Will North Korea become our third war? Or is the recent shelling of South Korea, sinking of a South Korean warship and other hostile acts by North Korea meant to be something else?
A reading of North Korea’s history will make you dizzy. It’s a history of deals made and deals broken. At one moment, Pres. George W Bush called it part of the “axis of evil.” Then on June 26, 2008, following the D.P.R.K.'s submission of its nuclear declaration and progress on disablement, “President George W. Bush announced that the United States would no longer apply the Trading with the Enemy Act to North Korea. Additionally, on October 11, the Secretary of State rescinded the United States’ designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.”
But then things change again. In May 2010, (under the Obama administration) the United States re-certified North Korea as “not cooperating fully” with U.S. counterterrorism efforts under Section 40A of the Arms Export and Control Act, as amended. “Pursuant to this certification, defense articles and services could not be sold or licensed for export to North Korea from October 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010.”
So, are we facing a war with a hostile Communist country that possesses nukes and missiles? If you look at a history of North Korea you will see that every few years North Korea has taken hostile action against South Korea, from trying to assassinate South Korean leader Park to the bombing of a South Korean airliner. This year a South Korean ship was torpedoed and, for the first time, a civilian target was shelled. It is part of a decades-old schizophrenic pattern of hostile actions coupled with shaking down the west for more food and fuel aid to stave off starvation of North Korea’s population.I believe what we are seeing is this -- the process by which North Korea transfers power. When Kim Jung il took power from his father, it was accompanied by military aggression. Now Kim Jung il is dying. He has three sons. The oldest son lost favor when he tried to sneak into Japan with a fake passport to visit its Disneyland, the second son was considered “too effeminate,” so that left the third and youngest son – who went to school in Switzerland and, at age 26, looks like a baby-faced kid who hasn’t got a clue what to do.
So, strategically, igniting a conflict with the South is part of an intentional strategy by North Korea to generate loyalty of the North Korean military to Jung il’s third son, Jung un, so the country will “rally around” him. How far will it go?
Probably not too far, if they follow history, but that is a big “if.” North Korea has twice the number of troops as South Korea. Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is within 25 miles of the DMZ – within artillery range of North Korea. The city could be leveled just by North Korean artillery fire in one day.
But North Korea didn’t attack Seoul -- the artillery fire was directed at a small island only 7 miles off N. Korea’s coast. It is part of a border dispute – there isn’t much on the island but fishermen and S. Korean military.
The hope, of course, is to provoke a counter attack that would rally the downtrodden North Korean people to support its new leader-apparent, baby dictator-to-be Jung-un. These attacks have always been accompanied by a North Korean demand for more fuel and food. It’s a dangerous game in which the stakes keep rising as North Korea expands its missile and nuclear programs, while its economy remains on life support. (Nothing like a war, or threat of it, to take peoples’ minds off food shortages).
Solution? There may not be one. If Kim Jung il dies, his son could remain in power -- or be replaced by the military hardliners. If the North Korean people find out how much better off South Koreans live, it could collapse the military’s support, so don’t expect the military to want reunification or reconciliation. China is the only country with leverage over North Korea, but even they fear a collapse of North Korea would lead to mass migration of hungry North Koreans into China.
A third war? Let’s hope not. The one hope is that the oldest son, who disputes dad giving power to the youngest son, somehow wins out. A North Korean leader who likes Disneyland might be someone we can deal with!
If you want to see how North Korea looked to American tourists as recently as last August, check out my podcast interview with one of those tourists at www.GlobalAmerican.org (click on ‘favorite programs’ – it is at the top). It will also demonstrate what a schizophrenic country we are dealing with.