January 4, 2017
In an essay entitled “Simple Solutions” written in October, 2006 (1) I wrote about the most troubling of the challenges facing the Free world. Upon review, we find that most of these challenges not only remain, but have become substantially more dangerous. In effect, the countries of the free world have essentially “kicked the can down the road”, leaving it to their successors to solve the problem.
Because of considerations of length, we propose to address each of these challenges separately, first quoting the 2006 commentary, then adding our current comments and recommendations.
As our first selection we have chosen the North Korean situation. In 2006 we wrote:
North Korea is the prime example of an international basket case which has been created by a totalitarian dictatorship. The county has a population of 23 million people with a 99% literacy rate in an area about the size of Mississippi. There is no starker contrast of the effects of two disparate political systems in the world than DPRK and the Republic of South Korea. It is a tragedy for the North Korean people, who certainly share the same culture and work ethic of their prosperous blood relatives to the South, but are ruled by a barbaric government whose only objective is self-preservation.
To insure his power, Kim Jong Il, the weird and unpredictable Chief of State, has squandered their scant resources to create a standing army of over one million, armed with enough missiles with sufficient fire power to devastate Seoul, the capital of South Korea about 20 miles south of the DMZ. However, traditional military forces were not sufficient to achieve Kim Jong Il’s self-preservation objectives. For the past fifteen years DPRK has been trying to develop weapons of mass destruction, including chemical, biological and nuclear devices. Apparently the DPRK is now within a few years of achieving that objective.
On July 4, 2006, the day that the US launched its peaceful space shuttle vehicle Discovery, North Korea test launched a barrage of seven missiles including the ICBM Taepodong 2. This missile has a designed range of about 8,000 miles, capable of hitting the West Coast of the US. Although the rocket blew up shortly after launch, it certainly indicates the seriousness of its intent to develop a delivery system for its nuclear weapons. If the other concerned nations allow this to happen, the DPRK will have achieved its primary objectives, namely to create a deterrent that will keep its megalomaniac ruler in power; and the means to blackmail the outside world for increased economic support.
After ten days of negotiations, on July 15, 2006 the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed resolution No. 1965 condemning the DPRK for its missile testing program, forbidding the sale and export of nuclear and other technology and requesting that the country rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which it abandoned some time ago. This resolution was not made under the provisions of Chapter 7 of the UN regulations which would have authorized the use of force to assure compliance. This stronger authorization would have been vetoed by China and Russia.
The possession of atomic weapons certainly is a threat to neighboring countries, but without a long distance delivery system the threat is limited to the sale of weapons to terrorist groups. On October 9, 2006 North Korea detonated a small nuclear device underground, and soon thereafter Kim Jong Il bragged that the country had therefore become a member of the exclusive “Club of Nine” nations that have nuclear weapons. Although both their missile and nuclear programs are still relatively primitive, over time they certainly can develop into very credible threats. The combination of WMD and intercontinental missiles is indeed bad news.
The foreign policy of DPRK can best be described as another “Roaring Mouse” situation. It is a blatant attempt to force the outside world – mainly the US – to provide economic support to the country to keep the Kim regime in power.
However, the DPRK does possess one viable threat to U.S. interests. Since the division of the country in 1954 the United States has stationed a large contingent of ground forces, about 40,000 strong, along the DMZ. In the event of an all-out invasion from the north, they certainly would be amongst the first troops overrun, albeit with the infliction of heavy casualties on the invaders. These U.S. troops are, in effect, hostages which demand our involvement in the confrontation between the DPRK and South Korea.
The US forces are there under a treaty arrangement, but the original purpose, essentially to defend the weaker South Korean people from their blood relatives to the north, is no longer valid. After two generations, young Koreans look on the American military as occupiers, and blame much of the world’s troubles on US foreign policy.
These agreements should be renegotiated. There is no longer any need for the United States to be involved in a conflict between North and South Korea. This is a problem best solved by the countries most threatened, namely ROK, Japan, China and Russia, or a world organization such as described later.
a. Nip a dictatorship situation in the bud before he gains control of the country. Destroy the palaces and, hopefully, the dictator with precision weapons, but do not occupy the country. This will dissuade other would-be dictators
b. Don’t fall for the old “Mouse that Roared” ploy. Ignore the country and let its neighbors – China, Japan and South Korea – solve the problem.
c. Remember U.S. history in dealing with the Barbary pirates – “Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute!”
a. Withdraw all US troops from South Korea as soon as possible (renegotiate treaties if necessary). These troops are, in reality, hostages which enshrines the status quo. Their withdrawal will remove a great deal of leverage of the DPRK on the U.S.
b. To replace this deterrent, the U.S. could provide the ROK Army tactical atomic artillery. Most certainly the US Navy has nuclear equipped submarines stationed offshore. Any attack on South Korea would result in a ‘dead zone” along the northern side of the DMZ, as well as strikes against strategic targets, such as were quickly disabled in the Iraq campaigns.
c. Resolve the situation the old fashioned way – take Jong out! Invite a selected ally (e.g. Israel) to put out a contract on Kim Jong Un. Then forget about it.
Obviously, the actions recommended above were never taken, and in the ten years since this paper was written, the DRK under Kim Jong Un, Kim Jung Il’s corpulent son, has made significant progress towards achieving his father’s dream. Current reports indicate that the country is about to launch another inter-continental ballistic missile, and have already successfully tested underground nuclear weapons. Whenever these new tests are successful, the situation then becomes critical for South Korea, and North Korea will be essentially immune from attack without risking nuclear retaliation, which seems highly likely.
The non-military actions, such as the distribution of Western media as described by Jeun Baek in the current Foreign Affairs (2) are intended to result in overthrowing the Kim Jong Un regime are very worthwhile and should be continued, but will not result in defraying the immediate risks.
In a lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, January 3, 2017 the paper’s editorial board recommended that the US Navy use interceptor missiles to shoot down the next test firing of a ballistic missile by North Korea. We concur, but because these defensive measures may not work, it would be more certain to destroy the missile on its launch pad. The reaction by the Kim Jong Il regime is unpredictable, but any artillery attack on Seoul would certainly be met by counter barrages. China might overtly object, but would probably be pleased.
Byron K. Varme