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Guest Commentary: On information as a second front against North Korea

The following is a guest commentary by long-time OFK reader and commenter Rand Millar.

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During the course of 2017 the considerable progress made in its nuclear warhead and ICBM development programs caused the dictatorship ruling the northern half of Korea to become the top foreign policy and security concern of the U.S. government. There are no realistic prospects of negotiations between Washington and its adversary ensconced in Pyongyang. The Pyongyang regime will no more negotiate away its burgeoning nuclear arsenal than Imperial Japan would appease the Roosevelt Administration by negotiating away its military presence in China in late 1941. The weapons of mass destruction under development are integral to the Pyongyang regime’s program for achieving hegemony over all of Korea. For without that hegemony, its position in northern Korea itself must eventually collapse, most likely sooner rather than later. Now as then the incumbent U.S. administration will not accept the situation in dispute between itself and its east Asian adversary. Just as then the U.S. cut off vital raw materials as oil and scrap iron to Japan and maintained its primary means of intervention, the U.S. Pacific Fleet, in unprotected forward deployment at Pearl Harbor, so today the U.S. is finally serious about enforcing comprehensive sanctions against the Pyongyang terror regime and it often makes a showy demonstration of its means of military intervention. Because of this critical impasse which cannot long persist, not a week elapses as this year wanes without grim remarks justifiably made by one or another senior U.S. government official regarding the likelihood of catastrophic war engulfing the Korean peninsula.

What is often forgotten in the deadlock between the Pyongyang regime and Washington are the interests of the 23 million people of the northern part of Korea in thrall to Kim Jong Un and his current senior associates. Some of these people have never given their allegiance to the Kim family regime. Most of the rest have surrendered their one-time belief in the illusory promises of Kim Jong Un and his family. Now most of this disaffected majority are engaged in creating micro-market economies within northern Korea. But these incredibly hardy, resourceful people labor under enormous handicaps imposed by the very nature of Kim Jong Un’s regime and dearly long to be rid of him. Their aspirations for the freedom to determine their own lives and to worship according to their own consciences make them the greatest natural allies Washington has in its apparent quest to see the end of Kim Jong Un’s regime of terror and thence the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. At this very late hour, it is still not yet evident that senior U.S. government officials understand this unheralded ally.

At the present hour the efforts of the U.S. government to create and enforce a comprehensive program of sanctions are against two principal targets in northern Korea. The first is the palace economy that rewards the minions of the structure of oppression necessary for keeping Kim Jong Un in power. The second is the array of weapons development programs whereby Kim Jong Un is rapidly acquiring the means to coerce the disengagement of the U.S. from the security of its Korean ally in the south. Only in the second half of 2017 has this effort been pursued with the determination and comprehensiveness necessary to eventual success, and even then the effort is by itself inadequate to prevent the target weapons programs from reaching critical mass. This is firstly because of its late start relative to the amount of time such an effort would need in isolation to produce the required result. Had what is being done now been underway years ago, the time needed might be enough. Secondly, because the U.S. government cannot adequately coerce recalcitrant state actors, principally China and Russia, to help make its sanctions regime practically air-tight and thus speedily effective.

Thus, what must now be done? What in addition to sanctions, and short of overt military action, must occur to bring down what might be characterized as the “dark tower” in northern Korea from which Kim Jong Un plots to achieve his family’s three-generations-old dream of effective rule over all Korea?

What Kim Jong Un and his family fear most is the prospect of those in thrall to him at present gaining the power to communicate with each other freely, and so organize so as to resist his dictates and thence to dissolve his power. The dynamic here is much as water coming into the sand upon which the “dark tower” of his terror regime stands, creating quicksand which causes that tower to collapse. At present people in northern Korea have telecommunications almost exclusively through Koryolink, the regime monopoly, which of course is optimized to prevent any faint whisper of sedition over its facilities. A few people in the regions of northern Korea adjacent to China have limited use of cell phones with Chinese service that evades regime detection. But this is far too sparse to be effective in allowing the people of northern Korea to reach critical mass in becoming acquainted with each other and organizing over broad areas against the regime that so oppresses them.

This is where the U.S. government could effectively organize a second front against Kim Jong Un, at least equal in importance to the existing sanctions front, and together with it, much more likely to achieve a critical result in time to preclude either a terrible conflagration on the Korean peninsula or de facto surrender to the will of Kim Jong Un. The first part of this front involves supporting a massive increase in the current trickle of unauthorized cell phones becoming available to Koreans in the north who are not vetted supporters of the Kim family regime. The second part requires the deployment of U.S. military transport aircraft specially configured as communications hubs to make the cell phone enhanced distribution effective. At last Koreans in the north will be able to talk to each other without the let or leave of the Kim Jong Un regime. Not just uncensored communication between neighboring villages and towns, but also between provincial capital cities as Wonsan, Chongjin, and Hyesan, and from there to points west. The terror regime ensconced in Pyongyang is itself utterly terrified of this prospect.

It is proposed herein, as a matter of further discussion and argument hopefully involving persons far better versed than this humble author in communications technology and military operational planning, that at least three such specialized aircraft would need to be deployed to keep one in orbit at all times over the Sea of Japan (“East Sea” to Koreans) providing cell phone service. Such lumbering airborne communications platforms would require protection from hostile interception by having fighter aircraft fly combat air patrols, with the lot supported by adequate tanker aircraft. This represents a substantial commitment from regular USAF and ANG resources to sustain, and it is well known that such resources in equipment and personnel are already severely strained by existing overseas deployments. Yet given the clearly burgeoning present danger on account of Kim Jong Un’s capability to achieve his ambitions, surely sufficient adjustments in present budgets and deployments must be made.

In addition to the challenges in just putting together the above proposed deployment, it cannot be ignored that the Kim family regime might quickly see in the deployment the mortal threat that it is and react as did the minions of Imperial Japan when they perceived impending extinction of their dream of an Asia under Japanese hegemony from the July 1941 U.S. sanctions enforced against them. Even without that eventuality, if the Kim Jong Un terror regime deploys forces against rising centers of non-compliance within northern Korea, it may be necessary that the specialized airborne platforms as noted above also be configured to disrupt the internal communications of the regime, with special consideration of those of the Ministry of State Security. All this is fraught with deadly risk. Yet such risks pale in comparison to present prospects, and were made unavoidable by the vital years that the locusts ate during the time of the so-called policy of “strategic patience” and similar half-baked excuses for inaction against the ambitions of the Kim family regime by prior U.S. administrations.

To recall another echo of late 1941, in resolutely and effectively undermining Kim Jong Un and his regime of terror against Koreans and the world, let there be a “Second Front Now!”

9 Comments

  1. What about satellites? Are there any satellites that we could use? Granted those might not work with the cell phones that they are using though.




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  2. Great read but I have not seen evidence that “most… have surrendered their one-time belief in the illusory promises of Kim Jong Un and his family.” I wish that were true. No doubt there are many disaffected people in North Korea but whom they blame for their disaffection may not be what you and I expect and want. It depends on the person but the North Korean brand of brainwashing (Kim family worship and utter suppression of any critical faculty starting in kindergarten) can have lasting effects. Especially in opposition vacuum full of fear and violence. So even more thorny (than facilitating flow of information) for Jong Un and his mafiosi may be low cost low tech leaflet dropping using drones over major population centers away from the border regions at night. No one needs to know where they are coming from. Leaflets exposing Kim family’s hypocrisy will be powerful as nothing shocks North Koreans more.




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  3. Communication is key and I like the proposed second front idea. If I could propose one other front, it would be to somehow arrange for the US and South Korean administrations to back-channel a message to the NK military elite that no war crimes or crimes against humanity would be charged upon any units who initiate and secure regime change. To compare at a somewhat comparable policy, Operation Paperclip did this after WWII (von Braun used slave labor, experiments on prisoners,etc.). As horrific a cost upon the millions of people who have suffered under the Kim dynasty and deserve justice, I wonder if a South Africa tribunal of reconciliation could be done instead after a N K coup takes place. I feel it may be one of the only ways NK can be free from the Kim dynasty AND keep China ( and Putin’s Russia) from direct intervention ( which the coup leaders would also need to keep at bay via secure borders). Is this at all a possible option, too?




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  4. While there may be widespread fear, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that there is sufficient popular dissent for an overthrow of the Kim family juche system. There is only the hope of Chinese intervention to replace a rebarbative ruler in the interests of nuclear (and now bio-weapon) stability. 70 years of education to hate the West, and especially the USA, will have many, many believers regardless of the despicableness of Baby Kim.




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  5. B.R Myers has a new piece up on sthelepress.com on the North’s drive to unify the Country on their terms. Myers is clearly one of the leading thinkers on the politics of Korea.




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  6. Communication, information, and story telling are key to opening up an oppressed people’s minds. Based on the repression that they deal with it might be good to have a 1980s-1990s approach to technology and engagement, not a 2018 approach.

    To quote a meme:
    1998:
    – Don’t get in strangers’ cars
    – Don’t meet ppl from internet

    2016:
    – Literally summon strangers from internet to get in their car

    North Koreans are definitely in the don’t meet people from the internet phase of technology. Any connectivity that can be provided will be intermittent, probably slow, and will need to provide anonymity. I would look at early days of the internet and even pre-internet like bulletin board systems (BBS) to see the kind of content and ways that it spread.
    As far as delivery mechanisms go, I think probably the best way would be satellite broadcast to push information to people with receiver technology based around something like satellite radio (sirius xm). The receivers for those are small enough that they can be discretely setup. Unlike Sirius XM you would need to provide unconditional access but you could probably sell the devices in the south and Japan with a Tom’s Shoes model of each one sold there funds another one given to someone in North Korea.




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  7. After reading B.R. Myers’ long piece, I have to think:

    1. It seems NK established Second Front against US-ROK alliance sometime ago and is now reaping the benefit of this campaign as evidenced by Moon and Im in the Blue House.
    2. China and Russia’s recent calls for “dual suspension” is nothing more than another gradual scheme designed by our enemies to effectuate US troop withdrawal from the peninsula.
    3. Moon’s recent summit with China shows Moon is most interested in protecting his nation’s economy rather than its security. US must use Moon’s shortsightedness in this regard to wake him up before he faces a significant backlash in US trade over China.
    4. Rather than setting up a Second Front directly in northern NK, some thought should be given to starting a soft campaign in those countries where effective information can be easier to spread and also targets the Pyongyang “elites” immediately.
    5. Nobody seems to be talking about why a unified Korea under “King” Jong Un’s rule in the future will have disastrous consequences for the global harmony.
    6. Does China really hold a key to a peaceful resolution in all this? How much do you trust China?




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  8. Just started reading Eric Hoffer’s 1951 book “The True Believer,” and it begins with some statements that really reverberate after reading B.R. Myer’s most recent piece. For example: “The phenomenal modernization of Japan would probably not have been possible without the revivalist spirit of Japanese nationalism. It is perhaps also true that the rapid modernization of some European countries (Germany in particular) was facilitated to some extent by the upsurge and thorough difusion of nationalist fervor. Judged by present indications, the renascence of Asia will be brought about through the instrumentality of nationalist movements rather than by other mediums. It was the rise of a genuine nationalist movement which enabled Kemal Atatürk to modernize Turkey almost overnight. In Egypt, untouched by a mass movement, modernization is slow and faltering, though its rulers, from the day of Mehmed Ali, have welcomed Western ideas, and its contacts with the West have been many and intimate.”




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  9. These planes would need to be deployed right now and keep further military options on the table. I think this is a genius and unexpected move that would show resolve on the part of the part of the US.




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