Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Myanmar and the DPRK renew relations - a palm-of-the-hand opinion

Retrieved from comments:

"[Do] you have any thoughts on the fact that Myanmar re-established diplomatic relations with the DPRK this year? They had been cut after DPRK assassinated visiting South Korean cabinet members in 1983. The Myanmar ambassador to China was recently appointed the concurrent ambassador to the DPRK."

The longtime estrangement between the governments of the Union of Myanmar and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is evidence that narratives and self-image are at least as important as interests in the determination of relations between countries.

Under any analysis based on basic power goals, the State Peace and Development Council and the government of the DPRK should have reconciled long ago. The two governments are clients of China...but want to keep Chinese influence at arm's length. Bilateral cooperative relations between Myanmar and the DPRK are an innocuous means of strengthening each country's ability to avoid being be drawn into the whirlpool of the Greater Han.

The 1983 attack by DPRK special security forces--the arm of the DPRK government Kim Il-sung had purportedly given his son Kim Jong-il as a plaything -- in the then Burmese capital humiliated Burma's security services. Even before the rise of the State Law and Order Restoration Council, the Tatmadaw was brutally paranoid about developments that would lead anyone to question its capacity to maintain order. The assassination of so many honored guests was a crushing blow. Though the Tatmadaw could not inflict a military reprisal for the assault upon its honor, it could certainly prevent the establishment of relations prior to a sincere apology from the DPRK head of state.

As to what a Myanmar-DPRK linkage means for Japan in terms of security, I do not think it is much. Myanmarese oil and gas are being sold at world prices in order to prop up one rotten, wealth-destroying regime. I do not think the SPDC would want to reduce its income just to help out its fellow rogue with its fuel needs. As for the Myanmarese acquiring nuclear weapons or intermediate range missiles, I am not sure the DPRK would consider the Myanmarese good customers. In regards to North Korea's specialty, mid-range missiles, whom would the Myanmarese target? As for nuclear devices, it is quite lucrative, as it turns out, for the DPRK to be the only major breakout threat in East Asia. Helping the Myanmarese develop WMD would only deprive the DPRK of an exclusive right to extort money and other goodies from the region's major powers.

It would be interesting to hear the Chinese inside line on the establishment of interconnections between the dictatorships that form a cordon sanitaire about China. I can think it possible that at least one segment of the current Chinese leadership would want the pariah nations on China's periphery to remain as weak and divided as possible, preventing democratic pluralist states from acquiring something of value should one of the dictatorships decide wants to become a new "America's bastard" in East Asia, just like some current U.S. East Asian allies once were and some GCC countries still are.

Later - Not to be forgotten in the shuffle is the reported pledge between the Chinese and Japanese prime ministers to work together on Myanmar. China has far more influence over events in Myanmar than Japan. That China would commit itself to collaborating (there's a loaded word) with Japan represents a remarkable gesture. The Fukuda administration's friendlier basic stance toward China should mean that the Chinese government does not have to be nearly as conciliatory as it had to been toward the Abe administration. However, the amount of cooperation offered is not commensurate with the amount conceded. In the post-Jiang Zemin era, the Chinese government indeed seems to be making a point of being generous.

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