[GLOBAL EYE]A replacement in the axis of evil?Yang Hyong-sop, vice president of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea, visited the capital of Venezuela, Caracas, late last September. Why did he go to Venezuela, traveling half-way around the world at the age of 80?
After talks with him, Jose Vicente Rangel, the vice president of Venezuela, gave a short statement, saying that the two leaders had discussed the issue of opening embassies in Pyongyang and Caracas, and the possibility of entering an oil agreement. Last November, about a month after Mr. Yang visited Venezuela, a North Korean economic delegation, led by Minister of Foreign Trade Rim Kyong-man, arrived in Caracas.
Venezuela, the fifth-largest oil producer in the world, exported 1.8 million barrels of crude oil to China for the first time in June of last year. In August, an agreement on joint oil exploitation was reached between the state-owned oil companies of both countries. An ambitious goal was also suggested ― that Venezuela supply 15 to 20 percent of China’s oil demand in the long term. A month later, Pyongyang sent Mr. Yang to Venezuela.
It would be no problem for an oil tanker that goes from Venezuela to China to stop at the North Korean port of Nampo or Shinuiju. Here lies the reason for distress from conservative speakers and commentators in the United States. One such is Gordon Cucullu, a former U.S. Army Green Beret lieutenant colonel and an active writer, editorialist and conservative speaker. Mr. Cucullu is convinced that North Korean-made missiles were included in the list of goods North Korea’s economic delegation presented to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
North Korean-made “Scud C” missiles, with a range of 700 kilometers, could fly from Venezuela to the Panama Canal. With the North’s “Rodong” missiles, which can fly 1,500 kilometers, the southern coast of Florida falls within range. Using the North’s “Taepodong” missiles, Venezuela could attack the east coast of the United States. To use resources as weapons through the nationalization of its oil industry, the country urgently needs to secure the military capability to defend itself. This is the calculation of Mr. Chavez, who is eager to purchase weapons.
For North Korea, which is suffering a severe energy shortage, securing oil is a critical task. Mr. Cucullu argues that a direct exchange of oil for missiles is a fascinating deal that neither North Korea nor Venezuela could give up.
The left-leaning ideology of Latin America is one of the biggest topics in the international community in 2006. Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and then Bolivia became leftist nations, and in Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico, the leftists are highly likely to seize power. Mr. Chavez, who claims to be the “leader of socialism in the 21st century,” is in the forefront of anti-Americanism, leading the sudden popularity of left-wingers in Latin America.
Mr. Chavez and Bolivian president-elect Evo Morales, who visited Caracas last week, declared they would hold a joint front against America and imperialism. They also claimed that “the true ‘axis of evil’ is the United States and its allies” and that, along with Cuba and Bolivia, they will build “an ‘axis of good’ as the axis of the new millennium.” Along with this, Mr. Chavez promised to supply 150,000 barrels of light oil to Bolivia every month. He added an explanation that “because Bolivia has already been providing agricultural products to Venezuela, it does not need to pay even a cent in cash.” This shows that a direct exchange in kind is a basic trading method between anti-American allies.
Saying, “The United States is making all kinds of plots to put pressure on North Korea and Venezuela,” Mr. Yang emphasized, “To confront the enemy’s plots, solidarity between the two countries is very important.” This amounts to proposing to build a new Anti-American axis that crosses the Pacific Ocean.
The situation is that Venezuela is filling the empty place of Iraq among the three “axis of evil countries” ― Iraq, Iran and North Korea ― that U.S. President George W. Bush identified. Iran and Venezuela are oil-producing countries. North Korea has previous experience of providing missiles to Iran. Will North Korea join hands with Venezuela through the exchange of missiles and oil too? Amid the left-wing waves in Latin America, a new issue, which may heat up discussion this year, is emerging from the bottom of the water.
*The writer is the international affairs editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Bae Myung-bok