NORTH Korea has sent an “unprecedented” letter to the Australian Government, imploring us to turn against our biggest ally. It’s a very revealing move.
NORTH Korea has sent a “desperate” letter to the Australian Government, imploring it to turn against US President Donald Trump.
The rambling open letter, which has been published by Fairfax, came from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Foreign Affairs Committee via the country’s Jakarta embassy.
“The Foreign Affairs Committee … bitterly condemns the reckless remarks of Trump as an intolerable insult to the Korean people, a declaration of war against the DPRK and a grave threat to the global peace,” the letter reads.
“From the first day of his office, Trump has engaged himself in highhanded and arbitrary practice, scrapping international laws and agreements incurring his displeasure on the ‘US-first principle’, the height of American way of thinking that is best if the US is well-off at the expense of the whole world.
“If Trump thinks that he would bring the DPRK, a nuclear power, to its knees through nuclear war threat, it will be a big miscalculation and an expression of ignorance.”
The screed appears to be a heavy-handed plea to various parliaments to pull out of the harsh United Nations Security Council sanctions levelled against North Korea over its weapons program.
The sanctions have struck a significant blow to the nation’s economy, with one former high-ranking North Korea official saying this week that the country “will not survive a year” under them.
“The US brought to their knees those countries devoid of principle, narrow-minded and selfish countries seeking after their interests with its nuclear stick and force and then cooked up the illegal ‘sanctions resolution against the DPRK to deny the elementary right to existence of the Korea people and check their normal economic development in breach of the inviolable UN charter by abusing the UN Security Council,” the letter reads.
The missive concludes by calling for “international justice” and “sharp vigilance against the heinous and reckless moves of the Trump administration trying to drive the world into a horrible nuclear disaster”.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told Fairfax it was clear North Korea are feeling desperate, isolated and trying to demonise the US as well as divide the international community.
Speaking on Sky News this morning, Ms Bishop said the letter was “unprecedented”.
Pyongyang typically communicates its messages and propaganda through its state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
“This is an unprecedented step for North Korea to send a letter directly to another government in this way,” she said.
“It’s not the way the usually publish their global messages.”
Ms Bishop said she saw the letter as a positive move and as evidence that the collective strategy of imposing maximum diplomatic and economic pressure through sanctions was working.
“This is a response to the pressure that Australia, the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and others are putting on North Korea so that it will refrain from its current conduct of provocative and threatening behaviour and will be compelled back to the negotiating table.
“I see it as a positive sign.”
The letter begins with the North Korean embassy offering its “compliments to the parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia”, which is a bit rich given that the rogue nation has made repeated military threats towards us for supporting America.
On Saturday, Pyongyang, via KCNA, again called out Australia for its outspokenness in calling for an end to its nuclear weapons program, warning it if it continues Australia “will not be able to avoid a disaster”.
At the time Ms Bishop, who was in South Korea with Defence Minister Marise Payne for talks with their South Korean counterparts, hit back and said Australia was not a “primary target”.
“North Korea’s threats only strengthen our resolve to find a peaceful solution to the rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula caused entirely by North Korea’s illegal, threatening and provocative behaviour,” Ms Bishop told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell the letter proved international sanctions against the regime were biting hard.
Mr Turnbull said the letter didn’t say anything about Australia and instead ranted about how bad Donald Trump is.
“They’ve sent this letter to a lot of other countries.,” Mr Turnbull said.
The Prime Minister was asked if the letter was significant and what it showed.
“It’s consistent with their rant and complaints about Donald Trump, but the fact is North Korea is the one in breach of UN security council resolutions,” he said.
“It’s North Korea that’s threatened the stability of the world and that’s the regime that has to return to its senses.”
Mr Turnbull also praised North Korea’s main ally, China, for taking tough action against Pyongyang.
“They are working, they are starting to feel the squeeze because China to its credit is part of these global sanctions which include restricting oil exports.
“The tighter economic sanctions are applied the greater the prospect we have of resolving this without a conflict.”
Professor of International Security and Intelligence Studies Professor John Blaxland told news.com.au said the letter indicated two things.
“First it seems to demonstrate North Korean unease about the extent of the UN sanctions and their expected impact, not just on the weapons program but on North Korean society, particularly as it heads into a long, cold and dark winter,” he said.
Prof Blaxland said capped oil imports and other embargoes would make governing North Korea even more difficult.
“Second, there is a sense that Kim Jong-un may be playing on the growing unease at Trump’s extreme and bellicose language and KJU (Kim Jong-un) may be onto something here.
“North Korean officials would be aware that Australians are increasingly ill at ease with apparently fawning expressions of support for Trump’s emotive rants against KJU.”
“It stands to reason that a public but official appeal by the DPRK to Australian and other international common sense may have the desired effect — that is, to reduce international resolve to maintain sanctions and to undermine their willingness to continue backing Trump’s actions to the hilt, particularly should it escalate into open conflict.”
Dr Peter Layton, a visiting fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute at Griffith University, said the letter was interesting.
Dr Layton said the DPRK talk of an open letter sent to foreign parliaments — not governments — on 24 September and datewise this letter seems part of that.
“Although ours appears to have been tailored for us as the DPRK news includes parts ours doesn’t have,” he said.
Dr Layton said he saw the letter as a tactical move consistent with the overall DPRK strategy.
“The letter logically argues its position and leaves aside much of the rhetoric normally associated with the DPRK,” he said.
“The letter does not ask our parliament to actually do anything suggesting it aims principally to set out the DPRK position. It is a diplomatic move but not directly aiming to restart negotiations.”
Dr Layton said it would appeal to those worried about Donald Trump and the US more broadly and played upon the old logic trick of: ‘if you are opposed to Donald Trump you must therefore be friends with us’.
“The DPRK is seeking the moral high ground in deliberately contrasting itself with Donald Trump,” he said.
“The DPRK is playing for time to allow the completion of its long-ranged nuclear missile force as Kim-il Ju has stated. He will talk after he has a stronger hand not before. The letter is part of that strategy.”
He said he didn’t think the letter was desperate and didn’t necessarily reveal the current sanctions or actions are having a tangible impact.
“It’s a more a muddy-the-waters letter to support the DPRK strategy of playing for time until they are militarily ready,” he said.
Senior analyst in defence strategy and capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Dr Malcolm Davis said the letter was a typical North Korean tactic.
“They won’t get very far with this tactic, as Julie Bishop has made clear. I think North Korea is completely isolated at this stage in terms of culpability,” Dr Davis said.
“Certainly there are concerns about Trump’s language in his UNGA speech, and statements like ‘calm before the storm’ and ‘fire, fury and power’ don’t help.
“But no one at a high level or with any influence, holds the view that North Korea is not the instigator of this crisis. Its Pyongyang that is setting off nukes and firing missiles over Japan, and threatening an atmospheric nuclear test.”
Dr Davis said while the sanctions might not be hitting as hard yet, the North Koreans would soon feel the effects come winter.
“This letter suggests that the North Koreans don’t really understand how western policy works or how people in the west see this threat,” he said.
“The North Koreans are not seeing this crisis through the eyes of Western leaders — they remain isolated in their hermit kingdom, and think that somehow rhetoric and threats will make western states back down. Their miscalculation.”