anxieties across Asia.
What is Kim Jong Un?Who or better said, what is Kim Jong Un? Since the death of his father in 2011 Kim Jong Un has consolidated power as absolute dictator. In December 2011 Kim became Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army. His earlier history has been carefully hidden. It has been verified that he attended school in Europe at Liebefeld Steinhölzli school in Köniz near Bern. Accounts say he lived in Switzerland, under a false name, from 1991 until 2000. There he reportedly developed a prodigious taste for French Bordeaux wines, Yves St Laurent cigarettes, Swiss Emmenthaler cheese and luxury Mercedes autos according to Kim Jong-il’s former personal chef, Kenji Fujimoto.
While Kim’s extensive stay in Europe might or might not have been the opportunity for US intelligence to nurture some kind of contact, Kim’s deeds since taking control have been a godsend to the US role in disrupting Chinese as well as Russian relations with both North Korea and with South Korea as well as with Japan.
One of Kim Jong Un’s earliest indications of a major shift in foreign policy away from Beijing came when he ordered the arrest of his uncle for treason in December, 2013. Jang Sung-taek had been vice-chairman of the National Defence Commission, second only to that of the Supreme Leader and was “key policy adviser” to the politically inexperienced Kim Jong-un on the death of Kim’s father. More importantly, Jang was well-known as China’s best friend in Pyongyang.
As Washington moved to implement its new Asia Pivot military encirclement policies against China, removal of Beijing’s most influential friend in North Korea would be very convenient, to put it mildly.
Kim Jong Un not only had Jang executed, Jang’s wife, Kim Kyong-hui, the only daughter of former North Korean supreme leader Kim Il-sung, the only sister of former North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-il and the aunt of Kim Jong-un, a General in the army and Politburo member, was reportedly poisoned on orders of Kim, though no confirmation has been possible. What is known is that Kim ordered the systematic execution of all other members of Jang’s family including children and grandchildren of all close relatives. Those reportedly killed in Kim’s purge include Jang’s sister Jang Kye-sun, her husband and ambassador to Cuba, Jon Yong-jin, and Jang’s nephew and ambassador to Malaysia, Jang Yong-chol as well as the nephew’s two sons. At the time of Jang’s removal, the Kim regime announced, “the discovery and purge of the Jang group…made our party and revolutionary ranks purer …”
Clearly, Kim Jong Un was just the kind of dictator Washington’s warhawks could “do business with.”
Kim’s War ThreatsThe timing and effect of Kim Jong Un’s bizarre threats to wage war against South Korea and other states of the region, including Japan, as well verbal threats to strike cities on the US West Coast since 2013, fit too neatly into the geopolitical agenda of Washington, but not against North Korea. The agenda of Washington was aimed rather against China and the Russian Far East.
In March 2013, North Korea’s Kim, absurdly enough, threatened the United States with a “pre-emptive nuclear attack”, and Kim Jong-un issued a detailed threat to “wipe out” Baengnyeong Island, under United Nations Command and South Korean control since the Korean War and scene of previous naval clashes. Under Kim Jong Un, North Korea has boasted of plans for conducting nuclear strikes on US cities, including Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. Military experts suggest the threats were pure macho bravado and that Kim’s nuclear capabilities are bluff at least at this stage. It had the effect of painting Washington as a major enemy of Pyongyang, a useful cover for Washington however and creating the backdrop for Washington to promote its Asian military expansion, in fact aimed at both China and Russia, not Pyongyang.
It’s commonly believed that since the 1950’s Korean War, communist North Korea has been a Beijing puppet regime. It’s true that China is North Korea’s biggest trading partner, and main source of food, arms, and energy. It has also helped sustain Kim Jong-un’s regime, and has historically opposed harsh international sanctions on North Korea. However, the relationship is anything but congenial for Beijing. Their main concern is to keep their North Korea neighbor from exploding in chaos.
While China does maintain certain influence and while China sees North Korea as a buffer between it and the US-allied South Korea, Beijing’s ability to influence the erratic Kim Jong Un seems to be extremely limited, if at all, a significant change from earlier Kim dynasty dictators. The one power to gain from Kim Jong Un’s bellicose actions is the United States as geopolitical hegemon desiring to turn Japan and especially South Korea against China.
In February of this year North Korea announced that it had fired a long-range rocket in violation of a UN Security Council resolution that was voted with approval of both China and Russia. The rocket firing was immediately condemned by Japan, South Korea and the US. Most notably, right after the North Korean rocket firing, the Seoul South Korea government entered serious talks for acquiring Washington’s THAAD missile defense system, arguing it was to counter the threat from the north. China protested loudly.
At the same time Japan increased its THAAD infrastructure installations from the US. Both deployments were aimed not at North Korea, whose missile threat to South Korea is ruled out. They were aimed at goosing up the governments of South Korea and of Shinzo Abe in Japan in their development of anti-China postures. Only months earlier, relations between South Korea and Japan were chilly and China was making peaceful economic overtures to South Korea. The Seoul decision to accept THAAD missiles has chilled those ties.
Russia Also LosesChina is not the only strategic loser in the latest nuclear tests and rocket firing provocations of Kim Jong Un. Russia, which has had largely positive relations with North Korea going back to the Cold War, has undergone a major loss of influence owing to very tough UN Security Council economic sanctions passed in March, 2016 in response to Kim’s latest military provocations. Russia agreed to the UN sanctions, but quite reluctantly, as did China.
Moscow stands to lose major economic deals and influence as a result in North Korea. More importantly, those deals, denominated not in dollars but in rubles, will also be prohibited by the financial sanctions. The Security Council resolution, drafted by the United States, will also scotch plans for a new financial clearing house to facilitate transactions between the Russia and North Korea.
Further, the US-drafted economic sanctions target very precisely Russian-North Korean economic projects. It severely restricts North Korean mineral exports–explicitly of coal, iron and iron ore, gold, titanium, vanadium, and rare earth minerals–which were to be used to pay for the Russian investments and projects that included Russian electric power stations and metallurgic plants. Russia had planned to re-export the North Korean coal and finance Russian rebuilding of a rail link between North Korea’s Rajin port and Russia’s Khasan.
In November, 2013, before Washington launched its Ukraine coup d’ etat, otherwise known as Euromaidan, to split Russia from the European Union, Russia, North Korea and South Korea had signed a Memorandum of Understanding during a visit of Russian President Putin to Seoul. That agreement would also include South Korea in a further restoration of the entire Trans-Korean Railway, a major positive development towards stabilizing relations between the two Koreas.
At this point it clearly is the case that under the erratic 32-year-old Swiss-educated Kim Jong Un, Washington has found the perfect boogie man to scare South Korea and Japan into embracing Washington’s agenda to maximize pressure, military as well as economic, against Russia and against China. James R. Lilley’s Davos remark to me is borne out by the recent militaristic and foreign policy actions of North Korean Supreme Commander, Jim Jong Un. It seems it wasn’t even necessary for the United States to “create North Korea.” Washington only had to cultivate the infantile personality of Kim Jong Un.