China & Korea Japan Korean War II Regime Change Washington Views

I wonder if China is pleased with Japan’s new plans to expand defense spending, deploy more PAC-3 Patriot missile batteries, build more submarines to patrol disputed waters, and arm more Aegis cruisers with Standard-3 missiles. Again, there is even talk of acquiring nuclear weapons. China has only its own reckless backing of North Korea to blame for this. Me, I’d be happier if we sold the same types of gear to Taiwan, which as I take delight in repeating, happens to have China’s only legitimate government anyway. But any step toward an integrated alliance of stronger Asian democracies is a step in the right direction. Key to this is that Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan must not give in to the temptation of excessive dependence on a fickle and debt-laden America, and they must be able to survive a first strike well enough to give America a viable option of coming to their assistance. Chinese and North Korean behavior this year has tilted Asian voters sharply in the direction of demanding more defense spending and closer relations with the United States.

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In the Washington Post, Victor Cha argues against what he describes as five myths about North Korea. I mostly agree with 1 and 3; I agree with 4 for other reasons; and I agree with 5 even if I wish Cha gave us a better explanation than a consensus of august diplomatic minds that hasn’t a thing to do with the price of rice in Chongjin (the North Korea crisis will be solved in places like this, not in any embassy’s foyer). On point 2, Cha argues against the perception that “Kim Jong Eun is too young and inexperienced to successfully replace his father,” which he defends by noting that older, more experienced people will really be running things from behind the scenes. But isn’t that what most Kim Jong Eun skeptics have always said? Cha always notes that we have no good options in North Korea, something that’s undoubtedly been true since we irreversibly licensed North Korea’s nuclear power status in 1993. But rather than simply reflecting consensus views and writing pieces that no one ever disagrees with more than 40% of the time, I wish that Cha would actually offer a least-worst solution.
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In the Wall Street Journal, Brian Myers takes apart Selig Harrison’s imaginings of a reformist faction in North Korea. The key to scoring this speculative argument is the question of whether you really count what the North Koreans tell Selig Harrison as evidence of anything, because that’s about all the evidence Harrison really has. Myers might have answered this with his own interpretations of what the regime tells its own subjects, but as interesting as those interpretations are, I’m glad he didn’t rely on them. After all, North Korea’s actions alone are sufficient to refute Harrison’s view. The same can be said of too much of our foreign policy commentariat, which held similarly naive and wishful views for far too long. The less credit given to those views, the sooner we’ll turn to more productive alternatives.
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No, now that I think of it, Kim Jong Il probably isn’t accustomed to seeing his work panned by critics. Yes, Kim Jong Il’s writing is an easy enough target, but the piece actually ends with an insightful argument. Hat tip: Theresa.
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OPLAN 5027 1/2? It occurred to me last night that if North Korea escalates hostilities to the point that a military response becomes necessary to save lives in South Korea, such a response need only be sufficient to neutralize North Korea as an immediate threat to the South and deal its system a fatal political blow. This doesn’t necessarily require a full-scale invasion and occupation of all of North Korea, which could well unite much of the population around the regime. Instead, it might “only” require an intense bombardment of North Korea’s artillery sites near the DMZ — yes, a big “only,” that — followed by the seizure of a ten-mile-wide strip of North Korean territory nearest the DMZ. This would neutralize the artillery threat to the South and completely disrupt North Korea’s own military plans for threatening the South or repelling an allied invasion. It should go without saying that we shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to hit whatever nuclear targets we can, although there are undoubtedly some we’ll never find until after reunification. Rather than taking on the bloody work of racing the Chinese Army to Pyongyang and occupying a hostile country, we could encourage, support, and supply whatever elements were thereby emboldened to rise up against the regime (this would have the added effect of discouraging China from getting involved, unless it wants to get bogged down in an insurgency that would turn unpopular very quickly for any foreign power). Again, I doubt that such an uprising would succeed in the short term, but in the medium term, it would bleed the regime to death, both economically and politically.

In the comments, there have been some suggestions of arming the prisoners in the camps to fight as well, as they are said to have done in the Onsong Camp many years ago. I’m deeply ambivalent about this idea, because I think some of us underestimate how weakened those prisoners really are from the starvation and torture they’ve experienced. To arm people with no military training, organization, or outside logistical support can only mean one inevitable result — the massacre of the prisoners in any camp that rises. But then, it’s probably assured that the prisoners in most of these camps will never get out alive anyway.

16 Comments

  1. Strikingly missing from these comments is the qualifer the South will take military action against the North AFTER another NORK provocation.

    Almost sounds like the South may take unilateral miliatary action against the North without waiting for another NORK provocation. Or am I interpreting that wrong?

    From: “ http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/…9ec900dd9d2bab “

    Ex-US intel chief: SKorea may act against North
    (AP) – 1 hour ago

    WASHINGTON (AP) — South Korea is losing patience with North Korea and probably will take military action, former national intelligence director Dennis Blair said Sunday.

    Blair, who just returned from the Korean peninsula, said he doesn’t see a major war starting, but he believes recent aggression by the North will press South Korea into some lower level military confrontations.

    He said there’s support among South Koreans for their military to take a stronger stance, adding that “a South Korean government who does not react would not be able to survive there.”

    He told CNN’s “State of the Union” that the North’s recent moves to sink a South Korean ship and fire artillery rounds on a South Korean island near a disputed sea border have frayed Seoul’s patience. The artillery attack killed four South Koreans, while 46 sailors died in the sinking of the ship.




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  2. In talking with my ROKAF friends, they are eager to strike back at nK. They definitely feel a loss of face and frustration with the nK’s repeated provocations.




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  3. a listener wrote:

    Off topic, but I thought you would be interested in whay may or may not be the first offical painting of Kim Jung Eun. It looks like a European city in the background, maybe showing of his formative years in Berne?

    For the umpteenth time, no, that’s not Kim Jong-un.

    Moreover, the zeal with which that possibility was originally pursued — and believed — is symptomatic of the bandwagon effect of so many people trying to find evidence that KJU has been elevated when, although he is being positioned to rise, it simply isn’t happening.




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  4. I’m a bit worried about encouraging rebellion after taking out the North’s artillery. We encouraged Iraqis to rise up against Saddam Hussein after his defeat in the Gulf War, but we offered no help, and the rebels were slaughtered.

    If we encourage, we might have a moral imperative to support.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *




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  5. Will Japan go nuclear? That would be sad but understandable, given China’s support for North Korean intransigence.
    And continuing the thread off topic, if you look closely at the painting cited by a listener, and you look closely at pictures of Kim Ilsung, you’ll see that Kushibo is right.




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  6. Sorry Kushibo, I was not aware that had already been posted here for the umpteenth time. Guess I havent been online as much lately as I would have liked.




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  7. Apologies, a listener, my zealous admonition, was directed not at you for bringing it up (it did gain a second life when Rudiger Frank posted on it at FP) but at those experts who so eagerly accepted this is part of the ascension-slash-deification of Kim Jong-un.




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  8. Kushibo, I suggest to you that it is not “symptomatic of the bandwagon effect of so many people trying to find evidence that KJU has been elevated when, although he is being positioned to rise, it simply isn’t happening” so much as it is symptomatic of a national paper in a far-off land being handed a tourist photo and either being stupid enough to believe it, or thinking that while it might well be bullshit, at least it is bullshit that will sell papers.

    Which it did.




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  9. chris, how many papers are sold in Pyongyang these days?

    None. People in that city have the “luxury” of getting the daily mail whether they like it or not….

    The rest better hope that they lived under Japanese rule. The Japanese at least believed in freedom of religion. History proves this. Brutal as they were, they made sure that Christian churches coexisted with Japanese Temples. Railroads linking Seoul to Pyongyang were in commissioned and built, along with state of the art hospitals for Koreans. If the young man in the painting is Kim Il Sung, then that young man ows a lot to being brought up under Japanese rule that he could stroll centerpiece.

    P.S.

    Koreans should hate him for it, not hate the Japanese for his own Caligula personality.




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  10. chris, bandwagon effect is happening in the Japanese media, much of the American media, a good portion of the South Korean media, and now the Canadian media. I would say the Tooth & Nail article is symptomatic of the wider epidemic.




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  11. Some serious war jitters in North Korea. Borderline hyperinflation with the currency, rice and corn . . .

    N. Korea: ‘Yeonpyeong shelling causes inflation in Pyongyang’
    12-13-2010 18:48

    North Korean merchants are exchanging their local currency en masse as war jitters in the wake of Pyongyang’s attack on Yeonpyeong Island have stoked fears that the money may lose its value in the case of war, a report said.

    According to North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity (NKIS), a Seoul-based NGO comprised of defectors with lines into the North, currency exchange rates have skyrocketed since the Nov. 23 incident. One hundred Chinese yuan, which before the shelling went for 2,000 North Korean won (NKW), is now worth 35,000 won, NKIS said in a report released Sunday.

    Price of daily goods have also skyrocketed, the report said, with rice jumping from 900 NKW per kilogram to 1600 NKW. Corn climbed from 4000 NKW per kilogram to 6000 NKW, it said.

    Traders in China, from who markets in the North secure much their goods, have also become reluctant to make transactions involving North Korean currency and are trading what won they have, the source said.

    http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2010/12/113_77969.html




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  12. @ jhpiggot,

    I don’t know where the glitch in the system occurred, but that story posted from the Korea Times is off on a number of figures. On average, the price of corn is around half that of rice, so should be in the hundreds not the mutiple thousands, while I suspect the pre-shelling Yuan exchange rate should read 20,000, not 2,000, although the post-shelling figure is, as far as I know, roughly correct.




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