(Editor's note: This is Part 2 of a two-part series in which journalist Anthony C. LoBaido documents the recent maneuverings of Mainland China, along with her two erstwhile Asia allies, Myanmar (formerly Burma) and North Korea. From Korea to Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Namibia and even to Portugal, LoBaido has traveled the world in the footsteps of Zheng He, following the advancing global arc of China. LoBaido examines ancient versus modern diplomacy and alliances, trade and various other elements of low-intensity colonization. Read Part 1.)
While the cat's away
Advertisement - story continues below
When President Obama visited Myanmar in late 2012, a relaxation of tensions was in the air. This was Myanmar's "Nelson Mandela Moment." Aung Sung Suu Kyi was out of jail, ready to garner her Nobel Prize, and the future seemed limitless.
While Obama spoke at the University of Yangon, once the site of anti-British and anti-junta rallies as acknowledged by the president, in his line of sight was a 33-year-old former Buddhist monk named Ashin Gambira. He had been imprisoned for his role in the 2007 Saffron Revolution.
Ashin Gambira had also been sentenced to 60 years in prison for marching through the streets with 100,000 other monks and non-monks, asking for broad participation of the electorate via democracy and better prices on consumer staples. He was freed in 2012 as a part of political amnesty that saw others like him released. Many had been kept at the notorious Insein Prison.
Ashin had been tortured and kept in solitary confinement for at least part of his four years in prison. He came down with malaria and was struck by depression and migraine headaches.
Advertisement - story continues below
Then Ashin Gambira was taken into custody in March 2012 for visiting ethnic Kachin in their home state, where they have battled the Myanmar armed forces. He was involved in a protest at a copper mine owned in part by a People's Liberation Army front company in conjunction with the Burmese army.
Then in April 2012, his status as a monk was repealed because other monks and monasteries were shy to take him in – he had become persona non grata with the Burmese army and political elites. Those elites realized the strategic planning that went into the Saffron Revolution (which began in the intellectual sense back in 2003, without the help given by U.S. professional democracy-creation experts to Serbians and Egyptians, amongst others) had made Ashin a very dangerous man. He was sent to Insein Prison on charges of trespassing into several monasteries, which at the time were under lock and key. How could they arrest a "former" monk for this?
Many now look to "Mother Suu," a.k.a. Aung San Suu Kyi, to speak out for Ashin Gambira. Some say the Burmese opposition leader's silence is troubling. Others allay she must be careful with the military regime, just as Nelson Mandela had to let genetically modified foods into South Africa, allow the Executive Outcomes mercenaries to destroy the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, or UNITA, and, over his objections, allow the African National Congress to switch recognition from Taiwan to Communist China.
Advertisement - story continues below
A vain, misguided movement has already begun in Myanmar in Suu Kyi's own party, the National League for Democracy, to question her leadership role. There are those who feel Mother Suu has gone soft on the junta.
Critics openly say that she does not speak up for the Kachin people, nor about events in the Kachin State, for the lost-at-sea boat people known as the "Rohingya," or about China and the People's Liberation Army controlling a good share of Myanmar's natural resources. (It should be noted that Burma is a perversion of "Bama," which is one tribe of the nation. "Myanmar" was selected to be inclusive of the many tribes.) A Nov. 29, 2012, crackdown at a facility owned by China's Wanbao Mining Copper Limited led to scores of protesters being injured. There are those in Myanmar who feel Mother Suu should be taking a much stronger stand about such issues. Mother Suu counters that China, the People's Liberation Army and the junta will be tamed by the rule of law.
Like Nelson Mandela, she is content to try to forgive and forget, use kindness, accept reality and humanize the same opponents who imprisoned her. Mandela said the Afrikaners were "decent people misled by their leaders." Mother Suu knows that not every soldier in the Myanmar armed forces is a wicked criminal without morality. She has openly stated that the army must have a say in the future of the nation. That said, Suu Kyi will now have to battle the notion that the junta made a deal with her while she was under house arrest – that she would in fact "go easy on them." Maybe a tacit understanding that she would go to Scandinavia to receive her Nobel Prize and somehow fail to speak out against the ongoing criminality of the militarists?
Advertisement - story continues below
Yet Mother Suu is resilient and revered. She was elected to the leadership of her party with 100 percent of the vote amongst the 120 members of the Central Committee. While it's true that our idols mock us when they fail to redeem us, Suu Kyi's intelligence, staying power and political acumen, as well as help given to her by the U.K. and U.S., should not be underestimated. Yet for now, gem cutters, Burmese exiles languishing in Thai camps such as the beleaguered Karen, the Rohingya and others can't count on Mother Suu to single-handedly address and fix their plight.
Many people forget that it was Suu Kyi's father who brought the Burmese army to the country, where he and the "New Army" had been trained in Japan before the outbreak of World War II. Just as the new president of South Korea is the daughter of a former South Korean general, leader and quasi-dictator, Suu Kyi also has a strong tie to the man who first raised up Burma's armed forces – albeit with the help of Imperial Japan. Truth is often stranger than fiction.
Nun o' that
Religious people in Myanmar do not have an easy go of it. For example, WND's story on 11 brave nuns caring for 400 lepers and their children shows the commitment and faith of such people.
The reason why Ashin Gambira is back in prison rests in part on the fact that not much has changed in Myanmar since the release of "Mother Suu." Yes, there is Internet available in a radically new way. Myanmar is not Cuba or North Korea in this regard. Myanmar wants tourists and is making plans to welcome millions of foreign nationals. But the fact remains that like post-apartheid South Africa, the power brokers behind the scenes remain the same.
In the case of Myanmar, the generals have taken off their fatigues and donned well-tailored business suits. This transformation has been ongoing since the 1990s. It's nothing new, but its effects in terms of equality before the law, and the ability to understand an already frighteningly complex situation, cannot be overstated. From banking to beer, the junta is still in control of Myanmar's economy.
In 2013, the Myanmar armed forces still make up only 1 percent of the population. But their power grows. Their front company for controlling the prices that Ashin Gambira protested rests in the power wielded by the Union of Myanmar Economic Holding Company and the Myanmar Economic Cooperative. These are military conglomerates run by former high-level Myanmar military elites. They have strong ties to the leadership in Mainland China as well as People's Liberation Army front companies – the Wanbao Mining Company being just one of note.
Trade, high-tech, agriculture, mining, energy and hydropower are just a few of the areas of cooperation. One must not forget that Burma is rich in jade, uranium, rice, timber/teak wood, natural gas, oil (until World War II, Burma was one of the leading exporters of oil in all of Asia) and, of course, opium poppies. In fact, Burma's gems and precious stones, along with the other resources, should make it one of the richest countries in the region, just as the fresh water and oil of Iraq should make it one of the richest nations in the Middle East.
Underwater natural gas deposits just off the coast of Rakhine state will continue to curry favor with investors from Beijing. Maday Island will be the rally point for a pipeline that will send the gas into Mainland China via Kunming and Nanning. Several of China's state-led oil companies are taking the lead on this monumental project. This project will continue despite protests regarding eminent domain, forced labor, environmental degradation and the transfer of Myanmar's natural riches to the politburo in China, rather than to the people of Myanmar.
The more things change, the more they remain the same. Protesters can be hauled off to prison for a variety of reasons – mainly if they don't have the right permit from the police or army to hold a public gathering. Then there are the laws so arcane it's hard to believe the elites of Myanmar would dare read them, let alone cite and implement them. Consider Article 17/1 of the British India-era "Unlawful Associations Act" passed into law in 1908. This law – yes, even today – can land you in prison for several years. It can be so liberally applied that lawyers from as far away as Argentina (where a battle waged between 1976 and 1983 as the Argentines faced the hyper-militarized nexus of the Buenos Aires-based junta) have come to Myanmar to interpret such laws and fight against them on behalf of the local citizenry.
Another player wearing the black hat in the eye of many Myanmar watchers is Battalion 549, which has been displacing ethnic Karen in eastern Myanmar while engaging in logging, mining, agricultural endeavors and building hydroelectric dams, highways, industrial estates, railroads and much more. This can be seen in the broadest sense as a part of the "Greater Mekong Development Scheme" that will eventually link all of Southeast Asia together. Some of the displaced have been given very low compensation. Two hectares (a hectare equals 2.471 acres, and each acre is roughly the size of an American football field) of land might go for about US$ 450, according to the gorilla math of the leaders of Battalion 549. Many Karen wonder where they will go when their land is taken away from them. Some are forced to work as involuntary laborers. There are threats of bodily harm. Welcome to "The New Myanmar."
Their options in the past might have included running away to camps in Thailand, but in Thailand the international donors are already planning to wind down those camps and send the Karen and others back to Myanmar. (Toxic waste has poisoned some Burmese refugees in Thailand, leading to a public outcry.) Some have been in the camps for decades, and like the Hmong refugees allowed into Thailand only to be sent back to Laos in 2010, the Karen in Thailand are shy to return. The teens want a modern lifestyle complete with social media. Others are too old to go back and farm. And still yet, others hear that their grandparents' and great-grandparents' land has been sold to or taken outright by Battalion 549.
Some projects, the very biggest ones of all, might lead to the relocation of 25,000 people. There's barely time to address the smuggling of elephants from Myanmar across the river to Thailand, where they are given fake birth certificates. Without illegal elephants from Burma, Thailand's elephant population would probably be down to zero.
Additionally, the illegal animal trade in Mong La is globally notorious – so much so that the entire town has been closed off from foreigners. It rests on the border of China not far from the Golden Triangle. When the British Empire ended, who could have predicted such chaos?
Many of the top local companies are owned by Myanmar's military elites, who in turn employ militias or regular troops as muscle to back up their business ventures. While Mother Suu goes to Scandinavia – and the janitors at the college back in Yangon swept up the confetti after Mr. Obama's most recent speech – things have actually gotten worse for groups like the ethnic Karen.
Myanmar is as corrupt as Nigeria, North Korea, Somalia and Russia. If there are about 200 countries in the world, then Myanmar would have to be listed in the top five in terms of being the most corrupt, maybe even the top three. Myanmar also might be the world's top drug producer, causing untold hardship and horror for the parents and families around the world who must contend with methamphetamine and heroin-addicted loved ones.
Legal eagles should note Chapter 1, Article 37, of the Myanmar constitution basically states that the government owns all the land, the natural resources above and below the ground, as well as all of the water. Fallow land has been readily absorbed by Battalion 549. The narrative of American foreign policy on Myanmar is being spun to make it sound like a great success. But while Afghanistan and Iraq are tragic, epic failures even a child can grasp, Myanmar, because of the hype around the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, is terribly distorted.
The parallels between apartheid South Africa and Myanmar are sketchy at best. The Afrikaners and Zulus were well-trained if not war-like, and even the ANC contains various Christian-minded elements and moral members. Apartheid featured tribal areas and tribal peoples, but they were better cared for and eagerly embraced the dismantlement of apartheid in 1994. The new constitution of South Africa is considered an excellent legal document. But the rule of law from paper to practice is not always an easy transition. "The New Myanmar" still relies on oral traditions and handshakes amongst the ethnics on the border regions for land conveyance. And just as in the case of the rape and murder of the ethnic European farmers in the former Rhodesia and the New South Africa, the rights of minorities in Myanmar receive scant attention from national or global leaders. The new Constitutions and re-founding documents of Myanmar and South Africa have, in effect, failed their most vulnerable members of society. This is no accident.
Worst of all is the fact that certain mines in Myanmar run by the Burmese army and/or owned by Mainland China dig out gems and jade until nothing is left. Workers are given drugs like heroin, and they work only to get more drugs. When the mountain has given up its last precious stone, the workers are sent home – and they will do anything to get more drugs.
"How can all of this be?" readers might ask. For one thing, Myanmar has always used the ethnics for its own purposes. Sometimes they're seen as a "border force." Tensions in the border areas can cause a flood of refugees to run across into China. This can, in turn, cause problems for the Chinese military. The ability to cause problems for the Chinese military might well please the Pentagon, and the junta knows this. Thus the Myanmar army is free to wage war, imprison and even torture ethnics in the Kachin state without even a whimper of protest from the West.
America is desperate to woo Myanmar out of China's orbit. Look at a map of the world from Morocco to the Philippines and count how many allies the United States has. This is the realpolitik and the genesis of the "Mother Suu Myth," which trumps the "Mandela Myth."
Myanmar offers ports, access to a billion consumers in India, another billion in China, the ability to deny China one of its "String of Pearls" if it were to be so inclined, and a vast amount of uranium for Mother Russia to revamp the nuclear warheads on her submarines, bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Both Russia and China are the only two nations in the world that can wipe the United States off the face of the Earth in less than an hour. Myanmar also knows this.
Finally, there are two other cards Myanmar can play. First, denying uranium to Pyongyang, which has sent its special forces to train Myanmar's elite troops, built tunnels to hide Burma's best weapons and helped to streamline the operations to launder the drugs. Then there is the issue of the missing 730 U.S. airmen shot down during World War II while flying from northeast India to Western China over "The Hump," meaning the Himalayas. The U.S. has been negotiating with both India and Myanmar for rights to search for those MIAs.
The U.S. government has even run ads in various newspapers in Myanmar showing crashed World War II aircraft and posting a phone number (09-541-9569) where locals can call and share information, stories and coordinates. The World War II-MIA card will be played close to the vest by the ruling junta in the ensuing years, just has it has in the past. Last January, the Hawaii-based Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, or JPAC, sent a coordination team to Myanmar to pave the way for a visit by linguists and other experts seeking to recover some remains. JPAC diligently recovered the remains of seven MIA airmen back in 2003 and 2004 with the tacit approval of the Burmese junta, which already shows their willingness to cooperate, if not the painstaking pace of that needed cooperation.
Since the days of Solomon, gold has been an arbiter of wealth. In Myanmar, that's doubly true. Until Myanmar's economy becomes more normalized, ordinary citizens ranging from housewives to farmers or merchants will continue to buy and sell real, physical gold on Shwe Bontha Street, the center of Yangon's gold market since its heady days of British India. The everyday Burmese citizen does not trust the banking system. Decades of sanctions have left them poor, and inflation has run up to 20 percent in the first decade of the 21st century. Since George Bush Sr. was elected president in 1988, gold has gone up 30 times over against the Myanmar currency. A third of the nation lives below the poverty level. The deadly cyclone a few years ago only made things worse. The printing of fiat money has led to inflation.
And just as Mainland China has stated that America's printing of trillions of dollars out of thin air in the most recent episodes of quantitative easing counts as a "default," the Burmese people will continue to wear gold around their necks in protest of the mass printing of fiat money. Even the sight of special undercover police on Shwe Bontha Street cannot deter them. Myanmar has hope, but it still very much lacks trust. (Gold is also much sought after in China and India).
For now, Buddhist riots targeting Muslims – including burning them alive, stoning them to death and other actions – have shaken Yangon and the Meiktila area to the core. For his part, Mr. Eric Schmidt of Google fame also paid a visit to Myanmar, promising to partner with its Internet-hungry public. As such, the cost of SIM cards will probably be lowered to about US$ 3 from the current prices, which hover between US$ 200 and 300 per SIM card. It's a small step.
North Korea: In the mind of madness
China's other main Asian ally, besides Myanmar, is North Korea. And that relationship is in a state of flux. Hopes that Kim Jong-un would be the next F.W. De Klerk and seek to normalize his country were cut asunder Feb. 12, 2013, when North Korea exploded a six-megaton nuclear weapon. This was the nation's third such explosion following other scientific and military tests back in 2006 and again in 2009. The reason for this action, according to the North Korean state news service, was "to defend the country's security and sovereignty in the face of the ferocious hostile act." This "ferocious hostile act" was nothing more or less than the U.S. push for U.N. sanctions against the Hermit Kingdom. Getting the U.N. Security Council to go along with those sanctions, considering Mother Russia and Mainland China are two of North Korea's best friends, was no easy task.
North Korea's satellite launch on Dec. 12, 2012, also led to a tightening of sanctions – perhaps because the "satellite" is feared, rightly or wrongly, to be harbinger of a FOBS-type weapon that would set off an EMP burst over the continental 48 states. The U.S. called it, "a highly provocative act that threatens regional security." Kim Sung-hwan, South Korea's foreign minister, called it, "a threat to peace on the Korean Peninsula and around the world." China officially said it was "concerned."
In April of 2012, North Korea launched a rocket that blew up just after takeoff. But its latest launch went swimmingly well. The Unha-3 (Unha means "galaxy" in Korean), was a three-stage rocket. And a few of those stages splashed down in the Yellow Sea off the coast of the Philippines about 180 miles away. The satellite achieved orbit, according to the North American Aerospace Command. How's that for a starving, backwater nation?
North Korea's latest nuclear weapon is small and light. It probably used enriched uranium, and it will increase its stockpiles in comparison to using plutonium. It will also make sanctioning, controlling and eliminating North Korea's nuclear program almost impossible. The miniaturized warhead designs compromised at the New Mexico labs during the Bill Clinton years bring an eerie reminder of what is possible. According to the CIA World Fact Book, Koreans have the highest average IQ of any people on Earth. North Koreans are excellent soldiers, expert hackers and skilled tunnel builders. Apparently, they are capable of launching missiles, rockets and other objects into outer space, as well as detonating a nuclear weapon.
The idea that China could sit by and watch North Korea implode and flood China with refugees is not a popular one in Beijing. China fears a reunited, pro-U.S., nominally Christian, capitalist Korea on its front door. On the other hand, China has stated that nuclear war between the Koreas is "not the end of the world." China has more than a billion people. Korea rests in a neat little corner, tucked far away from the expanses of the mainland. China will survive the next Korean war untouched, just as she survived the last Korean War. In ancient times, invading hordes from the Chinese mainland conquered the Korean peninsula in only a few weeks. Even today, Korean school children study Chinese characters, carry some Chinese names and many advanced-aged teens and adults drink soju or Arak-ju – brought to Korea by the invaders, who in turn had "discovered" the drink in Persia.
This takes us back to Kim Jong-un. With China behind him, even in the most remote of ways, he will still feel emboldened. As the first secretary of the Revolutionary Worker's Party of North Korea, the youngest Kim must uphold appearances: but he lets them down by appearing in public with his first lady, ordering McDonald's, liberalizing the use of cell phones and even by crying in public at this father's funeral. Yet he's smart. His recent missile launch and nuclear detonation were well-timed so as to allow a reset of relations in both the U.S. and South Korea with regard to new regimes coming into power.
Lee Myung-bak is out in South Korea. Hillary Clinton is out in the U.S. They will take the "blame," in Kim's mind, for his recent rocket and the nuclear weapon. He feels he can start anew with Park Geun-hye in Seoul, as well and John Kerry and Chuck Hagel in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, the youngest Kim will also make South Korea and Japan nervous and perhaps willing to build nuclear weapons of their own. This would strain their relations with the U.S. In the broadest sense, he has given his people something to cheer about in terms of weapons of mass destruction.
Kim will wonder if China will see North Korea as having a legitimate right to rockets and nuclear weapons in the same way that Pakistan and Israel might have such rights. Kim sees China as the ultimate winner in the Pacific Pivot game. He sees the relative decline of U.S. power and for now will use the nuclear blackmail card as a way to avoid the fate of Saddam Hussein and the miscreants in Afghanistan. His weapons of mass destruction – chemical, nuclear and biological – are huge cards with potentially massive payoffs for Kim Jong-un.
The increased U.S. missile defense posture in Alaska over Kim's saber rattling must give him a great feeling of accomplishment. He has other rockets, cannons and ballistic missiles, and he has proven already that they are not merely for show. Recent American B-52 and B-2 flights over South Korea probably serve Kim as well, as they scare his people into thinking America might actually attack. Once again, the tail has wagged the dog. But the North Korean tail has been doing the wagging for decades. Consider that the variety of changes in the colors on American currency are due in large part to the North Koreans, who stole a U.S. Mint printing press and the formula for making American paper in Switzerland.
This is yet another ego massage for North Korea's rulers, who have laundered money through Gold Star Bank in Austria, dug for uranium in the Congo, sent special forces to help carry out the Matabele Massacre in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and even bombed the South Korean embassy in Myanmar.
One must not forget that most of what North Korea says and does is for internal consumption. Korean boys are pampered and favored over girls. They are prone to tantrums and "look at me," antics in both South Korea and North Korea. Martial law, prison camps, the execution of Christians, hatred of the God of the Bible and the Bible itself is linked to the total Korean cognitive profile. Baby Kim is a delusional megalomaniac, raised in Switzerland, estranged from his father, addicted to Jean-Claude Van Damme films and unable to function in the real world by showing love, kindness, courage, empathy, self-sacrifice and delayed gratification.
In essence, he is a typical man for our times: self-involved, filled with bluster, cruel, mean-spirited and a borderline – if not outright – sociopath. Legions continue to work and die in North Korean gulags because of his moral and mental sickness. These facts should be at the very top of any analysis of the "man" Jong-un as carried out by CIA and/or State Department. North Koreans are starving, and some are forced to eat their own babies and children. Some eat bark, roots and berries and are thankful to have even that much. Grand schemes to have gas and oil pipelines, along with railways running through North Korea to link Seoul with all of Eurasia as far away as Siberia and France, have no meaning to those barely trying to survive day by day.
The dictator of North Korea already has his own club. He has no need for the West's clubhouse. Such facts are a priori. Indeed, the North Korean persecution of Christians is horrific and pales by a factor of 100 million what American Christians face from their fellow Christ-haters on U.S. soil. American Evangelical Christians are often seen as a nuisance, or perhaps members of a southern regional party, or even "End Times" obsessives. But that's not the case in North Korea. For example, author Melanie Kirkpatrick, writing in her book, "Escape from North Korea," recounts a tale that, "Five secret Christians were bound, laid on a highway and run over by a steamroller."
Those fleeing North Korea often turn to Western and Korean Christians in Mainland China for help – the very same Christians they were taught to hate and fear since the day they were born by the regime in Pyongyang. Escape is not that different from the Underground Railroad in the U.S., which ran in part through St. Louis, Mo., and Alton, Ill. The "Sunshine Policy" between North and South Korea did not improve the lot of North Korean Christians. Carrots and sticks don't seem to help. Nothing seems to help. But perhaps this persecution is a rite of passage for Christians, who according to the Gospel are "aliens in this world." Escaping from North Korea and crossing the Tumen River may only be the beginning for those facing persecution, as the psychological assault on Christians in the Western world in the 21st century rivals the 1st century assault of the lions in Ancient Rome.
Yet it is here that Kim Jong-un shows his true colors. He's was promoted to "general" by his late father, but not appointed to the National Defense Commission, which holds the true power in the military. North Koreans only saw his face for the first time in a photograph published on Sept. 30, 2010. Yet he has reviewed weeping female paratroopers at gala, national military parades. Mentoring from Ri Yong Ho has been a part of protecting him. A senior member of China's politburo, Zhou Yongkang, came to Pyongyang to meet Kim Jong-un on Oct. 10, 2010, in a show of solidarity.
His father, the late Kim Jong-il, ordered the Nov. 23, 2010, shelling of Yeongpyeon, the South Korean island near the "Northern Limit Line," which left two dead Marines, two dead civilians and 18 injured. Kim Jong-il's torpedoing of the Cheonan killed 46 sailors. Were they the father's departing messages or merely the son's opening acts? These days, Obama's "strategic patience" should inculcate the fact that Kim Jong-un understands what happened to Libya's dictator after he gave up his nuclear program. One may only guess what his father's departing advice was, or that of Kim Jong-un's other mentors, namely Jang Sung Taek of the National Defense Commission, Kim Yong Chol, leader of the Reconnaissance General Bureau or, most important of all, Ri Su Yong, his mentor while a school boy in Europe. Ri Su Yong is the former North Korean ambassador to Switzerland.
So considering all of these things, it should come as no surprise that Kim Jong-un actively hunts down Christians and other defectors fleeing the regime. It's true that many defect for a better life in South Korea, choosing to run away about 6,000 miles to Thailand in a quest for freedom. Some North Koreans have admitted to leaving merely to buy and wear South Korean-designed fashions, or because they fell in love with the lifestyle of South Korean soap opera stars. (Such people are equally delusional, sophomoric, materialistic, craven and shallow as Kim Jong-un.)
Kim will watch Western DVDs himself but try to confiscate them at North Korea's borders. He will also watch out for South Korea church groups seeking to help Northerners. They are his true enemies, just as Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania created an army of Christian enemies who, in the end, hunted him down without mercy. The 200,000 North Koreans languishing in kwan-il-so slave labor camps, as documented by Google Earth, are within themselves a powerful fighting force: morally, spiritually and physically. It is they who good men and women all over the world have begun to rally around. Camp 22 is one of the most brutal gulags.
For those who doubt China's commitment to North Korea, the recent crackdown on North Koreans fleeing the Hermit Kingdom was carried out in concert between Chinese and North Korean authorities. After all, China is the same nation that went to war with Vietnam in 1979 in support of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. In 1998, only 71 North Koreans escaped. By 2009, about 2,917 escaped to freedom in South Korea. Yet in 2012, only 1,509 made it out of the North safely to the South. Why is this number trending downward? Various media reports offer answers.
Kim has added more checkpoints, changed the surveillance patterns of border forces, watched over families of defectors and ordered them relocated, jammed Chinese cell phone communications (there are more than 200,000 cell phone subscribers inside North Korea, who are usually only permitted to make calls inside the nation) and thus raised the price of getting defectors from North Korea, through China and into Thailand by a large margin. More bribes are to be paid. North Korean border guards want cash, presents like CD players, the "greatest hits" of Korean singers from the 1970s and 1980s, and even rubber gloves for the dish-pan hands of their wives.
All of this had led to a lovely problem for the North Korean army. The "worse" things get in terms of defectors and their defections, the more highly desirable a border guard post becomes. These guards "serve the nation" at the same time as they enrich themselves with bribes from defectors. The guards protect themselves by getting cash and gifts for their superiors as well. As an aside, some defecting women merely cross over to China where they marry Chinese farmers, who in turn lack brides because of China's gendercide against females and one-child policy.
As for the one-child policy, China's new regime is now addressing the pitfalls of that paradigm. Every year from 2013 until 2025, China will lose 10 million workers from the workforce. By 2030, China will need to support 360 million retirees. Since Ronald Reagan finished his second term, China, through abortion, gendercide and other means, has prevented 400 million babies from being born. As such, population development strategies have now, under the new president, Mr. Jinping, been relocated from the National Population Family Planning Commission to China's top strategic-economic planning organ: the National Development and Reform Commission. China's population regimen will be micromanaged to meet the economic needs of the nation. In all of postmodern human history, has any new leader accomplished more in less time that Mr. Jinping?
Moreover, and in a page out of "The X-Files," China has scoured the world to collect DNA from the 2,000 most intelligent people on Earth, and has been busy trying to set up a genetics program aimed at raising the IQ of China's future babies each by 15 points. Obese, Taco Bell-eating, video-game addicted U.S. teens beware.
Following, summarizing, documenting, studying and interpreting the news and events in Asia, including those involving China, Myanmar and North Korea, requires vigilance and continual effort. The situation is fluid and constantly changing, while Americans concentrate on their lost wars, the collapse of Wall Street, problems with BP in the Gulf of Mexico, the misdoings of the Secret Service, "American Idol" and the latest missteps of Hollywood "celebrities." China, North Korea and Myanmar demand America's attention – today, right now. Can Americans focus?
Considering all of these factors, one can only wonder when the ghosts of Zheng He will rise up and fully reclaim their place in this world. As Napoleon remarked, "Let China sleep, for when she awakes, let the nations tremble."
With 100 million without a job, 50 million functional illiterates, almost 50 million on food stamps, more than 10 million illegal aliens, more than 50 million abortions, $16 trillion in unpayable debt, open borders, gangs, legal and illegal drugs, divorce, pornography and other problems, can America find the national strength to survive, let alone stand up to China?
In the meantime, how should Americans view Xi Jinping and China in the broadest strategic terms? What is the extent of China's nuclear and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile potential? Is it "hiding" its nuclear weapons in deep underground tunnels and in the midst of non-nuclear ballistic missiles? How many American "experts" are actually assigned to study China's nuclear weapons programs? What about Wen Ho Lee, espionage, computer hacking, LORAL and China's new stealth bombers and aircraft carriers, as well as submarines? What about its claims on disputed waters around Asia?
Can peace be brokered between China and Japan? What about China's public statement that America defaulted during the most recent round of "quantitative easing." How many Chinese nationals work for NASA? Why did Australia and China work so hard to broker a deal in which they wish to use only one another's currency for bilateral trade?
There are other Tarot card holders and players, too. For Myanmar, there's the leverage it holds in its bilateral military alliance with North Korea, its supply of uranium to Mother Russia and the fact that many downed World War II American pilots are still missing in action on its soil – those who flew from India to China over "The Hump" of the Himalayas but never quite made it.
How should America view "The New Myanmar?" From junk food to gems, Aung San Suu Kyi is seen as getting soft on the Burmese military. Has Myanmar co-opted her simply by freeing her? Will Myanmar eventually have a foreign-owned central bank and adopt Western norms?
Another key player is North Korea's boy-dictator Kim Jong-un. Questions abound about this young man's agenda: Can North Korea cripple South Korea with cyber-attacks? In the 1990s, a top North Korean hacker, "Kuji," entered a back door through the Griffiss Air Force Base in upstate New York and was able to steal several launch codes for U.S. nuclear missiles. How far has North Korea come since then?
Can North Korea launch a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System, or FOBS, weapon into orbit and explode an EMP device over Wichita, Kan., sending the United States back to 1812 in a matter of seconds? How seriously should we take North Korea's war threats against the United States and Seoul?
Hoping to trump them all is the United States of America. Can America deploy next-generation fighters like the F-22 and F-35 after spending hundreds of billions of dollars on them? Will America's "Pacific Pivot" after the disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan yield fruit in terms of trade and prosperity for the U.S. and her allies? Or does America not have the collective seriousness, cultural ruggedness, financial, technological, engineering and political wealth to remain on top? Will America's new-found energy wealth (oil fields of the Dakotas and California) help meet the needs of Asia's – and the world's – emerging 3 billion middle-class consumers by 2030?
Or is America in terminal decline? For those who believe America's decline is irreversible, consider the effects of abortion in Russia. Under Soviet communism the average Russian woman had 13 abortions and its population went from 250 million to 150 million in short order. Gendercide and forced abortion, as well as the one-child policy in China, have made for demographic time bombs in those nations. There are other factors in America's favor. China and Russia are not particularly attractive nations for expatriates. Super rich non-Americans from Pakistan, the U.K., Australia or Japan wishing to move overseas might well choose to take their wealth, smarts and kids to the U.S. (especially California), rather than to Russia or China.
If America is "an idea" and not a "place" with a universal language, culture and religion, then even the remaining watered-down "idea" of the nation may be superior to that of America's strategic competitors and enemies. However, America's "teen and youth culture" might lead one to suspect that teenagers in Iran, North Korea, Russia, China and South Korea are more rugged, less drugged and less "sexed up" than those in America. One can only wonder what the future direction of the world will be in this regard. Which nations will produce responsible adults, strong, educated, capable of critical thinking, super scientists, super soldiers, patriotic, lovers of what is good and haters of what is evil, respectful of life and respectful of parents?
Or will another key element emerge – perhaps another Tarot card that even the sharpest futurists have not considered? That being the British army's 2035 A.D. projection that the emerging global middle class from many nations, cultures and religions will grow increasingly sick and tired of their self-serving elites and lead a global revolution against those entrenched elites as depicted in the infamous film "V For Vendetta?"
The report states:
"The middle classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged for the proletariat by Marx," says the report. The thesis is based on a growing gap between the middle classes and the super-rich on one hand and an urban under-class threatening social order: "The world's middle classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest."
If the British army report is correct, when the middle classes of China, India and the rest of Asia emerge and find a unified direction, oppose pollution and their overall marginalization, then the real trembling will begin. The direction of that vast group of humanity may determine the future of mankind. Ultimately the greatest question revolves around the connecting points of America and the West's eerie similarities to North Korea. Our political leaders and cultural elites are above criticism. They don't like to be questioned, let alone challenged. Few, if any, sports and movie stars will dare to speak out about BP and the Gulf of Mexico, abortion, fetal tissue research, divorce, drugs, Wall Street bailouts, Iraq, Afghanistan and other societal ills, as critics are ruthlessly cowed into submission.
Perhaps the uncomfortable truth is that aspects of the North Korean ethos can also be found in our own society. Yet for now, the ghost of Zheng He is just a ghost, and we should remind ourselves it's far more rational to fear the living instead of the dead. Certainly the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
Those interested in following the movement to bring North Korea's leaders to justice before an officially sanctioned United Nations inquiry should visit the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea. Jared Genser, managing director of Perseus Strategies, and Kristen Abrams, program manager of New Perimeter serve as pro bono counsel to the ICNK. Those wishing to make a donation to the ICNK can do so through its homepage. Click on the "Donation" tab.
Anthony C. LoBaido has published 448 articles for WND from 47 nations around the world. He also published "The Kurds of Asia" with Times-Lerner Ltd. of Singapore. Anthony has worked as a trainer with the South Korean armed forces and as a reporter with e-FM in Seoul. Since 1995, Anthony has studied the Korean language while making more than 20 trips to the Korean Peninsula.