Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thoughts On North Korea

One of my hobbies — or, whatever you call some subject you pay particularly close attention to — is North Korea. I've been following that country closely for years, especially via great blogs like One Free Korea.

Here are my thoughts:

1. North Korea is not going to go away USSR style, with oppressed citizens suddenly standing on the NK equivalent of the Berlin Wall. Instead, North Korea is going to go out like the crazy uncle with a gun collection: quickly, ugly, and most obviously violently.

2. Now that South Korea has an excuse, they might as well get it over with: Evacuate the DMZ plus 50 miles — and yes, that includes all Seoul — and do what is going to happen eventually anyway: Take out North Korea... but on South Korea's own terms.

Seriously: Why wait for North Korea to determine the rules of engagement? The engagement is going to happen, and sooner — not "or"... but rather "than" — later. This is a fact that is painfully obvious for those of us who understand what is happening in North Korea. North Korea has absolutely no strengths now (other than the ability to shell Seoul), but can only become stronger as time goes on (as the discovery of 2000 new North Korean centrifuges hints at). The longer South Korea waits, the more damaging the destruction of North Korean military capability may be once the decision is made (or forced) to do so.

South Korea, with this recent shelling of their territory, has been given what is essentially full diplomatic immunity to solve their 50-year headache in one fell swoop. They should simply put North Korea out of its misery now.

Oh... and p.s.: Nothing would set China flat on its uppity diplomatic ass more than a shooting war between the Koreas. And that is, regarding China, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, a fantastically good thing.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

jil,

the solution is not I believe a Korean one it is I suggest a Chinese one.

China will not accept foreign intervention in the Korean peninsula and will always see S Korea as an extension of a foreign power.
Equally the Chinese, ever pragmatic already understand that No Korea is more of a liability than an asset.
China cannot afford the 'Hermit Kingdom' to become nuclear in weaponry as there is no guessing as to which way the missiles will point on any given day.

I suspect that Chinese intervention in the North will be the answer, political, with military muscle to back it up. I would not be surprised if the estranged sons of the 'Dear Leader' are already in discussion with the Chinese on an acceptable solution to the problem.

China and the west need to then work out how a unified de militarized Korean peninsula can evolve with one Korean state. No foreign bases etc A Sweden or Switzerland of the east.

dulcify said...

I thought you weren't the crazy type of American. Your suggestion is so laughable it must be a joke.
Wikipedia says there 25 million people in the Seoul National Capital Area alone. So you would signal to the nuclear armed North an attack is imminent by staging the largest movement of people in human history?
Your plan includes China doing nothing.
"North Korea has absolutely no strengths now (other than the ability to shell Seoul)" As in destroy it you mean?
No other strengths? You need to expand your reading. Hint: Weapons of mass destruction.
Who is going to pay for this little war you envisage? Truth is South Korea can't do shit or they'd have done it. The recent sinking of the Cheonan provoked what? err... nothing. We'll send missiles they say after this latest attack...... next time. Trouble is next time comes and nothing happens because it can't.
Mutually assured destruction is a bitch when your enemy is psycho and lives next door. The answer is yet to reveal itself and I haven't got it and your blood orgy won't do either. What annoys me is the silence of the left in Western countries when comes to North Korea, at least you're taking an interest. You were joking right?

Jungle Jil said...

Dulcify,

I'm not really joking. Mutually-assured destruction is only possible when both countries (a) have something to lose, (b) aren't teetering on collapse, and (c) care about what happens.

North Korea doesn't have any of that. North Korea is a brainwashed cult... especially the army. Like I said, when it looks like the game is up, they'll go out in a blaze... mass suicide. And they will take Seoul with them whether South Korea fires the first shot or not.

As for their nuclear weapons, they most likely don't have any yet that can be deployed in a real-world situation... and they certainly don't have the technology to mount a nuclear warhead on a missle (which is essentially putting a slimmed-down, high-grade, delicate nuclear bomb in a paint can shaker for 3 or 4 minutes before detonating).

What North Korea exploded in those caves first about 8 years ago was considered to be a failure. Most analysts say that the seismic readings indicated either a conventional detonation approximately the size needed to start a nuclear reaction, or a tiny nuclear explosion. The second test detonation was more possibly nuclear, but was still small enough to be conventional... barely a fraction the size of an old world-war-2 style device... measured in the low, low kiloton range... smaller than most American cruise missles. If North Korea had imported a collection of real nuclear weapons they would have exploded one already to prove that fact. (Any Russian nuclear weapons from before 1990 would most likely no longer function as certain components have a shelf life.)

And, remember, even in a worst-case scenario, North Korea only has 1 or 2 nuclear weapons currently. Here is what will have to happen in order for a nuclear weapon to reach Seoul: (1) It will be launched from a place that is constantly watched by spy satellites. The missle will have to be mounted and launched in less time than a cruise missle can destroy it... something North Korea has never demonstrated it can do. (2) This will essentially be a test firing, since North Korea has never launched a nuclear-tipped missle of any kind before, and the likelihood of failure is high. (3) In order to reach its target, the missle will be flying through a barrage of anti-missle weapons fired at it from ships along both coasts, as well as on the ground in South Korea.

But, to sum it up, yes, I'm serious: North Korea is going to attack South Korea eventually, that's obvious to me for the reasons I stated in the first 2 paragraphs. South Korea should get that fight over with now because of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th paragraphs... and, more importantly, because of the likelihood that North Korea's nuclear capabilities will be improving in the near future.

As for China doing nothing... they might or they might not. In the event of a shooting war, they won't defend North Korea with their own troops or materiel. China wants North Korea gone as much as South Korea does. North Korea is a monstrous pain in the ass for China. China just doesn't want to deal with the mess... or the refugees... that a collapsed North Korea will create. What China will do is send their Army to the Yalu River and do exactly what they did in the last Korean War: Attack anybody who comes their way.

Anonymous said...

may be you dont realize how the explosion of a nuclear weapon on the korean peninsula will affect the whole world both militarily and economically ? this will surely set the world economy back to the depression era.

Jungle Jil said...

Well, like I said: Based on my knowledge of the cult-like win-or-die attitude of pretty much the entire North Korean population, the question is not one of "nuclear explosion" versus "no nuclear explosion".

Instead the question is "when?", "how big?", and whether it is an evacuated Seoul at which the bomb is targeted, or a fully-populated one.

Like I said, the way I see it, the war is inevitable. The only choice is whether to have the war now while North Korea almost certainly doesn't have the capability for a nuclear strike... or wait until it really really has the ability to flatten Seoul in less than 10 years.

To put it simply your choice is: How big a mushroom cloud do you want?

dulcify said...

Jil go find some South Koreans and run your plan past them since it includes them and their families dying quite probably, they may have a different view to you.

Jungle Jil said...

A very good point, Dulcify. Likewise, since we engaging in such a thought exercise, I would ask the family of those who died yesterday and on the Cheonan... and ask them if they would rather have had North Korea taken out before... rather than after their loved ones died.

But... like I said before: It is not a question of war or peace, it is a question of war now (with no nuclear weapons) versus war later (with nuclear weapons). Ask the Koreans which one of those they would prefer.

Anonymous said...

Jil,

Being home, must have brain washing you.... War will not resolve, but created the situation in Korea today. Put your guns back in their holster cowboy!

dulcify said...

You say war is inevitable but you can't know that for certain. Likewise with nuclear capabilities and any Chinese response. The risk vs reward equation does not add up that's why it hasn't happened and won't happen. Same logic applies to Iran. You sound like you're prepared to fight to the last drop of foreign blood. Personally I'd be thrilled if the regimes of North Korea and Iran could be decapitated but not at the expense of potentially millions of innocent people in those countries and those nearby not to mention the effect on the global economy.

Jungle Jil said...

Here is why I think war is inevitable:

North Korea is, as I have been saying, a religious cult with 25 million adherents. Every person under the age of 50 was born into this cult, and have not had any exposure to any truths other than what cult leaders tell them: That their way of life is best, that their leader is God, that everyone outside of their cult is evil, and that death awaits any who oppose them and their cult.

Now, put this cult and its members into a situation where their entire worldview is collapsing: Imagine an entire country full of born-again Christians or hard-core Islamists who suddenly realize that God, Christ/Mohammed, and Heaven have been drastically and unquestionably disproven; that everything they knew and worshipped was a lie. That's what North Korea is facing today as their country goes down the tubes.

In the 5 Steps of Grief, North Korea is in the first step mainly: Denial. They are pretending that their cult is still the best place to live. They are using the leverage they have to get food aid and capital and cash to prop themselves up, to forestall their country's collapse.

But (and this is important) the second step of Anger is starting to show up now as evidenced by the recent attacks. These attacks aren't simply ploys to get concessions from South Korea... they are much too risky for that. These are spiteful: Designed to make themselves feel good, to bolster the population, and to, yes, get themselves angry. Which country do you think did all the attacking according to the reports in the North Korean media the other day? These attacks will continue, as well as their efforts to build bigger nuclear weapons. For the rest of the world, these attacks signal the beginning of the end for North Korea... the first progress away from denial (which can last a long time) and into the next stages of this grief process.

The third step is Bargaining: However, it is highly doubtful that North Korea will be able to save their cult from disintegration through some sort of Korean "glasnost" (and they certainly remember how Russian glasnost worked out). Instead, they will try to bargain from a position of power: Threats, invitations for South Korea to disband its government and join them under communist leadership... silly things like that. They are not going to accept the fact that fundamental changes have to be made in their society... especially in terms of its most negative aspects: its cult-like status. (Imagine the Christians/Muslims I mentioned above attempting to bargain with some newly-proven scientific principal that God does not exist: How?) North Koreans simply aren't willing to get rid of the abuses, human rights violations, ignorant population, leaders, and belief system.

What comes next? The fourth step of Depression. That's when shit gets really dangerous... when the entire country could decide to end the war once and for all... go out on a high note. (They may wait until their nuclear arsenal is ready, of course, or they may not.)

So will Korea make it past stage 4 and through to stage 5 of "acceptance" without the world's largest army/cult firing a shot in defense of their God/religion/life? Many people like me don't think so. There is absolutely no evidence ever presented at any level of North Korean society that after a lifetime of cult worship, anybody in the country of North Korea is going to abandon their religion (especially those in positions of power) and say, "Oh, we were wrong. Let's all worship democracy and capitilism now," without firing a shot in defense of their God. The government will fight, the million people in the army have spent their entire lives getting ready for their own holy war, and all the peasants live under billboards showing evil, bloody-fanged American soldiers being stomped on by proud North Korean soldiers.

The country has been ready for their Armegeddon for 50 years. They will decide it is time to stand up and defend their Christ from destruction eventually.

dulcify said...

I think you are incorrect about everyday North Koreans as they are more aware of the realities inside their country than anyone. Whilst
I fear North Korea I don't envisage the doomsday scenario you paint. The status quo isn't perfect but it's better than the alternatives at the moment.

Jungle Jil said...

By the way: Don't think that the South Koreans are just sitting there wondering what to do... or wondering how to feel. They're not as scared as you might hope.

They are shocked right now and a little bit anxious, but they are going to get angry soon and realize that the last 20 years of appeasement are what have led to this point: Deceit, violence, and a neighbor building a nuclear bomb.

They also realize the same thing I do... probably much more clearly: Living life with a loaded gun pointed at your head is (a) no way to live, and (b) means eventually you'll wind up shot.

You may not be used to the concept of "eventual bloodshed", but I can assure you the South Koreans (much like their Northern counterparts) have had 50 years to get used to the concept, and they have their own 5 steps too... and they too are reaching Anger very quickly.

What will happen next? Punishment of some sort on the part of South Korea probably. Then North Korea will get angrier. Then South Korea will get angrier. More tit-for-tat bloodshed. China will broker a cease-fire.

Next, obviously, there will be bargaining for peace. Some agreement will be made, most obviously dismantling North Korea's nuclear program. But no fundamental changes will have been made. Instead of progressing in a healthy way through Step 3, everybody will move back to Step 1... temporarily. North Korea will continue to build nuclear weapons in secret. They'll get caught. Then everybody will progress quickly to stage 2 of Anger again. More bloodshed. Repeat... stage 3 to stage 1 to stage 2... repeat... repeat. Death by the dozens in South Korea in little pinprick attacks. Death by the thousands in North Korea as the regime continues its abuses and the infrastructure continues to starve the population.

Eventually, stage 3 of Bargaining will fail completely, and instead of going back to stage 1, instead stage 4 of Depression will set in, and North Korea's Armegeddon will begin for the reasons I stated above.

Jungle Jil said...

Dulcify,

You're right that "everyday North Koreans" are more aware of the problems of their country... but they are also totally powerless and shackled from action. They don't factor in to the decisions the few thousand make in Pyonyang nor the few million make in the Army. It is the cult's leaders who are in full and total control.

You say that "the status quo isn't perfect, but is better than the alternatives." You have to remember that almost a million North Koreans died in an easily-preventable famine only a decade ago, and the agricultural situation is getting worse every season there, and crop yields are now one third what they were when the famine took place. Close to a half a million North Koreans are in political prison, and they don't get out. The entire country is malnourished and infant mortality is incredibly high. People are dying today... now... by the thousands.

That's your status quo.

In terms of sheer numbers, shooting the concept and country of North Korea out of existence will probably save lives. Obviously people will die, but in the long run, tens or hundreds of thousands... maybe even millions more may live.

And, if you consider the possibility that a war now will stop a nuclear bomb from exploding in Seoul in the future, the numbers are even more compelling.

dulcify said...

Yes the status quo (not my status quo the status quo)is terrible, sad and unjust but your plan is madness. And no I'm not some kind of apologist for North Korea BTW quite the opposite.

"By the way: Don't think that the South Koreans are just sitting there wondering what to do... or wondering how to feel. They're not as scared as you might hope" Please don't put words in my mouth.

I'm guessing they are realists or they would have rolled over the border by now.
A chess game where each side has only a king and a pawn can take a long to finish and the impatient will lose every time.


"Oh... and p.s.: Nothing would set China flat on its uppity diplomatic ass more than a shooting war between the Koreas. And that is, regarding China, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, a fantastically good thing"

I can imagine someone having said something similar regarding an invasion of Iraq in regards to Iran.

Jungle Jil said...

Regarding China, the worst thing that could happen to human rights, democracy, and many other subjects of importance to humanity, is to give China the last word in any diplomatic squabble... and is currently the case with the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Why? Because... as clearly demonstrated... bad countries can ignore Chinese diplomacy with impunity when they disagree because China never threatens consequences against those countries; however bad countries can shelter under Chinese opinion whenever they agree with China because China is always a threat (especially economically) to other big countries who would actually do something.

Just look at Sudan, Zimbabwe, or Burma if you want more examples than North Korea about what the rising effect of Chinese diplomacy causes in the world. China's constant appeasement of criminal governments needs to be stopped, and a diplomatic disaster is probably the only way to make that happen.

The moment that every major country on earth kowtows to Iran's diplomatic opinions, then your comparison will be more apt.

dulcify said...

The reason for the Chinese position is clear, they don't want US troops on their border. Your plan is a Fox News masturbatory fantasy not a remote possibility.

Jungle Jil said...

I agree with you... It's not a remote possibility now. But neither is it a fantasy. It's what will eventually be necessary... or inevitable.

I think the overarching point to take away from this is that I just don't think that the timing of such a thing should be left up to North korea.

Jungle Jil said...

Seems the experts (albeit comparatively limited in the severity of their recommended solution as compared to my own) agree with me: More talking is not the solution... more military equipment brought in to threaten and target the North on the part of the U.S. and South Korea is. They don't mention live fire retaliation... but they certainly wouldn't mention such measures if they did not plan to deploy... even in defense.

And they make a good point: Syria and Iran are watching everything going on between North Korea and The United States, and are going to base their own future rogue nuclear aspirations and actions on that behavior.

Now, if we could just get South Korea to behave more like Israel.

Joshua Stanton said...

Thank you for your kind words, Jil.

Jungle Jil said...

And thanks for your great coverage, Mr. Stanton. I actually just 10 minutes ago finished reading your 4-part series "Capitalist Manifesto, Overthrowing Kim".

It was very good, although I think that given the situation (continuing North Korean civilian death/starvation/abuse; a growing threat of nuclear capability; growing aggression against the South; likelihood of violent collapse of the North versus peaceful transition of power), that conflict now will be preferable (in the ways I have outlined in the comments above) to what I believe to be inevitable conflict later.

Thanks for stopping by.