This page is reserved for commentary on timely topics—including religion, politics and societal trends—  with special emphasis on Essential Value and Individual Freedom.   Respond to: hampday1@verizon.net.

We were snowed the first week of 2018, not only by nature, but by a computer crash that took us off-line, not to mention endless media stories concerning Steve Bannon's attempts to incriminate Donald Trump.  This is political hypocrisy at its worst, and we decided to work on restoring this website, rather than adding more grist to the mill of the news mongers.  Our Value Page is dedicated to more pressing issuesparticularly actions which threaten human life and freedom.  Nothing fits this category better than a tyrannical regime whose power-obsessed leader is focused on destroying America.

Last year will go down as monumental in the history of North Korea.  The country carried out 16 tests between February 2017 and the end of the year, with 23 missiles fired with increasingly frightening accuracy, one of which flew higher and further than previous tests, eventually landing in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.  As the nuclear threat grew, President Trump doubled down on his claims that he would unleash ‘fire and fury’ at this strangely isolated nation.  The isolation we now associate with North Korea really began to grow after the collapse of the USSR in 1991.  Things went from bad to worse when George W Bush included North Korea in his ‘axis of evil’ speech in 2002.  But a major barrier to US-North Korean relations, as well as the main driving force behind its nuclear ambitions, are painful memories of brutality at the hands of Americans during the Korean War of the early 50s.  For those who lived through that experience, belonging to a nuclear state offsets the fear.

North Korea's advancements in weapons technology appear to give them leverage in ongoing negotiations with the United Nations and other countries.  In February of 2007 North Korea signed an agreement with South Korea, the United States, Russia, China, and Japan, to shut down its Tongbyon nuclear reactor in exchange for economic and energy assistance.  However, in 2009 the North resumed its nuclear test program.  When Jong-il died in 2011, he was quickly succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-un, whose persistent  rocket launches and nuclear bomb testing led to tightened UN sanctions.  According to the South Korean spy agency, Kim may have purged some 300 people after taking power.  In 2014, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry accused the government of crimes against humanity.  Amid considerable international tensions, North Korea successfully conducted its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4, 2017, said to be timed with U.S. Independence Day celebrations.

This week's column by political historian Victor Davis Hanson assesses the possibility that North Korea may not survive the year.  As always, your comments and opinions are invited at hampday1@verizon.net.

--HP 

    "ROCKET MAN IS ON A SUICIDE MISSION FOR HIMSELF AND HIS REGIME" -Donald Trump                   

 

  

 

                                    

 

 

 

 

Will Nuclear North Korea Survive 2018?

by  Victor Davis Hanson*  [Filed 1/04/18]

 

Given several rapidly developing geopolitical factors, North Korea may look much different by the end of the new year.  For good or evil, we may see radical changes in North Korea in 2018.

The beefed-up United Nations sanctions by midyear could lead to widespread North Korean hunger, as well as the virtual end of the country’s industry and transportation.

In the past, the West had called off such existential sanctions and rushed in cash and humanitarian aid on news of growing starvation.  Would it now if the bleak alternative was a lunatic’s nuclear missile possibly striking San Diego or Seattle?

To survive an unending trade embargo—and perhaps to avoid a coup—Kim Jong Un would likely either have to recalibrate his nuclear program or consider using it.  China has always been unwilling to give up pit bull North Korea as its client.

The Kim dynasty has proved especially useful over the past 30 years for aggravating and distracting the Chinese communist government’s archenemy, Japan, and its chief rival, the United States.

Yet China is now worried that the Donald Trump administration is as unfathomable as the prior Obama administration’s strategic patience doctrine was predictable.

Beijing’s sponsorship of the rogue nuclear regime in North Korea could increasingly become bad business, given global anxieties over the many possible trajectories of North Korea nuclear missiles.  What are some likely scenarios for 2018?

1) The status quo.  China may loudly proclaim that it is following U.N. commercial sanctions while it secretly offers just enough sanction-busting aid to keep Kim Jong Un afloat.  It might use its leverage to force Kim to cool his nuclear rhetoric—even as it stealthily supplies embargoed fuel and food.

China would then hope that an amnesiac world would move on and accept a gentler-sounding (but still nuclear and thus useful) North Korea.  The status quo—North Korean missiles pointed at America’s West Coast—is clearly untenable.  Yet never underestimate China’s faith in the therapeutic forces of Western appeasement to accept the unacceptable.

2) A Chinese solution.  China would cut some sort of deal to remove North Korean missiles—or even the Kim regime itself through a coup or uprising—in exchange for controlling the future of North Korea.  That would likely mean not allowing a democratic, free, Westernized, and unified Korean peninsula on its borders.

Other than disassociating itself from the future status of North Korea, the U.S. should ensure that it does not give any concessions to China to remove the nukes.  Such an indulgence would only reward North Korea nuclear roguery and ensure that the cycle of the last three decades would be endlessly repeated.

3) Forced removal.  Barring acceptance of the status quo or a Chinese solution, the U.S. would be forced to accept widespread malnutrition of the North Korean populace and a constant ratcheting up of pressures to eliminate Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.

Such leverage might include radical bilateral trade sanctions against China.  The Japanese, Taiwanese, and South Korean militaries could threaten to go nuclear.

The U.S. should sponsor a Manhattan Project-style regional comprehensive missile defense system.  It could also ban Chinese Communist Party officials and their families from U.S. soil.

Such pressures might force something quite unpredictable to happen.

A doomed North Korea could launch a missile, invade South Korea, be forced to disarm, or disintegrate amid coups or popular uprisings.  A humiliated China would likely either be pressed to quietly abandon North Korea or find financial, economic, and military ways to harm the U.S.

4) Preemption.  Barring the “peaceful” options of defanging nuclear North Korea, the U.S. and its Japanese and South Korean allies would have to disable the missiles through military force.

Such a nightmarish action would not be limited to “surgical strikes.”  Instead, it would have to include massive attacks on North Korean missile sites, command and control centers, artillery and missile platforms, military bases, and WMD repositories.

Such preemption would quickly escalate to a general-theater war—or worse.

Last-gasp North Korean nukes might escape preemptive bombing and be launched at Japan, South Korea, America’s Pacific bases, and the U.S. West Coast.

A tottering North Korea could order a full-fledged artillery pounding of Seoul, chemical and cyber attacks, and a conventional ground invasion of South Korea.

The U.S. and its allies would win such a war.   But the cost could be catastrophic and prompt global recession.

No one knows what China would do in such an exigency.  Would it merely cry crocodile tears while its troublesome patron disappeared?

Or to save its last communist client, would China send troops into the peninsula as it did in the fall of 1950?

One thing is always certain.  The naive architects of appeasement who watch as monsters grow always win short-term praise for avoiding immediate war.  Their realist successors, who are forced to cage or destroy such full-grown beasts, are usually labeled as war mongers. 

 


*Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.  This commentary was filed Thursday, Janurary 4, 2018 ©Tribune Content Agency, LLC 

 

 

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