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A Lack Of Intelligence (sort of) –

International diplomacy has many facets to it, most of which can include reviewing, analyzing, and evaluating intelligence that has been gathered from all the various sources.  Only a few people are privy to that kind of content, including the President.  For me or anyone else to formulate hard and fast policy (even if only armchair policy) without having had the opportunity to understand and interpret such intelligence might suggest a basic lack of comprehension of the entire reality.  But my series here on my imagining “If I Were President” regarding how I would solve a national issue, is simply my using informational sources available to the average person and combining it with my own common sense.  Anyone can do that.  Which is the whole issue of my series.. pretty much anyone with a basic comprehension for political critical thinking can do better than Trump in being president.  But I do acknowledge my “solutions” are simply pure speculation given I will not have the same access as a preisdent.

My last post in this series was regarding my “solution” for working the Syria issue.  That is a very complex issue.  But I honestly do not think working with North Korea is any more complex, although the international threat is very apparent.  This post is about trying to work the North Korean threat.  You can’t wrap issues like these up in just a 1000 word post.  But here’s my entire point… Trump NEVER went into even this much detail in trying to explain his own positions… and he won the election.  Do we “blame” Trump for that short-sightedness or those who voted for him?

In The Beginning…

Let’s start at the beginning of all this.. I mean, way back when the Soviets and us were the only two in the neighborhood carrying the “big stick”.

While it seemed at the time that although America and the Soviets had lots of ICBM nukes, it was thought that cooler minds tended to prevail and each country had adequate security systems and launch protocols in place to reduce the risk of an intentional renegade launch or an accidental  launch.  As time went on the science of nuclear technology was becoming more available as were the training of technicians and scientists in increasing numbers.  This made nuke development more affordable to developing nations who wanted a big stick also… and for far more impulsive reasons.. and with a LOT less security control protocols inside generally shaky political systems.

Now technically speaking, any sovereign country pretty much does have a right to decide on nuclear development.  The question arises, given the vast devastation and threat of fallout not adhering to political borders, to what degree does morality for the use of nuclear weapons.. or WMD’s in general… provide incentive for intervention by other countries to restrict another country’s development to the point of using force if necessary?


The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty… The Handshake That Sort Of Worked, For A While –

So a bunch of nations got together and created a treaty… essentially a pledge… to not use nuclear technology other than for peaceful purposes.  Five nations got a free pass since they already had developed nuclear weapons by that point… the U.S., the U.S.S.R., the UK, France, and China.  As of 2016 there were 191 signatory nations.  Of interest, Israel, Pakistan, India, and South Sudan are not signatories.  Israel, if they have one we likely gave it to them since they don’t have too many places to test the science.  Pakistan and India developed on their own and no one seemed to care.  North Korea became a signatory in 1985.. but then opted out of the treaty in 2003 when they tested their own underground nuke.  Again, no one did anything back then.  Although, one might ask, what could have been done?  Which brings us to today… and today’s threat.


What Is Really The Problem Here? –

Well… it’s all about two Koreas as a result of an armistice in a conflict where communists (Korean AND Chinese) from the north were trying to defeat the non-communist Koreans in the south, with the help of the Americans and its allies in the conflict.  Essentially, it was a similar thing as happened in China after WW2… the communists drove out the Chinese Nationalists from the mainland and to the Chinese island of Formosa (later Taiwan)… with the straits providing a natural barrier against the communists.

We should be historically honest here… the communist movement in Far East Asian countries was trying to move into the vacuum created by the defeat of Japan in the occupied countries.  It was the Cold War, McCarthyism was starting to spread; communism was a cancer to be stopped.  The domino theory.  So the U.S. and friends, given the mood at the time, jumped right in to keep communism from taking hold on the Korean peninsula.  After all, we just kicked ass in WW2.  Hence, the Korean War.

Not unlike WW1, both sides ended up agreeing to an armistice and the result was the creation of the de-militarized 38th parallel.  Thus, two Koreas.  It’s this artificial separation of the two Koreas, that the U.S. helped to create, for nearly 70 years that’s the problem.  But re-unifying the Koreas is not going to be an overnight accomplishment by any means.  Most would even suggest that this shouldn’t even be on the docket given our current threat is a nutcase leader from the North threatening some level of nuclear annihilation.  But is HE the nutcase?

So the Chinese communist government supported the communist Koreans in the north.. and thusly a regime was established.  The U.S. and allies bolstered the south militarily and with economic development and democratic government.  Fast forward to now… and there have been some big changes since the War.

What Might Be The Reason North Korea Is Always Belligerent? –

I am in NO way all-knowledgeable on all aspects of North Korean ideology or society.  But I can try and pinpoint certain criteria for their actions over the decades.

At the close of the Korean War the communists in the North could count on the direct military aid of China… and that became the offset to the South’s dependence on America.  Over time China became less involved in North Korea as their own internal development became the greater priority; China had more than enough problems of their own.  In the meantime in the South, the Americans.. and the Japanese as an nearby ally, had not only provided a strong military presence, but they had no problem displaying it in the air and the sea with routine joint military exercises, generally in response to provocations from the North.  Add to that, a stationary American force of 30,000 troops, and another 50,000 in Japan, with all the hi-tech weaponry.


Fears For His Life –

Now, no question the leadership in the North has been unpredictable and belligerent for decades, self-serving, and dictatorial.  Don’t even mention the human rights violations.  They have seen the economic juggernaut created in the modern South and that adds to their fear of being displaced, should the North Korean people ever find out how good their brethren have it just a few miles away.  But there is some measure of human predictability; policy emanating from North Korea reflects only that of one man.. the current leader.  Since he answers to no one then policy is his, and his alone.  He wants respect… as did his father.  But here’s a rub.. Kim Jung Un is a kid compared to his father.  Less disciplined and spoiled.  He absolutely fears for his life.  If not from his generals then from a conflict with the U.S.  Does he believe his own propaganda?  We likely don’t know for sure.  We need to give him some rope to determine what’s important to him.


So, in acknowledging all this I present my policy, If I Were President.

While the threat IS immediate for an armed conflict, diplomacy is the only way.. BUT… the focus of the diplomacy should be to finally solve the REAL issue.. unifying the Koreas.  We need to put this threat to rest once and for all… for future generations.  It’s gone way too far.

Our diplomatic negotiations should be have two goals…

  1. Immediately diffusing the nuclear threat.
  2. Long term transition toward unification through gradual economic and political inclusion of North Korea in overall development of the peninsula. Long term would likely mean over the next 20-40 years… a transition not to be interpreted as a ideological threat to the current NK government.  In fact, this goal might be kept quiet from the Dear Leader.

To meet the first goal… immediate diffusing of the nuclear threat using diplomacy.

  • Less concern about controlling and monitoring nuclear development… greater concern in providing reasons for North Korea to not want to pull the nuclear trigger (or any trigger). He’s already got a nuke in some form; he’s already got poison gas.  Forget making monitoring all that the big deal.  What would it take to make the Dear Leader a happy guy; pie in the sky?  Do we really know? Once we determine that, from there… what can reasonably be delivered to make that happen.  Then, what can we reasonably expect him to deliver from his end to assure safety of the peninsula. 
  • What will make North Korea be more civil? Economics… trade… exchange diplomatic missions for starters (under the idea of keeping your enemies closer). RESPECT.  Obviously this all gets phased in as performance milestones are met.  But these milestones should not extend for years but rather months, to get the progress toward North Korean moving along.


Assurance That He Will Play Fair? –

What’s our assurance that he won’t continue being belligerent?  Maybe we should step back here and define belligerence.  What’s Kim done actually?  North Korea is a small country and I am sure we have enough satellite and electronic technology to monitor most of his moves… especially with the help of the Chinese (who don’t want a fighting conflict either).  By opening trade we can determine the kinds of items entering the country to determine their potential threat.  What if he launches a missile?  We use our due diligence to attach all our goodies to him under the condition he not launch missiles of any kind.  For him that’s easy.. no foreign power sending in inspectors.  The missiles are the threat regardless of the payload.  If he launches, we preferably jam their signals and make them fall into the sea… or shoot them down as a last resort.  My whole point here is that we can monitor his behavior like we always have… and no need for formal monitors.


A Little Subliminal Advertising? –

When formal trade increases we make sure all products on the consumer level are connected with South Korea… “Made in Republic of Korea”… to begin showing the North Koreans what goes on in the South… subtle education.  The entire diplomatic effort designed to do far more than keep the Dear Leader from making nuclear threats.  In fact, anything sent to North Korea as a trade item should be marked “from South Korea”… not “made in USA”.

Push for more open access between the North and South populations.  This helps to exchange social awareness on top of allowing family members to connect.

We should also be ready to negotiate troop reductions from the South.  Start small as symbolic, using Japan as a reduction staging area until some time as confidence in the North is achieved.  In theory, if the North has a million-man army on the border, 30,000  GI,s aren’t going to do a helluva lot to stop them anyway.  I am guessing this is considered by the military as a token force for political reasons rather than some strategic edge against an enemy that outnumbers them.  I’m sure the South, with the greater population, can muster a million soldiers if necessary.  Maybe after nearly 70 years the South Koreans can pick up some of the military slack for their own defense.

America Is Responsible? –

I submit that much of the troubles with North Korea are very likely attributed to U.S. involvement there for nearly 70 years.  Quite frankly America should have spent the last 70 years building up the South’s military response to an attack from the North… and then we get the hell out of there and support from the outside when needed.

America needs to re-evaluate what we do on the Korean peninsula.

As of this writing, Mr. Kim has met our displays of power with his own displays.  We have made the battle between us and him.. and it’s not.  Look at all the massing of tanks and artillery in the last display.  Look at those dramatic multiple ICBM missile launches.  Look at all those dummy missiles on parade.  If the guy wanted to start a war he could easily do it without a nuke.  Has anyone wondered why his verbal animosity is only toward the U.S. and not South Korea?   Let’s go a step further here.  If he has all his artillery and rocket launchers pointing toward Seoul, why does he need to make a nuke under the pretext to strike the U.S. or Japan??

America has spent decades trying to negotiate compliance from North Korea on certain military provocations and restricting nuclear development.  It surely seems to me that North Korea didn’t do all this because they were afraid of the South.

Here’s my observation… all Kim and his ancestors have done is threaten. Outside of the occasional boat seizures (ie, the Pueblo), some alleged kidnappings of Japanese nationals, arrests of U.S. visitors… has any North regime ever done anything beyond making outrageous military threats? Again, have any military threats been directed only at the South?  We acknowledge that North Korean leaders have been undisciplined nutcases for the way they handle internal affairs… but have any of them gone beyond a military threat and into a real strike?  Apparently that might suggest they are nutcases to a point.  Has anyone ever considered that Kim’s threats are his way of having joint military exercises with the U.S.?

If you ask me, Trump telling Kim to “behave” is not accurate.  Kim might consider saying back, “Grow up, America, and accept some responsibility.”

Kim doesn’t want a war.  He wants respect.


Breaking Update:  In the last 24 hours the Administration is sending a signal encouraging direct negotiations with North Korea.  Secretary of State Tillerson is addressing an emergency session of the UN Security Council.  Although there’s still echos of making all this a “nuclear” issue (no) the idea of opening direct talks is good.  Tillerson is emphatic about the  fact that we are not seeking regime change or an “accelerated” unification.  Good.  But Tillerson’s requests of the international community for more sanctions, trade squeezes, and political pressure toward North Korea is nonsense and will go nowhere positive.  China is correct.. the key to resolving this is not with them.  But it doesn’t mean they can’t assist. We shall see.


11 thoughts on “IF I WERE PRESIDENT: North Korea

  1. Nice to see balanced arguments, Doug. If I was Kim (or his Dad) I would also be paranoid. Everyone is out to get him, after all. He has now lost China as a definite ally, and stands alone, without a friend in the world. We face the danger of giving the DPRK (in the form of its leader) nothing to lose.
    The danger is creating the biggest ‘suicide bomber’ the world has ever seen, should they decide to go out in a blaze of glory.
    Better to get them on side. Stop the sanctions, give them money and consumer goods, perhaps even a Starbucks. Make them feel that they are part of what happens in the region. Flatter them, include them, even if you don’t mean it. Let’s face it, that’s what has been happening with Germany and Japan, ever since 1945.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. Funny you should mention that about giving them a Starbucks. Back in my early years my solution to the Mid East issues of the day, as well as trying to deal with communism in South East Asia, was to simply recognize them as trading partners, send them a damn Pizza Hut and a McDonalds to show them the fun of American decadence, then they would love to sign on in exchange for better relations. 🙂

    Yes.. flatter them, include them. Seduce the North Korean population that there is an outside world.. and maybe they will rise up in some way 20 years from now and re-unite the peninsula. Hell, in the short term… build up the South’s military then America should get the hell out and let the chips fall where they may between North and South. We have been in the way far too long just because of antiquated Cold War communist feelings.

  3. Damn Doug that is a lot to take in……after doing so I am impressed with your breakdown….the only thing I would point out is the vacuum after WW2 was actually started by the League of Nations in 1919 when they treated Japan, an ally in WW1, like a red headed step child….so Japan decided to go it on their own to get the resources they needed to expand and the military was the most useful weapon. (sorry history geek).

    Our intel on NK sucks and I do not know why…I mean if SK is such an ally and they do have agents in country the intel should be better…..or it is and the propaganda is more important.

    Sanctions alone just makes matters worse….we do need a balanced policy and diplomacy should be the point of the stick.

    Well done my friend…..chuq

    • Excellent! 🙂 Your history explanation reminds me of a quote by.. I think it was Carl Sagan… he said, “If you want to make a pie from scratch you would have to have invented the universe.” You’ve gone back that far. 🙂

      Back in 1919 Japan… and China for that matter (gunboat diplomacy, remember The Sand Pebbles” with McQueen?.. in that era) the Western powers didn’t think highly of Asians back then. But having said that, there was very little trade with Japan because their own economy was not overly developed.. which likely helped to spawn that ridiculous Shinto belief that guided the military. It was a racial thing for the West that we paid for later.

      You and I are yet in total agreement again, my friend. I too, have often wondered why the total lack of human intel out of NK when the South was right there and their people (agents) had a greater chance to meld into NK life.

  4. Give the insane little twerp anything that is profitable at all … “Trade” for example … and I guarantee you he will use the profits to increase his military might and will become more belligerent than ever. We do not need to be feeding the hand determined to destroy us and we definitely do not need to be giving him the resources with which to accomplish his nefarious aims.

    • But John.. for 70 years him and his family have done nothing other than threaten. I see NO determination to destroy us or anyone else. Just doing some testing does not constitute a desire to conquer the world. When people build up their military.. that means they are afraid of something. Introducing the North into the trading network allows us to watch him better. I honestly don’t understand why people here in the State fear him so much when he’s never done a thing. All that does is help to create the hair trigger of something greater happening.

      • I will go along with your reasoning until the very first time he attacks one of our ships at sea or does damage to South Korea or send a missile toward Japan and at that time I will revert to my original thinking. Is that fair?

        • Most assuredly if he struck like that we certainly should retaliate in kind. BUT.. I contend that if we fire first it’s our fault. If Kim fires first, that’s also our fault. If people die in Seoul that’s also our fault. Consider this, John… should a fighting war start over there no one here in the Stares, Hawaii, or Alaska will die. No U.S. cities will be destroyed. Our presence in Korea has done NOTHING toward facilitating a peaceful Korean Peninsula. The South, with all the economic power, the greater population, the most to loose in lifestyle and democratic freedoms, is unable to defend itself from North Korea without our direct and occupying help??
          Why are we even there, John?
          Yes.. in a shooting war “we” (not South Korea) will win… but what will we have won??

          • Yes, everything is our fault. That is good! We should never ever stick our nose in anybody else’s business and if Kim should send a missile to Japan and kill Japanese or if he should send one to Seattle and kill Americans we need to immediately go to the negotiating table and determine what it is that we did to piss him off and offer him whatever he wants in the way of appeasement and then the whole world can live in peace and that will be our fault too.

            While we are at it, let’s see what we can do to appease ISIS too … offer them free citizenship … raise their flag beside ours over the nation’s capitol … buy them some more cell phones and designer jeans …Create special sanctuary cities and give them a free pass to come and inhabit them … yes, let’s do that because ISIS is our fault too … created by The Obama Administration and caused by Bush’s invasion of Iraq …

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