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North Korea is a state in East Asia with an estimated population of almost 24 million people (UN, 2008). Established as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in 1948, the state is officially a socialist republic, but is considered by many to be world’s only de facto totalitarian Stalinist dictatorship (Clippinger, 1981). An alternative view holds that any resemblance to the historic regimes of Stalin and Mao is superficial, and that a fascist conception of ‘pure-blood’ is central to the North Korean political ideology (Hitchens, 2010; Myers, 2010).
Characterised by a highly centralised command economy, international political isolation and a secretive ruling elite, North Korea is a country which most scholars may study only from without. For this reason, analysis of the ‘outward-facing’ and ‘inward-facing’ state-controlled media discourse has been a valuable instrument for understanding the North Korean regime and society (Clippinger, 1981; Lee, 2007).
This paper will use the method of discourse analysis developed by Teun van Dijk (1995; 2003) to identify and examine relationships between the language of North Korean news material and prospects for the normalisation of relations across the 38th Parallel (see Historical Context below). The analysis will focus upon key moments in the implementation of the Republic of Korea’s (ROK, South Korea) Sunshine Policy’ (1998-2008), chosen because of the distinct conditions for dialogue between the north and south which it facilitated. Van Dijk’s sociocognitive approach is of particular utility in the case of North Korea, being concerned with the expression and reproduction of ideology and opinion by actors with political and social motivations. Central to van Dijk’s method is the concept of the ‘ideological square’, which relates strategies for expression of “ideologies and group-based attitudes” (Van Dijk, 2003 pp.22). This approach describes emphasis upon ‘Our’ good actions and ‘Their’ bad actions, and mitigation of ‘Our’ bad actions and ‘Their’ good actions. Although strident political attacks on the ROK (and its allies the USA and Japan) are a well documented feature of North Korean media (Chul-cho, 2008; Clippinger, 1981), this paper will describe how the ‘shape’ of the ideological square changed during the Sunshine period, in which the South treated the North as a rational actor (Moon and Bae, 2003).
To contextualise, this paper provides a brief history of the conflict between the ROK and North Korea, as well as an overview of the media in North Korea. The deeply esoteric ‘official state ideology’ known as Juche will be introduced followed by an explanation of the key aspects and chronology of the Sunshine Policy. Subsequently, data drawn from the output of the state-run news agency of North Korea will be presented and analysed, and conclusions will be drawn.
A reconciliation of discordant Korean ideologies is seen as a key stage of a (re)unification which opposing international commentators have described as “happening right before our eyes” (Boston Globe, 2008) and “a daunting task at an extremely early stage” (AF, 2008)
Following the close of the Second World War and subsequent surrender of Japanese imperial possessions, the Korean peninsular was occupied by the Soviet Union and United States, with forces positioned in the northern city of Pyongyang and southern city of Seoul respectively. A zone of control was established by the occupying powers along the 38th parallel north. In 1947 a United Nations commission was established to facilitate “free and fair” elections among the population of a united Korea (USDS, 2010). That initiative was blocked by Moscow, who supported a young communist guerrilla leader named Kim Il-sung, and suspected that the larger population in the south would not support him in the proposed plebiscite. The election proceeded in the south, and the sovereign state of South Korea was established in August 1948 (United Nations, 2010). Two months later with the support of Moscow, Kim Il-sung, now the chairman of the Worker’s Party of Korea (WPK) was installed as premier and the DPRK was formally inaugurated. Within two years the North and South, supported by the Soviet Union and USA respectively, were engaged in a proxy war (Whan Kihl et al, 2006) between their ‘benefactors’.
The stalemate resulting from the war of 1950-1953 hardened the border politically and socially. This led to the creation of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), a borderland which became (and is still considered to be) the most heavily militarised in the world (USSD, 2010).
Strong growth aided by large scale development of infrastructure and a continued rise in industrial production characterised the North Korean economy from the end of the war until the completion of the Sino-Soviet split in 1967. The doctrinal divergence of the two supporting communist regimes caused the Soviet Union to cease financial assistance to North Korea, an event which coincided with the emergence of a ‘Spirit of Self Reliance’ (see ‘Juche’ below). Economic difficulties exacerbated by rising oil prices in the 1970s caused North Korea to default on international loans, confirming the commitment to isolationism (Whan Kihl et al, 2006). In the ‘closed system’ of the isolated state, the domestic media became important in the reinforcement of the “greatness of the Juche idea” in opposition to the inferior “imperialist human scum” USA and its “lackeys  ” the ROK and Japan (Chul-cho, 2008). Domestic media was also used for delivering culturally specific ‘coded’ messages to literate sections of the populace. This strategy is illustrated by the slow introduction of the present leader Kim Jong-il into the public consciousness by subtle, stylised and carefully planned media references, almost undetectable to external observers (Clippinger, M, 1981). By the time he was confirmed by the North Korean international media as the successor to his father Kim Il-sung, his accession in April 1993 was expected among North Koreans, thus avoiding a power struggle without external interference (Beaumont, 2010).
The Jong-il administration has advanced the role of the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in delivering internal and external messages. Weapons tests have caused a series of standoffs with the United States between 1993 and 2009, and messages transmitted through the KCNA have been a primary form of communication with the Great Enemy (Clippinger, M, 1981). Meanwhile, scholars examining internal media have noted the emergency of another subtle and coded accession campaign, this time preparing Kim Jong-il’s son Kim Jung-un for a future rise to power (Beaumont, 2010).
The Juche Idea
At the heart of North Korean public life is the official state ideology known as the ‘Juche Idea’, a highly complex set of doctrines which is often translated as “The Spirit of Self-Reliance” or “independent standing” (Warner, 2008). Originating in the early period of isolation recounted above, the Juche Idea displaced Marxism-Leninism in the constitution following reform in 1972. Because these principles influence all forms of state media in North Korea, including art, newspapers and television (Warner, 2008), any discussion of North Korean media must make reference to its centrality in media discourse. The importance of the state media in the establishment and maintenance of the Juche ideology is well expressed by a ‘senior government official’ in a speech to KCNA staff:
“The [KCNA] is a powerful mouthpiece of our Party and Government… we must pay serious attention to each word, to each dot of the writings it releases because they express the standpoint of our Party and the Government”
Excerpt 1: from “The basic tasks facing the Korean Central News Agency”
June 12 1974, KCNA
The social functions of ideology have been seen as strategies of “legitimation and reproduction of class domination” and “co-ordination of the social practices of group members for the realisation of goals of another social group” (van Dijk, 2003 pp.32). These theories closely converge with the practical implementation of Juche in the tightly controlled economy and media of North Korea. Cognitive theories of ideology have noted the promotion of attitudes, norms and values by ruling elites to preserve existing power structures (van Dijk, 2003). This theory is also supported by analyses of North Korean media content, evidenced by the secretive succession campaign discussed above.
The Korean Central News Agency
The media of North Korea are considered to be among the most strictly controlled in the world  . Although the 1972 constitution enshrines freedom of speech and freedom of the press, in reality all news is produced by the KCNA in Pyongyang, whether the intended audience is internal or external to North Korea (Whan Kihl et al, 2006).
To critically examine the output of the KCNA it is first important to identify the target audience of the material it produces. The stated aim of the agency is to “propagate the revolutionary ideology of the Leader (Kim Il-sung) widely throughout the world” (KNCA, 2010). All releases are produced in English, and it has press exchange agreements with forty international news agencies. Around 25 percent of the text is translated output into Spanish and Russian (KCNA, 2010). Although considered to be ‘outward facing’ in intent, it has been noted that the majority of articles are reproductions or translations of those found in the domestic media (Clippinger, M 1981). This is evidenced by the large proportion of articles which contain demonstrably false claims, such as a report of lavish global celebrations on the birthday of the Dear Leader (KCNA, March 1, 2010). Daily releases of 8-14 articles are produced, and since November 1996 all content has been made available on-line via the KCNA website , hosted in Japan. A daily release can contain provincial stories with a pastoral theme, an example being an account of a chance meeting between the Dear Leader (Kim Jong-il) and his rural constituents, but far more prominent and tautologous are direct attacks on US foreign policy, often recounting historical events with dubious accuracy . These are coupled with attacks on the ROK and Japan, often through the prism of a perceived friendship with the USA.
The Sunshine Policy
The Sunshine Policy was the name  given to South Korean foreign policy towards North Korea between June 1998 and February 2008, whose long-term aim was unification of the Koreas. Articulated by South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, the policy was characterised by an (initially) unilateral discourse of bilateral co-operation and was based around three “central principles” (MOU, 2000), namely that the ROK government would:
- Not tolerate any armed provocation that will destroy peace
- Not attempt to seek unification by absorbing North Korea nor harm North Korea
- Actively promote reconciliation and cooperation between the two Koreas
In addition to these principles, the policy contained two other major components; the first being the nominal separation of economics and politics, designed to allow South Korean businesses to invest inside North Korean territory, and the second a ‘request for reciprocity’ from North Korea (MOU, 2000). The eventual unification of the Koreas was the long-term aim of the project (MOU, 2000).
The Policy was initially praised almost universally by commentators including the Chinese and American governments (Chul Cho, 2010) and resulted in President Dae-jung’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000. By providing humanitarian aid and other concessions without any expectation of immediate concessions, the Sunshine Policy has been seen as “epitomising the rational actor model of policy-making” (Whan Kihl, 2005 pp.250) in which a state is assumed to be a unified actor that responds coherently to threats and advantages to maximise self benefit. The primary achievements of the policy were two summits held between the leaders of the North and South in June 2000 and another in October 2007, to which South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun travelled overland, crossing the centre of the DMZ by foot. Additionally it facilitated brief but iconic family reunions from 2000-2007 and resulted in the establishment of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a collaborative investment project north of the DMZ designed to aid the North’s enfeebled economy (Whan Kihl, 2006).
The election of the current ROK president Lee Myung-bak can be seen as the ‘sunset’ of the policy. A staunch critic of president Dae-jung’s approach, he has halted economic assistance and is committed to resumption only if the North co-operates with United Nations Security Council Resolution 825 (1993) and allows weapons inspectors into its territory. This contingent approach could be considered more like the actions of the North Wind than those of the Sun3.
The KCNA in the Sunshine Period
The ‘rise’ of the Sunshine Policy is accepted to have begun on February 25 1998, when the 15th President of the ROK, Kim Dae-Jung, delivered his inaugural speech, affirming that: “inter-Korean relations must be developed on the basis of reconciliation and cooperation as well as the settlement of peace”. The content of this speech was universally praised in western media, with a New York Times article calling Mr. Dae-Jung “one of Asia’s most vigorous voices for democracy and political tolerance” (26 February 1998) and the Economist noting that “[his supporters] hail him as the “Nelson Mandela of Asia” (28 February 1998).
Any KCNA recognition of regime change south of the DMZ was notable in its absence , but a short (140 words) bulletin was issued the following day:
“The current reality of korea in which the revolution and construction are going on on the basis of collectivism is the most essential aspect of the socialist advantages. We are convinced that socialism of korea built by President Kim Il-sung and exalted by General Kim Jong-il will shine long all over the world and emerge ever victorious” [emphasis added]
Excerpt 2: from “Korean socialism will always shine”
February 26 1998, KCNA
Although the KCNA regularly issues statements affirming the virtues of North Korean ‘socialist’ values, this release was unusual in its brevity and content. Daily affirmations of the Juche Idea are a consistent feature of KCNA output but are nearly always presented in the context of a story, describing an historical or contemporary world event. Excerpt 2 explicitly emphasises the common themes of perpetual ‘revolution’, collectivism and exaltation of the leaders, but the usually prominent theme of reunification does not directly feature. Implicitly the piece emphasises the temporal quality of North Korean communism, insistent that it will succeed and eventually prevail against a non-specified Other. The geographic (“all over the world”) scope of the assertion could be interpreted as an insistence upon unification under Korean Socialism. The polarising rhetorical term ‘victorious’ represents a clear presupposition of ongoing conflict. It has been proposed that media representations of North Korea ‘at war’ have long been a strategy designed to absolve the leaders of blame for economic problems (Myers, 2010), an example of media discourse attempting to organise group attitudes, both internal and external to North Korea. The uncharacteristically poor grammar could suggest an article which was composed quickly in response to President Dae-Jung’s speech. Overall, the article explicitly affirms a confrontational and temporally immutable posture.
The first inter-Korean summit was held 13-15 June 2000 in Pyongyang, and succeeded in cementing a number of landmark agreements, codified in the North-South Joint Declaration. Three days before the historic meeting, the KCNA released an anticipatory article:
“The north-south summit talks are near at hand…entirely thanks to the wise leadership of the President Kim Il Sung who paved the way for the north-south dialogue…in the 1970’s…and steered the Korean people to the peaceful reunification of the country. [He] advanced a proposal for wide-range north-south negotiations in keeping with the…requirements of the movement for national reunification”
Excerpt 3: From “Kim Il Sung’s efforts for inter-Korean dialogue”
June 10 2000, KCNA
Excerpt 3 shows a significant departure from the clearly defined Ideological Square exhibited in Excerpt 2. The concept of bilateral negotiation, so starkly absent from the previous text, is prominent. The temporal metaphor of ‘steering’ the country to peaceful reconciliation suggests a future defined not by conflict and subsequent victory, but by peace. The conspicuous references to specific political systems seen in Except 2 are absent from the full text of the article, perhaps suggesting by omission that the opposing ideologies can one day be conciliated.
The author appears to credit the deceased ‘Great Leader’ Kim Il-sung with initiating the summit  through a series of events starting in “the 1970’s”. By invoking the memory of the ‘Eternal President’, the article conforms to one half of the Ideological Square, whereby ‘Their’ good actions are mitigated, but the corollary attack on ‘Their’ bad actions is not present. Similarly, the phrase “requirements of the movement for national reunification” indicates a degree of flexibility.
Though further discussions were slowed by political disagreements on both sides of the DMZ, the first major obstruction encountered by the Sunshine Policy resulted from the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Following President George W. Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’ speech on January 29 2002, Pyongyang ceased interaction with Seoul (Levkowitz, 2006). On June 29 a naval skirmish occurred close to the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the disputed Korean maritime boundary in the Yellow Sea. Five ROK seamen were killed, along with an undisclosed number of North Koreans (BBC News, 2002). Within hours the KCNA stated:
“[The South] committed such a grave provocation as firing bullets and shells at patrol boats of the navy of the Korean People’s Army on routine coastal guard duty…DPRK warships were compelled to take a self-defensive step. The incident was a premeditated military provocation on the part of the South Korean military…thus aggravating the inter-Korean relations that have been in the process of detente. They should stop acting rashly, mindful of the grave consequences to be entailed by such provocations.”
Excerpt 4: From “S. Korean army commits grave provocation in West Sea of Korea”
June 29 2002, KCNA
Explicitly the message of the article marks a partial return to the polarising rhetoric exhibited in Excerpt 2, but the implicit message could be described as more moderate. International observers and the ROK asserted that North Korean forces had crossed the NLL and opened fire upon ROK vessels, but evidence of this was not provided (Nanto, 2003). Because of the lack of proof, the KCNA’s testimony that “DPRK warships were compelled to take a self-defensive step” cannot be disputed (Bundy, 2010). The use of the transitive verb ‘have’ with reference to the détente of the Sunshine Policy suggests a future commitment to dialogue, though this is countered by the threatening tone of the following sentence. Van Dijk notes the use of such semi-veiled threats in journalistic material, suggesting they originate in maxims of ‘militarist ideology’; “we are allowed to destroy someone who is bent on destroying us” (van Dijk, 2003 pp.50). This sentence could be construed as a tacit legitimation of future retaliations. Overall Excerpt 4 coveys a message of defensive military posturing, and implies a presupposition of productive though contingent future relations.
At the close of the 2000 summit, the agreement had been made to hold a second meeting at “an appropriate time” (Jong-il & Dae-Jung, 2000 pp.1). Because of the difficulties described above, reduced public support in the South (partly due to scandal⁸) and a suspected succession crisis in the North (Chul-cho, 2008), this meeting was not held until October 2-4 2007.
The iconic image of the second Southern president of the Sunshine Period crossing the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) inside the DMZ on foot was headline news around the world (The Australian, 2007; The Korea Herald, 2007). Despite the international attention the gesture has not to date been mentioned by the KCNA, but the summit did receive significant coverage:
a) “The meeting will mark an event of weighty significance in boosting inter-Korean relations to a new higher stage on the basis of the historic Joint Declaration and in the spirit of “By our nation itself” and opening up a new phase for achieving peace on the Korean Peninsula, prosperity common to the nation and national reunification” b) “The DPRK government has devoted disinterested support and efforts, zealously involving itself in the…activities of the G-77 and the United Nations system”
Excerpt 5a: From “Kim Jong Il Greets Roh Moo Hyun”
Excerpt 5b: From “Expansion and Development of Cooperation Urged”
October 2 2007, KCNA
The above excerpts may represent the ‘high-water mark’ of the Sunshine Period. In Excerpt 5a South Korea is included in the pervasive independence doctrine of the Juche Idea, and two progressive assertions affirm support for further discussion. The phrases “a new higher stage” and “a new phase” are emotive expressions of a (suggested) willingness to abandon the encumbrance of the Koreas’ shared history. Excerpt 5b (from a shorter article on the same day) conveys an attempt to reassure international observers (including the UN and Group of 77) that North Korea is willing to engage in a balanced and dispassionate manner. The ‘Rational Actor’ model, in these articles at least, appeared to have been vindicated.
The Sunshine Policy received criticism from commentators throughout the 1998-2008 period (Lee, 2007, Nanto, 2003). Critics argued that by supporting the Northern regime financially, the South was implicated in the human rights violations of its beneficiary. The election of one of the fiercest critics (Warner, 2008), Lee Myung-bak on 25 February 2008 as President of the ROK saw a substantial shift in the South’s policy on North Korea. He ceased funding for the Kaesong Industrial Complex, demanding that the North resolve the continued international impasse over its alleged nuclear weapons programme. The KCNA response was immediate and extensive. Hundreds of articles were issued in the following twelve months denigrating President Myung-bak’s policies through insulting language, at turns branding him a ‘swindler’ and ‘sycophant’ promoting a “criminal confrontation policy” (KNCA, 2008). The North’s confirmed nuclear test on 25 May 2009 (USGS, 2010) cemented the new Myung-bak regime’s revised policy.
Through analysing the discourse of the ‘mouthpiece’ of the North Korean government during the Sunshine Period, this paper has examined a small fragment of one in a multitude of voices. Despite the small sample size, a clear correlation has emerged between the intent of the ROK administration to approach North Korea as a rational actor. As the policies of the South have changed, so too have the constructed meanings, norms and identities expressed by the Jong-il government through the KCNA. In the context of the Ideological Square, Northern reactions to the Sunshine Policy have been observed changing ‘shape’ throughout the period. If “security interests are defined by actors who respond to cultural factors” (Chul-cho, 2008 pp.97), then a future policy of engagement rather than ostracism will help to gain the support of the North Korean government and people. The approach of the Myung-bak government has been accused of ‘moral absolutism’, ‘demonising’ the ‘Other’ to achieve favour abroad (Chul-cho, 2008 pp.110). It is argued that this stance does not contribute to resolving the discord between the two Korean political identities.
The two nations have endured decades of conflict; families and communities have been divided, and two separate ‘stories’ have been played out. During the Sunshine Policy the people of a vibrant developed nation have engaged with those of an “ossified Hobbesian security culture” (Wendt, 1999) across the DMZ. Progress was made, but a long night may precede the dawn of peace on the Korean peninsular.
 The distinctive lexicon of North Korean insults has been ascribed by defectors formerly employed by the KCNA partly to the use of English language dictionaries dating from the 1960’s (BBC News, 2009)
 Reporters sans Frontières; 2009 Press Freedom Index
 “U.S. Imperialists, Most Hideous Homicide in World” June 23 2009
 ‘Sunshine’ refers to Aesop’s fable ‘The North Wind and the Sun’, in which the wind and sun compete to remove a man’s coat. The Sun emerges as the victor, owing to its benevolent and patient approach in opposition to the North Wind’s forceful attempts (MOU, 2002) (see cover illustration)
 The agency often congratulates world leaders from all political backgrounds upon their (re)election successes, including messages to Swiss, Guinean and Laotian premiers in 1998 (KCNA, 1998)
 In 2003 a prosecuting court revealed that an illegal payment of 500 million US dollars had been made to the North by South Korean carmaker Hyundai to facilitate the meeting (Jonsson, 2006).
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The Korean DMZ:
On the morning of 10 December 1963, The British High Commissioner of the Crown Colony of Aden, Sir Kennedy Trevaskis, arrived at Khormaksar Airport, a civil and military facility in the shadow of the extinct volcano which forms the ancient harbour in the city of Crater. He was due to fly to London with British Colonial Office officials and local leaders of the Federation of South Arabia; their intention to hold a constitutional conference pursuing plans to cede sovereignty of the colony to the Federation in exchange for the security of the British military base there. As the delegation were waiting to board their DeHavilland Comet airliner, a hand grenade was thrown by a guerrilla fighter of the National Liberation Front (NLF), killing two members of the delegation and wounding more than 50 others. Trevaskis was saved by the bravery of his assistant, who leapt in front of the blast and was mortally wounded, but plans for the peaceful and ordered withdrawal from Aden were halted.
A state of emergency was declared which lasted until November 1967, and ended with the withdrawal of all British forces from South Arabia in an “abrupt and inglorious” decolonisation (Hinchcliffe et al, 2007 p.2), one which was unique in the post-war context, providing no official successor regime to receive the symbols and responsibilities of independent statehood (Hinchcliffe, 2007) and ending with the ascendancy of the only Marxist regime in the Arab world (Holt, 2007).
The Aden Emergency was the name given to an insurgency conducted by a range of armed organisations, aided politically and economically by the governments of Egypt and North Yemen, (whose objective was to end British rule and military presence in South Arabia (Balfour-Paul, 1991)) and the unfortunate convergence of global and local events which the insurgency preceded. Contextualised by the uncertainties of Cold War geopolitics, it was a conflict shaped by issues of decolonisation, Arab Nationalism, global trade and the advent of new technologies.
Following a brief history of the region, this essay will attempt to explain the key events in Aden between 1963 and 1967, and use primary sources to contextualise the course of events and gain insight into the attitudes of the Foreign and Commonwealth officials from whom they originated. It will discuss the local and global factors which strongly influenced the course of events, and examine the interactions between these. A brief comparison will be drawn between the withdrawal from Aden and other British decolonisations, such as those in Sudan and the Gulf States, and use will be made of secondary literature, particularly in an explanation and discussion of British foreign policy during the emergency.
Conclusions will be drawn, and an assessment of the value of the primary sources will be made. Finally, suggestions will be made for future study.
The British Empire first acquired the Port of Aden in 1839 as a coaling station for ships of the East India Company travelling between Europe and India. A well situated, large and accessible natural harbour, by the start of the 20th century it had become one of the busiest and most profitable ports in the world (Mawby, 2005). It was administered as a part of British India, and was known by the British Government as ‘Aden Settlement’. The port continued to prosper for the next four decades, despite territorial disputes with the Ottoman Empire (Hinchcliffe, 2007) supplying boiler water and fuel oil for international shipping and acting as an important entrepôt port; attracting immigrant labour from the adjacent hinterland and neighbouring Somaliland (Mawby, 2005). It has been noted that an important factor in the commercial success of Aden during this period was its unique position, equidistant from the important British interests of Suez, Bombay and Zanzibar (Ducker, 2007; Karpov, 1974). With the end of British rule in India in 1947, the geographical strategic importance of a British foothold in South Arabia became less significant (Northolt, 2008), but Aden remained a commercially vibrant centre of trade, a cosmopolitan city with a large and literate mercantile community of Arabs, Europeans, Jews and other international migratory traders (Hinchcliffe, 2007).
From the 1930s, Aden had comprised the Crown Colony of Aden, the small urbanised port area and immediate surroundings (with an area of around 190 km2), and the Aden Protectorate, a collection of around 25 emirates, sultanates and sheikdoms which surrounded the colony, and were provided, in many cases with financial assistance and advice on governance, and development by the British Government (Karpov, 1974; Foreign Office, 1965).
The Protectorate states to the east of the colony were known as the Eastern Aden Protectorate (EAP), and comprised primarily the sheikdom of Hadhramaut and the island of Socotra (Fig. 1). The western frontier of the EAP with the Kingdom of Yemen had been delimited in an eventual agreement with the Ottoman Empire in 1914, the border of which was known as the ‘Violet Line’, although this had been disputed by the North Yemen and Saudi governments (FO, 1964). The northern boundary of the EAP, delimited by the British at the southern edge of the Saudi desert (known by the British as the ‘Blue Line’) had been disputed historically by the Saudi state (Schofield, 2000).
The states situated to the immediate north and west of Aden colony were known as the Western Aden Protectorate (WAP). The WAP comprised many more small states than the EAP (Fig. 1), which were considered to be more lawless than the eastern states (RGS, 1950), partially because of the nature of the northern border, strongly contested by the leadership of the northern Kingdom of Yemen (RGS, 1950). The border was in a permanent state of ‘tension’ (Hinchcliffe, 2007) and it has been suggested that dissidents from either side were welcomed by the leadership in the opposing state (Ducker, 2007, The Times, 1967).
The WAP and EAP outlined above had been established as British protectorates for the purpose of safeguarding British interests in the port city. According to Glen Balfour Paul, British officials decided that their vital port could “…only be maintained by pushing into the hinterland and keeping its turbulent denizens at bay by a combination of military prestige and diplomatic ingenuity” (1991 p.49) This policy was to have a significant geopolitical effect upon the course of events in the Federation to be established later.
The question of independence for the Protectorates was first raised seriously in the early 1950s. After the Second World War the British Government pursued a policy of independence for all of its dependencies, to be implemented through a programme of economic and political development designed to foster ‘viable’ states with consenting populations and democratic governance (Jones et al, 1981). The idea of a proposed independent federation of states in the WAP (and eventually the whole protectorate, excepting the military base) was advanced by the governor of Aden, Sir Tom Hickinbotham, but because of complications, including the widespread political ramifications of the Suez Crisis and a lack of confidence in the leaders of the western states to federate peacefully, plans for independence were delayed (Balfour Paul, 1991). (In the meantime, the 1950s had seen a rise in nationalist ideologies in the WAP, and the subsequent formation of the first of several armed anti-colonial groups, the South Arabian League (SAL) (Kostiner, 1984)).
In accordance with the British objective of eventual decolonisation, the first official federation took place in 1959, with the inauguration of the Federation of South Arabia, comprised of six of the smaller and more stable WAP states. At this time the British government made a commitment to the security of the new Federation with the Treaty of Friendship and Protection, designed to ensure the viability of the new state after the British withdrawal (Balfour-Paul, 1991).
An important element of the eventual British withdrawal from the Protectorates was considered to be the integration of Aden colony into the new federation. It was proposed by the Commonwealth Office that such a move should be a result of consent among the population of Aden, and so the Aden Franchise Commission was established, comprised of local Arabs in 1962. The commission recommended a plebiscite of Adeni residents, which (after extensive debate about the inclusion of various sectors of the population, (Nagi, 1984)), resulted in the integration of Aden Colony into the federation, but without losing its Crown Colony status. This constitutional paradox was later cited as a significant cause of ‘political confusion’ among the population (Hinchcliffe et al, 2007 p.27), and it has been suggested that this confusion may have contributed to the continued growth and consolidation of nationalist ideologies in the protectorate, and the subsequent formation of more anti-British terrorist organisations and pressure groups. These included the People’s Socialist Party (PSP) in 1962, the NLF (responsible for the attack on Trevaskis) in 1963 and the Front for the Liberation of South Yemen (FLOSY) in 1964, all of which were implicated in violence or incitement to violence against British interests (Ducker, 2007) until the withdrawal in 1967.
Primary and secondary sources suggest that another factor in the rise of anti-British sentiment may have been the reaction of colonial authorities to the attack at Khormaksar Airport and Trevaskis’ subsequent declaration of a state of emergency. Ducker (2007) states that “the increased military presence on the streets of Aden as a result of the declaration…irritated opinion on the streets and was considered increasingly offensive to the younger, better educated Arabs” (in: Hinchcliffe et al, 2007 p.60). Immediately following the declaration, fifty to sixty Trade Union leaders and other dissidents were arrested and detained (FO, 1965). A 1964 Foreign Office Memorandum contains a transcript of The International Workers Committee of Solidarity with Aden Workers, organised by the PSP, which states the aims of the PSP on the international stage, including:
i) To have the United Nations send an international committee to Aden to investigate the massacres perpetrated against the Adeni workers and people
ii) For the workers of the world to denounce what was taking place in Aden and to call for the immediate release of prisoners, the immediate abolition of the state of emergency and the immediate removal of the British governor in Aden.
v) For the Arab oil workers to attempt to threaten British interests in the Middle East.
Foreign Office (1964) Recent developments concerning Aden
In addition to the strident accusations made at the PSP meeting, a Foreign Office document also reports that a number of accusations were posited by PSP leaders of ‘ill-treatment’ towards detainees. These accusations were denied by FO officials in the same document, who stated that “a deputation of three Labour MP’s recently visited those detainees and rejected charges of ill-treatment” (FO, 1964), (though they also suggested that a similar inspection from the Vice-President of the British Red Cross “would not be useful”).
While other decolonisations at the close of the British Empire were characterised by the importance of primarily local politics (Balfour-Paul 1991), the insurgency in Aden also was influenced significantly by international forces, and the Egyptian and North Yemen governments were able to use the newly widespread transistor radio to galvanise public opinion against the British. A Foreign Office telegram of 1964 warns:
Cairo and Sana’a radios (the latter can be regarded as Egyptian controlled) have in the last month sustained an unbridled campaign against Aden, inciting disaffection and violence and praising every manifestation of each.
Source: Foreign Office (1964) Political Relations: Aden
The PSP operated primarily as a political movement, inciting violence though disaffection rather than committing terrorist acts. In contrast, the NLF and FLOSY recruited and armed groups of tribesmen, and sought to bring about political change in Aden through violence (FO, 1965).
In 1963 the NLF was formed in protectorate states of the WAP which had not yet been federated. Established with support from the North Yemen government, this highly secretive, socialist revolutionary organisation was committed to violence against the British which took the form of hundreds of grenade attacks against off-duty military personnel and police forces (FO, 1965). After 1963 they shifted gradually from their nationalist agenda and adopted a Marxist ideology, gaining them international support from Communist China and revolutionary Algeria (Hinchcliffe, 2007). In 1965 the Egyptian government expressed their disapproval for the Marxist tendencies of the NLF by persuading the leader of the PSP, Abdullah Asnag that his organisation should militarise to prevent the NLF taking control (Hinchcliffe, 2007). Leaders in Cairo facilitated the combination of the PSP with the South Arabian League and in 1966 FLOSY was created (Balfour-Paul, 1991). In a meeting between the new FLOSY leadership and the colonial authorities, it was suggested to Asnag that his organisation should co-operate with the British since the decolonisation was imminent, but he retorted, “No, we must be seen to kick you out!” (Hinchcliffe et el, 2007 p.44). There were now two significant (para)military organisations seeking to remove Britain from Aden by force, and operating at odds with one another. Rivalry grew, as noted in this Foreign Office telegram to London:
…there has been renewed inter-fractional fighting between NLF and FLOSY, especially in NLF areas. A number of people are alleged to have been killed though bodies have not been recovered. Today, the Paras. report heavy fighting in Mansoura and Shaikh Othman, not involving security forces, and therefore presumable inter-fraction
Source: Foreign Office (1967) British policy concerning Aden and South Arabia
The interfactional violence grew, as did confusion among British officials, but information obtained from NLF informants indicated a strengthening faction, with defections from FLOSY and a consolidation of strength in Aden Colony:
There are a number of reports of defections from FLOSY to NLF including some well-known figures. It is believed that the interruption of supplies of money and arms to FLOSY from the Egyptians in Yemen is making itself felt…an informant who is high up in NLF circles states that military measures are being taken in Crater to deal with an unexpected FLOSY offensive against them
Source: Foreign Office (1967) British policy concerning Aden and South Arabia
In 1966, with the planned decolonisation of all the federal states imminent, Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s Labour government in London published a Defence White Paper which contained a major review of Britain’s military commitments. The document detailed the withdrawal of British forces ‘East of Suez’, reneging on the commitment made to the new Federation and earlier plans to maintain a military presence in Aden.
Shortly after the release of the White Paper came the defeat of Egypt in the Six Day War, forcing Cairo to withdraw their financial and military support for FLOSY (Ducker, 2007). The NLF took the initiative again, as reported to London from Government House in Aden Colony:
The NLF is clearly an influential force on the political scene…its political class seem singularly ill-informed. …it has considerable support in Aden, controls half the trade union movement and has in recent months appeared to be gaining the upper hand of FLOSY in their internecine rivalry.
Source: Foreign Office (1967) British policy concerning Aden and South Arabia
In accordance with the White Paper decision, the British withdrawal began in early 1967. While the RAF base at Khormaksar was gradually dismantled, the Times in London (August 14) reported that NLF forces were taking control of Federation States. By the end of November, when British forces were scheduled to leave Aden, the Federation states of Dhala, Shaib, Maflahi and Auhali were under NLF control (The Times, 1967), and the failure of the democratic Federation, which relied on British support, was ensured. In July, the British authorities offered to provide air support for the Federation from carriers for six months after the handover, but their offer was rejected by the Federal leaders, who saw the gesture as inadequate (Hinchcliffe, 2007). On November 29 Humphrey Trevelyan, the last High Commissioner of Aden, saluted the Union Flag as it was lowered for the last time at RAF Khormaksar, then flew by helicopter to a waiting Royal Navy vessel. The “abrupt and inglorious” decolonisation was complete.
The closure of the Suez Canal in the aftermath of the Six Day War sealed the economic fate of Aden under the NLF’s new Peoples Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), as declared in June 1969. The canal remained closed until 1975, and trade at Aden was reduced by around 80% (Karpov, 1976). As Ducker succinctly remarks (2001, p.45); “The NLF inheritance required real business acumen to confront. The NLF did not possess business acumen”. The PDRY declined economically – corruption was endemic, and widespread poverty resulted from the poor governance and economic planning exercised by the post-colonial leadership (Holt, 2007).
The deterritorialisation of Aden and the federation can be viewed as unique in the British experience of decolonisation. When compared with other withdrawals, such as those in Sudan and the Gulf States (the former preceding the Aden Emergency, in 1956 and the latter following it, in 1970-71), it may be noted that these other cases, local issues in London and the states in question were the primary expedient factors in decolonisation. In the case of Sudan, British Conservative party policy towards Egypt played a vital part in the timing of the withdrawal. In the case of the trucial states of the Gulf, their rapid growth in wealth coupled with growing costs for the British treasury made the decolonisation of the eastern Arabian emirates a primarily economic concern (Darwin, 1984). Although the constitutional roles of the colonial power in each of these protectorates was different, a comparison is still of value as all took place within the context of Britain’s new responsibilities in a changing geopolitical order. The external factors which came to bear in the case of Aden, in the form of propagandising by Gamal Abdul Nasser’s Egyptian government, the involvement of the North Yemeni authorities and the closure of the Suez Canal, were all outside of the British and Federation Government’s ‘Spheres of Influence’ (Barnett, 1996). The stabilising force of the Saudi government, which had significant support from the EAP populace throughout the affair (Hinchcliffe et al, 2007) was a significant force against the eventual success of the PSP, but this also lay outside of direct British control. The effect of Pan-Arabist thought espoused by the PSP in the early years of the emergency are well illustrated by the telegram cited above, (in which the PSP leadership call upon “Arab oil workers”, presumably across the Arab world, to “threaten British interests”) which gives an insight into the international focus of the group’s philosophy. The request for attention from the United Nations (whose involvement Britain opposed throughout) in the same transcript indicates the group’s global intentions and awareness. Stability of Persian Gulf oil supplies was one of the chief strategic values of the military base at Aden toward the end of the British tenure there (King, 1964).
As has been shown, Aden was an early example of the use of electronic mass media for the distribution of propaganda. The Foreign Office memoranda which detail the use by Egyptian and North Yemeni authorities of radio broadcasting describe the content in great detail over many communiqués, and relate a genuine concern among the British Officials. They suggest a; “direct connection between this [Broadcasting] and the supply of arms to the tribesmen from the Yemen on an unusually large scale in recent weeks” (FO, 1966 p.5). The wide geographic influence extended by the newly affordable transistor radio was clearly another significant trans-national explanation for the conflict between the people of the Protectorate and the British.
The events described in this essay can also be seen as unique in the Arab experience of reterritorialisation. The establishment of the only ‘Marxist-Leninist Tyranny’ (Balfour-Paul, 1991; Darwin, 2984) in the Arab world, with support from Russia, China and revolutionary Algeria was the result of a particular convergence of global and local events. The geopolitical order of the cold war, in which Soviet support was extended to anti-American states, even if they were not communist (Balfour-Paul, 1991), such as North Yemen and Egypt, provided conditions for the establishment of such a state.
While external factors were significant in the withdrawal from Aden, it has been shown that policies made in London dictated many of the key events in the proceedings. The 1966 white paper, in which the British reneged upon their earlier promise to support the Federation after independence, has been called a betrayal; by sources as diverse as local commentators in Aden colony (Holt, 2007) and academics in the decades following the events (Balfour-Paul, 1991; Ducker, 2007; Hinchcliffe, 2007; Mawby, 2005), but the financial constraints placed upon the Labour government coupled with the ideological opposition to colonial entanglement within the newly elected party must not be forgotten.
Another perceived policy failure by London was the decision to clearly define the role of Aden Colony within the Federation. The ‘constitutional paradox’ and subsequent political confusion over the sovereignty of the colony among the public of the Protectorates, mentioned above, can been seen an example of poor governance, and one which failed to take account of the many differences between the modern and globalised port Colony of Aden and the more traditional hinterland of the Protectorates.
Commentators have pointed to the lack of a symbolic transfer of power (Hinchcliffe, 2007) in November 1967. Much was made at the time of the lack of exchange of national anthems, outgoing British citizens and servicemen instead choosing a refrain from a popular musical: ‘Things ain’t what they used to be’ (Mawby, 2005). Mention has also been made of the lack of a new flag for the PDRY and other symbols of statehood such as an exchange of salutes and a formal handover. Contemporary commentators on the transfer of ‘symbols of statehood’ in other regions have disagreed with this stance however, and point rather to the importance of strong governance and law making in a new state instead of the cultural identity provided by symbols (Jones et al, 1981). The lack of a ‘residuary legatee’ seems to be more important in a discussion of the sovereignty issues of Aden Colony.
This essay has attempted to provide an understanding of the events of the six short years in which South Western Arabia quickly changed, from a relatively stable and highly prosperous British ‘outpost’ to remote bastion of Marxist ideology. The primary sources cited in this work provide an interesting, if anecdotal perspective on the events in question. The Foreign Office documents cited are limited by their perspective of events and are naturally subjective but show a deep concern among the officers based in Aden for the citizens and for British interests.
Contemporary commentaries have suggested that the emergency was “…forced upon Britain by a crescendo of public pressures” (Balfour Paul, 1991 p.137), but it has become evident that external factors were also of paramount importance. It has been demonstrated that Aden is considered by many as an unsuccessful relinquishment of power which did not lead to prosperity in the client state. The period of decolonisation could be seen as a single historical and geopolitical progression, given the consensus view of universal decolonisation after the Second World War, but an examination of one withdrawal has highlighted the diverse factors which affected each event. There appears to have been no such thing as a ‘typical’ decolonisation during the period in question.
A study in the aftermath of the withdrawal and the extent to which the events of the emergency affected the region in the following decades would be of value. Also worthy of examination would be the support given by the PDRY to Palestine and European communist organisation with revolutionary aspirations. The segregation of the modern state of Yemen until 1990 into the PDRY and North Yemen (The Yemen Arab Republic) and the conflicts which existed until then could be analysed from a perspective of the decolonisation, as could the origins of the conflict currently underway in the north of unified Yemen (Camp, 2009).
A selection of Primary Documents dated 1962-1967 and relating to the Aden Emergency are available here.
Balfour Paul, G (1991) (Map, Figure 1): South West Arabia on the eve of independence in: Balfour-Paul, G (1991) The End of Empire in the Middle East Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press
Balfour-Paul, G (1991) The End of Empire in the Middle East Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press
Barnett, M (1996) Sovereignty, nationalism and regional order in the Arab states system in: Biersteker, T & Weber, C (1996) State Sovereignty as Social Construct Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Camp, M (2009) Pity those caught in the middle The Economist print edition Nov 19 2009 33-34
Darwin, J (1984) British decolonization since 1945: A pattern or a puzzle? The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 12(2) 187-209
Foreign Office (1964) Aden: internal political situation 1 January 1964 Catalogue Reference FO 371/174480
Foreign Office (1964) Brief for WEU ministerial meeting in Aden 23 January 1964 Catalogue Reference FO 371/174675
Foreign Office (1964) Political Relations: Aden 1 January 1964 Catalogue Reference FO 371/174480
Foreign Office (1964) Recent developments concerning Aden 18 February 1964 Catalogue Reference 371/31456
Foreign Office (1965) (Map) Aden/Dhofar Boundary Catalogue Reference FO1016/777
Foreign Office (1966) letters to the treaty chiefs and the supreme council of the South Arabia Federation on the withdrawal of British protection and reply thereto from the sultan of upper Jafai Catalogue Reference FO 93/153/7
Foreign Office (1967) British policy concerning Aden and South Arabia 15 January 1967 Catalogue Reference FO 961/30
Foreign Office (1967) British policy concerning Aden and South Arabia 15 April 1967 Catalogue Reference FO 961/30
Hinchcliffe, P; Ducker, T & Holt, M (2007) Without Glory in Arabia: The British Retreat from Aden London: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd
Jones, C (2004) Britain and the Yemen Civil War, 1962-1965 Brighton: Sussex Academic Press
Jones, D & Kautz, R (1981) The Transition to statehood in the New World Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press
Karpov, S (1974) The Closure of the Suez Canal: Economic Consequences. International Affairs 4(20), 83-85
King, G (1964) Imperial Outpost – Aden: Its place in British Strategic Policy Chatham House Essays Oxford: Oxford University Press
Kostiner, J (1984) The Struggle for South Yemen Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Mawby, S (2005) British Policy in Aden and the Protectorates 1955-67: Last Outpost of a Middle East Empire London: Routledge
Nagi, S (1984) The Genesis of the Call for Yemeni Unity in: Pridham, B (1984) Contemporary Yemen: Politics and Historical Background
Northolt N.A. (2008) Fields of Fire – An Atlas of Ethnic Conflict London: Northolt Communications
Schofield, R (2000) The international boundary between Yemen and Saudi Arabia in: Detalle, R (2000) Tensions in Arabia: The Saudi-Yemeni Fault Line SWP Conflict Prevention Network Baden Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft
The Royal Geographical Society (Great Britain) (1950) The Geographical Journal 115(116) 105-106 London: Royal Geographic Society
The Times (1967) Takeover in South Arabia: Extremists Extend Control The Times 14 August 1967 Page number and author unknown
The Times (1967) Terrorist War Foils Plan for Aden The Times 7 November 1967 Page number and author unknown
The Aden Peninsular: