[Viewpoint] Lessons from Libya

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[Viewpoint] Lessons from Libya

North Korea claimed that Libya became the target of air raids because it abandoned its nuclear development program. It’s clear that North Korea is interpreting events in North Africa as a method of self-justification.

Quoting their foreign ministry spokesman, the North’s Korean Central News Agency said that Libya is getting invaded because it was induced into abandoning its nuclear weapons with such promises as a national security guarantee and improved relations.

The North also boasted that its decision to reject abandoning its nuclear program in 2003 was the right choice, saying that “the military-first policy that we have chosen is the right policy and our ability of self-defense thanks to the policy has become a precious deterrent against war and safeguards peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

North Korea has not even restrained itself from degrading the Jasmine revolution. Radio Pyongyang reported that the reason the Jasmine revolution broke out in the Middle East was because the people there have lost their minds and danced to the tune of the imperialists who deceived them with freedom and democracy.

It is ironic that North Korea, which claims to be a workers’ paradise and the vanguard of the socialist revolution worldwide, sides with the dictators of the Middle East.

The North has long maintained close military and economic relations with the dictators of the Middle East. When Hosni Mubarak commanded the Egyptian air force in the early 1970s, he got North Korea to send pilots to train Egyptians before the fourth Mideast war with Israel in 1973. Egypt began importing Soviet-era missiles from North Korea around the time Mubarak became president, and North Korean technicians have trained Egyptians to produce them on their own over the years.

Around the time before and after the first Gulf War, North Korea exported missiles and other strategic weapons banned by the United Nations to Syria, Iraq and Iran. In 2007, it was revealed that North Korea helped Syria build a nuclear reactor. Now, it has been reported that Pyongyang exported military hardware, including missiles and antiaircraft guns, to Muammar el-Qaddafi.

From the beginning, Pyongyang was not interested in the democratization of the region. North Korea was more interested in collaborating with the region’s dictators, who imported nuclear technology and strategic military hardware, including missiles, from the North. The dictators of the Mideast - such as Syria’s Hafez al-Assad, his son and incumbent president Bashar al-Assad, Egypt’s Mubarak and Libya’s Qaddafi - have helped the North by providing it with vital financial resources for its nuclear program.

In return, North Korea helped them strengthen their power by providing them with military hardware in violation of the arms embargo. Herein lies the reason why Pyongyang is critical of the air raids on Libya.

But Pyongyang’s claim that Libya was targeted because it abandoned its nuclear program is only one side of the story. The dictators of the Middle East, including Qaddafi, have fallen because of an uprising by people demanding democratization, not because of air raids by international forces. Even if Qaddafi had a nuclear arsenal, he could not stop a popular uprising.

The international community has debated the pros and cons of air raids on Libya. Some say that diplomatic efforts and nonmilitary measures should have preceded air raids. There is also criticism of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, saying he initiated military action because of political reasons at home. It has also been said that Qaddafi’s army did not commit as harsh atrocities as the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia or the genocide in Rwanda.

The NATO coalition participating in the air raid should remember that the West gave national security assurances to Libya when they persuaded Qaddafi to abandon Libya’s nuclear program.

I do not mean to say that Qaddafi should be granted immunity. But I think it necessary to show consideration to the first national leader who decided to abandon his country’s nuclear weapons program.

Then the international community can provide leaders of countries that have not given up their nuclear program, like North Korea, with the assurance that there will be no military intervention even if they abandon their nuclear development program.

*The writer is a visiting professor of communication at Sejong University.

By Park Sung-soo
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