Gavan McCormack is a veteran Asia watcher from ANU, and his latest book is Target North Korea, a new and surprisingly generous take on North Korea and the nuclear issue. McCormack argues that North Korea's woes are largely the fault of the US, whom he argues has pushed the DPRK into a diplomatic and intellectual corner. Faced with humiliation at the hands of an arrogant US, the North has reacted as any other state would under the same pressure, and lashed out.
Some of the background provided by McCormack is illuminating to me as a relatively new Korea watcher. The account of the Korean War are interesting, and suggest that the truth lies somewhere part way between that told at the Korean War Museum in Seoul and the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang. From McCormack's account, the US was brutal in the long and fruitless war, with many of the most vicious acts all its own. Equally, the history of South Korea was checkered. Up until its 1987 "democratic revolution", South Korea appears to have been a thuggish state which used its conflict with the North to justify its constant clamp downs on democracy and its oppressive network of state spies.
Perhaps most provocative, though, is McCormack's take on the current nuclear conflict. Seemingly, the US can't do anything right, and the analysis represents the sort of desperate anti-Americanism which has become fashionable recently. From the selective evidence presented in the book, North Korea presents little threat to the rest of the world, and we are asked to take it on its word when it says that it poses no threat. Of course, this was writen prior to the North Korea's announcement in February this year that it did indeed possess The Bomb (a promise, we should, no doubt also believe according to McCormack's unfailing belief in the honesty of the word of KCNA). His solution to the nuclear threat seems to be to ignore that such a threat exists at all, and instead paint it as a product of the overactive imaginations of Washington's hawks.
For what it's worth, here's my solution to the North Korea tensions (you listing George, Hu, Kim?): at the next round of Six Nation talks next week in Beijing, the other five states should do a deal with Kim Jong Il. Give him an absolute assurance that the world will not seek his removal, if - and only if - the DPRK shut down its nuclear plants and give open access to IAEA inspectors. To be sure that he'll do the deal, the quiet threat needs to be made by the Chinese that if Kim doesn't play ball, then the energy pipeline that keeps the fledgling North Korean economy functioning will be progressively shut down. Given the reliance Kim has on the Chinese, there's little doubt that he'll sign on. In the short term, this will ensure peace on the Korean peninsula. In the long run, wait until Kim goes to meet his father (with or without the aid of an assassin) and in the ensuing confusion, push for reunification. That's the tricky part.