Even Closer to China


PYONGYANG/BEIJING/BERLIN (Own report) - German experts on North Korea are speculating that Pyongyang will begin opening itself up to the West. The North Korean government's "days are numbered," predicts the German Parliamentary State Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Hartmut Koschyk (CSU), a Korea activist for many years. The FDP party-affiliated Friedrich Naumann Foundation claims to have learned in Pyongyang that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is pursuing an "opening up" strategy. These speculations are occurring in the midst of a comprehensive North Korean generation change of guard, including at the top levels of the state, bringing some people, who have close contacts to western countries, into influential positions. Berlin is observing Pyongyang's trend toward opening up with consistent efforts to unify North and South Korea - along the lines of the annexation of the German Democratic Republic by the Federal Republic of Germany. These efforts are also targeting China. As one foreign policy expert from Shanghai explains, North Korea is very significant as a buffer country between the US military units stationed in South Korea and China, tying down US troops, with its own military potential. If North and South Korea should unite, this would provide Washington a much larger military leeway in its relations with Beijing.

"The Days are Numbered"

German experts on North Korea are speculating on Pyongyang's opening up to the West. "The North Korean government's days are numbered", predicts the Parliamentary State Secretary in the German Ministry of Finances, Hartmut Koschyk (CSU).[1] For years, Koschyk had been the chairman of the German-Korean Parliamentary Group and had followed very closely the developments in North Korea as well as possibilities for bringing that country under Western influence.[2] Koschyk explained years ago that should it come to closer cooperation between Pyongyang and the West, this would also open "new possibilities for initiatives" for Germany. The Federal Republic of Germany has "a rather good reputation" in North Korea. In its efforts to achieve cooperation, Berlin must, however, respect the domestic conditions of the country and under no circumstances give the North Korean military "the cold shoulder".[3]

Entry to Pyongyang

The FDP-affiliated Friedrich Naumann Foundation also sees a prospect for an "opening up" in Pyongyang. The foundation maintains an office in the South Korean capital, Seoul, and, since 2002, has a cooperation program with North Korea - including events in Pyongyang and seminars in Germany. The foundation's representative for Korea, Walter Klitz, is recognized not only in Seoul as being "among the few personalities of international relations, to whom the Democratic People's Republic permits entry." It is said that he, certainly maintains "reliable working relations with decision makers in North Korea."[4] During his visit to Pyongyang at the end of April, a functionary of the governing party told him in a conversation that socialism could "not survive in isolation," which is why North Korea is adopting a "strategy for opening itself up to the world."[5]

Contacts Abroad

Observers are seeing the opening of North Korea in connection with the generation change of guard, including the in highest positions of government, now taking place in Pyongyang. Klitz explains, that it will have to be seen, which role the oncoming younger generation "will be allowed to play in policymaking in the country." The expert points to the fact that they "usually have contacts abroad or have been abroad for an extended stay." The presumed next North Korean head of state, Kim Jong-Un, who went to school several years in the German-speaking region of Switzerland, therefore speaking German, is seen as exemplary. His generation "deserves more attention", says Klitz.[6]

Hook-Up in Germany

Observers see the expansion of business relations with Brazil as exemplary for the economic opening of the country already in progress. Brazil has risen to become Pyongyang's third largest business partner after neighboring China and South Korea. Brazil is suspected, with West German assistance, of developing nuclear weapons,[7] which is why critics are speculating about possible nuclear cooperation between North Korea and Brazil.[8] Germany is already involved in the anticipated international cooperation with North Korea. It was a German company that hooked that country up to the internet in 2004. As the head of the company, Jan Holtermann, wrote, he was unable to obtain the necessary export licenses for security and filter technology, "because they could possibly also be used militarily." Therefore the "main server with its encoding systems" is located in Germany. "There, the North Koreans can store their data" says Holtermann. In Pyongyang there is only "a so-called proxy that makes the web contents that the Koreans want available to the country."[9]

Annexation Experts

The speculations about Pyongyang's opening itself to the West and an expansion of economic cooperation are lending new significance to Berlin's efforts for the unification of North and South Korea. German politicians have been behaving in Seoul as if they are experts in the "reunification" of the two countries. For example the CSU-affiliated Hanns Seidel Foundation had maintained a temporary "Project of the Korean Reunification," which they had organized "around the German experience."[10] For years, the aspired unification of the two countries has been the theme that has played an important role in German - South Korean encounters. For example, last week, the chairman of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (CDU) visited South Korea and held talks also with the Minister for Reunification in Seoul, based, as usual, on the FRG's experience with its annexation of the GDR.

Strategic Buffer Zone

Particularly in Beijing, the German activities are provoking apprehension. As Shen Dingli, Director of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan-University in Shanghai put it; the People's Republic of China is very interested in maintaining the national integrity and sovereignty of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. There are around 28,500 US soldiers currently stationed in South Korea - closer to China than anywhere else. According to Shen, North Korea serves China as a "strategic buffer zone," to keep Washington's troops at a distance. Pyongyang's nuclear arms program is also tying down US troops in South Korea and prohibiting the United States from more extensive activities - for example in Taiwan. "That is North Korea's 'contribution' to China's national security" explained Shen. The People's Republic, on the other hand, expects problems, if Pyongyang were to change sides, "sign an accord with the United States, nuclear weapons in exchange for friendship and thereby follow in Libya's footsteps." In that case Washington would achieve more military leeway that can be used against Beijing. This would also hold true, should North and South Korea unite along the lines of the German model. Even the installation of US military bases along the Korean-Chinese border could no longer be excluded.[11]

Against Beijing

Shen's reflections expose the long-term strategic implications of German efforts to achieve a unification of North and South Korea. These efforts are directed against Beijing and are aspects of the preparations for future conflicts with the People's Republic of China.

[1] Korea weist zahlreiche Parallelen zur deutschen Teilung auf; www.koschyk.de 25.06.2010
[2] see also Deutschland "neutraler Boden" für Verhandlungen zwischen Süd- und Nordkorea and Nordostasien-KSZE
[3] Hartmut Koschyk: Berlin wird in Pjöngjang gehört. Neue Gestaltungsmöglichkeiten für Deutschland und die EU?, in: Christoph Moeskes (Hg.): Nordkorea - Einblicke in ein rätselhaftes Land, Berlin 2007
[4] Korea: Klitz erhält Auszeichnung der Hanyang-Universität; www.freiheit.org
[5] Generational Change on all levels in North Korea on the way; www.fnfkorea.org 30.04.2010
[6] Operation Kim Jong-un; Die Welt 16.09.2010
[7] see also Die brasilianische Bombe
[8] Bertil Lintner: Brazil, North Korea: Brothers in trade; Asia Times 03.06.2010
[9] Jan Holtermann: Sie hätten Post! Das nordkoreanische Internet, in: Christoph Moeskes (Hg.): Nordkorea - Einblicke in ein rätselhaftes Land, Berlin 2007
[10] see also Projekt Koreanische Wiedervereinigung
[11] Shen Dingli: North Korea's Strategic Significance to China; China Security, Autumn 2006