North Korea - Should the West/UN take action?


I have a sneaking suspicion that this is what China is protecting.

The ROK military is vastly more advanced, partially due to the long decay of the DPRK. The ROK would quickly have overwhelming superiority in the air, sea, and land, thus knocking out/overrunning DPRK artillery and missile batteries, and taking the fight to the rest of the DPRK’s military. The ROK has vastly superior infrastructure, enabling some civilians to quickly move out of range, and many others to take shelter. I’m thinking of the London Underground during the Blitz. In any case, the DPRK’s arsenal wouldn’t last long. If the ROK’s military claims they can’t defend against that, I wonder why that worry doesn’t spread to ROK civilians, and in any case it illustrates the moral hazard involved here.

That’s China’s problem, to the extent that it’s a problem.

You’re forgetting the Russian border. Vladivostok is not that far away. You’re also forgetting the ROK islands near the Northern Limit Line, to which some refugees/defectors have fled in the past. Also, consider the road/rail connections near/at the Joint Security Area, and the other rail link to the east. People could travel across all of those areas. In the event of a DPRK breakdown, their troops would be the first to flee. As for the Chinese, they would have an incentive to pro-actively move their personnell in, to bring assistance to the refugees. It reminds me of why India invaded East Pakistan.

Right, they have some experience, and would just have to scale up the effort.

Do you still think so?

Yes, it is China’s problem. Is there a reason we’re not supposed to be concerned about that? Earlier you were saying North Korea’s neighbors would get involved in the humanitarian effort; now you’re saying the West/UN should tell China to take a hike?

They’d have to go from delivering food aid to running a backward country that has experienced decades of privation and just lost a war. You know, “scaling up.”

They seem to have a handful of crude warheads, and the consistent US military presence and real/perceived threats gave them the incentive to build them.

That creates a moral hazard. It’s the ROK’s responsibility.

I prefer that to the ongoing suffering of the North’s population. It would be rough at first, but Northeast Asia is very dynamic and prosperous, and the lowering of tensions would be great for everyone. Preparing for war creates a lot of lost opportunity costs.

I oppose sanctions, as they’re an act of war.

Which is why it behooves the Chinese to maybe treat the DPRK like some parts of Africa, so as to ward off some of these potential problems, rather than waiting for them to happen. In any case, it’s an Asian matter, not an American one.

No, I’m saying it’s China’s business.

Exactly. That’s much better than the current situation.

I don’t think history agrees with you. North Korea agreed to dismantle their nuclear program in the '90s in exchange for an increase in international aid, but they continued to work on nuclear weapons in secret.

It wouldn’t be rough “at first.” It would be very difficult for a very long time. I’ve heard that the former East Germany is still a small drag on West Germany’s economy 20 years after reunification. Go back to the beginning of that process and start off with a country that’s in far worse shape and that’s what you’re looking at.

Ugh, I’m having Bush administration flashbacks.

If you want to get technical about it, North Korea is at war with South Korea. I’m not sure I agree with you here, and in any case you can’t logically oppose something because it’s an act of war when you are supportive of an actual war.


And the US military presence and posture was still there. Didn’t they also notice when US pressure ended the “Sunshine Policy”?

Right, and hopefully the governments of the region have learned something from the shock-therapy privatizations and such which made things so complicated in Europe, and have even led to some nostalgia. In any case, it’s better than the current situation, and it’s an Asian matter, not an American issue.

So am I. The Bush foreign policy entailed huge opportunity costs, just like those of his predecessors and successor.

On the contrary, I don’t support war at all.

Even if it’s a huge mess for years, the end of the DPRK regime and greater access to assistance for the North’s people need to come ASAP.

Yes, the ROK Armed Forces are far more advanced than the DPRK’s; however, that doesn’t negate the very real fact that the DPRK has in place now weaponry that will destroy a fair portion of South Korea’s population in a concerted attack. The weapons are already aimed for that very purpose.

You’re just blathering here. This is simply not possible given the current situation, to wit: missile batteries which are well-protected and already aimed at the major population center of the ROK.

There’s no way to evacuate approximately 25 million people within minutes of an attack being launched. It’s simply not possible.

Moral hazard? Good grief. You really don’t have a clue as to what you’re talking about. The attacking missile batteries are in place, target the major population center of the country–and that country’s not all that big either. So, out of idle curiosity, where, exactly, do you expect the populace to be relocated prior to any attack? Keep in mind that you want the current government and current economy in South Korea to keep functioning.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! That’s the funniest thing I’ve ever read in a supposedly serious discussion. Yes, it’s China’s problem. Take a moment here. Go grab yourself an atlas. Preferably one that was published sometime in the last ten years. Scope out its entry on China (the big one, not the ROC on Taiwan). Do you see that big ol’ swath of land? Yes. Now check out the population number. China has more than a billion people. They do not want nor will they accept millions of refugees from the Korean peninsula. And China has a military force that is capable of preventing that if it comes to it.

I’m not forgetting a blame thing. I daresay I’m far more versed in the issue than you appear to be. Crossing the DPRK-Russia border isn’t all that easy. There’s a very real reason why the refugees who do happen to make it out of North Korea cross the border with China instead.

Again, I’m not forgetting a blame thing. Those islands are very well guarded by South Korea right now. A fairly recent attack from North Korea ensured that little tidbit. Also, if North Korea were to launch an all-out attack on South Korea, you can bet your bippy those islands wouldn’t be the place to be. That’s in the case of an attack. If the North’s government were to collapse, there still wouldn’t be any way to have more than a handful of refugees–if even that many–make it onto those islands. South Korea’s a bit touchy about them currently for obvious reasons.

Nobody is traveling across the DMZ via rail without South Korea’s express advance permission. They’re certainly not going to be driving any vehicles across. By the way, just who do you think has all those nifty vehicles in the North? And what do you think the JSA is? It’s not a Boy Scout camp. It’s incredibly well-guarded by both Koreas.

Wishful thinking on your part. The troops are the ones benefiting the most from North Korea’s current “Military First” policy. And the troops are the ones enforcing the worst of the regime’s atrocities.

Huh? Korea as a whole has already proven that they have no wish to be ruled by China. China’s tried that and it didn’t work out all that well for them.

The humanitarian aid that’s making its way into North Korea has done so with the logistical assistance, obviously, of the North Korean government. Scaling up the effort won’t do anything if the governmental infrastructure in the North has collapsed. Just look at what happened when the North’s rationing system failed.

I was mistaken in my description of your post. It’s beyond simplistic and mistaken. You really don’t have a clue about the situation.

This is just BS. North Korea knows full well that there is exactly zero threat of an invasion by either the ROK or the UN Forces. The DPRK relies on that fact. If North Korea’s government had any concern whatsoever that there would be an attack on their territory, they would not have sunk a South Korea Navy ship nor would they have fired missiles at one of those SK islands near the NLL.

The only incentive North Korea has to make nuclear weapons is to use them as negotiating tools to get their way.

North Korea consistently shows it is dangerous and quite dangerous when its government isn’t seeing things in their own country go the way they wish. Before the government collapses, they will lash out. What, you think that missile launched across Japan was for entertainment? It was a message and one Japan’s government learned rather quickly.

On top of that, it will cost in incredible amount to educate, feed, train, and equip an entire country. Nobody’s remaining that prosperous to get that done.

Oh, and let’s not forget that there most certainly will be trials of the surviving NK senior civil and military officials.

Don’t make up stuff. Sanctions are not an act of war. They’re an authorized economic tool to prevent rewarding a rogue regime.

Ah, I see you don’t understand international politics and strategy either. It actually is an American matter. Get back to me when you’ve cracked a few recent books on the issue.

Read this.

They’re not so well-protected that they can survive being pounded by all the (largely unmolested) air strikes that would arrive within minutes. Even if the DPRK batteries retreat back into their fortifications, the air strikes (by loitering, watching aircraft) will keep them pinned down until ROK forces overrun them.

No, not all of them. I can’t imagine that the ROK hasn’t planned for this. Based on everything I’ve read/seen, the population isn’t very worried.

A moral hazard exists because the US presence and possibility of intervention makes it easier for some elements in the ROK to behave more recklessly, and potentially not take enough responsibility for their own safety. I don’t think that the ROK has neglected civil defense to that degree. Some of the population would flee south if need be, but most would take shelter.

Yes, that’s my point. It’s their problem, not that of the US.

I had to pause for a moment and wonder what a “blame thing” meant. Some do escape to Russia, and in a situation where the DPRK forces were collapsing, more would. The point is, more would be involved besides China.

I know, but some do already, and more would if they had to. Also, “bippy?” I guess that’s more evidence that some still live in the Cold War.

Some DPRK soldiers have fled that way already. If there’s a collapse, with or without a conflict, refugee columns would probably head south, on foot or on wheels, and would congregate where it’s easiest and safest, i.e. along roads or railways.

Some of them have been known to defect already. Wouldn’t more do so if they had nothing to fight for any more? A trickle to a flood, in other words. Most of the rest could be killed/overrun quickly.

I was thinking of something that would in large part consist of Korean-speaking humanitarian efforts originating in the bordering regions, with some security assistance, not a military invasion.

On the contrary, the demise of the regime would make it possible to air-drop aid, and otherwise deliver assistance without gunfire.

Sock it to me!

OurLordPeace hasn’t said he supports an invasion; I realize I confused what he said with some of the things the OP (GreedySmurf) said.

There’s no retreating into their fortifications. The missile batteries will have done their damage.

The population knows that there’s really nowhere to go to. You simply don’t seem to understand the scale of the issue. There are approximately fifty million people in South Korea. Approximately half of that number reside and work in the Seoul-Incheon metro area. It’s that area that will be destroyed within minutes of any concerted attack. It takes time to evacuate people, even if there were somewhere to go. To evacuate millions? There’s no time for that.

This paragraph just plain doesn’t make any sense.

Ah, but it is the US’s problem, in that it’s an issue of concern to the US. Or are you one of those isolationists who, yourself, is living in the far distant past?

It’s a fairly common term in the English language. My almost one decade living in South Korea and another year living in China hasn’t robbed me of my ability to use that language.

And exactly how do you expect those folks to escape into Russia. I suggest you take another gander at that atlas.

That’s not evidence I’m living in the Cold War era. It’s evidence I’m familiar with the English language, including slang.

Uh, no. There won’t be columns of refugees wending their way across the DMZ. There certainly won’t be vehicle convoys.

An incredibly small number of DPRK soldiers have defected in the JSA. North Korea has changed the way their personnel are monitored there to prevent that happening again.

Kind of bloodthirsty for someone who says you’re against all war, aren’t you? But anyway, those DPRK soldiers who have defected have provided valuable intelligence to the ROK. If the DPRK government were to collapse, there would be no reason for the South to grant amnesty to those soldiers for the crimes against humanity that are one of the main two issues presently. And don’t think that those in the North who have lost relatives to the camps will be all that anxious to see those soldiers receive such amnesty.

Speaking of the camps, you do realize that the DPRK insists that they don’t even exist, don’t you? The very instant the North’s government collapses, those in charge of the camps and those enforcing the regime’s rules there will destroy the camps to include all prisoners.

Where will you drop this stuff? How will you ensure its distribution? How will you ensure the people with the weapons (you know, those soldiers who you think will want to flee to a country where they will likely be tried for crimes against their own people) don’t bogart the stuff to themselves?


Oh, you evidently don’t understand what China’s Very Big Deal is regarding Korea. It is one thing and one thing only: STABILITY. China is kind of touchy itself about any change in what they define as stability on the Korean peninsula.

There’s some debate about the exact cause of that sinking, and those were artillery shells fired at the island, not missiles. You don’t think that they’re delusional enough to believe their own propaganda? Consider what happened at the end of the Korean War, when coalition aircraft ran out of military targets, and demolished civilian infrastructure to such a degree that the DPRK was left terrified that it might happen again. It won’t, but they can’t be sure. Consider Soviet attitudes post-WWII.

All the more reason to get Americans out of the way. There’s another example of the moral hazard. The JSDF is very strong, but if it needs to be stronger, the Japanese can afford it.

Yes, it will. It will be worth it.


If sanctions are taken seriously enough to enforce with a blockade, then yes, they are an act of war.

I have indeed cracked a great many books on those subjects. I also know that the US is in North America, not east Asia, and thus has no security concerns in that region.

They apparently can “shoot and scoot,” but that won’t save them from everything the ROK can throw at them, at very high speed.

I have researched and written on this issue. That metro area is enormous, and unlike in the DPRK (or Gaza), ROK citizens have more ability to live where they want to. They aren’t forced to live under the guns, if they’re that scared. The DPRK would not be able to level the whole place, and evidently the amount of damage they can inflict isn’t enough to motivate a lot of Koreans to vote with their feet.

The ROK’s rulers (and masses) have less of an incentive to do what they need to do to ensure peace and prosperity, if they think the US will ride to the rescue. That, and it needlessly antagonizes the DPRK.

I’m a non-interventionist. It’s not any concern to the United States.

There is a small area where the DPRK border meets that of Russia. With the guards gone, some people would head that way.

That always happens in situations like the one we’re discussing.

Yes, and others have gone through the DMZ at other locations. The desire is evidently there, and as other posters have noted, the outside world is less of a secret to the DPRK, and if there’s a breakdown, and the officers are fleeing to avoid prosecution, why would many of the DPRK’s forces stand and fight?

Hopefully they would surrender. I’m thinking of the situation as the Nazi regime collapsed. The Allies identified, caught, and tried many criminals, and later, the FRG and GDR did the same.

Yes, and hopefully the ROK Airborne could get there in time. Even the Nazis weren’t able to liquidate all of their human evidence, and that was a far more competent and powerful regime than the DPRK.

It would be dropped on areas where desperate people seem to be congregating. A lot of the weapons in DPRK are held by the huge number of rank-and-file conscripts, as opposed to the criminals you refer to. There’s a reason why militaries tend to side with the masses more often than secret-police goons, or the privileged officer class.

Yes, and they’re tired of Pyongyang’s antics. Once again, it’s their problem.

None I can think of.

A multi-national agreement to endow a trust fund large enough for the Kim family and, say, a retinue of 100 to live out their lives in splendor in Switzerland and the Caymans, free of prosecution. Announce that for at least a ten-year period after their departure, North Korea would be maintained as a separate state, administered by the US, China, and Russia, with advice and assistance from South Korea. During this time, the NoKo military will not be disbanded and there will be no trials or retribution, and any assistance in rebuilding the country during this period would count in one’s favor if there are such trials thereafter.

Vastly expensive and morally unsatisfying, but the point would be to try to forestall a complete societal collapse and the possibility of a spasm of international conflict in the process.

No, there isn’t. There is exactly zero credible evidence that the Cheonan sinking was anything other than an attack by North Korea.

The point remains the same.

Actually, plenty of people in the North do believe that propaganda. That is part of the overall problem.

Try cracking some good books this time.

That is a stunningly ignorant stance.

So, you’ve written on the subject, hey? What have you written? I mean, what have you written besides something in middle or high school or at university? What have you gotten published by a reputable publisher?

This does not seem like news to anyone who has been paying any attention to international issues over the last 20 years. To me, this UN report seems more likely to pressure China than North Korea. How much pressure China may feel is up for debate (IMHO, not much).