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Why would North Korea help Hamas build tunnels?

by Jared Sichel

July 28, 2014 | 1:28 pm

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watches a men's volleyball match during an event to mark the 61st anniversary of the Korean War. REUTERS/KCNA

According to a Saturday piece in the Daily Telegraph, unnamed Western security officials say North Korea is restocking Hamas's fast-depleting supply of rockets and equipment. 

Even more worrisome, according to the report, the North Koreans have used their own expertise in underground tunnels (an old game of theirs on the Korean peninsula) to advise Hamas on its own extensive network, which the terrorist group was reportedly hoping to use to pull off a Rosh Hashanah massacre

In case you were wondering, Pyongyang is about 5,000 miles from Gaza City and Israeli special forces aren’t exactly planning to storm the beaches of Wonsan anytime soon.

Yet, for years, Kim Jong-il and now Kim Jong-un, have made arming Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas a priority of the North Korean government, which is notoriously unable to provide for its citizens the basic necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter) in a period of human history in which mechanization, industrialization and trade have made providing those things cheaper than ever.

This begs the question: why would the North Korean government, with its deep, deep hatred of the United States and South Korea, bother itself with assisting Islamists battle…Israel?

There are really only three plausible explanations:

1)   North Korea will do anything to harm what it feels are U.S. interests.

2)   Bad regimes naturally ally themselves with other bad regimes.

3)   The Kims are in dire need of cash.

And as a prerequisite to either of these three options, North Korea’s rulers (who would rather survive than see the world burn) must believe that they have little to lose by supporting Israel’s enemies, both in the realm of international relations and in the realm of intelligence—perhaps they think Mossad doesn’t want to or can’t expend the resources to target North Korean interests. 

Analyzing the three reasons North Korea could have for sticking out its neck for Gaza, the truth is probably a mixture of all three:

North Korea will oppose any American geopolitical interest

Just as America’s battle against Communism during the Cold War brought U.S. forces to Vietnam and Korea, North Korea views itself as locked in an existential battle against America and its worldview. The North’s paranoia of what it sincerely believes is American imperialism is why it views Israel as an “imperialist satellite” of the United States. To Kim Jong-un, Israel is just the Middle East branch of America, and America must be opposed wherever it is, whether that’s Seoul, Tel Aviv, or Washington, D.C. 

Totalitarians like other totalitarians

There seems to be a tendency for bad governments to simply be attracted to other bad governments. From Hitler making friends with Mussolini and Hirohito (and previously Stalin) to Mao making friends with Kim il-Sung, the natural order of diplomacy seems to pit good versus evil. Whether it’s due to shared values or shared national interest, one would be, well, surprised, if a country like North Korea was friends with a country like Israel.

Money

From creating a web of questionable and outright illicit businesses to being a world leader in counterfeit currency exchange, the effects of North Korea’s perpetual cash shortage are well documented. The Kim regime needs cash to support the government’s bare necessities and to both reward favored insiders and finance the profligate lifestyle any good North Korean dictator would demand. The arms trade is a crucial facet within the North’s moneymaking scheme. In fact, it may be one of the government’s only legitimate means of business, assuming its weapons actually work.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Jared is a staff reporter for the Jewish Journal. Raised in North Potomac, MD, a sleepy suburb 30 minutes outside Washington D.C., Jared attended Tulane University in America’s...

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