North Korean Situation
Annual Review 2017
During 2017 we wrote several commentaries in which we sometimes described the Peoples Democratic Republic of North Korea and Kim Jong-Un, its Supreme Leader, as “The Mouse That Roared”. Since President Trump expressed his willingness to meet the Supreme Leader, the prospect of a direct meeting has generated a flurry of commentary, including the following article written by Frederico PIeraccini and published by Strategic Culture Foundation. We submit this analysis as a European view of the situation.
Byron K. Varme, Executive Director
Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un: Make Korea United Again!
Kim Jong-un’s visit reveals much about the tactics that will be used in the negotiations between the Korean leader and the American president; it also consolidates a historical relationship between Pyongyang and Beijing
The recent meeting in Beijing between the two supreme leaders of DPRK and China has captured global attention. The summit remained secret throughout its duration, revealed by the Chinese leader only when the visit had ended and the Korean leader was on his way back home. Rumours of the encounter continued to be denied by the Chinese foreign minister right up to Tuesday. The denials had a lot to do with the fact that a positive outcome for the meeting, this being the first one, could not be guaranteed. The final statements, the relaxed atmosphere, the many images displaying mutual smiles and acknowledgement reveal that the two leaders of the Chinese and Korean Communist parties are on the same page. Despite wishful thinking from the US, which interpreted the lack of meetings in previous years as a change in Chinese attitudes towards North Korea, the meeting highlighted positive impressions by Xi Jinping about the developments on the peninsula as well as confirmed the strategic thinking of Kim Jong-un.
Kim Jong-Un’s strategy deserves particular attention. The ability to deter aggression from the United States and South Korea existed well before Pyongyang’s development of a nuclear deterrent, thanks to the enormous number of artillery guns it has directed towards Seoul. A possible conflict would have caused millions of deaths, destroyed the American forces on the peninsula (the American bases would have been the first to be eliminated, really only being there to serve as a tripwire), and upset the alliance with Seoul, which would have borne an unacceptable toll. Kim Jong-un and his father had already secured a powerful enough deterrent to ward off aggression against their country. The strategy behind developing nuclear weapons becomes more clear following the just-concluded meeting with Xi Jinping.
Kim Jong-un’s willingness to meet Donald Trump in bilateral talks, and the possibility that Pyongyang will give up its nuclear arsenal, stand out. The meeting with Xi Jinping in all likelihood focused on the demands to be made to Trump: the removal of the North American presence in the south of the country is something on which China and DPRK are in strong agreement. The desired outcome for Beijing and Pyongyang (but also for Moscow) would see Washington remove its forces from South Korea in exchange for opening up North Korea’s sites to international inspections. China and Russia would be happy to see the US threat to their nuclear deterrence removed (even if, with the latest hypersonic weapons revealed by Putin, the problem does not seem to arise). This would also bring great advantages to Seoul, which could embark on a rapprochement with the North, starting with a possible reunification of the peninsula; and under the economic and energetic aegis of Russia and China, the peninsula could be included in the One Belt One Road (OBOR), as well as as benefitting from Moscow’s gas.
Of course this scenario clashes with the recent appointments of Mike Pompeo and John Bolton to the top of the American administration, confirmed by the threat of dissolving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached with Iran, undoing a deal reached through the efforts of multiple countries. The consequences would be significant, with the United State coming across as an unreliable state in international relations.
This aspect for Pyongyang, Beijing, Moscow and even Seoul counts up to a certain point. The extraordinary diplomatic message that Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping have sent to allies and adversaries alike is that to allow for peace and the possibility of reunification for the Korean peninsula, Kim is apparently willing to renounce his nuclear weapons, his most important deterrent. But interestingly, North Korea has always been able to rely on its formidable conventional deterrent to guarantee its security anyway. For the survival of Kim and his circle, thousands upon thousands of artillery pieces aimed at Seoul are enough to keep any potential aggressor at bay. Another obvious consideration is that any use by Kim of his nuclear weapons against the United States or its allies would result in the total annihilation of the DPRK. So the question remains: if North Korea has always guaranteed its survival through its conventional deterrence, why has it developed a nuclear deterrent as well on top of this? The most logical answer is so as to bring the United States to the negotiating table.
Pyongyang’s stroke of diplomatic and strategic genius lies in getting the United States to abandon the Korean peninsula in exchange for North Korea renouncing its nuclear arsenal. This hypothesis puts Kim Jong-un on the positive side of the negotiations, coming across as a reasonable and serious negotiating partner willing to find a way to guarantee peace on the whole peninsula. If Kim Jong-un is willing to give up what apparently, until yesterday, seemed impossible in the interests of reaching an agreement to ensure the survival of the two Koreas, then Pyongyang is presenting itself as Seoul’s guarantor of peace. The message Moon Jae-in could receive from the negotiations is that an “enemy” like North Korea is willing to give up its most significant weapon, while the Americans march in with the likes of Bolton and Pompeo, ready to slam their fists on the negotiating table by refusing to make any concessions.
While Kim Jong-un has every intention of placing any blame for a failure of negotiations on the American side, and seems to have all the reasons ready in place to do so, the meeting between Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping seems aimed at laying the groundwork to break the alliance between Seoul and Washington. We can already imagine the scene, with Pyongyang ready to renounce its nuclear weapons, Seoul ready to enter into dialogue about the reunification of the country, China and Russia happy with the denuclearization of the North, and above all, the elimination of the prospects of a terrible war on the peninsula. In this climate, Washington would be left completely isolated in refusing to entertain any prospect of abandoning the peninsula. Thanks to its less-than-perfect relations with its European allies, and its intention to annul the Iranian JCPOA, Washington would leave itself looking like it is neither able to keep its promises nor willing to pursue any credible diplomatic path.
The reality is that an overall agreement between North Korea and the United States is practically impossible for one fundamental reason: the United States uses the excuse of having to protect South Korea to maintain a permanent presence on the peninsula for the purposes of containing China and Russia, both through missile defense and by maintaining a military presence near their borders. For this reason, while Moscow and Beijing have multiple reasons for seeking an agreement between Pyongyang and Washington, both are aware that the US has no intentions of abandoning its presence in South Korea. The meeting between Kim Jong-un and Trump is a well-designed trap prepared by Moscow, Beijing and Pyongyang, maybe over many months or even years. The most realistic objectives are to further isolate Washington in the region, to bring Beijing and Seoul closer together, and to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington. Moscow would use the failure of these negotiations to earn more leverage with its European partners, all eager to see a solution to the Korean crisis. Furthermore, Moscow could increase its opportunity to enter the energy market in South Korea as a result of Seoul diversifying its energy sources. Beijing has every intention of avoiding a war on the peninsula, which would be disastrous in many respects, not only humanitarian but also in the possibility of Washington camping on China’s border as a result of destroying the DPRK.
South Korea’s Moon Jae-in looks on anxiously, ready to reach an agreement with the North. The mastery of Sino-Korean diplomacy has created a win-win situation for Pyongyang, with Washington’s eventual failure in the negotiations having negative reverberations with her allies in region. This is probably the reason why many in the US administration greeted Trump’s decision to accept talks with Kim negatively.
Accepting to engage in talks signals a preparedness to negotiate. But as we can anticipate, the unwillingness of the Americans to accede to North Korean demands to abandon the peninsula doom the talks. At the same time, Pyongyang’s offer to give up its nuclear weapons will leave Washington bearing responsibility for the failure of the talks if there is no commensurable response. For this reason, Trump has ingeniously decided to bring in two warmongers like Pompeo and Bolton, intending to scare Kim into a negotiating position more favorable to Washington, a strategy he intends to also pursue in relation to Iran.
The truth is that American diplomacy has no room for maneuver with Korea; and since war is unthinkable, it is not even a real threat. This leaves Trump with a lot of bluster and a bunch of snarling hawks in tow, but with Pyongyang and Beijing left holding the aces, as will become clear in the coming weeks when all the cards are laid on the negotiating table.
December 18, 2017
Members and Friends
The mission of the Foundation is to defend and expand the basic rights that Western civilization has deemed to be inherent to each individual, principally the freedoms of speech, religion, property ownership, an independent judiciary and gender equality. These rights are set forth in the First Amendment to the US Constitution and similar provisions have been adopted by free countries throughout the world.
The Year in Review
Every year Freedom House (www.freedomhouse.org) publishes a survey that ranks nations according to the political and civil rights of their citizens. Their 2017 report concluded that global democracy has declined for the 11th year. Of the 195 countries surveyed, only 87 nations were rated as “Free” (45%) with the remainder either “Partially Free” (30%) or “Not Free” (25%). It is apparent that other nations and groups that seek to expand human rights, including our Foundation, are falling far short in both preserving and expanding freedom.
Populists and Autocrats
The title of the 2017 Freedom House report is “Populists and Autocrats: The Dual Threat to Global Democracy”. Tyrants have long been considered the primary enemies of free people, but the report cites elected populists that “initially have libertarian impulses can graduate to political purges and persecutions, the militarization of government, sweeping controls of journalism and political wrecking the economy”. Two populist leaders who fit this description are Recep Erdogan of Turkey and President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela. It is indeed disappointing when developed countries revert to autocracies.
Populists often use referendums to secure objectives not considered possible working through their elected representatives. The prime example is Brexit, the referendum passed by the UK to leave the European Union. Populism is also on the rise in political parties in both Europe and in the United States.
Freedom’s Major Adversaries
The countries that present the greatest challenge to the Free World are China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. Each has autocratic governments that severely restrict the freedoms of their citizens, but with the exception of North Korea, they generally act rationally in pursuit of their own interests. The prime example of a tyrant who has victimized his fellow citizens is Kim Jon Un of North Korea, the country Freedom House ranked second in its list of most repressive states. Cuba and Venezuela are the “poor relatives” in this group of totalitarian states, and only belong because of their adversarial position against the US.
Finally, the autocratic African countries, or “Kleptocracies” are too numerous to discuss but can be described by a local joke. When asked “Where is the capital of Zimbabwe” the common reply is “in Switzerland”. Sadly, this is too often true.
Last year FOIF celebrated its tenth anniversary as another voice advocating the spread of individual freedom throughout the world. During the year we published five commentaries highlighting the increasing danger that the Kim dynasty in North Korea presented to the civilized world. With complete control of the economy, the Kim’s used their meagre national revenues to build an oversized military and developed nuclear weapons and an intercontinental delivery system. This combination is intended to provide the ultimate insurance against any regime change. We do not concur with the widespread belief that the only rational policy remaining to the free world is acceptance of the situation.
New Web Site
Our tenth anniversary was an appropriate time to update our web site and we are pleased with the new appearance and clarity in stating our objectives. See www.intlfreedom.org.
It is apparent that freedom from any kind of oppression is a quality of life that is sought by individuals throughout the world, and the individual rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are precisely the rights that are most feared by the tyrants. In short, individual liberty is a wonderful “product” or outcome to sell. The fact that so few countries have a free society is largely determined by historic circumstances. However, the Free World certainly could do better and economic nationalism is not the answer. It is in our national self-interest to spread freedom. Free countries seldom make war on each other.
The Good News
Many say that we should not seek to impose our values on others. However, ideally people should have a choice in the matter. With the rapid spread of international communications, especially the Internet, more people around the world are learning about “how the other half lives”, for better or worse. The strict censorship and restrictions placed by totalitarian governments only confirms this belief.
The Foundation For International Freedom is proud to be part of this effort to spread freedom and we welcome your support for this worthwhile and just cause.
Byron K. Varme
Of Course We Want Regime Change!
October 5, 2017
In his earlier statements regarding US policy towards the Democratic Peoples Republic of North Korea (DPRK) US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson assured Kim Jong Un that the US was not seeking to overthrow his regime, but simply have them cease further developing nuclear weapons and the intercontinental missiles that threaten the US and elsewhere. This statement was “Diplomatically Correct” nonsense. Of course, the US and almost all of the free world, and especially China, would be delighted to see the sadistic young despot not only leave North Korea but also the rest of the planet. The world would be a better place without the Kim dynasty ruling North Korea.
For seventy years, beginning with Kim Il-Sung in 1950, each of the Kim rulers have told their people that the US and South Korea want to invade North Korea, and have fortified their side of 38N to defend against this remote possibility. Why would anyone in their right mind want to invade North Korea except to get rid of Kim Jong Un and his regime? He knows this, and has developed their nuclear arsenal and its inter-continental delivery system solely to stay in power. This strategy has been pursued by three generations of Kim’s very successfully, but at enormous humanitarian cost to his people.
President Trump in his inimitable way has acknowledged this situation and in a speech on September 22nd called the latest Kim “the little Rocket Man”. The North Koreans regard the US as their major adversary and have long sought direct contact with the US, rather than through either China or South Korea. Having opened the door to direct contact with his taunts of Kim Jong Un, provoking even stronger response from North Korea, last week President Trump told Secretary Tillerson to “forget negotiations” with North Korea because they would be useless. He is correct in this assessment, but it was worth the effort to show that the US at least tried the diplomatic approach.
Our last Commentary listed four potential scenarios of this awful situation, concluding that “Acceptance” of DPRK as a nuclear armed state was the most likely outcome. However, it would be a terrible non-solution to the problem. In his column on Tuesday, October 3rd, Gerald Seib softening the dismay that “Acceptance’ implies, compared it to the long term strategy for dealing with the Soviet Union set forth by the esteemed George Kennan in 1947 called “deterrence and containment”. This sounds suspiciously like the policy of “Strategic Patience” propounded by Barack Obama who, following the example of his predecessors, also kicked the North Korean can down the road.
Returning to the disparity of the Trump-Tillerson comments, there is some good news here. This situation is reminiscent of the First Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. James A. Baker, then Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush, spent six months in fruitless negotiations while the Western countries assembled a coalition of forces and planned a massive military response which was unleashed after all negotiations failed. The result was a textbook success.
Secretary Tillerson should continue his diplomatic efforts and quietly encourage (covert activities being frowned upon) the Chinese to act to remove the Kim dynasty from power. The US has one major incentive to offer, namely the withdrawal of US forces from the Korean Peninsula. While the new sanctions imposed by the UN may take limited effect, the US, Japan and South Korea should accelerate their missile defenses, and whenever ready, destroy illegal ballistic missile tests by the DPRK, either in flight or while on the launch pad. These can be characterized as purely defensive actions, not knowing whether the missiles are carrying standard or nuclear warheads. Although Kim Jong Un may call such attacks an act of war, he does not need an excuse to start a war.
A better outcome would be a coup d’état arranged by China, with a new regime headed by a North Korean installed by them, much as Kim Il-Sung was put in power by Russia following the end of WWII. It is now their turn.
Byron K. Varme
THE US AND CHINA – THE RESPONSIBLE SUPERPOWERS
September 6, 2017
On August 29th North Korea launched a ballistic missile which flew over Japan, narrowly missing an Air France aircraft before it broke into three pieces that fell into the North Pacific. It was their 18th ICBM test this year. On Sunday, September 3rd, the DPRK detonated the largest nuclear weapon. These actions all have been condemned by the United Nation which have issued numerous sanctions, it will have little effect on the government of North Korea.
President Trump inherited the problem and early in his new administration he was persuaded to give diplomacy a chance. He said some nice things about Kim Jong Un and stated that he would be pleased to meet him under the “right circumstances. In an Op/Ed article in the Wall Street Journal Rex Tillerson and General James Mattis, Secretaries of State and Defense, declared that the U.S. had no interest in regime change. This was pure diplomatic nonsense…of course they would be delighted to see a new government in Pyongyang, but the statement was intended to give some assurance to the doves fluttering about that the US was giving diplomacy a chance by going through the right motions.
These moves predictably had no effect on Kim Jong Un. It is obvious that Kim Jong Un, the 32 year old ruler of the DPRK, is determined to acquire an arsenal of tested ICBM’s supposedly as a deterrent to the US and its allies from invading North Korea, as if anyone has any desire to do so. These nuclear and ICMB activities are intended to preserve the seventy year rule of the evil Kim Dynasty. They certainly give a great boost to his ego.
What to do? In a comprehensive essay in the Atlantic, “The Worst Problem on Earth”, Mark Bowden cited four possible broad strategic options actions that the US could take in dealing with the North Korean situation:
a. Prevention – All out attacks on DPRK nuclear and missile facilities;
b. Turning the Screws – Military responses to any DPRK missile launches, etc.
c. Decapitation – Removal of Kim Jong Il and his immediate military command structure;
d. Acceptance – Tacitly acknowledge that the DPRK will indeed develop sufficient nuclear and missile launch capability to provide an effective deterrent to any US activities toward regime change in the DPRK.
After citing a long list of reasons Mr. Bowden concluded that that “acceptance is “how the current crisis should and most likely will play out”. We submit that acceptance would be a terrible result that should be avoided if at all possible.
Russia and China share responsibility for the present situation. In 1945 Russia was awarded North Korea for its belated entry into WWII, and installed Kim Il Sung, then a major in the Russian army as the first President of DPRK. In 1950, sensing an opportunity to unite all of Korea under his rule, invaded South Korea. After achieving initial success, the US led coalition drove the DPRK forces, including some Russian elements back to the Chinese border where the Chinese joined the war with massive forces which turned the tide, eventually back to the 38th Parallel. No armistice was ever signed and the two countries are technically still at war.
Without Chinese intervention the Korea Peninsula would now be unified under the government of the Republic of Korea. Without China’s economic support, the DPRK would be even more of a disaster – it currently imports about 90% of its oil from China, the lifeblood of its military which includes any Chinese officers. Obviously, China provides this support because it believes it is in their self-interest to do so.
In his recent Op/Ed piece, Dr. Henry A. Kissinger described multiple adverse effects of DPRK acquiring a capable nuclear deterrent which imply that the “Acceptance” strategy would be a terrible outcome. He concludes that “An understanding with China is needed”. We concur with this statement, and believe that it contains the elements of a comprehensive strategy that offers the best chance for a favorable outcome to this “Greatest Problem”.
Although deep divisions that exist between China and the US, the two largest economies in the world with many close commercial relationships and peace in the North Pacific is in the interests of both countries.
In summary, it appears that no reduction in the DPRK nuclear threat will be possible as long as the evil Kim dynasty rules the DPRK, and further negotiations involving him are counter-productive. The delays involved only provide further time to perfect his weaponry. Although it denies it, China has enormous power over the DPRK, including the ability to accomplish regime change. The two Superpowers have many crucial interests in common that could lead to an acceptable arrangement for all. It is time for the two adults in the room to make this happen.
Byron K. Varme
THE MOUSE THAT ROARED – THE SEQUEL
April 01 – 2017
The Grand Fenwick comedy has turned into a horror story. Following WWII the Korean Peninsula was partitioned into two separate nations, with the northern country (DPRK) allocated to the Soviet Union and the Republic of Korea (South Korea or ROK), under the authority of the Allied administration headed by General MacArthur in Tokyo. The Russians installed Kim Il Sung, then a major in the Russian army, who through assignations and established a total dictatorship. Their objective then and now was to unify the entire Korean Peninsula under their control.
Sensing the military weakness and lack of commitment by the US, on June 26, 1950 Kim launched an attack on South Korea, which initially succeeded brilliantly against the ill-prepared Allied Forces, until, backed by a UN resolution, the Allies reassembled a broad coalition which forced the DPRK army to retreat to almost the northern border. The outcome of the war changed when China intervened with massive support which drove the Allied forces back to the original borders.
The net result of the Korean War was re-establishment of the border at the 38th Parallel. The two countries have never signed peace agreement and are technically still at war.
Over the seven decades since the end of the Korean War, the ROK has developed into a free economic powerhouse with a GNP of $1.7 Trillion and an average annual income of $37,000 per person.
In contrast, the DPRK converted itself into an armed fortress to protect its leaders, imbedding thousands of artillery pieces in tunnels within range of Seoul; creating a standing army of over one million soldiers; developing an arsenal of nuclear weapons; and finally, testing intercontinental ballistic missiles with the capability to hit North American cities. All this was accomplished by diverting funds from domestic development and its impoverished citizens.
Assuming that the West takes no action to prevent Kin Jong Un from acquiring an arsenal of nuclear weapons and intercontinental weapons capable of reaching the US, he would hold a “trump card” against any interference with his dream of reuniting the entire Korean Peninsula as the DPRK.
When the US entered into mutual defense treaties with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines seventy years ago there was little thought that any potential adversary could endanger the US or its Pacific territories. With the DPRK in possession of nuclear ICBM’s would US public opinion cause Washington to rethink its mutual defense treaty obligations, including the US Forces stationed at the 38th Parallel? Would the pacifists in Seoul respond with military action believing that the US would not fulfill its mutual defense treaty obligations? They might accept a “Special Relationship” as Hong Kong has with China. Korea could again be reunited, but under the rule of the evil Kim dynasty.
If this scenario ever did play out, future historians could reasonably ask which country made the better use of its funds?
Byron K. Varme
North Korea – “The Mouse That Roared”
January 17 – 2017
Although it is highly unlikely that the Kim dynasty that has ruled the DPRK (North Korea) since the 1953 partition had ever seen the film, their actions during the last sixty years appear to follow its scenario. Many other totalitarian countries have acquired (or tried to acquire) nuclear weapons to remain in power.
However, the possession of any weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by North Korea is no joke. Under the rule of Kim Jong-Il and his really weird son Kim Jong-Un, North Korea has conducted four tests of nuclear weapons from 2006 to 2016. Further, North Korea is developing ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads and sufficient range to reach the US West Coast. As a further deterrent, the DPRK fortified its border with South Korea with strongly imbedded artillery capable of reaching Seoul. Over these years the world has watched with increasing apprehension as ongoing diplomatic efforts and various incentives for the “Hermit Kingdom” to abandon these programs and join the civilized world have failed.
The optimum solution for the DPRK’s long-suffering citizens is to overthrow the Kim Jong-Un regime, but it is extremely difficult for the people of any autocracy to overthrow their government. There is a long list of recent failed coup attempts, including the Green revolution in Iran, the “Arab Spring” countries (except Tunisia), the disaster in Syria and most recently, Turkey. In all these cases the leaders of the failed coups suffered horribly. However, there are some encouraging developments.
As described by Jieun Baek in Foreign Affairs, ongoing programs conveying information on the world outside DPRK are having some success. Recently, Thae Yong Ho, North Korea’s former deputy ambassador to Britain, defected to South Korea. He stated that “Kim Jong-Il’s days are numbered” and is working to overthrow the regime. These efforts are worthwhile and should be augmented with professional covert activities, presumably by South Korean agencies, to support the insurgent groups at such time as a coup is launched with sufficient arms to overcome the formidable defenses protecting the Kim leadership group.
As a final option, the US, together with Japan and South Korea, should quickly establish the air defense missile systems similar to the Iron Dome in Israel to be able to intercept and destroy any missiles launched by the DPRK in their development programs. This missile can be launched quickly from mobile platforms, making them difficult to find and destroy on the ground.
The immediate justification for destroying any missiles launched by the PDRK is that the allies had no way of knowing the destination of the missile or whether or not it was armed with a nuclear warhead. Therefore, the action taken was deemed to be totally defensive, and not an “act of war”. However, any such attack likely would bring a new set of unknown consequences, notably China’s response. The dream of creating a united, democratic and prosperous country occupying the entire Korean peninsula is long sought objective, but likely will remain a dream as long as it is in the interest of China to keep North Korea as a thorn in the sides of South Korea, Japan and the United States.
In summary, “The Mouse That Roared” has grown into a large rat which, with nuclear weapons and delivery capabilities, can threaten the US and our Pacific allies. Prior US administrations have “kicked this can down the road”, it is now the challenge for the Trump administration to address the issue.
We expect that General Mattis, our erudite new Secretary of Defense, discussed these options during his recent visit to Asia. It was reported that he gave strong reassurance to both South Korea and Japan that the US would honor or treaty obligations, which had been a major concern of both countries and Taiwan. That certainly is very good news.
Byron K. Varme
 Foreign Affairs, Vol. 96 January/February 2017- The Opening of the North Korean Mind – Jieaun Baek
 Wall Street Journal, January 26, 2017 – page A-7 – Jonathan Cheng
“Simple Solutions” Response
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:
1. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) 1
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