Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

North Korea already won

By Frida Ghitis, Special to CNN
updated 5:33 AM EDT, Mon April 15, 2013
In an undated photo released on November 28, North Korea leader Kim Jong Un is seen on a field trip to see the airwomen of the KPA Air and Anti-Air Force. North Korean Newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported Kim "guided a flight drill of pursuit airwomen of the KPA Air and Anti-Air Force. He went out to an airport's runway to learn about the plan for solo take-off and landing drill by women pilots of pursuit planes and guide their flight." In an undated photo released on November 28, North Korea leader Kim Jong Un is seen on a field trip to see the airwomen of the KPA Air and Anti-Air Force. North Korean Newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported Kim "guided a flight drill of pursuit airwomen of the KPA Air and Anti-Air Force. He went out to an airport's runway to learn about the plan for solo take-off and landing drill by women pilots of pursuit planes and guide their flight."
HIDE CAPTION
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Frida Ghitis: North Korean weapons programs have spread to the Middle East
  • Ghitis: North Korea's messages encourage tyrants to seek nuclear weapons
  • She says with nuclear arsenal, powerful countries are afraid to make a regime angry
  • Ghitis: This standoff is not over, but Pyongyang has already won

Editor's note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer and correspondent, she is the author of "The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television." Follow her on Twitter: @FridaGColumns.

(CNN) -- World leaders are moving carefully and anxiously, trying to prevent a disaster in the Korean Peninsula. This increasingly unpredictable round of saber-rattling is far from over, but so far the winner is the North Korean regime and the losers are the brutally oppressed North Korean people, joined by much of the rest of the world.

While we watch the drama from far away, it's worth noting just how far North Korean weapons programs -- not just the weapons themselves -- can reach.

U.S. intelligence officials differ on their estimates of the range and accuracy of North Korean missiles, nuclear-tipped or not. But the country's nuclear and missile technology has already found its way to the Middle East.

North Korea helped Syria develop a nuclear reactor. It has sold missile technology and weapons to anyone willing to pay, and it has developed close cooperation with Iran.

Frida Ghitis
Frida Ghitis

If the crisis ended right now -- with every piece of military hardware back to where it stood a few months ago and everyone taking a vow of silence on the matter so that we get no more threats and no more demands -- the confrontation would have already sent clear and damaging messages across the globe, encouraging tyrants and regimes seeking or considering the idea of developing nuclear weapons.

Opinion: North Korea endgame - 3 scenarios

North Korea's message seems to be: If you have nuclear capabilities, it doesn't matter how outrageously you behave; it doesn't matter how horribly you mistreat your people; it doesn't matter how flimsy your economy is.

When you have a nuclear arsenal, countries that could topple your regime with a tiny fraction of their power suddenly become afraid of making you angry.

This is a pernicious reality with tragic and hazardous consequences.

Nuclear development makes it easier for the totalitarian regime to condemn the North Korean people to grinding poverty and imprisonment in nightmarish gulags. Several generations of the same family can live and die in captivity.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



While the North Korean people go hungry, the regime diverts scarce resources to its nuclear and missile programs while its top leader, the youthful Kim Jong Un, adds insult to injury with his visibly expanding girth.

As the latest crisis unfolded and as North Korea threatened a "preemptive nuclear attack" on the United States, a "final destruction" of South Korea, and a "nuclear attack" on Tokyo, world powers held a new round of talks with the Iranian regime over its nuclear program. Coincidence or not, the talks with Iran produced nothing, not even the customary agreement to hold more talks.

Iran, one can only imagine, must be paying close attention to the dance macabre between Pyongyang and the rest of the world. North Korea, whose entire economy is worth about $40 billion -- less than a small-sized American city and a tiny fraction of prosperous South Korea and its trillion-dollar economy -- has ordered the whole world to attention.

Kerry wants real talks on North Korea
North Koreans brainwashed by government
Is North Korea bluffing?

Experts are scratching their heads, trying to figure out what exactly Kim Jong Un wants and how far he will go. There's general consensus that he wants, like all dictators, to strengthen his hold on power and to secure the support of the military.

But he is accomplishing more than that. North Korea is giving its crucial weapons industry a huge boost of publicity. Every headline is a Super Bowl-size ad for the country's destructive wares.

Opinion: Why I fled North Korea

Current and future clients may have noticed that its arsenal has allowed North Korea to get away with creating these crises, which fortify the regime and sometimes even bring generous international aid. Without its dangerous arsenal, it's unlikely Pyongyang would have gotten away with the 2010 shelling of Yeonpyeong island, when it killed two South Korean marines and three civilians, sent the population fleeing in panic and set homes and forests on fire.

Despite South Korea's vow of "enormous retaliation," the regime is still in place.

Not only is it still standing, it is spreading its deadly know-how.

North Korea has long been one of the world's top proliferators of missiles and other weapons systems. U.S. officials say Iran recently received North Korean missiles capable of reaching Western European capitals. Last September, Tehran and Pyongyang signed a scientific cooperation agreement, which experts say is almost identical to the one North Korea signed with Syria a decade ago.

That agreement with Damascus brought North Korean technicians to help the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad build a nuclear reactor that Israeli warplanes destroyed in 2007. And the North, incidentally, is still sending weapons to Damascus.

Back home, when North Korea carried out its third nuclear test earlier this year, news reports in the region said Iranian scientists were there to observe.

This standoff is not over, but Pyongyang has already won. From the moment the North obtained nuclear weapons, however rudimentary, the game changed. From that moment, the chances that the North Korean people will rejoin the world and have a chance at a better life diminished greatly. From that moment, the South and the West's room to maneuver became much more limited.

The challenge now is to prevent a greater disaster, while keeping the regime from scoring an even greater victory, as it has in the past, by walking away from this confrontation with new rewards.

Beyond that, the world must seek a creative way to help free the North Korean people, while bearing in mind the disastrous consequences of allowing dangerous regimes to obtain nuclear weapons.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Frida Ghitis.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:08 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
The NFL's new Player Conduct Policy was a missed chance to get serious about domestic violence, says Mel Robbins.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
updated 11:00 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
updated 4:54 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
updated 5:23 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
updated 1:39 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
updated 3:20 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
updated 9:56 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
updated 4:01 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
updated 9:53 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
updated 5:53 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
updated 10:50 AM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
updated 4:23 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
updated 9:26 AM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
updated 9:39 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
updated 12:38 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
updated 1:28 PM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
updated 6:10 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
updated 5:33 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
updated 12:40 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Newt Gingrich says the CBO didn't provide an accurate picture of Obamacare's impact, so why rehire its boss?
updated 7:40 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Russian aggression has made it clear Ukraine must rethink its security plans, says Olexander Motsyk, Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S.
updated 7:46 PM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
The Senate committee report on torture has highlighted partisan divisions on CIA methods, says Will Marshall. Republicans and Democrats are to blame.
updated 1:33 PM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
It would be dishonest to say that 2014 has been a good year for women. But that hasn't stopped some standing out, says Frida Ghitis.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT