Com­mies, col­lab­o­ra­tors main­tain the friend­ship

Kim Yong-un’s rogue state has an eclec­tic bunch of sup­port­ers

The Australian - - INQUIRER - ROWAN CALLICK

North Korea is of­ten por­trayed as friend­less. Nat­u­rally, those who are not brought up from birth to adore the hered­i­tary com­mu­nist rul­ing Kim fam­ily find it dif­fi­cult to ad­mire the regime as North Kore­ans are pro­grammed to do.

But the coun­try re­tains a sur­pris­ing num­ber of sup­port­ers. They come from three chief camps.

Firstly, other regimes, in­clud­ing a num­ber in Africa, which have his­tor­i­cally ben­e­fited, of­ten ex­is­ten­tially, from North Korean mil­i­tary sup­port — in train­ing, in sup­ply­ing weapons, and in di­rect de­ploy­ment of troops.

Se­condly, na­tions that re­tain a residue of the for­mer sol­i­dar­ity among com­mu­nist regimes. Some of these are qui­etly cheer­ing on Py­ongyang as US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ramps up his rhetoric against it.

Thirdly, coun­tries whose elites con­tain in­flu­en­tial mem­bers who have gained fi­nan­cially from ar­range­ments with Py­ongyang.

While sternly un­bend­ing in its do­mes­tic ad­min­is­tra­tion, North Korea can be in­gra­ti­at­ingly flex­i­ble over­seas in terms of money laun­der­ing, smug­gling and every kind of ne­far­i­ous prac­tice more fa­mil­iar in the world of or­gan­ised crime.

North Korea — which calls it­self the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of Korea, DPRK — re­tains for­mal diplo­matic re­la­tions with 164 coun­tries, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia.

The US, Ja­pan, France, Is­rael, Saudi Ara­bia — an­gry with North Korea’s close­ness with its core an­tag­o­nist, Iran — and the Vat­i­can, are prom­i­nent among the few coun­tries that do not recog­nise it as a state.

Main­tain­ing good re­la­tions with North Korea are Benin, Bu­rundi, Cam­bo­dia, the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of the Congo, Egypt, Equa­to­rial Guinea, Ethiopia, the Gam­bia, Laos, Mozam­bique, Namibia, Nige­ria, South Africa, Syria — which ob­tained its orig­i­nal Scud mis­siles from Py­ongyang — and Tan­za­nia and Uganda.

Bul­garia was un­til re­cently its best friend in Europe, but it has be­gun to im­ple­ment UN sanc­tions and has asked it to re­duce its diplo­matic staff in the coun­try.

When Cuban com­mu­nist pa­tri­arch Fidel Cas­tro died last year, North Korea de­clared a three-day mourn­ing pe­riod and “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-un vis­ited the em­bassy to pay his re­spects.

Malaysia is where Kim chose to have his brother Kim Jing­nam as­sas­si­nated in Fe­bru­ary, an event seem­ingly or­ches­trated from the North Korean em­bassy. Two women, from In­done­sia and Viet­nam, have been charged with his mur­der.

North Kore­ans seem­ingly associated with the killing were freed to re­turn home when Py­ongyang grabbed Malaysians as hostages. The coun­try is viewed as a handy base for il­licit tran­ship­ments, fi­nanc­ing and for­eign ex­change trans­ac­tions.

North Korea has strongly backed the Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion since 1966, lam­bast­ing Is­rael as “im­pe­ri­al­ist”.

Sin­ga­pore has in the past had a wide range of re­la­tions with North Korea, in­clud­ing in busi­ness and in train­ing, but has re­cently joined other na­tions in con­demn­ing Py­ongyang’s con­tin­ued mis­sile and nu­clear test­ing.

Zim­babwe’s ruler Robert Mu­gabe has re­tained strong af­fec­tion for North Korea since he sent soldiers from his in­de­pen­dence fight­ers there for train­ing 40 years ago.

In 2013, the coun­tries signed a deal to ex­change ura­nium from Zim­babwe for North Korean weapons.

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