Bring It On!

North Korea Ups the Ante

July 5th, 2006 | by Ken Grandlund |

By now you’re aware that North Korea fired multiple test missiles on July 4, 2006 as part of their growing nuclear program. Claiming to have up to 8 nuclear weapons in stock, with the new test launches North Korea is trying to show that they can strike the United States with their nuclear weapons. And further rhetoric from North Korea claims that if the U.S. attacks the isolated nation they could and would respond with an “annihilating strike and a nuclear war.” Clearly, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il isn’t playing with a full deck of cards, but he is playing a dangerous game, and it is one that could lead to serious trouble in Eastern Asia.

Forget about North Korea sending a nuke to the United States. Regardless of the megalomania and instability of Kim Jung-Il, he is all too aware that though his nuclear weapons could wreak havoc to the U.S., such a strike by him would lead to the complete annihilation of his country. Kim doesn’t give a damn about his people, but he certainly has a strong love for himself and his survival, so to me, this isn’t the course he is likely to pursue. But Kim doesn’t have to strike the United States to create a serious international problem that could easily spiral out of control, entangle the United States in another war, and likely lead to a nuclear confrontation between some of the worlds largest nuclear states.

Two facts underscore that hypothesis.

The first is the 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States of America and Japan that asserts, among other things, that “Each party recognizes that an armed attack against either party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger…” This treaty has the effect of obligating the United States to come to the common defense of Japan were it to be attacked.

The second is the 1961 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between China and North Korea, which commits one country to the other if either is attacked.

Both of these treaties are still in effect.

Kim’s missiles can easily reach Japan. And those two countries have no formal relations with each other. Japan also has no offensive military force, since their constitution forbids it. They do have a national defense force, but the capabilities to return aggression are not there. If North Korea wants to strike the U.S., they simply have to strike Japan. Our treaty obligations would drag us into the conflict. A U.S. strike against North Korea, following North Korean aggression against Japan would open the door for China to enter the conflict. One domino tips the next, and the possibility of a more direct U.S.- China confrontation becomes more likely. And who knows what that could lead to.

The problem with North Korea precedes this Bush administration, so we can’t easily lay all the blame at George’s feet. Kim Jong-Il ascended to power in the mid 1990’s after his father’s death. Kim Il-Sung (the father) maintained an uneasy truce for nearly 40 years, but left his son an impoverished nation that was largely isolated from the world. The current Kim, rather than embark on a policy of détente to better his countrymen, embarked on a path of militarism and arms build-up to the disdain of world opinion. The Clinton administration’s efforts to derail North Korea’s nuclear ambitions was hailed as successful to a degree until it was found (in the early 2000’s) that North Korea had been ignoring its obligations under those agreements by continuing its nuclear programs. The Bush administration decided to take a harder approach, refusing any renegotiations with Pyongyang so long as they continued their nuclear ambitions. Clinton tried the carrot approach. Bush used the stick approach. Both methods have failed to deter Kim Jong-Il from his path to nuclear statehood. Now that he has achieved his aims, the question of what to do becomes much more difficult.

For now, the Bush administration is taking a side seat, insisting that previously held 6-nation talks resume and denying any kind of military response will be forthcoming. But the ball isn’t in our court. It isn’t in Japan’s court either, or China’s or South Korea’s or Russia’s. Right now, the ball is firmly in the North Korean’s court and no one knows what they will do with it. But one thing is sure.

North Korea knows too well that American military might is severely hamstrung in the Middle East. North Korea knows that the U.S. economy is heavily dependent on both Japan and China. North Korea knows that they are holding the cards and they have decided to raise the stakes. What happens next though is anyone’s guess.

While Clinton may have failed to diplomatically rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, at least he maintained a credible military deterrent to their aggression. And that deterrent likely slowed the progress of Pyongyang’s nuclear threats. But now, after three years in Iraq, with a seriously degraded military readiness and greatly fatigued corps of soldiers, America has little to dissuade North Korea aside from our own vast nuclear stockpile. And it’s not likely that we will unleash those weapons pre-emptively absent a verified first strike on America.

Four years ago, as the Bush administration was ramping up its rhetoric to go to war in Iraq, I felt that North Korea presented a much bigger threat. After all, at that time, we KNEW they had nuclear weapons. We also KNEW that Iraq did not. But rather than put all of our efforts into defusing the North Korean situation, we put Kim Jong-Il on the back burner, albeit on notice that his number was coming up. (Remember they were third on the list of three ‘Axis of Evil’ nations, following Iraq and Iran.) And while Bush isn’t to blame for the maniacal actions of Kim Jong-Il, he is to blame for putting our nation into a position of weakness when responding to this new global threat. Let’s hope his blunders in the ‘War on Terror’ don’t result in the beginning of nuclear warfare in Asia.

[tag]North Korea, Japan, China, Nuclear Missiles, Kim Jong-Il, nuclear war[/tag]

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  1. 6 Responses to “North Korea Ups the Ante”

  2. By Tom Baker on Jul 5, 2006 | Reply

    Ken, AMEN - I’ve been preachign this song forever. 


    The good news is the crazy little bastard is only human and might go Ken Lay on us at anytime. 

  3. By steve on Jul 5, 2006 | Reply

    or, Bush just hits the ignore button and the UN is again exposed for doing nothing for the security of the world.  Bush leaves the crisis for the next administration, which you had better hope is not a Democrat one or the I told you so’s from the right will start flying.  Pick your poison, a mad man sitting on a pot of oil or a mad man sitting on a field of rice?  Until we figure out how to make rice into a fuel, we stay in Iraq and perhaps Iran.

    Oh and just how strapped is the military?  We seem to be very good at the cruise missile game last I checked which makes the visit to Kim Jung il’s bunker much easier.  There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of fundamentalists running around North Korea for a power grab.  In fact, if Kim was on the run, I bet you’d see someone else jump to power in a heartbeat that was pro-USA in a matter of days.

  4. By ken grandlund on Jul 5, 2006 | Reply

    Steve- The UN is not directly involved with the North Korean situation. To date, this issue has been managed by a six nation consortium consisting of China, Russia, Japan, The U.S., and both Koreas.

    Second, So far, North Korea has ignored action from both a republican and a democratic administration. Party politics in the US has little to do with Kim Jong-Il’s actions. What makes you so sure a new administration consisting of a democrat would be any less effective than Bush has been? After all, Bush’s policy of ignoring North Korea hasn’t exactly made the problem go away now has it?

    Further, in case you don’t know it, North Korea has been under famine conditions for many years. They do not have tons of rice for Kim to perch on. Also, rice is a plant and the efficacy of bio fuel has been widely studied. So yes, if we chose, we could use rice byproducts as fuel.

    Military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan have reduced missile stockpiles dramatically. Logistically speaking, movement of troops from one arena to another is a gargantuan effort. The military is bogged down in the Middle East AND strapped for materiel. Not to mention troop burn-out and unrealized recruitment goals diminish the all volunteer force.

    North Korea may not be radical religious zealots, but they are desperate…for food and energy among other things. Further, the political structure in North Korea does not allow just anyone to “jump to power” nor are any likely successors to Kim Jong-Il ‘pro-USA.’

    Go back to your little dream world of Hummers in every driveway.

  5. By RisingSunofNihon on Jul 5, 2006 | Reply

    It’s nearly impossible to predict what kind of course the U.S. will take with N. Korea, but obviously the whole “ignore” routine hasn’t been effective and won’t accomplish anything in the long run. Being situated in Japan, I am definitely a bit nervous about how this whole thing will play out.

  6. By steve on Jul 5, 2006 | Reply

    Then why did the UN Security Council meet today over Korea…? Uhhhhhhhh… So much for reading blogs for the news eh Ken?

    Ignoring the problem, did not make it go away but darn it, one of those missiles damn near struck Russia causing Moscow to summon North Korea’s diplomat to ask what the hell is up.  Some extra info there on China as well, could help with your “all knowing”ness.

    North Korea is under famine conditions because that asshole over there is hording all the money for his big boy toys, pirated God Father movie’s and Cognac.  And who are you to say the successor to Kim Jung Il would not be pro-USA?  I don’t know either but anything is better than him.

    Gonna cite your source on this one that is newer than 1999:  “Military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan have reduced missile stockpiles dramatically.”  Don’t think we made more by now?

    Yes, I do dream of Hummers every day. Like making assumptions don’t ya?

  7. By ken grandlund on Jul 5, 2006 | Reply

    Steve- My point about the UN is that up to now, they have not been taking an active roll on North Korea. That they met today does not negate my point that previously the UN was not as actively engaged in the N. Korea problem as the 6 nations I mentioned. Oh, I don’t get all (or much) of my news from the blog world, rather I get analysis, opinion, and a pulse of those who are politically active from the blog world. (Sheesh, talk about making assumptions…)

    I read both of your links several times and could see no reference to any of the missles “damn near striking Russia” either, so it seems your efforts to enlighten me are amiss. Perhaps you can find the text for me as well as a link that contains it.

    North Korea is experiencing famine, and some of that is due to Kim’s greed, but more of it concerns his dictatorial controls. Food is used to control political fealty in North Korea.

    And my info regarding US military capabilities are not from 1999. I specifically mention Iraq and Afghanistan which did not occur in 1999. Sure we’re making more missiles, but not at a replacement rate.

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