Using Vaccines To Subvert Pyongyang

26 Jan

nk famine victimsI respect those who place human rights above all other considerations in North Korea. The intractable situation on the Korean peninsula is frustrating for reasonable people to accept.

This week, and really for the past few weeks, has seen any illusion of diplomatic or domestic opening stripped naked. On human rights, abundant imagery and other documents exist, to verify the existence of abominable activities, that undermine the rhetoric of  Pyongyang’s “skeptical” supporters. Curtis Melvin believes he has located a new prison camp in Kaechon county. Meanwhile, in structures of another sort, NK watchers believe they have found the site at Punggye-ri of the imminent third nuclear test of which Pyongyang has warned. Finally, almost as a comic coda to a busy week, Pyongyang threatened to nuke itself.

In response, the United Nations passed UNSCR 2087.

On Thursday, the US placed economic sanctions on two North Korean bank officials and a Hong Kong trading company that it accused of supporting Pyongyang’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The company, Leader (Hong Kong) International Trading, was blacklisted by the United Nations on Wednesday.

Seoul has said it will look at whether there are any further sanctions it can implement alongside the US, but said the focus for now is to follow security council resolutions.

The resolution said the council “deplores the violations” by North Korea of its previous resolutions, which banned Pyongyang from conducting further ballistic missile and nuclear tests and from importing materials and technology for those programmes. It does not impose new sanctions on Pyongyang.

The US had wanted to punish North Korea for the rocket launch with a security council resolution that imposed new sanctions against Pyongyang, but China rejected that option. Beijing agreed to UN sanctions against Pyongyang after North Korea’s 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.

Yet, the most desperate form of North Korean-inspired desperation is this – again, very insightful, very commendable – suggestion for “vaccine diplomacy” (via UN Dispatch).

Here’s where vaccine diplomacy can play a key role. For example, the Korea Assn. for Health Promotion, in collaboration with the South Korean government, could implement a program to control neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, throughout the North. And it wouldn’t be expensive. Providing pills once a year could treat and protect against these diseases for about 50 cents per person. Most such treatments in other nations are donated by pharmaceutical companies, and many programs use existing infrastructure, such as schools and community centers, to administer the treatments, making NTD control and elimination one of the most cost-effective public health initiatives available.

In a few instances, neither the South nor the North has been successful on its own in controlling particular NTDs. A good example is the food-borne trematode infection known as clonorchiasis, which leads to bile-duct cancer. The infection remains highly endemic in both countries, affording a unique opportunity for joint control efforts.

Finally, there is the opportunity of true scientific alliances between nations. There is an urgent need not only in Korea but also in much of Asia for new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines to combat NTDs. During the 1990s the South Korean government collaborated with the United Nations to establish the International Vaccine Institute to develop new vaccines for Asia and the rest of the world. Alliances to share research and development as well as advocacy are underway, such as a new strategic one between the International Vaccine Institute and the Sabin Vaccine Institute.

North Korean scientists also could become partners in biomedical research. For example, in 2009 an advanced tuberculosis laboratory was established in the North to tackle its epidemic, and this activity could be greatly expanded. Further, South Korea hosts five of the top 150 universities worldwide, so these institutions could be encouraged to work with the North.

With adequate political will and support, this could become a breakout year for science and vaccine diplomacy to reduce the disease burden on the Korean peninsula and promote an unprecedented level of scientific collaboration.

I don’t want to ridicule such well-meaning and prudent recommendations. But, people who put human rights above politics are only admitting by their frustration how desperate we all are to change human nature. UNSCR 2087 is as good as the global human community can do, and we should take what little solace from this meager offering we can. It reflects international consensus. It behooves us to understand why any country would still support such a detestable state.

From the Chinese view, for China to firmly support North Korea is a small cost big benefit activity and accords with China’s fundamental interests because of North Korea’s importance to China’s security.   So China firmly supporting North Korea is a small cost, big benefit.   If the U.S. were to attack China, North Korea is bravely in front of us so that China can have a stable environment for China to concentrate on economic development.

The amount China gives North Korea in economic and military support is far less than the cost and loss of a direct U.S. attack.  If North Korea could not stand up for themselves and China sent troops to support North Korea, the cost of war is far less than the loss of China’s territory. If China were to lose North Korea, the amount of defense spending China would have to pay is much more.  And if war were to break out in China, the cost would be incalculable.  There is no difference between abandoning North Korea and resisting attacks from the U.S.

Xi Jinping doesn’t want to be Neville Chamberlain, does he? Quite a galvanizing juxtaposition.

Historical experience teaches us that to ease tension temporarily or to abandon North Korea is to implement a policy of appeasement, to abandon North Korea.  China will face a very dangerous situation like the one during World War II, in the face of an aggressive invasion of Germany, Britain, France and other countries to implement a “policy of appeasement”.   The British wanted to temporarily seek security, sit back and watch German troops enter into the demilitarized zone of the Rhine and watched Sudetenland being given to Germany.

When Germany attacked Poland, Poland’s allies, the British and French engaged in a  strange “sitzkrieg” (phony war ) [静坐战] which allowed Germany to go across the European land of inaction.  France was quickly subjugated and British situation was passive almost to the point of the death of the country. Britain and France wanted to avoid war losses, and tried to adopt a “low profile” [韬光养晦]with the result of suffering even greater losses.

After World War II, Britain and France became second-rate powers after being destroyed in the war.  After the attack at Pearl Harbor by the conniving of the fascist states, the U.S. suffered a great loss.  But the U.S. drew a lesson from the attack and supported the anti-Fascist war with strong assistance from the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China and others.

The U.S. assisted those countries, so that those countries could resist the fascist attack, and in so doing avoided being burned by war on the U.S. Because the U.S. was spared from a destructive war, the U.S. became the world’s number one power. After the war, the U.S. provided economic assistance to Europe and other allies so that these countries could stand up and resist Soviet Union expansion.  Finally, after the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States became the world’s only superpower.[4]

The U.S. ability to become the world’s only superpower and U.S. foreign aid are inseparable.  The U.S. (use of) foreign aid, prevented war from destroying the U.S. and also strengthened the control of every country in the world. U.S. assistance to the world not only did not cause the U.S. to lose money, but even earned not a little [美国不仅没有赔,而且赚了不少].

The current situation on the Korean Peninsula and pre-World War II situation have many similarities. The relationship between North Korea to the safety of the Chinese nation can in no way be questioned.  Protecting North Korea’s security is protecting China’s security.  Those “elite experts” calling to abandon North Korea should understand North Korea’s significance to China; the purpose of their call is all too clear. Didn’t China learn during World War II that the British and French policy of “appeasement” led to a diametrically opposed struggle? China once again stands at a crossroads that will determine its fate.

And then, there’s South Korea and Japan, at least, to consider. What is morally preeminent – human rights, or the lives of billions? I honestly cannot answer that glibly. One thing is certain, though: when states or people want consensus, they will seek it. Right now, on the Korean peninsula no one wants a solution.

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