Kim Dong Su Deep Analysis on North Korean Foreign Policy in Kim Jong Un′s Era
Deep Analysis on North Korean Foreign Policy in Kim Jong Un’s Era
Kim Dong Su(Ph. D), Institute for National Security Strategy(Former North Korean Diplomat)
At the 7th and 8th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea, Kim Jong Un presented the basic ideology of North Korea's foreign policy and the basic principles of foreign activities. Kim Jong-un has declared that "independence, peace and friendship are the consistent foreign policy ideology of the Workers' Party of Korea and the fundamental position to maintain it in the struggle to realize the achievement of global independence". In Kim Jong-un era, North Korea continues to maintain and imitate its "independence, peace, and friendship", the basic ideology of foreign policy that Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il had insisted on in the past. North Korea, in particular, insists that it will make active efforts to protect regional peace and security and realize the global independence.
North Korea also presented the basic direction of foreign policy during the Kim Jong Un era through the 7th and 8th Party Congress. Kim Jong-un claimed that "in order to realize the global independence, all countries and peoples must hold the anti-imperialism banner high and maintain independence". In particular, he emphasized that countries and peoples who aim for independence and justice should reject foreign interference and rule, and develop their own destiny independently. Kim Jong-un said that, in order to realize true international justice, we must burn down the impenetrable "justice" of imperialism and the rulingists.
North Korea did not claim the concept of international justice in foreign policy during the Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il periods in the past. Kim Jong Un, however, first advocated international justice in the direction of foreign policy at the 7th Congress of the Workers' Party in May 2016. The reason why North Korea has insisted on international justice in its foreign policy can be seen as to rationalize the unfavorable environment under international sanctions and pressure due to the North Korean nuclear and human rights issues. In particular, international cooperation with some socialist countries, including China, is essential at a time when international sanctions and pressure on North Korea are intensifying. For North Korea, it is directly related to the survival of the regime and aims to promote relations with some socialist countries, including China.
Kim Jong-un expressed that the declining non-aligned movement on the international stage should be maintained in the context of anti-war and peace, and play its role. In order to strengthen and develop the non-aligned movement, it was argued that non-aligned countries should raise the banner of anti-imperialism and actively fight to realize the achievement of global independence. He also stressed the need for non-aligned countries to unite and support each other in order to oppose the imperialists in practical actions. In other words, North Korea seeks an ever-increasing way out of international isolation in solidarity and cooperation with
third-world countries, and insists on
strengthening its non-alignment in foreign policy. North Korea is focusing on
seeking cooperation with third- world countries in its recent external
activities, and it can also be seen as a tactical intention to revive the non-
aligned alliance to the level of the Kim Il Sung era.
Kim Jong Un emphasized the principle of defending and sticking to the party's line in external activities and maintaining its nuclear status. The issue of maintaining revolutionary principles and independence in external activities was often claimed by North Korea's Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il to break away from the influence of China and the Soviet Union in the past. Kim Jong Un also recognized the issue of maintaining principles and independence in external activities as a critical issue related to the survival of the regime and established it as a keynote of foreign policy. The most important thing here is not to give in to demands and pressures from big countries such as China and Russia and not to give up nuclear weapons.
Kim Jong-un stressed that he has no will to denuclearize by insisting that he will continue and strengthen his strategy of "developing economic construction and nuclear force construction." As a 'Responsible Nuclear Power', North Korea said that it would not preemptively use nuclear weapons unless aggressive adversaries violate North Korea's sovereignty with their nuclear weapons. It insists that it will make efforts to realize the denuclearization of the world by faithfully fulfilling its obligation to prevent nuclear proliferation, but it can be said that it will ultimately guarantee the survival of the regime with nuclear armament.
North Korea has expressed its intention in the past that it will improve and normalize relations with countries that respect the North Korea's autonomy and treat the North Korea favorably, even if they were hostile in the past. North Korea has frequently announced the possibility of improving relations to create a favorable international environment during the Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il periods. The basic purpose of North Korea is to improve its hostile relations with
the U.S. and Japan to break away from
international isolation, sanctions and pressure on North Korea.
When we designing a state foreign policy goal, we can assume three policies: security, identity and economic prosperity. If these three policies significantly affect the country's foreign policy goals, it is necessary to look at how North Korea's foreign policy is developed according to them. Of these three factors, the most essential for establishing a diplomatic strategy is national security, and North Korean power elite or foreign policymakers perceive the collapse of the leader's system as a state collapse. Therefore, national security and the survival of the
North Korean-style of leader's system are
the highest goals of policy-making, and diplomatic strategies and tactics are
developed based on them. Currently, North Korea is trying to promote friendly
economic relations externally and even improve political relations in order to
maintain the crisis-stricken leader's system.
On the other hand, North Korea is also developing a strategy to build a strong state that maintains the existence of a monolothic system and legitimacy through strengthening party-centered self-reliance, establishing pre-military politics, and socialist economic growth. First of all, the way North Korea is taking to achieve its foreign strategic goals is to strengthen its "Juche" capabilities. Subjective competence can be divided into three strategic dimensions: self-defense in military terms, self-reliance in economic terms, and finally independence in political terms. Strengthening the Juche capacity means strengthening the North Korean monolithic system by enhancing all three strategic aspects of the above, centering on the party. If North Korea was a military-centered emergency system during the Kim Jong-il era, North Korea during the Kim Jong-un era would establish a system of leader Kim Jong-un internally centered on the Party's Organizational Leading Department. And externally, it is to realize foreign policy based on the socialist Juche ideology.
With nuclear development is reaching a certain level, Kim Jong Un is focusing on reviving the people's livelihood by opening the economy to a limited level. However, this does not imply the withdrawal and weakening of the Juche capabilities and principles of the military-first politics. On the contrary, it can be understood that it is sticking to the path of nuclear armament and economic development, and that it intends to maintain nuclear weapons and take economic benefits while using this route as a foreign pressure card.
North Korea's foreign policy is also affected by changes in its internal power structure, for example, Kim Jong Un is taking a tougher stance on foreign policy to establish an internal system. During the Kim Jong-il era, there were two nuclear tests in October 2006 and May 2009, and Kim Jong-un also conducted four nuclear tests to solidify his power internally. In the end, amid persistent economic sanctions and political confrontation with South Korea, North Korea is using brinkmanship diplomacy through "pursuit of practicality" and "creating military tensions" to keep the Kim Jong Un regime alive. North Korea has been driving its foreign policy by utilizing various strategic methods as it entered the era of Kim Jong Un. In other words, it has used tough diplomatic strategies, economic pragmatic tactics, closed-door policies, and North Korean-style nationalist tactics.
First, tough diplomatic measures include nuclear and long- range missile launch tests and violent external remarks. In 2012, the Kim Jong Un regime effectively destroyed the February 29 agreement and launched the Gwangmyeongseong long-range missile 3. To mark the 100th anniversary of Kim Il-sung's birthday, the Juche ideology, the fundamental governing ideology of the North Korean regime, was used to show off its robustness to the world and maintain the
regime domestically. North Korea succeeded in launching the "Unhwa 3" on December 12, 2012, despite the continued U.N. sanctions against the North Korea, resulting in the ability to mount long-range ballistic missiles. And, on 12 February 2013, despite China's dissuasion, it conducted a third nuclear test to be recognized as a nuclear power. As can be seen through this, nuclear weapons are a key means of military politics for North Korea and a mechanism that plays a pivotal role in maintaining military security externally and regime internally. North Korea made
military threats such as firing two
"Rodong missiles" in time for the South Korea-U.S.-Japan Summit in
March 2014. These nuclear and missile tests seem to be intended to weaken
pressure on North Korea by adding military threats to neighboring countries and
at the same time to strengthen negotiating power over aid to the North Korea.
Second, it is analyzed that it is an economic pragmatic diplomatic means. North Korea has a diplomatic goal of establishing economic cooperation with countries around the world in the long run to change the international community's attitude toward North Korea in a friendly manner. After Kim Il-sung's death, Kim Jong-il adopted the Geneva Agreement with the United States in 1994, and South Korea agreed on the June 15 Declaration and the October 4 Joint Declaration in 2000 and 2007, respectively. During the Kim Jong-il era, the North Korean regime was able to prevent internal turmoil and continue its system based on the Juche idea of self-reliance by thoroughly shutting down the channels for communities to exchange information with the outside world. The North Korean regime under the Kim Jong Un era is also continuously utilizing economic pragmatism while maintaining its existing policy of closure. However, economic relations between North Korea and China have been strained since the third nuclear test and the purge of Jang Sung-taek. In order to overcome this problem, North Korea pressure China and pursue economic benefits through negotiations between North Korea
and Japan and economic cooperation between
North Korea and Russia.
Third, the Kim Jong Un regime, like the previous Kim Jong Il regime, uses a kind of "brinkmanship diplomacy" that alternates provocations and dialogue as a means of diplomatic strategy against the U.S. In other words, the Kim Jong Un regime has adopted "national autonomy" as its strategy against South Korea, which was used during the Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il periods, and approaches South Korean society based on nationalism. On the other hand, North Korea is demanding the United States withdraw U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula in the name of national independence. Also, North Korea is trying to ensure the survival of its regime by turning the Armistice into a Peace Treaty. This shows that even if the Kim Jong Un regime diplomatically reaches an agreement between the U.S. and North Korea, it can be destroyed at any time if the results do not conform to the North Korea's diplomatic strategy with the U.S. It also shows that North Korea can use provocative measures such as nuclear weapons and missiles to reverse the existing agreement.
In the era of Kim Jong Un, North Korea has been recognized by the international community for its status as a nuclear power after several nuclear tests, and the signing of a ‘Peace Treaty’ through the improved U.S.-North Korea relations is the most important goal of its foreign policy. In other words, the basic goals of foreign policy during the Kim Jong Un era are survival and prosperity, namely maintenance of the regime and economic development. And if there is another diplomatic goal, it is to unify the Korean Peninsula by nuclear force and create international conditions for it.
North Korea tried to end hostilities between the U.S. and North Korea through the Trump-Kim Jong-un Summit amid continued international sanctions against North Korea and isolation. However, the Kim Jong Un regime's internal political goals are sticking to North Korean-style socialism and maintaining a strong diplomatic stance and closeness in the strategic framework of foreign politics. Kim Jong-un's insistence on the existing attitude at this fundamental level has negatively affected the North Korean economy's policy of reviving the economy, which he has been insisting since taking power, as well as losing diplomatic credibility. North Korea agreed to "complete denuclearization" at the June 12, 2018 North Korea-U.S. Summit in Singapore and pretended to continue follow-up denuclearization negotiations through the second U.S.-North Korea Summit in Hanoi. North Korea agreed at the U.S.-North Korea Summit on four terms: establishing a new relationship, establishing a permanent peace regime, complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and repatriating the remains of U.S. soldiers.
However, North Korea continued to pursue provocations and dialogue for denuclearization negotiations at the same time after the North Korea-U.S. Summit. With the launch of the Biden administration, North Korea is expected to actively try to change existing U.S. countermeasures from the declaration of the end of the war to sanctions relief without giving up its nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it is expected that North Korea will prepare for the prolonged U.S.-North Korea negotiations and sanctions while emphasizing self-reliance internally. It is prospected that unless sanctions against North Korea are lifted, the overall foreign economy, including the North's trade sector, will inevitably suffer a major setback in the implementation of economic strategies.
If we look at the structure of foreign policy-decision in the era of Kim Jong Un, officially, the organizations, which are participating in the decision are the Supreme People's Assembly, the highest sovereign body that establishes the basic principles of foreign policy under the Constitution, and the Foreign Affairs Committee established under the Supreme People's Assembly. And under the Constitution, there is the Central People's Committee, which establishes foreign policy, appoints and summons ambassadors and councilors, establishes foreign policy committees under its jurisdiction, and directs diplomatic activities. The Supreme People's Assembly's establishment of the basic principles of internal and external policy is merely a form of external show, just as three separate powers are divided in North Korea and democratic representative politics are being realized. The Supreme People's Assembly, which does not have any subordinate organization, cannot establish policies or basic principles of policies. And the Supreme People's Assembly is just one tool to pass policies already drawn up in various fields, including party, government and military, during the meeting.
After the deaths of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, under the Kim Jong Un's monolithic regime at this time, In the process of making important policies, the consultative system implemented by the already collapsed Eastern socialist countries no longer exists in North Korea. Moreover, as long as Kim Jong Un's monolithic leadership system, party protocols, and the 'Ten-point Principles of Establishing the Monolithic Idealogical System' rule, there can be no confrontation between the 'Strong' and the 'Soft' in the North Korea's policy-decision process.
The main duties and roles of the organization responsible for foreign policy in the Kim Jong Un era are as follows. First, the International Works Department of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea is in charge of developing relationships with left-wing parties such as the Communist Party of other countries and other ruling and opposition parties. The International Works Department of the Workers' Party was originally responsible for the party's policy guidance and supervision of foreign activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other agencies related to foreign activities. However, since the mid-1980s, the leadership and supervision of the Workers' Party's International Works Department has been suspended under Kim Jong-il's direction, and the Foreign Ministry has been directly under Kim Jong-il.
Second, the Foreign Ministry is in charge of preparing government-level foreign policy and diplomatic activities with other countries and international organizations in diplomatic relations with North Korea. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in charge of establishing, planning and supervising foreign policies, activities related to inter-Korean relations at the authorities's level, including the talks between two Koreas and the U.N. military mission at Panmunjom. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also coordinating plans and implementations related to the preparation of related foreign policies and external activities for the countries such as the United States and Japan, which have not diplomatic relations with North Korea. It also controls and coordinates foreign activities of all institutions and sectors in North Korea in a unified way.
Third, the Unification Front Department of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea is in charge of overseas Korean-American works, civilian-level diplomacy with South Korea, negotiations and exchanges with the U.S. and Japan with external signs, such as the 'Committee for National Peace and Unification' and 'Committee for the Peace of Asia and Pacific'.
Fourth, the 'External Cultural Liaison Committee' is in charge of the relationship with various non-governmental organizations, pro-North Korean organizations and personnel in other countries under the direct guidance of the International Works Department and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Fifth, the General Affairs Bureau of Foreign Affairs belongs to the Cabinet Secretariat, but under the guidance of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Security, it is in charge of ensuring activities, convenience, tailing, and eavesdropping for all embassies and representatives of other countries in North Korea.
The following are the characteristics of the process of making foreign policy decisions in the Kim Jong Un era. Until the early 1970s, all North Korea's policies, including foreign policy, were the same as other socialist countries such as the former Soviet Union and China. In other words, it was implemented through regular consultations, decision-making process and adoption process at the Supreme People's Assembly, the highest policy-making body, the Politburo of the Workers' Party. However, since the mid-1970s when Kim Jong-il took control of the party, the collective policy consultation and decision- making system has become increasingly nominal. And the system in which all policies were determined by direct instructions and ratification of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il began to be activated. In other words, "report documents" drawn up by the party and government policy-making agencies were first reported and ratified by Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. A formal agreement was then made at the Politburo of the Workers' Party and a system adopted by the Supreme People's Assembly was established.
By the end of the 1970s, each organization had written two identical documents and reported them to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il at the same time, and the final decision was made by Kim Il Sung. Since the mid-1980s, all documents have been reported to Kim Jong-il first, and only documents passed by Kim Jong-il have been reported to Kim Il-sung. Since the early 1990s, most of the documents have been finalized at the Kim Jong-il stage. Only a few documents were reported to Kim Il-sung, including documents related to issues that Kim Jong-il cannot make up his mind alone and issues related to Kim Il-sung's direct involvement, including summit diplomacy. In particular, all policies after Kim Il-sung's death in 1994 were finally determined by Kim Jong-il's direct orders and ratification. And the regular meetings of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Worker's Party, which existed formally, were never convened, making the Politburo a completely nominal existence.
The Kim Jong Un regime was officially launched without a complete succession structure due to the sudden death of Kim Jong Il. Therefore, the early days of the Kim Jong Un regime showed a kind of transitional character. In this situation, the revision of the party's protocol and constitution was virtually nothing more than a change in the name of the position held by the most powerful man. Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-ilism, which were proposed as new governing ideologies, were a combination of Juche ideology and military ideology in the past, and were just a mechanism to justify the Mt. Baekdu lineage. And as seen in the 10th convention of the Workers' Party of Korea, the party has gradually reorganized its power structure through the political process of institutionalizing the party as the center of power over the past decade.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs plays a major role in North Korea's foreign policy decisions even during the Kim Jong Un era. The Foreign Ministry's direct policy reporting and decision- making system established during the Kim Jong-il era in the past still operates, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently managing and supervising the overall North Korean foreign policy. The Foreign Ministry is pursuing foreign policy through the process of writing the government-level and non- governmental foreign policy with other countries and international organizations that have diplomatic ties with North Korea and reporting directly to Kim Jong Un. The Foreign Ministry is also establishing the foreign policies for the countries, such as the U.S. and Japan, which have not the diplomatic relations and is planning and promoting external activities with the approval of Kim Jong Un. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is unifying its control and coordination of foreign activities of all institutions and sectors in North Korea in accordance with Kim Jong Un's instruction. However, there are limitations that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs cannot control the external activities of special organizations, including the International Department of the Workers' Party of Korea, which is operated by Kim Jong Un's direct approval.
The International Business Department of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party is a department dedicated to foreign relations with left-wing parties such as the Communist Party of other countries and other ruling and opposition parties. The Party's International Works Department has been a member of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party since the 1950s, and has been deeply involved in the Foreign Ministry's policy decisions and executive projects. In the early 1990s, however, the Party's International Works Department lost its leadership and supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a system was established to report directly to Kim Jong-il and conduct external activities.
The Party's International Department cannot conduct diplomatic activities with other governments and international organizations, but it is conducting foreign activities by directly reporting to Kim Jong-un on foreign affairs with other parties such as the Communist Party, the ruling party, and the opposition party. The Party's International Works Department is not controlled by the Foreign Ministry in external activities with other countries' parties and is directly reporting to Kim Jong Un on foreign policy issues with other parties. In particular, the International Works Department of the Workers' Party holds a major position in the Communist Party-controlled external relationship with China and plays an important role in the process of foreign policy decisions related to North Korea-China relations. The Party's International Department promotes relationships such as exchanges with various non-governmental organizations, pro-North organizations and personnel through its external culture liaison committee. Therefore, the Party`s International Works Department is regarded as a major organization that is directly or indirectly influencing the North Korea’s decision-making process.
There are many limitations to North Korea's new foreign policy pursued by Kim Jong Un. First of all, the policy limitations of North Korea's nuclear- economic development path are clear. The North Korean regime will never give up its military confrontation with South Korea through nuclear development and competition for system integrity. On top of this, Western economic sanctions centered on the U.S. will not be lifted unless North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons program. The Kim Jong Un regime will not immediately take the lead in opening up it's politics, economy, and society to maintain its regime. Amid the inter-Korean channel cut-off and international isolation, North Korea is now forced to depend on China economically. Trade with China is overwhelming in the North Korean economy, so without economic cooperation with China, there is a limit to getting out of North Korea's economic straits. If Japan actively supports North Korea in economic field, the Biden administration may strongly pressure Japan in
line with the U.S.-South Korea-Japan
North Korea will continue to use its nuclear weapons as a diplomatic card to sign a ‘Peace Treaty’ between the U.S. and North Korea and resolve the U.S. economic blockade. North Korea will try to take the initiative in its military strategy by building asymmetric forces effectively responding to South Korea's conventional military capabilities through miniaturization of nuclear weapons and development of long-range ballistic missiles. Even if North Korea tries to talk to
South Korea again in the future, there is
a possibility that it will provoke the NLL region at any time if the legitimacy
of the North Korean system is undermined or contradictory to the North Korea's
diplomatic strategy. Therefore, as long as the political and military
confrontation between the two Koreas and international isolation from nuclear
development continues, the slogan of "Strong Nation" will inevitably
become a groundless debate.
Despite North Korea's continued economic difficulties in the future, the Kim Jong-un regime will never give up its military-first politics centered on nuclear possession and most advanced nuclear weapons development. It is not easy for the North Korean regime to give up its nuclear armament without conditions because it presumes the collapse of the Leader's monolithic system as a national collapse. No matter how economically isolated he is, Kim Jong Un will not disarm his nuclear armament unless he is guaranteed to maintain power by the U.S. and other Western countries. Kim Jong Un's regime strongly rejects criticism of North Korean human rights by the international community on the issue of human rights in North Korea. We need to keep an eye on how big a variable the North Koreanhuman rights issue will be in the North Korean regime's foreign policy in the future.
In the end, the Kim Jong Un regime must revise its closed diplomatic
strategy in order to escape the current economic difficulties and political
isolation of North Korea. However, the Kim Jong Un regime has no choice but to
stick to its nuclear armament and shutdown policy to maintain its regime. In
other words, the Kim Jong Un's foreign policy cannot be free from the priority
policy of maintaining the regime. Overall, Kim Jong Un's foreign strategy is
not expected to be changed much in the future. In particular, neighboring
countries on the Korean Peninsula, including South Korea, USA, and Japan, are
unlikely to move toward a favorable situation for North Korea.
North Korea added the "National Defense Committee shall organize and guide the situation of the war time" in the paragraph 7 of Article 103 on the the duties and authority of the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission. It means that the State Council is an organization that oversees the overall affairs of the country as a higher organization than the National Defense Commission.