2003 July 16 Wednesday
William Perry Says US Moving Toward War With North Korea

Former Clinton Administration Secretary of Defense William Perry thinks current actions by the North Koreans and the Bush Administration will inevitably lead toward war.

From his discussions, Perry has concluded the president simply won't enter into genuine talks with Pyongyang's Stalinist government. "My theory is the reason we don't have a policy on this, and we aren't negotiating, is the president himself," Perry said. "I think he has come to the conclusion that Kim Jong Il is evil and loathsome and it is immoral to negotiate with him." The immediate cause of concern, Perry said, is that North Korea appears to have begun reprocessing the spent fuel rods. "I have thought for some months that if the North Koreans moved toward processing, then we are on a path toward war," he said.

Perry faults Bush for this. He thinks it is possible to make a deal with North Korea. Frankly, I find his reasoning hard to credit. Our problem is that we can't do a deal with the North Koreans that they wil stick to. North Korea started working in uranium enrichment during the Clinton Administration. How could we verify any deal that we made?

In liberal circles there is a widely shared assumption that a negotiated solution always exists. To believe this assumption requires an act of faith in the face of a lot of human history.

Donald Rumsfeld is thinking more about military solutions. He wants a better war-fighting plan than the existing Operations Plans OPlan 5026 - Air Strikes and OPLAN 5027 Major Theater War - West. USA Today is now reporting a new operations plan called OPLAN 5030.

One scenario in the draft involves flying RC-135 surveillance flights even closer to North Korean airspace, forcing Pyongyang to scramble aircraft and burn scarce jet fuel. Another option: U.S. commanders might stage a weeks-long surprise military exercise, designed to force North Koreans to head for bunkers and deplete valuable stores of food, water, and other resources.

Is 5030 a serious plan? Or is it meant to spook North Korea's regime?

Fred Kaplan comes down firmly on the side of a negotiated solution.

Essentially, Kim's minions say he will abandon his nuclear program and open up the reactors to inspection, in exchange for a U.S. non-aggression pact and the resumption of some economic assistance. This isn't a bad deal, really.

Kaplan thinks that the North Koreans are ready to deal. More likely they are just stalling for time while they develop nuclear weapons. Once they have a lot of nukes Kim Jong-il probably figures he will be able to deter a US attack, extort a lot more aid from South Korea and Japan, and even earn a large amount of revenue by selling nuclear weapons to Middle Eastern governments and terrorist groups. From his standpoint becoming a nuclear power probably looks far more attractive than trying to strike a deal with the United States for aid in exchange for not developing nukes.

Does Kaplan think that North Korea is going to hand over its processed plutonium, processed uranium, and uranium enrichment centrifuges? If they agreed to do so how would we know that they are not cheating? We'd probably find out that they cheated when an American city suddenly got vaporized.

Short of air strikes or full scale war what else can the United States do about North Korea? I've previous posted (here and here) on the Proliferation Security Initiative. While the goal of that initiative might seem to be to stop the sale of WMD by North Korea by interception of WMD shipments it is unlikely to be able to accomplish that directly. A nuclear weapon or weapons grade bomb material would be so small that ways to smuggle it past ships and aircraft enforcing a partial blocakde would likely be found. However, that does not mean that the Proliferation Security Initiative has no value. If it has the effect of reducing illicit drug and missile sales then it will reduce the revenue that the regime receives. It will also demonstrate to the Chinese the seriousness with which the US treats the developing threat posed by North Korea.

The other remaining option that gets far too little attention is to attempt to reach the North Korean people with news about the outside world and ideas that they know little about. I've posted an assortment of suggestions on how this might be accomplished. Also see this post for more on that idea.

We will some day pay a high price to take out the North Korean regime. The big question is whether we will be willing to pay that price before an American city is nuked.

Update: The Sydney Morning Herald reports Beijing examined the option of invading and taking control of North Korea.

The result of the study was negative. The People's Liberation Army concluded that although the Chinese-North Korean border was only lightly defended, the Chinese lacked the logistical capability of racing to the demilitarised zone facing South Korea.

"That this kind of thing is being considered in China tells us about the gravity with which this is being regarded in Beijing," said a senior Western diplomat closely following the crisis.

The report claims that the Chinese have decided they can live with a reunited democratic free market Korea on their border because they believe Korean nationalism will basically then drive the US off the Korean peninsula. Well, that is probably true. But it is also true that at that point the US wouldn't see a good reason to stay there anyhow.

The report also makes the Proliferation Security Initiative sound pretty limited initially. Each member of the initiative will board North Korean ships in their own territorial waters but initially not on the high seas. How will this stop North Korean shipments to the Middle East? Doesn't sound like it will.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 July 16 12:28 AM  Korea


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