Former US defense chief warns of war over North Korea

From here. There’s this:

And this:

So, what do you think:

  1. Will we soon be at war with North Korea?
  2. If so, is it because Bush is unwilling to negotiate?

I should have added:

  1. If so, is Bush correct in refusing to negotiate?
  1. Hope not, but don’t really know.
  2. Yes. The only thing dumber than sitting on our thumbs and refusing to negotiate would be another “pre-emptive strike.”
  3. No. Options for a peacful resolution should always be considered.

I’ll just add that I don’t think the US’s non-negotiation with North Korea is directly attributed to Bush’s feelings for Kim. Rather, I think it’s a combination of spin control post-Iraq (“You didn’t negotiate with Iraq, but have no problems negotiating with North Korea?”) and the usual neo-conservative cockiness (“The United States is the world’s sole superpower and we can lick whoever challenges us.”).

My two cents, anyway.

One of the administration’s stated (or maybe just implied by pundits) reasons for not negotiating is the sense that North Korea is trying to extort money (or some kind of consideration) to keep them behaving ‘nicely’. Certainly there is a history of North Korea getting uppity and getting paid off in some fashion to settle down.

I think negotiations are always wise and should not be precluded but neither should North Korea be rewarded for its antics. It’s a scary and dicey situation as North Korea is very unpredictable.

Finally, realize that the US has strong allies in South Korea and Japan who both are understandably concerned that the US can so drastically affect their region of the world and add in the Chinese who constitute a superpower and consider North Korea as their ally in their own backyard and you can see the situation is extremely complex. By comparison Iraq was a no-brainer.

So, in essence what you are saying is that the US will not negotiate with terrorists, extortionists and madmen, which the president of NK is undoubtedly is.

Does this mean we are daring the president of North Korea to do some overtly evil thing so that the US can swoop in and take over NK once and for all?

I like it.

I think we should just give them Czechoslovakia. That way they will leave everybody else alone.

I have no doubt that this is what Bush would hope for in a simple world. However the geopolitical situation in that part of the world is anything but simple. The South Koreans do NOT want a war and seem willing to do most anything to avoid it. North Korea has some 10,000 artillery pieces ranged on Seoul that can drop 500,000 shells per hour in that city. No matter what the US did in a pre-emptive strike the North Koreans could put the explosive equivalen of a nuke per hour into Seoul and no one could stop them.

Japan of course doesn’t want war either as the North Koreans have already shown the ability to put missiles in Japan. If the North Koreans do have a nuke the Japanese, being the only recipients of a nuke so far, are understandably antsy. What’s worse is Kim Jong Il seems like the sort who would lob a nuke on Tokyo just for spite’s sake if nothing else.

Then you have China who sees North Korea as squarely in their sphere of influence (rightly so). The Chinese have already shown their willingness to fight the US in Korea when they attacked us during the Korean War and turned what looked like an imminent US victory into a temporary route until it finally all settled down to what we have today (two Koreas). The Chinese will NOT be happy to see the US invading North Korea again and may very well throw troops in to oppose the US. Now you have the US at war with China…a WHOLE different ball of wax then and FAR more serious.

In short even our trigger happy President must take pause to consider the implications of a belligerent North Korea versus the US. Or at least one can hope the President’s advisors will pound it into his head.

The best thing I think anyone could hope for would be China annexing North Korea, deposing the current NK regime and make it just another Chinese province. I think the US would be happy to stand back and watch that. The North Korean populace would be better off under Chinese rule (maybe not a lot but still better), China wouldn’t have to worry about an unstable neighbor with nukes, North Korea would be more open to trade and travel and the region would be stable again. Wishful thinking I know but it’d save the US a lot of hassle.

I can tell you what the administration’s position is. I can’t tell you if it’s the correct strategy, because I don’t have a clue what should be done. North Korea is a very, very difficult problem. There may not be any easy solutions.

Administration’s thinking:

North Korea wants the U.S. to come to the bargaining table, and is using blackmail to do so. The U.S. does not want to be seen as the country that must give in to blackmail in order to stabilize the peninsula. For two reasons: One, it won’t work anyway - that strategy was tried before, and failed. Two, rewarding blackmail just leads to more blackmail. And three, the U.S. has very little to bargain WITH, other than to sign non-aggression pacts which it clearly can’t do when the possibility exists that North Korea will HAVE to be dealt with.

The proper solution to the crisis is to get North Korea’s neighbors involved. Specifically, China. And to a lesser extent, South Korea. Those two countries are the only ones that have something Kim Jong iL really wants or needs. China is propping up North Korea with trade, and there are rumors that China is buying up the products of slave labor in North Korea’s gulags. North Korea needs China’s support. And North Korea wants reunification with South Korea.

So, those two countries are North Korea’s neighbors, and have bargaining chips. The U.S. is across the world, and the only game it can play is brinksmanship. If the U.S. gives in this time, then North Korea will not only continue to build weapons clandestinely (as it did after the last agreement in 1994), and when there’s another economic crisis in NK (and there’s *always an economic crisis in that basket case of a country) then Kim will simply start threatening again and raise the stakes. Eventually, he’ll make a demand that can’t be met, and the whole shaky house of cards will collapse into war.

There. That’s the administration position, as near as I can figure it. Now, obviously this strategy depends heavily on whether China and South Korea are wiling to step up to the plate. If not, then the result will be what we have now - nothing much will happen, and in the meantime the clock is ticking and NK is getting closer and closer to detonating a nuclear weapon in a test. When that happens, we’re really up the creek.

Frankly, I don’t know what the right course of action is. I don’t see how North Korea can possibly be allowed to start manufacturing nuclear bombs - there’s just too much chance they’ll wind up spread around the globe in the hands of every two-bit nutbar with a grudge and a few million dollars in hard currency. That’s a massive risk, which I believe will lead one day to a nuclear detonation in a western city. But for the life of me, I don’t know what can be done to stop it, either. A first strike seems incredibly dangerous.

Is this really true? I mean, I assume the people want it, but the leadership? Why can’t they just ask for it?

I thought the US was trying to get China and South Korea in on the act but it was North Korea that insisted on negotiations with the US. The US position was it would not come to the table without the other countries participating and North Korea balked at that. Mind you this was awhile ago and things may have changed some but the upshot is it seems NK WANTS the US involved.

The citizens of the ROK want it, but the government doesn’t want ANY vestages of the DPRK’s government in the final mix. The dizidens of the DPRK REALLY want it (you know,with the starvation and all.) Only problem is, Kim Jong Il and his dead pappy, Kim Il Sung keep sabre rattling (remember 1988? Something along the lines of “We shall wash the streets of Seoul with the blood of all who would stand in our way?” This over the damn Olympics?!) That’s why reunification is currently tabled on the diplomatic side, and blocked by 30,000 US troops and 1.2 million land mines. If the DPRK would sit down, shut up, and play nice (eg 1:shut down their nuclear arms program, 2: Demobilize the majority of their army, 3: actually feed those who the food we send them is supposed to feed, 4: overthrow their current despotic leadership (Hell, I like Castro more than I like Kim) 5: Beg real hard) then maybe the US and ROK’ll let 'em have a swing at it.

I very highly doubt that the regime in North Korea wants to unify with the South. In the circumstances it could only be with the south dominating and that means the men in the north are finished.

Clyde Prestowitz the reaganite apparently met with the senior South Korean foreign ministry official last year and what was impressed upon him was that the South didnt want unification either. He said that South Korea was not in a position to afford the costs of absorbing and modernising the North. “We are not West Germany”

I think at some point unification on terms set by the South will happen but it will require considerable aid which the world should be prepared to provide. I cant see North Korea being around for the long haul.

That’s true. North Korea is adamant about wanting to negotiate with only the United States, and the other countries in the region are perfectly happy to drop that hot potato in George Bush’s lap.

But that’s not really a good formula for lasting success.

"North Korea is adamant about wanting to negotiate with only the United States, and the other countries in the region are perfectly happy to drop that hot potato in George Bush’s lap."

Breaking news out of Japan.

N. Korea open to multilateral talks

BTW, according to the story I linked, China and Japan do want to be involved in talks. I’m not sure what South Korea’s position is.

It appears that the proposal is essentially the same as one brought to the North by congressman Curt Weldon in June. Although the Bush admistration was lukewarm at the time, this seems like about the best possible result if the details can be worked out.