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North Korea: The International Community Kicks the Can Again


In her only substantive contribution to diplomacy, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, once wrote a book describing the Balkan Wars of the 1990s and other recent occurrences of genocide and scholarship as a “problem from hell.”  That description also applies to North Korea and has been amplified by recent news that this regime has successfully fired nuclear capable ballistic missiles from a submarine and has ICBM’s capable of reaching the continental U.S.

The United Nations General Assembly  is currently meeting and various UN organs will express their vacuous rhetorical concern about these developments.  They will pass more empty resolutions of concern to supplement the forest of empty resolutions on North Korea they have passed in the six plus decades since the Korean War.

Since the end of Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula following World War II, this region has been divided into North and South Korea.  South Korea has become a valued ally of the U.S., a major player in international economics, and has a thriving democracy.  North Korea, under the Stalinist and repressive rule of the Kim Dynasty, is the classic example of a dystopian hell.  Outside of Communist Party elite and military personnel it is an impoverished basket case of a country that periodically experiences famine.  It is a major player in promoting international terrorism, the drug trade, and proliferating weapons of mass destruction to rogue regimes like Iran and Syria.  While it’s military forces are large, they have not kept up with western technological trends and would eventually be defeated in an exceptionally bloody military confrontation whose geopolitical repercussions would be felt in Northeast Asia, the western Pacific, and even the United States.

North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons, however, makes this despotic regime a source of concern to the international community and to U.S. national security interests.  When the Korean War ended in 1953, a peace treaty between the U.S and its allies, and North Korea was not signed.  An armistice or cease-fire was and a peace treaty has never been agreed to due to Pyongyang’s perpetual hostility and desire to forcibly reunify the peninsula under the Kim Dynasty.  There have been attempts to negotiate with North Korea on a variety of topics, but the diplomatic record of these negotiations has always ended in failure due to northern intransigence.  Several years ago, a leftist South Korean Government pursued a delusional “Sunshine Policy” seeking to improve bilateral relations through family reunions and financial support to North Korea.  Despite these gestures of comity from Seoul, North Korea would respond by building and testing its nuclear arsenal, firing artillery bursts at South Korean territory and vessels killing South Korean military and civilian personnel.

As we celebrate the vapid international peace day, I must be the bearer of bad news and tell you that the North Korean problem will only be resolved through military means.  The valiant efforts of the U.S. and some sectors of the international community to coerce Pyongyang with diplomatic and economic sanctions has had minimal positive effect.   The Kim Dynasty is hellbent on retaining its power at all costs and will not voluntarily surrender its lucre, weapons, and power to the international community in the name of universal human values. It would be nice if China would cut the umbilical cord supporting its neighbor, but don’t bet the mortgage on that.  The U.S. and South Korea, should seek to engage China on how to handle the collapse of North Korea’s regime in the event of military conflict which may be more likely given Kim Jong Un’s reckless and ruthless impulsiveness.  We need to reassure China that we will not bring international troops too far north of the 38th parallel and assist China in handling an influx of North Korean refugees.  The international community will also need to make a decades long investment into Korean reconstruction, reeducation, and integration into the international community.

If North Korea seeks to continue building up its nuclear weapons arsenal, we should not be surprised if Japan and South Korea decide to develop their own nuclear deterrent forces.  That would not be desirable if you’re interested in promoting regional stability, but it would be perfectly understandable when you’re dealing with a messianic tyrant like Kim Jong Un who only understands military force and the willingness of his enemies to decisively use military force to bring down his juche regime’s fantasies.   This is a topic which needs to be addressed in this year’s presidential debate as another of the long-standing and emerging national security problems the U.S. faces.  Fortunately, Barack Obama has not had time to engage in attempts to achieve “rapprochement” with Pyongyang like he has with rogue regimes in Havanna and Tehran.  This is a problem which has been kicked down the road for far to long.  The next U.S. Administration is likely to face the prospect of seeing radars track North Korean nuclear missile launches against U.S. targets and against U.S. allies if the status quo continues.


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