North Korea has been a bleeding wound in Northeast Asian and U.S. geopolitics for nearly seven decades. The Korean War did not end with a peace treaty, but with an armistice as this peninsula was divided into two countries at the 38th parallel. South of this demarcation, the country of South Korea emerged as an initially authoritarian but eventually a democratic country that remains a critical U.S. ally. Nearly 28,000 U.S. troops remain in this country which has materially prospered and is likely to continue prospering despite its President being impeached for corruption earlier this year.
North of the heavily militarized parallel is a dynastic Stalinist regime which maintains a religious like cult tyrannical regime which has been lead by Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il, and Kim Jong Un for 73 years. This regime is hellbent on retaining power at all costs and has imposed a willingly accepted tyranny on its people who have faced starvation and famine and endure a repressive apparatus comparable to the worst tyrannies in history. Despite being economically impoverished due to its Marxist Juche ideology, North Korea is very dangerous due to its large conventional military forces and its emerging nuclear weapons arsenal.
Since the Korean War, the U.S., its regional allies, the misnamed international community, and Russia, and China have tried rotating and ultimately unsuccessful policies to regulate this government and its chronic misbehavior. At times, there have been efforts to appease Pyongyang by providing economic and humanitarian assistance and even helping it start a nuclear energy program which would evolve into a nuclear weapons program. Various economic, political, and diplomatic sanctions have been imposed which have had, at best, minimal coercive success against a regime that doesn’t care what the world thinks about it’s rule. Russia and China, to varying degrees, have helped assist this government. China, now appears to be taking a more robust stance against its wayward protege who’s volatility is extremely bad for Beijing’s business. While China has the most leverage over North Korea in the world, it is highly unlikely it will be willing to totally pull the plug on Pyongyang although doing so would bring China immense international diplomatic goodwill.
We must not forget that North Korea has attempted to use subterfuge and overt means to attack South Korea and America. There are numerous incidents of North Koreans attempting to tunnel under the Demilitarized Zone and infiltrate into South Korea. These and other attacks have resulted in dead South Koreans, Americans, and people of other nationalities. The United Nations has passed innumerable resolutions agains North Korea, when they are not vetoed by China or Russia, and yet the volatility and evil of this regime persists as does its threat to Northeast Asia and potentially the United States thanks to its nuclear weapons program which includes ballistic missiles potentially capable of reaching the western U.S.
I regret that it is highly likely that military force will have to be used to decapitate this regime. This will pose an enormous challenge for President Trump and our allies in South Korea and Japan. It will be an extremely protracted and bloody affair. Despite our clear conventional military and technological superiority over Pyongyang, we will have to engage in sustained and ruthless assaults to destroy North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, its command and control infrastructure, its significant cyberwar assets, and its heavily massed conventional and infantry and artillery forces stationed just north of the 38th Parallel. Some of these forces will invade South Korea and soon reach the heavily populated South Korean capital city of Seoul. This will produce bloodshed not seen in international affairs since the 1950-1953 Korean War and World War II.
There will also be the matter of trying to keep China from intervening in this conflict like it did during the Korean War and preventing the U.S. and allied militaries from targeting and destroying North Korean military capabilities. We are likely to militarily win such a war and destroy the Pyongyang regime, but it will be at a high price for all participating countries and leave scars in that region and internationally that will endure for decades. The economic, psychological, and social costs of rebuilding a reunified Korean Peninsula will be tremendous.
At the same time, we cannot allow Kim Jong Un and his sadistic regime to get nuclear weapons and threaten South Korea, Japan, the U.S., and other countries. North Korea is an example in international politics of what happens when you procrastinate in the face of enduring evil. Sunshine policies, six power talks, strategic engagement, and targeted economic sanctions have ultimately failed to bring this regime to compliance with internationally accepted behavioral standards. There are times in history, when the whip hand of brutal and overwhelming force is the only way to resolve a problem like North Korea which threatens international peace and stability. It is time for President Trump and other national leaders to prepare public opinion for the likely probability that war will again occur in the Korean Peninsula due to the dogged tenacity and the bloodthirsty danger North Korea poses to the international community and to the strategic interests of the U.S. and its Asian-Pacific allies. A world which is enthralled by “safe spaces” and believes that humanity is to advanced for war, may be about to find out there are no “safe spaces” or “sanctuaries” from the evils of totalitarian expansionism as personified by North Korea and its sadistic and messianic pretensions.