September 7, 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, estimated at 100+ kilotons, about eight times the Hiroshima device. 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.

Of course, these nuclear and ICMB activities are intended to preserve the seventy year rule of the Kim Dynasty. The possession of an arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles carrying nuclear, or even hydrogen warheads by a country ruled by an avowed enemy of the United States is a grave threat to the United States and its allies.

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, he invaded South Korea. After achieving initial success, the US led coalition drove the DPRK forces, including some Russian elements back to the Chinese border. China then joined the war and with massive forces turned the tide. The adversaries agreed to return to the original border on 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 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, preferably before any military response from the countries threatened. Without an agreement, some defensive military action to destroy future launched missiles would seem an appropriate next step.

Byron K. Varme
Executive Director