2003 May 06 Tuesday
What Is Bush Administration Strategy Toward North Korea?

There are a lot of different reports and analyses coming out about what US policy is and should be toward North Korea's nuclear weapons development efforts. I think this reflects a reaction to the end of the war in Iraq. A lot of people in both government and the larger community of commentators and analysts had placed North Korea into a mental box labelled "do not deal with seriously until the Iraq war is finished". Well, the war is finished and it is finally sinking in to a lot of people just how bad all of our options are on North Korea. Here's a tour thru the recent reports and US options for dealing with North Korea.

The most interesting recent report came from The New York Times where top Bush Administration insiders are quoted anonymously claiming that Bush has accepted that the US is unable to learn much about the state of North Korea's nuclear weapons development program and has therefore shifted focus to concentrate on preventing North Korea from exporting nuclear materials and bombs.

"The president said that the central worry is not what they've got, but where it goes," said an official familiar with the talks between Mr. Bush and Mr. Howard. "He's very pragmatic about it, and the reality is that we probably won't know the extent of what they are producing. So the whole focus is to keep the plutonium from going further."

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has firmly denied this report.

There is of course one huge obvious problem with this strategy: it is beyond the capability of the United States to monitor every ship and truck and aircraft that leaves North Korea to see if it is carrying weapons grade uranium or plutonium. What makes this prospect even more frightening is the fact that North Korea has already threatened to export nuclear materials. Plus, if the US is seen to have publically resigned itself to the existence of a nuclear bomb building North Korea this will encourage Iran and other countries to follow suit. As a way to protect the US from nukes in the hands of terrorists this strategy is, at least if taken at face value, seemingly so flawed that one has to wonder whether there is something more to it.

Writing in Slate Fred Kaplan argues that Bush may in fact be playing a high stakes gambler's game with Kim Jong Il. See his interesting essay entitled Plutonium Poker.

Now, though, Bush is telling Kim: You want to build nukes? Fine. As long as you don't sell them, we don't care, we're not scared. It's as if a gunman takes a hostage and the cop responds by shooting the hostage; the gunman is suddenly vulnerable. Kim's the gunman, his nuclear program is the hostage, Bush is the cop.

Kaplan says that if we assume, as some argue, that Kim is using his nuclear program to win more concessions (cash, supplies, security guarantees, etc) at the negotiating table then effectively what Bush is doing is say that the United States does not see a need to offer North Korea anything to prevent it from developing nukes. Therefore Bush's response effectively renders Kim's complete nuclear gambit useless (at least if we assume South Korea and Japan will also refrain from offering any additional aid).

Bush strikes me as having the sort of personality that finds it natural to play bluffs and games of nerves with his opponents. A rational calculation approach to international relations that does not assign enough weight to head games and bluffs may miss options that would appeal to Bush. Therefore I think Kaplan's analysis is worth pondering.

The US position as argued by Kaplan, however, only makes sense if the North Koreans really are not intent upon developing nuclear weapons. One would have to argue, then, that North Korea embarked on a covert uranium enrichment program over 5 years ago in order to win economic aid from the United States and other countries now. Does this seem plausible? Wouldn't it be more reasonable to argue that the North Koreans really want to develop nuclear weapons as an end in itself for a variety of reasons? Mightn't the North Koreans have concluded that they can extort more aid as a nuclear power than as a country that agrees not to go nuclear while also enhancing the security of their regime? Looked at from a historical perspective it does not make sense to see North Korea's nuclear weapons program as created primarily to serve as a bargaining chip.

Still, if one accepts (I think incorrectly) the argument that the North Koreans are just trying to get more aid in exchange for not making more nukes then one can see why Bush would take the position that the US will accept North Korea as a nuclear power. Doing so basically takes a desired reward away from the North Koreans and, if you accept the underlying assumption, makes North Korea's development of nukes pointless. That is the theory anyway. The argument (again, assuming that the assumption about North Korean motives is correct) becomes more compelling when one examines America's other options. The other options are also unattractive. Let us go thru them.

Try to negotiate a deal where North Korea gets paid to not develop nukes. This was done by Bill Clinton in 1994. The failure of North Korea to stick by that deal has created the current crisis. Some time in the 1990s (probably in 1997 or 1998 in a secret deal with Pakistan to gain uranium enrichment technology. for more on Pakistan's role see here) North Korea started to secretly violate the spirit of this deal even while it accepted the extortion payments. In a nutshell the problem with this approach is that North Korea won't accept extortion payments and then honor the deal by holding off on nuclear weapons development. Since North Korea's regime can not be trusted North Korea would have to accept a very invasive inspections regime in order to make a deal worth doing. But it is very unlikely that North Korea would accept an inspections regime of sufficient invasiveness.

Premptive air strikes against North Korean nuclear facilities. Yongbyon is (was?) the major storage facility for plutonium that is enrichable into weapons grade material. But North Korea is also working on uranium bombs. The biggest problem with the preemptive strike idea is that US intelligence (at least according numerous news reports in major publications) does not know where the North Korean uranium enrichment facilities are located. Therefore a narrowly focused preemptive air strike can not take them out. Also, the US has no way of knowing whether North Korea may have already removed plutonium from Yongbyon.

A sustained air campaign to bring down the North Korean regime. The only purely air option that the US has at this point would be to start carrying out air strikes on North Korean military and leadership sites until the regime's leaders agree to go into exile and surrender the country. The international reaction to such an air campaign of course would be sharply critical and it is not clear that such a pure air power approach would work. Also, while it was on-going the regime might start shelling Seoul or shooting chemical warhead missiles at Seoul in order to get the United States to stop.

A full ground invasion to bring down the North Korean regime. The next big military option is a full invasion to take out the North Korean regime with a large ground force. Such an invasion would be a massively more difficult undertaking than the invasion of Iraq and would involve hundreds of thousands of troops. US and any allied military casualties would run into the tens or hundreds of thousands. But South Korean and American interests over North Korea have diverged so drastically that the South Korean government will not allow South Korea to be used as a jumping off point for an invasion. The main reason for this reluctance is very simple: South Korea does not want to lose several hundred thousand or a few million civilians from North Korean artillery and missile barrages. South Korea puts the lives of South Koreans who would die in North Korean barrages ahead of the lives of Americans who would be killed if terrorists purchased nukes from North Korea and smuggled the nukes into the United States.

Amphibious assault to do ground invasion to bring down North Korean regime. Many analysts assume that absent South Korean support the US can not launch an attack to completely overthrow the North Korean regime. That is true unless the US Navy is expanded enough to be capable of carrying out an amphibious assault directly into North Korea without South Korean cooperation. The US certainly has historical experience with massive amphibious landings across the Pacific during World War II and also the Inchon landing in Korea during the Korean War. This could be done today as well.

My guess is that the cost of the amphibious landing attack into North Korea would be run to several hundreds of billions of dollars and perhaps even a trillion or two. The US would have to launch a crash program to build landing craft, refurbish old carriers for one last trip, bring B-1B bombers out of mothballs (a dozen dropped half the tonnage of bombs in the recent Iraq war - imagine what 70 of them could do), make large numbers of cruise missiles and JDAMs, and otherwise scale up for a really big operation. As a prelude to the launch of such an operation it would make sense to withdraw US forces from South Korea to deny the North the ability to hit at US forces in advance of the US attack, to decrease the chances that the North would retaliate against the South, and to make the US less susceptible to pressure from the government in the South. The US could use Guam and other Pacific island possessions as bases from which to build up forces for the assault. It is not clear whether Japan would cooperate because they would fear North Korean chemical missile attacks. The answer to that question will depend in part on what we learn from a detailed analysis of the performance of the Patriot missile batteries used in Kuwait against Iraqi missiles.

It might take two or three years (assuming serious WWII-like dedication) to build the needed ships and equipment. This is not an operation that could be done quickly. In addition to the economic cost there would be the cost of a large number of American lives. In the meantime while the US prepared to launch such an attack North Korea would be able to pursue nuclear weapons development and possibly sell nukes to terrorists. Still, even in the face of South Korean opposition the US could have a military option against North Korea if it was willing to spend the money and blood.

US preparations for an amphibious assault against North Korea would give the US considerable negotiating leverage. Once it became clear to Kim Jong-il and the Chinese that the US was going to show up off the North Korean coast with a dozen carriers and a few thousand other ships along with a couple of thousand aircraft and a large ground force we'd have a good chance of convincing Kim to go into exile in China.

Play the trade card with China to compel Chinese cooperation for an embargo against North Korea. It may be possible to bring on a collapse of the North Korean regime if it was cut off from absolutely all aid and trade. But China's cooperation is key because China is North Korea's biggest source of aid and biggest trading partner. The United States might be able to use economic levers to compel the Chinese to cut all flows of goods between China and North Korea. The United States runs a trade deficit with China of over $100 billion. The $24 billion per year that the US sells to China is chump change for the $10 trillion dollar per year US economy. The over $140 billion per year that China sells to the US represents slightly more than 2 percent of the $6 trillion per year Chinese economy. The US could afford a trade embargo with China more easily than China could afford a trade embargo with the US. Still, the Chinese regime could probably survive a cut-off of trade with the US, especially since it could sell at least some of its exports elsewhere. Therefore it is not clear that the United States could economically compel China to end all aid and trade with North Korea.

All diplomatic indications that the US gets from China are that China is unwilling to play economic hardball against North Korea. This is consistent with previous reports of Chinese unwillingness to put the screws to North Korea. Some Chinese academics specialising in national security argue that China has to do something to stop North Korea's nuclear program. But they do not appear to have the ear of the Chinese leadership.

If China and South Korea are effectively going to block off some options, if policing of North Korea's borders to prevent nuclear smuggling is impossible, and if other options will not work due to motivations of the North Korean regime then is the unilateral amphibious landing military option the only option that might prevent North Korean nukes from some day destroying American cities? Let us look once again at the unilateral military option. The military option has other potential costs aside from blood and money. As Stanley Kurtz has pointed out the deaths that might result from a US attack on North Korea might cause the US to be treated as a dangerous pariah.

The policy that best saves Washington and New York most risks Seoul. And this is because South Korea (like Europe) is gradually being transformed from a frontline Cold War tripwire into potential collateral damage in a direct battle between the United States and terrorists and rogue regimes armed with weapons of mass destruction. After a Korean conflict in which both the North and the South are devastated, the world would shun America as a dangerous pariah and from the perspective of the world's interests, this would not be entirely without justification.

Well, that's unappealing. If we do something that is necessary and if much of the world doesn't see it as necessary we can get away with it as long as the consequences are not too horrifying. But the consequences of an invasion of North Korea, no matter how done, would be pretty horrifying to a large portion of the world's population. As long as the world does not believe the reality of the threat of smuggled nukes (or is cynical and thinks the nukes will not blow up their cities - since American cities will be the top targets of Islamic terrorists) any costs of the war will be blamed on America as being totally unnecessary. That's a problem. For this reason Kurtz thinks that it is most likely that the US will wait till it has lost at least one city before it summons the will to deal with the proliferation of nuclear weapons. I am inclined to agree.

The fundamental problem with the strategy of preemption is that it has high costs and too few people understand the necessity of the strategy to be willing to pay those costs. One reason for the lack of understanding is that it is hard for many to imagine just how evil some people are capable of being. I am reminded of George Kennan's comments about why FDR failed to appreciate the nature of Stalin.

President Franklin Roosevelt rarely betrayed all of his reasons for doing anything to other people. I think that his hopes about Russia were largely unrealistic during the wartime period. I don't think FDR was capable of conceiving of a man of such profound iniquity, coupled with enormous strategic cleverness, as Stalin. He had never met such a creature. And Stalin was an excellent actor, and when he did meet with leading people at these various conferences, he was magnificent: quiet, affable, reasonable. He sent them all away thinking, "This really is a great leader." And yes, but behind that there lay something entirely different.

This is the problem we have today with North Korea and nuclear terrorism. Many people can not imagine what the North Korean regime is capable of.. Some who can do not want to think that the spread of technological advances combined with the worst regimes and the worst ideologies are making catastrophic terrorist acts of unspeakable horror more likely. Therefore the options that might make the most sense will probably not get enough support to be acted upon.

So is there any other option worthy of consideration that is low enough in costs to be possible to implement with current levels of support for preemption? Yes, there is still one last long odds approach that is worth a try:

Covert operations to bring down the North Korean regime. Instead of a direct ground assault on North Korea could the CIA and other agencies find ways to cause the regime in North Korea to lose control and collapse? One potential component of such an approach which I've argued for repeatedly is a concerted attempt to break the information monopoly that the North Korean regime has over its people (see the bottom half of that post). But other things could be tried as well. The North is incredibly poor. Small amounts of money could be repeatedly offered to all North Korean government personnel living in other countries as a way to start trying to recruit them. If a large enough number of North Koreans could be compromised in this manner (and other means such as sex and recreational drugs could be used) then it might be possible to speed the corruption of the North Korean government. Eventually it might be possible to offer well placed North Koreans enormous sums of money in exchange for assassinations of top leaders.

Even if covert operations do not bring down the regime they may either weaken it or provide useful information about it. The CIA needs to make much bigger efforts to recruit agents of influence in North Korea and CIA agents need to be given a lot more latitude and encouragement to get out into the field and work on recruitment. The CIA needs to become the agency it used to be before covert operations became politically incorrect.

Joe Katzman has a nice collection of links about the North Korea nuclear proliferation problem if you want to read more news and views on the subject.

Also see my archives Weapons Proliferation Control, Preemption, Deterrence, and Containment, Axis of Evil, and Grand Strategy.

Update: Parenthetical aside to bloggers knowledgeable about military matters: A great topic for an article or series of posts would be the question of what capabilities is the United States missing to be able to do an amphibious invasion of North Korea. How many aircraft carriers, landing craft, armoured divisions, supply ships, bombers, UAVs, JDAMs. and assorted other equipment would be needed to do an amphibious assault on North Korea? Also, would Guam by itself provide enough space for air fields? Could US bombers operate from other US possessions in the Pacific? If so, which possessions and with what sorts of round-trip times? Longer round-trip times increase the number of bombers needed to do the job. Also, how quickly could the USAF bring mothballed B-1B bombers back into operational readiness?

Given the enormous lead time on some weapons systems (e.g. about 9 years for a Nimitz class carrier such as the Reagan) what could be done to build up the needed force in a shorter length of time? For instance, could the capability of each carrier be amplified by pairing it with large cargo ships that can carry but not launch aircraft? Picture a cargo ship that has huge cranes capable of transferring fighter aircraft from the hold of the cargo ship onto the deck of a carrier. Could this be done?

Update II: The Bush Administration is gradually moving toward finding more ways to cut off sources of revenue for the North Korean regime.

The Bush administration plans to adjust its policy toward North Korea by adopting a two-track approach that would combine new talks with pressure on the communist state by targeting its illegal drug and counterfeiting trade and possibly its missile sales, U.S. and Asian officials said yesterday.

Unwilling as yet to commit to a direct attack on North Korea the Bush Administration is looking for any way it can find to increase economic pressure. Eventually it may pursue UN sanctions. But it is by no means clear that China will go along with that step.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 May 06 07:33 PM  Politics Grand Strategy

Trent Telenko said at May 7, 2003 2:35 PM:


Two points:

1) Any military attack America launches has to end the North Korean regime.

2) Any American military option WRT North Korea has to assume that Seoul is a write off and that Japan has to be protected from North Korean WMD missile attacks.

Given those two limitations, a systematic conventional transportation & power infrastructure attack on the North will bring down the North Korean regime.

And it will cause high tens of thousands of deaths from systemic shock as food and water distribution systems collapse with its associated opportunistic diseases.

The cue that this option will be pursued is American military withdrawl from South Korea.

The other alternative, given that South Korea is using American troops as hostages and hindering American military use of their territory, is a no notice preemptive nuclear attack on North Korea.

Randall Parker said at May 7, 2003 3:06 PM:


1) The SK government is not going to allow SK to be used as a launch pad to attack NK. SK does not want to lose Seoul (and who can blame them for that).

2) The US is then left with amphibious invasion. Can the US even launch such an operation with current assets? I seriously doubt it. I will not believe that the US is preparing a conventional assault on NK until I see it spending a few hundred billion to build an assault fleet.

3) The US will not launch a nuclear strike on NK until the US knows that NK has sold nukes.

4) Do you really think an air war can bring down the NK regime?

5) Would it be possible to develop the means whereby the US could knock out the NK artillery with air power?
Specifically, could periodic waves of bombers carrying large amounts of Fuel Air Explosives drop them on the mountainsides which contain dug-in arty emplacements and kill wave after wave of troops sent to operate the arty?
The US is working on a new generation FAE bomb using tech that they bought from Russia. I am thinking that that bomb's development ought to be accelerated for this purpose.
Another possibility would be to develop some smart bomb cruise missle with radars (or perhaps some UAVs?) that would loiter over NK near the DMZ and would be able to track artillery shells in the air. Then the bombs would target the locations from which the artillery shells were coming.

wretchard said at May 8, 2003 12:19 AM:

The Nokors will eventually provide enough provocation to justify US military action, given enough time. Their foreign and economic policy is founded on the soley on extortion. They must continuously threaten, and occasionally carry out, acts of aggression on their neighbors to obtain money and food, which they cannot produce.

Consequently, the task before America is to prepare for the eventual task of removing the Pyongyang regime, as it is not a question of if, but only when it must be done.

Any ground attack on North Korea will probably have a very large amphibious component, possibly shore-to-shore, even if South Korea cooperates, because the DMZ is too heavily fortified to attack head on. Whether the attack is made across a breach in the DMZ or a beachead, the availability of a Nokor tactical nuke means that the US will face dangers it never faced before. Even if the Nokors can't deliver a nuke on Tokyo, they can truck one into a beachead or breach.

But facing this situation is inevitable. It will happen, whether America wants it or not. Kim Jong Il will start a party and we will have to dance.

Randall Parker said at May 8, 2003 1:42 AM:

Wretchard, Good point about the heavily fortified DMZ. There is something to be said for using an amphibious landing to choose a softer spot from which to invade. But then we face the need for a larger naval force to do the amphibious landing.

BTW, See my later posting where I talk about the need to develop weapons systems capable of taking out the NK artillery that is embedded in caves. I'd like to get feedback on those ideas.

Mike M said at May 8, 2003 6:18 AM:

We have the forces required for amphibious landings against DPRK, but it’s planned with the use of and cooperation from the ROK. A long-planned countermeasure against a frontal assault by DPRK forces thru the DMZ is simultaneous amphibious landings (Wonson and another area on the opposite side of the country) that would then drive to the middle to split the DPRK and allow the capture of Pyongyang.

The original question was whether we had the capability for an amphibious invasion of the DPRK without using the ROK. We probably already do (albeit still an enormous undertaking), because a Normandy size invasion will not be needed. A more flexible and radical airborne or special operations assault to capture ports undamaged so that troops could quickly be rushed in thru the ports under massive air cover could be employed. Minimizing collateral damage would be a luxury that this plan would not be able to afford. Keep in mind that the DPRK air and armor forces are antiquated and the troops for this equipment are poorly trained. They would be no match against any modern force, let alone the air power we would project from our carrier forces. Still, the risks and costs of such an operation make it intolerable in all but the gravest circumstances.

Trent Telenko said at May 8, 2003 2:11 PM:

>The SK government is not going to allow SK to be used
>as a launch pad to attack NK.

And your point is?

We don't need South Korean bases with Carriers, Japan and Guam.

>SK does not want to lose Seoul.

Better Seoul than New York.

>The US will not launch a nuclear strike on NK until
>the US knows that NK has sold nukes.


>Do you really think an air war can bring down the NK

The answers are "Nope" and "Yes" respectively.

We destroyed the Iraqi regime to preemptively on just the _potential_ threat of WMD proliferation to terrorists. The North Koreans have claimed to have operable nukes, the ability to use them on the USA and say they wil sell their nukes on the open market unless we pay danegeld.

We don't need nukes to end the North Korean regime. Thanks to North Korea's unique transportation infrastructure vulnerabilities and massive numbers of American PGMs, in particular JDAMs. America is in the position to eliminate every highway bridge, railway bridge, port, electrical generators and road/rail tunnel in North Korea nearly at once.

Use of the B-1/B-2/B-52 fleet with fighter cover from carriers and Japan means we can really drop 3000 JDAMs in a single night to hammer North Korea's transportation system to dust.

The North Korean population would starve in the dark without its transportation and power generation systems. The North lacks non-military infrastructure redundency and local food reserves to prevent the collapse of social order that will follow.

Seoul would get hammered, but that isn't America's problem.

Thus is the fate of faithless American "allies."

Randall Parker said at May 8, 2003 2:46 PM:


1) I think you are underestimating the size of the fleet needed to do an amphibious assault.

2) Bush probably has a far greater reluctance than you do to make an attack that would result in major devastation to Seoul with major loss of life.
There are downsides for the US if a lot of South Koreans die. Think about it. That is why I'm arguing in a later post that we to develop the means to take out a large portion of North Korea's artillery.

3) A starving North Korean population does not translate into the fall of the regime.
In any case, Bush again would be reluctant to cause the death of a couple of million North Koreans.

4) The US needs to get into the minds of the North Korean population before starting an attack.
As I keep arguing the United States should make a very large effort to break the information monopoly that the North Korean regime has over its people. This would make an attack easier to do in a number of ways. It would reduce the resistance of the NK people and NK army to an invasion. It would also open up many more opportunities to bribe NK officers and officials to work against the regime.

There is a temptation when one has a shiny hammer to go hammering on everything. JDAMs are not a panacea. A lot of other things need to be got right to bring down the North Korean regime in a way that would have the maximum benefit and least in long-term downside for the US in terms of opinion and support for the US in the region and elsewhere.

Bob said at May 8, 2003 7:16 PM:


Who would be the faithless ally? The US or SK?

The ally who is forced by dire threat to stand idly by while a potential risk develops or the ally who takes preemptive action causing hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) of casualties and the near total destruction of its erstwhile ally's capital city?

SK has a gun to its head and you are asking it to take a bullet to the brain because there is a risk its assailant might someday point a gun at our head or give a gun to another of our enemies.

How many friends do you think the US would have after treating an erstwhile ally with such blatant disregard? How many enemies?

Trent Telenko said at May 9, 2003 5:37 AM:

>I think you are underestimating the size of the fleet
>needed to do an amphibious assault.

I am not assuming any amphibious assault at all, Randall. I am assuming a regime ending air attack that levels North Korea's transportation, POL and electrical generating infrastructure.

North Korea has lost internal cohesion such that it could not survive that kind of assault.

>Bush probably has a far greater reluctance than you
>do to make an attack that would result in major
>devastation to Seoul with major loss of life.
>There are downsides for the US if a lot of South
>Koreans die. Think about it.

These North Koreans are dead already. We are dealing with a Branch Davidian sitation here. The North is using its own children and Seoul as hostages against American actions. North Korean children are an _abstract concept_ in this situation.

Nothing we do be it bribery, war, or nothing is going to change the fact that literally millions are going to die on the Korean pennisula.

We can only choose a path that serves our interests. The most important of which is preventing a North Korean nuke from falling into the hands of Al-Qaeda.


The previous South Korean President secretly sent hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars to the North Koreans as bribes to get "an opening" that got him a Nobel Peace prize.

Investigations into this action have been quashed by the new President of South Korea who supported the previous President's policy. Both these presidents were elected with majorities of the South Korean voting public.

That money funded the North Korean nukes and delivery systems that threaten American troops in the South Korea, Japan and Guam today. Not even the French have done as much to harm American interests as the South Koreans have done.

These actions have been done and ratified by two popularly elected South Korean governments and they were unfriendly acts verging on war.

America owes South Korea nothing and less than nothing.

The only people who are going to get worked up about America taking out North Korea, besides the Koreans, are the same ones who were jacked up by Iraq -- in other words the "Axis of the Irrelevent" both domestically and abroad.

Randall Parker said at May 9, 2003 9:19 AM:

Trent, Bill Clinton sent South Korea down the road toward the Sunshine Policy when he signed the 1994 Framework Accord. South Korea was not a party to that accord. Even now the US is willing to meet with NK diplomats without SK present.

SK money to NK: But the US has been sending NK aid as well. The US has been (until recently) the biggest single source of food for NK. You are judging SK by a standard that you are not applying to the United States.

When police try to attack a site with SWAT teams and there are hostages the police try to minimize the cost of life with the hostages. In this case we need to do a massive propaganda campaign because most of the North Koreans are too ignorant to know that they are hostages.

There is a lot we can do to reduce the number of people who will die when the North Korean regime goes down. We could do weapons development and build equipment to neutralize as much of the threat to the SK population as possible. We can do a massive propaganda campaign that will change how the NK population responds to the attack and this campaign may help us to develop agent networks in the North.

Regarding Presidents elected by the SK people: Yes, and Bill Clinton was elected by the American people.

Air attacks bringing down regimes: It took a ground attack to bring down Saddam and his apparatus of terror and propaganda was far less pervasive than the North Korean regime's.

Bob said at May 9, 2003 3:04 PM:


Randall pointed out that there are severe downsides to large numbers of South Korean casualties, and you responded by saying that the North Koreans are dead anyway. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me. What relevance do NK casualties have to the downsides to SK casualties?

The NK's have never been our allies (they are and have been enemies), while the SK's have been our allies for half a century. If we take actions that lead directly or indirectly to the destruction of SK society, how many mandates do you think the Brits and the Aussies will get in the future to ally with the US? The US government is not the only government that must answer to an electing constituency.

I am not sure what your point was in mentioning the majority elections in SK. Do you object to democratically elected governments enacting popular policies?

The US funded the Taliban and Iraq. Paying Danegeld may be stupid, but I don't think it makes SK our enemy. Plenty of US governments have enacted stupid foreign relations policies.

US and SK interests are divurging, which definitely changes our friendship, but I don't think it necessarily ends our friendship. It would be inappropriate to act with total disregard for the dire and immediate threat to their welfare. They face a clear and present danger.

You underestimate the world reaction to the destruction of Soeul.

Trent Telenko said at May 9, 2003 11:29 PM:


We are talking pure quid pro quo betrayal by the South Koreans. Betrayal that endangered American military forces for the domestic political benefit of South Korea's elected officials.

This is from research for an article on Winds:


Summit scandal hits S.Korea
By Jong-Heon Lee
UPI Correspondent
From the International Desk
Published 2/4/2003 7:06 AM

SEOUL, South Korea, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- South Korea's much-touted efforts to reconcile with North Korea suffered a major setback as a controversy flared up that President Kim Dae-jung had bribed the communist regime to stage a historic inter-Korean summit in 2000.

A former intelligence officer has revealed that the South Korean leader funneled some 2 trillion won ($1.7 billion) to his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong Il, in return for holding the summit, and lobbied foreign countries to get the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize.

With the cash, North Korea purchased key components for nuclear weapons, 40 Soviet-made MiG jets and a submarine from Kazakhstan, said the former agent known only by his family name, Kim.

The flap came just after government auditors confirmed that the country's giant business conglomerate Hyundai secretly transferred some $200 million, obtained from a South Korean state-run bank, to North Korea just ahead of the summit in June 2000.

And this


February 4, 2003
South Korea Calls Off Inquiry Into Payments to North Korea

SEOUL, South Korea, Feb. 3 Worried about aggravating tense relations between the two Koreas during the nuclear crisis, South Korean prosecutors called off an investigation today into whether South Korea secretly paid North Korea to agree to their summit meeting two and a half years ago.

"It would be appropriate to shelve the investigation for the sake of South-North relations and national interests," the prosecutor general's office said through a spokesman.

The office said an investigation might be reopened later. But the decision not to pursue it was denounced by opposition lawmakers in the National Assembly who are extremely critical of President Kim Dae Jung's policy of reconciliation with North Korea.

President-elect Roh Moo Hyun, an advocate of reconciliation with North Korea, called on the government today to reveal all the facts about the case. Avoiding the issue of whether prosecutors should investigate, however, he said the National Assembly should decide on both the extent of the inquiry and who should carry it out.

Randall Parker said at May 10, 2003 12:22 AM:

Trent, This is not new news to me. Back in February I read elsewhere the same summary of that 16 page document that you point to on FreeRepublic. I haven't been able to find the full text translated into English but here is a better link to exactly the summary of "Regarding Building a Stronger Approach Against The Developing Situation of Infiltration of Capitalist Thought in Korean Society" That guy picked it up here at Friends of Liberty.

The document is not as encouraging to me as it is to you. It takes a long time for a regime's people to become thoroughly disenchanted. Partial disenchantment is not good enough. Disenchantment without knowledge of more successful alternatives is similarly not good enough.

I guess I'm not making myself clear: Yes, corruption is spreading in North Korea. Some loss of belief in communism is happening too. Still, look at it in historical perspective. Loss of faith in a political ideology or a religion typically takes many decades to happen. Lack of faith in an ideology and spread of corruption were far more pervasive in Iraq before the US invaded with ground forces and yet the US could not bring Saddam's regime down with just an air war. Of course, Iraq's people were not as hungry as the North Koreans. But, on the other hand, Iraq's people knew far more about the outside world than North Korea's people know today. That is the problem. North Korea's people still are by far the most isolated in the world. They are not going to reach conclusions about their condition that you think are obvious because, as bad as their lives are, they lack essential knowledge and are still suffering from the effects of lifetimes of propaganda.

Where I disagree with your analysis (and it goes back to my debate with you and Tom Holsinger a month or two ago) is in my view of the gap in knowledge between what we know in the West and what NK people know. They are far more isolated than the Soviets were or the Eastern Europeans were or the Iraqis were before Saddam fell. Most still do not appreciate how far behind they are. I do not even see much improvement in their understanding in more recent refugee accounts. Therefore I do not expect them to react as favorably to a US attack as you expect them to.

Bob said at May 10, 2003 12:31 AM:


I see nothing in either of those articles that is inconsistent with a frightened hostage trying to please the assailant holding a gun to her head. SK appears to be appeasing NK, and the other options appear less palatable.

SK is in a real bind until the NK artillery is somehow defeated.


Randall Parker said at May 10, 2003 12:45 AM:


The key point is that Bill Clinton's 1994 deal started SK down the road to appeasement of NK. The US embraced appeasement and SK followed suit. Intense SK anti-communist anti-north sentiment began to decline. SK had no role in the 1994 deal. SK had to live with the result. SK pursued a strategy with NK that the Clinton Administration approved of or didn't care about (probably a mixture of both).

The US is the senior partner in the relationship with SK and bears a decent portion of the blame for the direction of the development of SK politics. SK was ready to fight in 1994. Now they aren't.

Trent Telenko said at May 10, 2003 9:56 AM:


Again, no. The change in South Korean attitude was made by conscious choice only slightly related to the 1994 Clinton policy shift.

The South Korean Democrats have changed their text book to teach their kids, now young adults, a fantasy version of Korean history that glosses over the threat from the North and makes the now dead Kim Sr. some sort of nationalist hero.



Trent Telenko said at May 10, 2003 10:02 AM:

>SK appears to be appeasing NK, and the other options
>appear less palatable.


Doing so in secret such that American troops are subject to a nuclear threat they were not before, is exactly why the South Koreans are faithless allies unworthy of American protection or further consideration in pursuit of American interests.

The only difference between the South Koreans and the Saudis is the current lack of American body count from a North Korean WMD attack.

It is 9/10/2001 on the Korean penninsula

That reality will change in time, if we let it. The signs are the Bush Administration won't.

Randall Parker said at May 10, 2003 10:35 AM:

Trent, You are not presenting me with any historical or current facts about the conditions that I do not already know. You are underestimating the US role in catalysing the change in South Korean attitudes. I would even put at US feet the fact that Kim Dae Jung was able to get elected in the first place. US appeasement of NK opened the door for the election of Kim Dae Jung.

As the article mentions, US support for dictators in SK helped sour the SK people in the United States. Plus, the US chose the route of appeasement. Only then did SK follow suit. SK went further down that road. But the US was financially supporting the North and the US was encouraging Japan and SK to do so as well.

Why are American troops subject to a nuclear threat? The US had an option in 1994 to invade then before NK had much in the way of a nuclear option. Clinton decided not to. Clinton and Carter are more to blame than the South Koreans. The South Koreans had no influence on the US policy choice of appeasement toward the NK regime.

SK has been essentially a US client for decades. The US called the major shots that put SK in the position where it started down the road to appeasement. The US pushed SK down the road to appeasement. To complain as you do that SK went further down the road than the US did is like one whore complaining that another whore does twice as many tricks every night. Given that the second whore wouldn't even have become a whore in the first place if the first one hadn't pushed her into it that hardly seems fair.

Kim Dae Jung's election as President of SK in the first place was probably made possible by the US-NK Framework Accord and the rhetoric that emanated from Washington DC afterward. Just as the fall of the Soviet Union made Clinton's election possible (the public would have attached too much importance to foreign policy to elect him during the Cold War) the Framework Accord reduced the SK populace's fear of communism enough to allow an appeasement supporter to be elected Pres of SK. Well, who thought up and chose to sign the Framework Accord?

Just because the Left unfairly blames the US for all that is wrong with the world does not mean that the US has not made numerous mistakes that have created or worsened various threats we face. Often the mistakes have been caused by leftwing influences. But the right makes major foreign policy mistakes as well. Go back and read Dubya's denigration of the need for "nation building" and then look at my scathing critiques of Pentagon planning for post-war Iraq. Ideological blinders and indifference have cause the US to make big mistakes even under Bush and Rumsfeld.

no name said at February 13, 2005 6:52 PM:

i do not know what's wrong with our world today whereby every nation is trying their best to show who is the most powerful nation.....a war can be avoided as long as we try to run from it...ok,,,be tolerrate and do cooperate between each other...

Post a comment
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
Remember info?

Web parapundit.com
Go Read More Posts On ParaPundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright