Americas deterrence-record with North Korea has recently elevated from embarrassing to down-right dangerous. Even though some form of independent Korean state or collection of states have existed nearly continuously for several millennia, we persist in dealing with them as if they were either children or cavemen. The reality is North Koreas nepotistic state possesses nuclear weapons and an effective means of delivering them, which possesses a clear and present danger to all their neighbors, except China and Russia.
The details of how the world arrived at this impending conflagration are obsfucated by historic neglect and revisionists efforts, but the major turning points are clearly visible. The tenacious people of Koryo, Silla, Paeche, and Chosun built societies that equal all that is impressive in the study of the ancient Chinese and Japanese cultures. Many Koreans believe that those people descended from theirs or at least copied theirs to achieve greatness. While the what-ifs of antiquity fascinate some people, it is obvious that during the last century, Korea was gobbled-up, spit out, and then transformed into a nearly perfect example of political Yin and Yang.
About a hundred years ago, all of Korea was formally annexed by Japan–a harsh experience that stirs racial strife in some people even today. As bloody World War II (WWII) ended and Japan was pacified, America and most of the Allies rushed to disarm and revert to a consumer-based society–one that improves the standard of living for everyone. On the other hand, the USSR sought to press onward with the momentum of their military might–seeking to control the entire world if they could–thereby blurring any differences between them and the totalitarian oligarchies the Allies had just fought so hard to eliminate.
In the conflict of political pressure and military maneuvering that followed WW II, the Korea peninsula was split into two nations, with the northern half coming under Soviet-sponsored communist control.
Communist North Korea was armed, trained, and then encouraged to invade South Korea. Though initially unprepared, the United States led the UN effort to drive the brutal invaders back to the north. But a new era had dawned.
Not understanding how important it was to stop before China was provoked into a military response, WW II tactical zeal carried the Allies all the way to the Chinese border. Politically denied the option of interdicting the massive forces mustered just north of the Yalu River–General MacArthur could do nothing except wait for the inevitable.
Political contextual elements glowed heavily with American decision makers. The United States no longer had a nuclear monopoly, as the USSR has obtained vital secrets via spies and their own efforts–resulting in communist nuclear test/demonstrations. The USSR had equipped Mao Zedungs Chinese communists with captured Japanese military gear, as a 600,000-strong force in Manchuria surrendered to Russian forces following Japans capitulation after the nuclear bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The exhausted forces of Chiang Kai-shek withered under the assault and barely escaped to Taiwan. The Chinese decision makers were threatened by any thing that might threaten their reformation of their newly established communist state. The Chinese viewed North Korea has a security buffer preventing a two-pronged attack on them sometime in the future–a southern thrust from Taiwan and a northern thrust from the Korean Peninsula–it didnt matter if no one in America was thinking about doing that, the Chinese are notorious long-term planners. Above all, the President Truman feared that narcissistic Joseph Stalin would employ nuclear weapons if China were invaded–requiring another WWII-style effort from a war-weary world to vanquish communism.
So Chinese forces swarmed across the border. The fighting that followed produced most of what Americans remember as bad about the Korean War. After much fighting and loss of life, the peninsula was once again divided via a crease-fire agreement in 1953. The lesser known background of that agreement is that it was reached only after some combined military and political maneuvering designed to convince China to pressure North Korea into acceptance.
In March of 1953, Stalin died–some believe he was poisoned by members of his cabinet who feared yet another purge was imminent. Regardless of how he died, the internal chaos in the USSR allowed for a window of political and military factoring by the Allies to bring about a ceasefire agreement. Since the US had no formal way of communicating with the Chinese government–as it was not recognized as a legitimate state then–the Americans leaked information through political connections in India. the message was basically that the US would destroy sanctuary bases in Manchuria if the fighting continued. Initially this was hard to believe, as much collateral damage to civilians would accompany such attacks–and they knew the Americans had grown squeamish about such things.
To demonstrate the opposite, a series of previously unmolested dams were bomb, releasing flood waters, which prevented a years rice planting. The suffering caused by the food shortage would far exceed the trauma of the initial flooding. Only then were the Chinese convinced–those brutal Americans would probably attack, maybe use nuclear weapons, thus weakening Chinas military so much it might result in their collapse–so they influenced North Korea to sign the armistice on July 27, 1953.
Since then a precarious state of stand-off exists between the dark oligarchy and what has grown into a thriving republic to its south. South Korea has a GDP nearly 1.3 trillion dollars–equal to Saudi Arabias and Taiwans combined–much of which is reinvested into their growing economy. Many of their quality products are purchased by Americans. North Korea has a GDP of maybe 40 billion dollars–a little more than Ugandas–much of which is used to maintain a massive military while their population is mostly fed by international aid. North Korea is a charter member of the Axis of Evil and is a real-life characture of an evil nation.
On 27 May 2009, North Korea unilaterally withdrew from the armistice. Theyve tested nuclear weapons and long-range missiles in a bravado attempt to intimidate the rest of the world. The are heavily suspected of nuclear proliferation efforts with other nations in the Axis of Evil–mostly likely seeking additional sources of income for their dying economy. In the wake of the nuclear tests and missile launch demonstrations, they have announced they will respond with military force if another of its ships are boarded by the US-led program to interdict illicit transport of weapons of mass destruction.
What kind of force do you think they are implying? Its obvious.
So whats the solution? While past performance is no guarantee of future results …
China has to pressure North Korea to behave. Thus the key to making North Korea behave it to convince China that they stand to lose more than they will gain if they allow North Korea to continue their shenanigans.
The most threatened nations are South Korea, Japan, and the United States. The US already has ample military power to counter a nuclear attack when it comes to it. However, Japan and South Korea are precariously empty–historically relying on the US nuclear umbrella to cover them as needed.
Heres the solution:
In the light of shrinking US resolve and inventory–Japan and South Korea need indigenous nuclear forces. They have all the necessary technologies and their GDPs will comfortably support the programs–the only thing that prevents it from happening is their own national laws and leadership. International law have recently been proven inept at preventing any nation from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
Thus, the US should encourage Japan and South Korea to develop strong nuclear capabilities to stand against the nuclear threats from North Korea. And even if the US fails to encourage them, those nations need to consider what they need to do for their own survival–and do it anyway. Of course, once that happens, Taiwan and Australia would need to belly-up to the nuclear club also–unless they wanted to remain optionless in the face of nuclear threats.
How would China like to be facing nuclear-equipped nations on all their borders?
Not at all, Im sure.
The long-range planning Chinese leadership would be greatly concerned about this–they have a little history with the Japanese and the folks who live in Taiwan. And thats the problem with nuclear proliferation: Once it gets rolling–how do you stop it?
Stop it early.
Too late for that, some might say.
Well, my grandpa used to say, You cant start where you were, only you are. And where we are is a nuclear equipped North Korea trying to intimidate the world as they seek to spread nuclear weapons to other nations, who also seek to do harm to things we consider valuable.
When it comes to allowing rogue nations to develop or maintain nuclear arsenals–nothing is worse than doing nothing.
It just makes sense.