Please Explain The N. Korean crisis To Me

OK, I understand that N Korea is a stalinist dictatorship, which is probably making nuclear bombs, and is about to test long range ballistic missles. I also understand that the US has troops in S Korea, and Japan, and is bound by treaty to both thosecountries. What I don’t understand: the S Korean populace doesn’t want us there anymore…and the US Army is enormously unpopularin S. korea. Both japan and S Korea have modern militaries…and either probably could attack (and destroy N. Korea’s nuclear capability). As for us, under Bill Clinton, we gave N. Korea >$1 billion worth of food and oil/…we can easily prevent N. Korea from shipping weapons out of the country. So why don’t we just let the Japanese handle this ? Why allow ourselves to be blackmailed (as the Clinton adm. dolts did)? Finally, N. Korea couldNOT exist without Chinese support…why not just summon the Chinese ambassador and tell him (respectfully of course), that unless they stop funding Kim-Il-Sung, we immediately close out ports to Chinese exports.

Whoa ! I’m not sure if this OP was made in jest. But I hope it is. I can’t even begin to start to debunk your up-yours approach. Suffice to say, the US isn’t that powerful independently as you are implicitly implying. The US’s power is derived from its dominant position in a free and open to all market.

  1. I wouldn’t want to wager on the US’s ability to “easily prevent N. Korea from shipping weapons out of the country.” In fact, I think it would be near impossible with anything short of a complete quarantine, which would be politically difficult to commence and sustain. Even with such a blockade, only one customer would have to sucessfully export his purchase to cause an awful lot of unpleasantness.

  2. I too don’t see much point in garrisoning S. Korea against its wishes. In the post-cold war era, I’d be inclined to leave and let them be blackmailed by the North, I don’t see that as our problem anymore. I think the motivations for staying there, however, are more strongly rooted in the political imperative of “maintaining a presence” on N. Korea’s doorstep and China’s backyard. Also important is the pragmatic imperative of wanting to maintain good military bases around the world. Withdrawing from S. Korea, and especially from Japan, would be a rather expensive proposition, in terms of both real and replacement costs.

  3. I thought it was a mistake to establish free trade with China in an open-ended fashion, inasmuch as annual renewal gave us a bit more leverage in dealing with them. It would be an even bigger deal to declare a trade war now. There are, in any event, a lot of US companies that lobbied strongly for it, and would warn of economic disaster if we were to open a trade war now. China also has a history of responding poorly to open coercion. The more open and simplistic the diplomatic stance with them, the less likely it is to be successful.

I often think the term “power” is misused in discussions of diplomatic matters. Militarly, I think the US really is unilaterally quite powerful. The only meaningful contribution its allies really make is in terms of basing, and possibly a few esoteric categories like the UK’s special forces.

Diplomatically, however, I don’t believe “power” is a meaningful term. Diplomacy is ultimately all about current interests and long term goals. To the extent the US has enjoyed diplomatic “power” over the years, it is because it has had the global economic importance and raw wealth for other nations to see the benefits of supporting the US agenda. I don’t see the current international crises as “weakening” the US position. Rather I think they are symptomatic of a broader current of other nations no longer seeing cooperation with the US as necessarily profitable. There is no longer a Soviet threat to chase free-market nations into America’s arms, and more nations are beginning to see themselves as economic competitors of the US than as vassals. This is true even if their newly independant policies are ultimately selfish and short-sighted.

In that context, I would agree with Gyan9 that America can’t dictate policy in the 21st century and expect everyone else to fall into line, and Ralph124c’s assertions to that end are incorrect or outdated.

I’m afraid I wasn’t too clear: briefly, I don’t see why the US has any interest in getting in too deep with N. Korea. As I say, both Japan and S. Korea don’t need our help anymore. I think the only real worry for us is if N Korea decides to sell nuclearbombs to certain Middle east dictators.
As I say, China ultimately can control Korea…and we have a HUGE trade deficit with China…they need us much more than we need them. So why don’t we drop the whole mess into their laps? Japan is a good ally…they fund quite abit of the costs ofmaintaining the US bases in japan. But why we are so worried about Kore, I kjust don’t understand…particularly since they don’t want us there anymore.

Japan doesn’t maintain a big army. They depend on the US for protection. Japan is also the world’s 2nd largest economy. Suppose US packed and came back home. Pyongyang went mad and decided to nuke Japan. By the time US could retaliate, half of Japan and S Korea could be finished. That could literally cause a collapse of the world economy.

Even if the US cut off ties with China, the US economy would suffer despite the dynamic. So, that threat isn’t really an option.

I agree with Ralph124c in that I’m tired of seeing the US serving the same function for other countries as 17th century mercenaries, and getting the same amount of respect for it. I don’t believe that North Korea really has expansionistic ambitions along the lines of, say… Iraq. On the other hand, it has both the motive and the opportunity to operate as a nuclear WalMart, either to generate cash directly from the sale of bombs, or to extort aid from the developed world through the threat of doing so. That, I think, is the real threat that North Korea represents.

Whether or not China needs us more, they are unlikely to respond to flat out threats, and pro-China trade lobbyists are deeply connected with both political parties, such that I doubt such a hardball policy would ever get off the ground.

I’d be quite in favor of using a US withdrawal from South Korea as a carrot to induce North Korean nuclear restraint. I’d also enjoy watching South Korea sweat at the suggestion.

China doesn’t control N. Korea. N. Korea does pretty much what they want. N. Korea does have close ties with China, but that isn’t the same thing as China being able to order n. Korea to do something.

One thing - does South Korea really want us out of the Country? I know there are protest against our forces there, but heck, you see protest against the US military here at home too. It would also take about a decade for Japan to field a fully capable military - their forces are modern but low in numbers, and that would put a strain on their already shaky economy. Also, ** Gyan9 ** minor knitpick, according to the CIA world factbook China has passed up Japan as the second largest economy, at least in purchase parity terms.