Sunday, March 31, 2013

North Korea, Brink of Disaster!

North Korea Is Very Unpredictable!
North Korea is again on the brink of war, and potentially a major disaster. Just slightly smaller than Mississippi and bordering China, South Korea, and Russia, the mountainous interior is isolated and sparsely populated, and has a population of over 24 million people. Following World War II, Korea was split with the northern half coming under Soviet-sponsored Communist control. After failing in the Korean War (1950-53) to conquer the US-backed Republic of Korea (ROK) in the southern portion by force, North Korea (DPRK), under its founder President KIM Il Sung, adopted a policy of ostensible diplomatic and economic "self-reliance" as a check against outside influence.

North Korea has demonized the US as the ultimate threat to its social system through state-funded propaganda, and molded political, economic, and military policies around the core ideological objective of eventual unification of Korea under Pyongyang's control. KIM Il Sung's son, KIM Jong Il, was officially designated as his father's successor in 1980, assuming a growing political and managerial role until the elder KIM's death in 1994. KIM Jong Un was publicly unveiled as his father's successor in September 2010. Following KIM Jong Il's death in December 2011, the regime began to take actions to transfer power to Kim Jong Un who has now assumed many his father's former titles and duties.

After decades of economic mismanagement and resource misallocation, since the mid-1990s North Korea has relied heavily on international aid to feed its population. The DPRK began to ease restrictions to allow semi-private markets, starting in 2002, but then sought to roll back the scale of economic reforms in 2005 and 2009. North Korea has a history of regional military provocations, proliferation of military-related items, long-range missile development, supporting unstable nations, and WMD programs including tests of nuclear devices. They also have developed long-range missiles capable of reaching targets in Japan and U.S. bases in Guam, Okinawa and the Japanese mainland.

North Korea’s massive but poorly trained and equipped military, ranked fourth largest in the world, could cause significant damage in the early stages of an attack on its southern neighbor. But any attack would ultimately be repulsed by superior U.S. and South Korean forces, military analysts agree. Analysts say North Korea’s aging military would not be able to prevail long term in an attack against its southern neighbor. But North Korean forces are arrayed along the demilitarized zone with 10,000 artillery pieces capable of reaching Seoul, said Bruce Klingner, a former CIA analyst now at the Heritage Foundation. That proximity would let them cause a lot of casualties and damage in the initial stages of an attack.

Any conventional attack from the North would likely begin with an artillery barrage, which could include chemical weapons. “They would try to overwhelm US and Korean forces with volume,” he said. Any initial assault would face about 28,500 U.S. troops and about 600,000 troops in the South Korean armed forces. “In the war game simulations eventually we prevail, but it’s World War I (levels of) casualties,” Klingner said. North Korea warned Seoul on Saturday that the Korean Peninsula had entered "a state of war". Still analysts say a full-scale conflict is extremely unlikely, noting that the Korean Peninsula has remained in a technical state of war for 60 years. But the North's continued threats toward Seoul and Washington, including a vow to launch a nuclear strike, have raised worries that a misjudgment between the sides could lead to a clash.

In Washington, the White House said Saturday that the United States is taking seriously the new threats by North Korea but also noted Pyongyang's history of "bellicose rhetoric." North Korea's threats are seen as efforts to provoke the new government in Seoul, led by President Park Geun-hye, to change its policies toward Pyongyang, and to win diplomatic talks with Washington that could get it more aid. North Korea's moves are also seen as ways to build domestic unity as young leader Kim Jong Un strengthens his military credentials. Recently US military officials revealed that two B-2 stealth bombers dropped dummy munitions on an uninhabited South Korean island as part of annual defense drills that Pyongyang sees as rehearsals for invasion.

Russia’s faintly sinister foreign minister, is not a man who panics easily. So it is worth paying attention, to what he has to say about North Korea. “The situation could simply get out of control, it is slipping toward the spiral of a vicious cycle,” was his comment yesterday. You could dismiss this as the usual Russian criticism of US foreign policy, since Lavrov was implicitly knocking the US military exercises that seem to have provoked North Korea’s most recent, blood-curdling threats. Or you could take what Lavrov has to say seriously. I’m inclined to do the latter. There are still far too many people in the West, who treat the threat of North Korea as a joke this could be a big mistake.

Most North Korea watchers have traditionally urged the West not to take the regime’s wild language at face value – and have downplayed its military capabilities. But some are beginning to take a different line. It can be argued that North Korea is a lot more dangerous than some people think. Chris Hill, a former US diplomat with as much experience of dealing with the North as anyone, thinks that the threat of war by miscalculation is rising. Hill does not think the Kim regime wants a conflict with the US. But he also reckons that the sabre-rattling has reached a new and dangerous level – that could lead the North to provoke a broader conflict, by mistake.

One of the potential problems is that both North and South Korea have new leaders. There is much speculation that Kim Jong Un is trying to prove his mettle to the North Korean generals. Meanwhile Park Geun-hye, the new South Korean president, is also under pressure to be tough. She is in political trouble at home. The South has threatened to respond to any new North Korean provocations – such as the sinking of a South Korean ship in 2010 in a much tougher fashion. So even if the North’s actions fall well short of anything nuclear, they could provoke an unexpectedly harsh response. The real problem is how best to resolve the issue before it becomes a full blown crisis. For years many "tough guy Americans" have seen the answer as to, just Nuke the bastards, but this is easier said then done and has some huge negitive ramifications.

For years America has followed a strategy of hoping in time things would get better, that the people of North Korea would demand more goods and western style comforts and move towards freedom. When the last foul leader died officials hoped that North Korea's young leader would prove to be a reformer, instead lines have harden and cooperation has deteriorated.  They  are now increasingly worried that he might blunder his way into a war. Even as they publicly describe 30-year-old Kim Jong Un's recent bellicose threats as bluster, administration officials have stepped up visible demonstrations of American military power. Currently all signs coming out of North Korea are not constructive to a peaceful co-existence, it is possible that they have become so delusional and paranoid that there is no turning back.  

Caitlin Hayden, spokesperson of the National Security Council said "North Korea has a long history of bellicose rhetoric and threats and today's announcement follows that familiar pattern," she continued on saying that we take these threats seriously and remain in close contact with our South Korean Allies. Referring to the statement by defense secretary Chuck Hagel, Hayden said the US remains fully prepared and capable of protecting the country and its allies. "We continue to take additional measures against the North Korean threat, including our plan to increase the US ground-based interceptors and early warning and tracking radar, and the signing of the ROK-US counter-provocation plan."  

The White House statement came after Kim signed a plan on technical preparations of strategic rockets, ordering them to be "standby for fire so that they may strike any time the US mainland and its military bases, North Korea on Saturday said it was entering a "state of war" with South Korea and warned that US bases in Hawaii and Guam would be targeted in what could turn into "an all-out war, a nuclear war." North Korea's official news agency reported that after his meeting with his top commanders Kim Jong Un, said his country "would react to the US nuclear blackmail with a merciless nuclear attack, and war of aggression with an all-out war of justice." 

I have no knowledge of the motivation, or how crazy the average North Korean soldier might be. Several times in history the ink has only begun to dry on a peace accord before one of the participant attacks totally  unprovoked, things are often hard to predict. Forthcoming events may well dictate and act as a blueprint to our future actions. We should not be downplaying this. It is possible we may be facing a watershed event that makes limited nuclear war commonplace, this situation highlights the difficulties of dealing with rouge nations. Let us in America and people throughout the world realize and internalize the potential for a million or more dead North Koreans and many of their neighbors to the south, this does make this situation dire indeed. 

Footnote; On February 12th of 2012, I did a post concerning Syria. This was before the conflict expanded out of control. The situation in Korea has the same potential, but could be hundreds of times worse, below is that post,

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