North Korea’s dogged pursuance of its nuclear policy, suppression and oppression of its own populace, and its antagonism to the US, Western nations and democracies at large have led to the country being deemed a Rogue State.
Before we attempt to understand in depth why North Korea is a ‘Rogue State’ let us get down to the definition of a Rogue Nation or a Rogue State. Now here is the challenge – there is no strict definition for such a classification. The term rogue state evolved in the post-Cold War era, with the US using the term for nations that might challenge the peace, security, and interests of the US and its allies.
The generally accepted criteria for a rogue state is that it –
- Pursues weapons of mass destruction
- Sponsors or supports terrorist activities
- Abuses its own populace (citizens)
- Is antagonistic or critical of the US and its allies and of democratic nations in general
North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Libya were considered the major rogue states (prior to 9/11). Taking a contemporary look at North Korea from this perspective, we see that the country continues to fit the ‘Rogue State’ epithet quite well.
In 2003, North Korea withdrew from the NTP. The country reportedly pursues a nuclear program that has alarmed the international community. It declared its own nuclear capabilities in 2003 and despite international sanctions and many negotiations, has often threatened to nuke the US and other rival nations. In 2015, North Korea claimed to have developed the dreaded Hydrogen bomb and earlier this year threatened to test fire an intercontinental ballistic missile. The exact nuclear strength of the country remains unknown but is a source of constant worry.
Till 2008, North Korea featured on the US list of nations that support terrorism and terrorist activities. Despite being taken off the list, countries such as South Korea claim that the nation still maintains active terrorist links.
North Korea is a totalitarian dictatorship. The administration indulges in a large-scale and systemic propaganda of erstwhile Supreme Commander Kim II Sung and his heirs. Any criticism or dissent could attract incarceration and even the death penalty. The citizens are denied basic civil rights including the right to congregate, travel and interact freely with the rest of the world, and even to air their own political and religious views. Media, literature, and art are heavily censored in the country.
Despite repeated friendly advances, North Korea harbors antagonistic views against its neighbors – China, Russia, South Korea – and the US, and American allies. In 2013, the country’s Defense Commission declared the United States, “the sworn enemy of the Korean people”. The administration’s propaganda too often depicts the US and European nations as enemies ready to attack the country at any time. It is not difficult to understand why North Korea is often referred to as a Rogue State, given the state of affairs.