ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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US and North Korea

Basketball Is Not Ping-Pong

The conventional demonisation of North Korea has resulted in a distorted mirror of reality. From 1953 to 2013 the fundamental and primary objectives of the northern government have been (1) the signing of a peace treaty with the US, and (2) normalisation and a reparations agreement with Japan. Both these normalisation agreements are aimed at stabilisation of the Korean peninsula and are viewed as precluding any strategy of regime change. North Korea for 60 years has remained under the nuclear threat by the US, and all its attempts to address this danger are based on this threat perception.

The recent visit of Denis Rodman and members of the basketball team Harlem Globetrotters to North Korea raises the possibility of ping-pong diplomacy in the normalisation of relations between China and the United States. Tragically, this is an unlikely parallel. Ping-pong was known internationally as the premier Chinese sport, while basketball has never been associated with North Korea. More importantly, the China-US rapprochement was always driven by the US wanting to take advantage of the Sino-Soviet dispute as part of its cold war strategy.

Following upon the Rodman visit, the US is in the process of relaunching its annual massive joint military exercise with South Korea, which the North has always seen as a preparatory run for the invasion of its territory. In response, the North has organised its own military exercises with all of the associated risks. On the US initiative the UN Security Council condemned North Korea’s recent nuclear bomb test, imposing further sanctions, which in turn resulted in the North threatening a missile attack on the US mainland and an abandonment of the 1953 Korean War ceasefire and cut the Red Cross hot line between North and South, while lines remain open, for the moment, between the military and aviation authorities.

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