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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

How To Handle North Korea

I just watched the latest news reports which say that North Korea has indeed successfully launched an ICBM capable of hitting the USA.  It is true that the missile has only Alaska within its range, but it will not be that much longer until most of the USA will be within range of the NK missiles.  The comments from the pundits about this development have been all over the lot.  I saw one woman on CNN who said that the Russians and Chinese are more concerned than the USA about the North Korean missiles because those countries are much closer to Korea.  On the other hand, I saw a respected defense expert who pointed out that China and Russia do not really care much about the NKs because they know that the North Korean missiles are going to be aimed at the USA, not them.  I've seen "experts" who say that negotiation is the only way to proceed and others who say that negotiation is a guaranteed way to reach failure.

All of the confusion among the "experts" or at least their many opinions make me wonder how President Trump and his team view this problem.  They are the ones whose opinions on the subject really matter.  Hopefully they have clearer ideas than the pundits on TV.

What are America's options?  It's worth considering.

1.  The USA can continue to make threats to the NKs while doing little or nothing.  This is basically the method tried by president Obama, and it failed miserably.  At this point, the North Koreans are not truly worried that the USA is about to take action against them.

2.  America can increase sanctions against the NKs.  This would require the USA to impose sanctions on North Korea and on anyone who does business with that country.  A bank which deals with Pyongyang would be barred from doing business with America and its companies, for example.  Think how many Chinese firms would be forced to pull away from doing business with North Korea or risk being hit with major sanctions by the USA.  This move might put real pressure on the NKs, but I wonder if it would be significant enough pressure to force Kim Jung Un to change policies.  After all, losing foreign trade would just mean that a few thousand or tens of thousands more North Koreans would starve.  That is not a prospect that seems to bother Kim Jung Un.

3.  The USA could join with Japan and South Korea to support the nuclearization of those two countries to help face down the NK threat.  It seems very unlikely that China or Russia would want to see a nuclear armed ROK or Japanese military force.  Indeed, China might be willing to use its unique leverage to stop the NK nuclear program in exchange for keeping Japan nuclear free.  The problem here, however, is that once the Japanese or the South Koreans start towards having nukes, it may not be so easy to have them stop the process.  In other words, this is a major gamble and one that could easily be lost.

4.  America could announce that in the future all missiles fired by the NKs will be shot down.  This is likely a path to war.  Kim Jung Un would fire a missile, see it shot down and then have no choice but to retaliate.  After a bit more retaliation, we could quickly see all out war on the Korean peninsula. 

5.  It would also be possible for the USA to launch a pre-emptive strike on the North Koreans.  The NKs have literally tens of thousands of artillery pieces aimed at Seoul as I write this.  No conventional attack on these guns, not even a pre-emptive surprise attack, could destroy enough of the weapons to prevent a massive and destructive attack on the South Korean capital and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians caught in that attack.  The only way possibly to stop a massive artillery attack on Seoul would be to hit the NKs with nuclear weapons first.  With six large nukes spaced across the North Korean side of the border between the North Koreans and South Korea, a very large portion of the North Korean artillery could be neutralized.  The attack routes from the north towards the south would also be cut for a while thereby impeding or preventing an NK attack on the south.

The horror of a nuclear attack on the North Koreans would, however, be something that the USA would surely want to avoid.  We might avoid millions of South Korean dead, but at the cost of hundreds of thousands or even millions of North Koreans killed.  Absent intelligence of an impending attack by the NKs, it is hard to imagine the USA launching such an attack.

The real truth is that for the last ten years, the USA had the option of going to war against the North Koreans and hopefully destroying the NK nuke program.  Previous administrations decided not to act, and now we are all paying the price for their stupidity.

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