IS NORTH KOREA PUSHING TOO FAR?
Tensions between the United States and its Asian trade partners with North Korea are accelerating rapidly. It is serious enough that Vice-President Pence was dispatched to Korea to observe the anxiety on the 38th parallel separating North from South Korea. To show that we mean business, a naval group including an aircraft carrier is expected to move into the Sea of Japan near North Korea.
I find it curious that the news media describes the recent stand-off with North Korea as a possible second Korean War. Actually, the first Korean War 1950-1953 never ended. Yes, there was a cease-fire truce negotiated on July 27, 1953, but a treaty was never reached. Technically we have been at war for 63 years.
This is an historic fact that most commentators do not know because they were born after the “Forgotten War” ended hostilities. I remember, since I was posted with the U.S. Army in South Korea in 1946 and barely missed being recalled back into service in 1950 when North Korean forces swept into South Korea jeopardizing the U.S. occupation troops.
I did hear an interview on PBS with a history professor who validated that we were still at war with the rogue nation. The speaker also confirmed that North Korea could have missiles that can reach the U.S. mainland. Columnist Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post wrote that Pyongyang is not bluffing.
The six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear intentions were on again, off again over a decade ago and have never resumed despite the concessions given to North Korea to secure its cooperation. There seems no way to stop the threatening missile launches except a show of military persuasion.
Do we want a renewal of hostilities on the Korean Peninsula? Relations with China and even Russia would be strained by military force. South Korea and even Japan would be brutally attacked. It is time for China to take a leadership role and use its economic influence over North Korea to keep peace in Northern Asia.
A few commentators are now predicting that the only way North Korea can be subdued is a regime change. That seems unlikely as the three generations of the Kim dynasty have brained washed the population into a robotic state. Although Kim Jong Un is young, most of his dictatorial insider-command are old-guard military leaders carried over from Kim’s father regime.
It has been so many years since the Korean War, there are few South Koreans still living that remember the devastation and loss of lives. The young citizens of Seoul living just 40 miles from a massed military force ready to strike go about their lives with a rather indifferent attitude.
The same can be applied to a potential unification of the Korean Peninsula. The cost of rehabilitation of the North Korea economy would be staggering. So what is the future of this compromised nation?
Somehow a final treaty must be negotiated with China becoming a partner in preventing Kim from pushing for nuclear capability. A civil rebellion would help, but the citizens mistakenly believe they are better off than the developed nations. What a job of brainwashing.
President Trump’s leadership with the military’s guidance might lead the way. It is definitely Trump’s first diplomatic challenge, all within his 100-day honeymoon period. His call for China to take a leadership role in subduing North Korea’s intentions needs to be answered before an explosive goes off.
Japan has joined the naval “exercise” in the Western Pacific. It is uncertain where and when the strike force will be within range of the Korean Peninsula. North Korea’s military threatens to destroy any enemy force coming into their territory. Fortunately, the last two missile launches failed on liftoff.
Despite international sanctions and scarce reliable data, North Korea’s economy shows growth. The famine in the 1990’s that killed an estimated two million people created some market activity for entrepreneurs despite the strict socialist regime. Today the government-authorized market places for food and home-made goods are growing, but 80% of consumer goods still come from China.
The black market thrives from smugglers peddling Hollywood movies, South Korean television dramas and smart phones, according to a South Korean correspondent. These products are contraband as the government prevents any access to better conditions in the developed countries.
Until China decides that North Korea is a serious threat to peace and trade in North Asia, the military status will be uneasy. President Trump must play the diplomacy game carefully and not act unilaterally.