Archive for February 13th, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

German Press Review: Kim’s Sugarcubes, and the “Battle of Opinion”

The actions of the North Korean regime are not incalculable, writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung‘s (Munich) Reymer Klüver, the paper’s U.S. correspondent until summer last year, and now with the foreign-politics department at Süddeutsche Zeitung. The Kim clan’s provocations were actually quite calculable in its provocations which served only one goal: to show the world and its own people its power. The regime in North Korea doesn’t act incalculably. It acts irresponsibly.

The message is aimed at the Obama administration, believes Klüver, as the test was conducted on the day when the American president delivered the agenda for his second term in office, and at South Korean president-elect Park Geun Hye is about to take office. The reactions, too, were calculable: the US would demand stronger sanctions, China would agree after some hesitation, and basically, the response wouldn’t be different from the one to the previous nuclear test. Even if a bomb of the same explosive power as the previous one was indeed smaller than before, and therefore more suitable to be fitted to a nuclear missile, North Korea remained far from being a threat to America.

What makes the test dangerous all the same would be that Kim might gamble away, and that his provocations could spin out of control. A conflict on the South Korean border could lead to just that kind of scenario. Even worse, non-proliferation might be used to earn some badly needed foreign exchange. There was speculation about North Korean cooperation with Iran on its third test. What would keep a gambler like the dictator in Pyongyang to sell Iran or others his knowledge and even material?

China could influence North Korea, if it wanted to, writes Klüver, but it didn’t want to use it. 90 percent of North Korea’s oil imports depended on China. But China’s calculations could be shifting, Klüver adds: a Peking government paper had mentioned a “high price” that North Korea would have to pay in case of a nuclear test. The Chinese, Klüver recaps, needed to take responsibility for their irresponsible neighbor.

Der Spiegel (Hamburg) chooses the tabloid approach, as far as its choice  of stock photo material is concerned. Underneath a video link photo (from Reuters) that shows Kim Jong-un in flames, the headline is North Korean nuclear power messes with America (Atommacht Nordkorea legt sich mit Amerika an). Der Spiegel’s Andreas Lorenz points out that this could start an arms race, with the US, Japan and North Korea beefing up their missile defense. Xi Jinping acted hardly differently from his predecessor Hu Jintao, Lorenz notes, as he criticizes Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear tests, but also trying to soften international sanctions. North Korea is an important supplier of commodities to China. And the encapsulated country serves China’s military as a strategic buffer zone between China and the other East Asian states and the US.

Lorenz also quotes the English-language party mouthpiece “Global Times” as suggesting that there was no need for China to placate angry feelings about its role. And Lorenz quotes US expert Siegfried Hecker with concerns that North Korea could sell its atomic-bomb know-how, to Iran, for example.

Die Welt (Berlin) suggests that Kim had thrown the Chinese sugar cubes (i. e. sweetened the third test).

Namely, the third test was preceded by several sessions of North Korean security panels on which Kim ostensibly emphasized the leadership role of his Communist Party. For the first time in the regime’s history, these sessions were made public, writes die Welt’s Torsten Krauel. Kim thus signaled that the third test was controled by the civilian leadership and not, as it had been previously, as an – intransparent to the outside world – decision between an ailing dictator and an incalculable army. (Dem dritten Test gingen nämlich mehrere Sitzungen nordkoreanischer Sicherheitsgremien voraus, auf denen Kim demonstrativ die Führungsrolle seiner Kommunistischen Partei hervorhob. Diese Sitzungen wurden erstmals in der Geschichte des Regimes publik gemacht. Kim Jong-un signalisierte damit, dass der dritte Atomtest unter der Steuerung und Kontrolle der zivilen Führung stattfand und nicht, wie beide Male zuvor, in einer nach außen unklaren Entscheidung zwischen einem kränklichen Diktator und einer unberechenbaren Armee.)

Therefore, Xi Jinping and (theoretically) Barack Obama, too, now had a a definite contact person, believes Krauel.

Alleged North-Korean cooperation with Iran has long been a leitmotif in Die Welt’s coverage, but while more moderate papers like Süddeutsche Zeitung are discussing these allegations too, this week, Die Welt goes one step further and discusses how America could conduct a war on North Korea. However, Krauel concludes that different from Iraq during the years after the Kuwait war, the United Nations weren’t in a state of war with North Korea.

Therefore, it seems to be inevitable to talk with each other in East Asia again, even with a dictator like Kim Jong-un – as unpromising and depressing this prospect may currently look. (Wahrscheinlich führt deshalb tatsächlich kein Weg daran vorbei, in Ostasien wieder miteinander zu reden, sogar mit einem Diktator wie Kim Jong-un – so aussichtslos und bedrückend diese Aussicht derzeit auch erscheinen mag.)

The German mainstream press in general has become much more supportive of militarization of politics than in the past. That is my rough observation, and not backed by statistics. But apparently for the first time, research has been published about how leading German press people – mentioned by name – are interlinked with think tanks, national and international forums, foundations, policy planning groups, etc.. And a presentation of this research also clearly quotes leading press commentators with statements like

Politics must not shun the battle of opinion on the home front if they are convinced of what they purport. [...] The battle for the “hearts and minds” must be conducted among at home, too. (Der Meinungskampf an der Heimatfront darf die Politik nicht scheuen, wenn sie von dem überzeugt ist, was sie vorgibt. [...] Der Kampf um die “hearts and minds” muss auch bei uns geführt werden.)

A newsman’s words, to be clear.

This should not lead to overreaching conclusions. The research does not suggest that everyone is in the boat of an extended security concept (erweiterter Sicherheitsbegriff, including energy and financial-industry issues). But among four leading journalists of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Zeit and Die Welt, definitions of security and threat catalogs had been uncritically adopted (unkritisch übernommen).

There are papers with editorial managers not known for relevant networks – the left leaning Tageszeitung (taz) and Frankfurter Rundschau (FR). Some of their articles correspond with views among the elite, some sharply criticize the extended security concept, according to the report.

Here is another observation that disturbs me: My choice of press-review sources – Süddeutsche Zeitung, Spiegel, Die Welt further above in this blogpost was spontaneous. My information sources of choice when it comes to North Korea’s nuclear test were just these papers. No taz, no Frankfurter Rundschau. However, there’s an excuse:

I thought the Rundschau was no longer online, as they filed for bankruptcy on November 12, 2012.

But in fact, they are still here.

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Related

» Questions Raised, November 10, 2012

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Whale Watching: Foarp is Back

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Winter keeps coming and going here – it’s by no means as cold and lasting as the two previous cold seasons, but whenever you start believing that the roads are safe now, there’s another instalment.

Intermittent showers

Intermittent showers

Still better than freezing rain, though. And the view is beautiful.

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Talking about beautiful views, and before this dear reader starts complaining about a missing picture, here’s another beautiful view:

It don't matter if you're black or white

It don’t matter if you’re black or white

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And there’s some whale watching been going on on the Pacific.

pingping_rules_da_waves

Just wondering if anything like that one was among them.

And Foarp is back with a new post, after four months of silence. I had almost stopped following his blog.

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