Tuesday, September 20, 2005



North Korea

So, after three years of mutual chest-beating, North Korea has agreed to give up its nuclear weapons programme. And in exchange, it gets what it wanted all along: a security guarantee from the United States. You really have to wonder why the hell it took them so long.

There are details yet to be worked out - whether the US will supply light-water reactors for electricity generation (exactly as they agreed to do and then reneged on previously), and on the verification regime. But the framework is in place, and the world is safer for it. Not just because the threat of proliferation has been reduced, but because there's that much less chance of the Americans starting a conventional war on the Korean peninsula in an effort to halt it. The cost of that would have been horrific - North Korea has thousands of artillery pieces pointed at Seoul, and the estimated casulaties would run to several hundred thousand dead civilians in the first hour alone - and it was well worth avoiding.

There is a danger that the deal won't stick - but it is better for America to go for it and try and verify it and make it work than expect the South Koreans to die in droves for the safety of others.

15 comments:

this is a bit like saying we would protect china from an invasion by taiwan or israel from the gaza strip.

South Korea has one of the strongest armies on earth. It would be nth korea that needs the protection - EVEN IF they had a nuke.

Besides - the US is capable of destroying most of that artillery in a first strike.

Posted by Genius : 9/20/2005 07:00:00 AM

It's kinda like agreeing with a school bully that you won't bring a molotov cocktail to school if they agree not to bully you. If the bully wasn't at your school you wouldn't be thinking about a molotov in the first place, and if you've got any sense you'll know that the agreement with the bully isn't worth shit.

Posted by Christiaan : 9/20/2005 09:00:00 AM

Yeah, well the entire situation wouldn't exist if the US hadn't unilaterally partitioned Korea - against the wishes of the Korean people and almost everybody else - after WW2, b/c they couldn't stand the thought of the Russians having influence there.

Posted by Huskynut : 9/20/2005 09:49:00 AM

America also has fire control radar capable of plotting counter battery missions while the first shells are still in the air. Not to say that there wouldn't be casualties, just that the US and the South have been planning to fight and win a war against the North for around 50 years.

The tragedy and thousands of actual deaths come from the continuation of Kim's regime and the starvation of its people. Deals like this only defer the inevitable collapse and prolong the suffering. Even worse, many in the South no longer want to be reunited with the North because the disparities in wealth will make the German reunification look like a picnic.

Posted by JamesP : 9/20/2005 10:03:00 AM

Genius: I'm not sure how you manage to hold those first two lines in your head at the same time. First, North Korea's military balance of power with its neighbours is likened to that between China and Taiwan or Israel and Gaza - and then the situation is completely reversed. Do you even think about these things before posting them?

Some months back, Atlantic Monthly ran another of its diplomatic games around North Korea and what should be done about it - there's a PDF version here. If anything, the military prospects were even dimmer than those for Iran. Again, its a case of too many targets, not enough information, and a devastating response (in conventional terms alone, let alone the prospects of nuclear or chemical weapons use) if they screw it up. And even the most optimistic and hawkish among them agreed that Seoul would be a gonner - the difference being, of course, that they were willing to make that sacrifice. The idea that it wasn't really their decision to make - these being South Korean lives, not American ones - seemed not to have occured to them, and I suspect the South Korean government's refusal to fight a catastrophic war solely for American gain is what forced the US back to the negotiating table.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/20/2005 10:15:00 AM

JamesP: I think the South Koreans are slowly working on the problem of the NK regime - but they're taking a long view, and they're certainly not willing to fight a war of liberation for the North (besides, that'll just end up with China coming in, just like it did last time).

If Korea is to be unified, it is going to have to be peacefully. Less dramatic, but a lot safer for those involved.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/20/2005 10:17:00 AM

Just to be clear. I certainly wasn't advocating that the South / US should start a war, only that they would win one that the North starts. My belief is that the economic / social collapse of the North is inevitable and that giving aid or concessions to the North is merely postponing that day. Also that the longer reunification is delayed the harder it will become. Consequently I am opposed to deals, like this one, that help prop up Kim's regieme.

Posted by JamesP : 9/20/2005 10:41:00 AM

btw, to clarify my earlier remark.. I hope for the eventual reunification of Korea.
But the bigger lesson has to be that interventions in the short-term strategic interests of western powers have tended to have long-term negative consequences (eg Saddam, Taliban, KIJ).
There's this seemingly endless cycle of creating political/military crises, then attempting to subdue them with threats of violence which would be laughable if it wasn't so tragic. So in many ways I'm happier with a negotiated settlement b/c every 'win' achieved by military or economic pressure only encourages the cycle.
In the long run, hopefully the cominations of f*ck-up interventions like Iraq + negotiated settlements will build enough political pressure against empire building. But then, where would the military-industrial complex make it's daily bread?
*sigh* maybe this pathetic game is just inevitable..

Posted by Huskynut : 9/20/2005 12:43:00 PM

> Yeah, well the entire situation wouldn't exist if the US hadn't unilaterally partitioned Korea.

The suggestion being the US should have surrendered everything to Russia?

> First, North Korea's military balance of power with its neighbors is likened to that between China and Taiwan or Israel and Gaza - and then the situation is completely reversed. Do you even think about these things before posting them?

I/S I don't know what your point is - I was noting that there was a power imbalance (that nth Korean army is weak after years of poverty). You seem to be making some other point (about it being super strong or something) but you don’t seem to have explained yourself... And I don’t know what implication you want to draw from that.

The Article says it could be messy and I agree but you seem to be suggesting that I was proposing the US invade - actually I suggest they should go home and forget about it. (a position I have proposed for a long time)

If they attacked South Korea the US would probably initiate a strike (first strike was a poor term for me to have used although it would be their first strike) this point was made in the article and they noted
As the article says nth Korea would be insane to target Seoul because it would just result in their artillery being destroyed by the US (or South Korea if the US was not involved).

Nth Korea has no winning strategy so all they would get from a war would be a hiding even if the US stayed home.

Posted by Genius : 9/20/2005 07:46:00 PM

Genius - South Korea has one of the strongest armies on earth? You've got to be fucking kidding me! They use american hardware and american soilders as speed bumps should the north invade.

As for reunification I think the leaders in the South only support reunification in rehetoric. Aside from cheap labor and mail order brides, there are no benefits to reunification for the South. Dealing with 20 million refugees is far more than the South Korean state could handle and give the attuides of most South Koreans to poverty in their own country I can't see them willing to open their bankbook to properly reunify. They'll just use the norks as cheap labour even more than they do now.

Posted by stef : 9/20/2005 11:35:00 PM

oh and sure enough the norks are already being dickheads:

"With the ink not yet dry on a joint statement of principles that ended a grueling round of six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear program on Monday, the Stalinist country is already locking horns again with the U.S. over a light-water nuclear reactor it wants and the timeframe for abandoning its nuclear arms."

http://english.chosun.com/w21data/html/news/200509/200509200020.html

Posted by stef : 9/20/2005 11:48:00 PM

Stef - did you see what happened when the US fought iraq? you sound jsut like the peopel who predicted iraq would win. But the US flattened them. that is what happens when a high tech country like south korea fights a low tech and poor one like nth korea. The nth koreans would be slaughtered on the ground and probably in the air.

the south also has the benefit of having a HUGE army.

Look up on the net somthing about their army. Most reasonable people consider after the strong US and china the next strongest tier has Israel, Sth Korea, Britain etc

If the US was not around the south would probably have 100 of their own nukes.

A simple example is air planes - Nth korea has twice as many planes but they are obsolete - result = no control of the skys. Similar result in almost all other areas.

Posted by Genius : 9/21/2005 08:00:00 AM

Genius, I don't need to look up squat on the net I live in South Korea.

The South Korean Army is made up largely of conscripts, that serve two years as opposed to the 7 in the North. The good hardware they use is courtsey of the American military because the stuff in the Korean fleet has aged.

More importantly there are number of american camps on the major corriders into Seoul that will serve as a speed bump and trigger further american involvement once their bloody is spilt.

Of course the left in South Korea have been agitating for years for a full american withdrawl from the South. Yet it's only under the american security blanket that the Republic of Korea would exist.

Don't think the North will just give up and die. To paraphrase macarther the greatest strength of the Koreans is that they are stubborn. The greatest weakness is that they are stubborn.

Posted by stef : 9/21/2005 01:42:00 PM

> The good hardware they use is courtesy of the American military

And the nth Koreans have some Russian stuff - so? The only countries who made most of their own weapons are probably the USA and russia.

> More importantly there are number of American camps on the major corridors.

As I said I propose they go home. It is China and Korea’s responsibility to protect their sphere of influence not the USA's.
1) If the USA protects EVERYONE it creates greater and greater dependence upon itself at ever increasing cost to itself.
2) People like the left in Korea or the USA can ride them for political gain.
3) they can avoid taking responsibility for their sphere of influence - if the US don’t start to withdraw now then when they are forced to withdraw and Korea and china are forced to take their place in the world it will be all the more catastrophic.
4) If countries like nth Korea ARE a threat the US can’t deal with it by itself - others need to also realize they are a threat. The only way the US can allow that to happen is to encourage the other countries to deal with the problem as opposed to letting them rely on the USA.

Posted by Genius : 9/21/2005 06:47:00 PM

i think the bloke running the nth is certifiable as was his old man, somebody ought to go in their and kick arse, the nth korean people hate the tyrannical regime but can do little about it. the next time its shown that the regime is drug trafficking, kim nutter should be taken out along with his pathetic army!!!

Posted by Anonymous : 7/06/2006 08:21:00 PM