2003 July 13 Sunday
Defector Park Gap Dong Calls For Preemptive Strikes Against North Korea

Park Gap Dong, a North Korean defector living in Japan and head of The National Salvation Front for Democratic Reunification of Korea, formed by North Korean government officials who have defected, calls for US military strikes against targets in North Korea.

Park Gap Dong, former chief of the European Section for Propaganda, said that the U.S. should use "pre-emptive strikes against selected targets" to overthrow the brutal North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-il and destroy the nuclear weapons program.

"We cannot expect to bring down the regime of Kim Jong-il by internal means. A pre-emptive U.S. strike against selected targets inside North Korea will succeed," stated Park.

Park says if we fail to act the North Koreans will not overthrow their own regime and the regime will continue to export nuclear weapons technology.

North Korea will continue to develop and export nuclear weapons technology no matter what the U.S. does and despite whatever schedules of inspections are established, Park said.

"Kim Jong-il made the decision that the development of nuclear weapons would be the only guarantee of the safety and security for the North Korean regime. They will not give up these weapons but will instead hide them from inspectors," said Park.

It is worth noting that Park is living in Japan. North Korean defectors who are living in South Korea are probably not free to state such radical views on what should be done about North Korea.

Would a preemptive attack on North Korea by US aircraft bring down the Pyongyang regime? Would Kim Jong-il flee into exile as Park argues? I have no idea.

Park is arguing for a rather drastic course of action. But if we assume that North Korea will sell nuclear materials, technology, and even whole bombs then it becomes necessary to stop the regime somehow. Are there any other alternatives that might work instead? Without Chinese help the prospects for a non-military way to force the North Korean regime to refrain from making many nuclear bombs seems remote. There is only one other serious option and it is what the Bush Administration is preparing: interdiction of North Korean trade with some sort of air and naval blockade. The Bush Administration is calling this plan the Proliferation Security Initiative.

10 other nations have joined in planning interception of North Korea air and sea traffic.

Yesterday's decision means the US, Japan, France, Germany, Poland, Portugal Spain, Italy, Holland, Britain and Australia will be able to conduct joint exercises on the interception of ships, and shipments by air and land.

Some observers doubt that the Proliferation Security Initiative can work even at sea.

The Department of Defense is authorized to provide support to law enforcement agencies and military personnel with counter drug responsibilities. DOD provides training, upgrades equipment and maintains a series of intelligence initiatives both in terms of collection, analysis and dissemination of intelligence among law enforcement, military and intelligence services, command and control systems that allow allies to communicate that information real-time as well as the ability to assist them with minor infrastructure. It is not clear however whether or not these justifications are sufficient to meet the requirements of international law.

An additional problem relates to the effectiveness of a blockade or naval interdiction. Trying to interdict WMD may prove as difficult as interdicting narcotics. While US sensor capabilities are substantial it is likely that some North Korean shipments will penetrate the blockade.

To work for air shipments the US will need to intercept North Korean air traffic leaving China headed for the Middle East. This is especially difficult because the North Koreans and Chinese might cooperate to shift shipments to Chinese aircraft. Even if they didn't do that the US would need to keep track of aircraft flying across China on the way toward the airspace of Afghanistan or Pakistan. Also, no reports I've seen on this have provided any indication of whether Pakistan will allow the US to intercept North Korean aircraft over Pakistan and force them to land.

Which choice will yield a more desireable outcome? An informal selective blockade or preemptive air strikes? For now at least the Bush Administration has chosen the less drastic selective blockade (called by some in the Administration "Cuba Lite") over the more drastic choice of air strikes. In a way that seems prudent. If the airstrikes do not bring out the desired result the diplomatic fall-out would be very difficult for the US and the North Koreans would be motivated to strike back somehow. Still, if we could somehow know that airstrikes would bring down the Pyongyang regime then they'd be a more attractive choice.

Upon reflection, I do not believe either option will work.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 July 13 10:44 PM  Korea

The Marmot said at July 13, 2003 10:58 PM:

Two points - be very careful about what you hear from North Korean defectors. Pak is also under the assumption that the Americans can bring down the North Korean regime in three days - something I believe you commented on over at my blog. The other point is that I can't possibly see how airstrikes can bring down the regime. That's not to say that airstrikes aren't a viable option for taking out the DPRK's nuclear program, but to overturn regimes like that of North Korea usually requires troops on the ground.

Randall Parker said at July 13, 2003 11:06 PM:

Robert, Yes, deeply I'm skeptical. Revolutions rarely happen to regimes that have been in power for a long time. They happen even more rarely when the regimes have not lost their stomach tor severe repression. The Shah really was not that severe a dictator and estimates of the number killed by SAVAK turned out to have been greatly exaggerated. North Korea's regime, by contrast, is still willing to be extremely brutal.

On the other hand I do not think a selective blockade will be sufficiently effective.

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