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North Korea: What to do?

 
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Dec, 2010 09:15 pm
@ossobuco,
ossobuco wrote:

I missed that. Very interesting.


The shift...
0 Replies
 
FBM
 
  2  
Reply Mon 20 Dec, 2010 09:37 pm
This looks like a pretty good summary of the situation:

Quote:
Three paths to war on the Korean PeninsulaBy Patrick M. Cronin, Special to CNN
December 20, 2010 6:00 p.m. EST
Editor's note: Patrick M. Cronin is senior adviser and senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the nonpartisan Center for a New American Security in Washington.

Washington (CNN) -- For centuries the Korean sovereign state was known as Chosun, or land of the morning calm. But it has seldom seemed calm.

The Peninsula has been occupied by the Japanese, divided at the 38th parallel, and jolted by the outbreak of war 60 years ago. Even the 1953 Korean Armistice has been violated repeatedly.

Yet North Korea's recent deadly provocations mark a dangerous new twist in the fate of the Peninsula.

Never before has North Korea possessed such lethal and instantaneous firepower. Never before has the discrepancy between the two Koreas been so stark: a leading market democracy versus a militarized kleptocracy. And only once before has the impending death of North Korea's leader threatened to trigger a succession crisis or even regime collapse.

In simple terms, it is possible that war could resume on the Korean Peninsula in one of three ways: accidental escalation, the breakdown of deterrence, or a sudden regime change or collapse.

Accidental escalation

Conflict could erupt inadvertently in various ways. It might well occur as a result of North Korea's frequent resort to brinkmanship, saber rattling and coercive diplomacy. During the past 20 years, during which the United States has focused on eliminating North Korea's nuclear programs, Pyongyang has resorted to launching missiles and conducting nuclear tests. There is a high probability that North Korea will test-launch more missiles and perhaps conduct a third nuclear test within the next year.

Just because brinkmanship did not escalate in the past does not mean that such an equilibrium can be maintained. For instance, violations of United Nations Security Council Resolutions have been met with additional sanctions, and the North has threatened military strikes in retaliation for sanctions.

Missile tests could also go awry, and attempts to shoot down such a test might well lead to reprisal by the North. Thus, actions aimed at bolstering the North's negotiating posture could backfire and accidentally escalate into war, however short-lived.

Breakdown of deterrence

This, more dangerous type of escalation, is rooted less in negotiating advantage than in the North's apparent conviction that it can control conflict at every level of violence. With nuclear weapons as an insurance policy, and with South Korea's wealthy economy and capital so crucially exposed, the leadership in Pyongyang may reckon that South Korea and the United States are risk-averse. As one North Korean official allegedly put it: "We are willing to cut off our leg, and you are not willing to cut off your pinkie."

This belief in escalation dominance can be seen in the recent actions of an emboldened -- and some would say desperate -- North Korea, which has resorted to limited surprise uses of military force, first sinking a South Korean naval vessel and then shelling an island near the disputed maritime Northern Limit Line. With 50 Koreans killed, including two civilians, North Korea then threatened war when South Korea conducted live-fire drills this past weekend.

North Korea's military resources

The difference between inadvertent escalation and a breakdown in deterrence may be more academic than real and may be difficult to parse. After all, North Korea's latest bluff is now followed by a putative peace overture, including a willingness to return to nuclear talks. While this may well be a gambit involving tacking right before tacking left, this bargaining logic makes a heroic assumption that the North's four-decade-old nuclear program is a mere bargaining chip. Just as likely, a regime that touts a military-first policy and has successfully resorted to employing limited amounts of deadly force may simply not see any red lines at all.

Remember this is also a regime that has continued to proliferate, on and off the peninsula. Facing down such a determined foe could easily set off the chain reaction that the U.S. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently expressed concern about. But so, too, could the failure to face down such aggression. Chinese leaders should be concerned that by continuing to define their interests so parochially, that they may in fact precipitate the very crisis they purport to be trying to prevent.

Regime change or collapse

War could also be catalyzed by sudden regime change or collapse in North Korea. The resulting uncertainty and potential loss of command and control, including over the North's nuclear weapons, might well find China and the United States in conflict. One reason why this sudden change or collapse scenario is so dangerous is that different countries might perceive their overriding interests very differently in the heat of a crisis.

Most importantly, for South Korea, it may appear that rather than achieving reunification either by the soft landing of gradual absorption or the hard landing of North Korea's political failure, China's growing influence over the North could be leading to the permanent division of the Peninsula.

Each of these three types of scenarios, and many variants of them, is possible within the next five years. Preventing them will demand strengthening deterrence, shrewd diplomacy, new means of exerting pressure and responding to provocation, and balancing responses with the need to manage long-term consequences. No wonder so many worry about the future of the Korean Peninsula.
http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/12/20/cronin.north.korea.dangers/index.html?hpt=T2
realjohnboy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Dec, 2010 09:41 pm
@FBM,
Thanks.
JTT
 
  -1  
Reply Mon 20 Dec, 2010 09:44 pm
@FBM,
Quote:
the nonpartisan Center for a New American Security in Washington.


Yeah right!

Quote:
The Peninsula has been occupied by the Japanese, divided at the 38th parallel, and jolted by the outbreak of war 60 years ago.


If he were nonpartisan,

The Peninsula has been occupied by the Japanese, divided at the 38th parallel by the US and occupied by the same for more than 60 years, and jolted by the outbreak of war 60 years ago, a war instigated by the US.



0 Replies
 
FBM
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Dec, 2010 09:51 pm
@realjohnboy,
The third scenario seems the most likely to me, but all three are very imaginable.

Once NK combines their nuclear and missile technologies and produces a reliable nuclear missile, all bets are off. I may just mosey over to SE Asia about that time. As far as I know, NK doesn't have any enemies over that way.
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Dec, 2010 09:56 pm
@FBM,
An excellent summary, but it ignores the one possibilty I'm sure JTT is screaming about in Ignore-Land: It will serve if not the economic interests than the bloodlust of the imperialistic war criminals in the US.

If we don't end up with a major military conflict on the Korean Penninsula over the next five years, I will offer it as proof that God does indeed exist, and that he favors capitalists.
cicerone imposter
 
  2  
Reply Mon 20 Dec, 2010 10:00 pm
@FBM,
NK has always been a basket case; anything is possible from a regime that doesn't care about its own people. Most starve to death now, and only the "military" has adequate supplies.

0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  0  
Reply Mon 20 Dec, 2010 10:02 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
Quote:
It will serve if not the economic interests than the bloodlust of the imperialistic war criminals in the US.


If you were functionally literate, it might help, Finn.
0 Replies
 
FBM
 
  2  
Reply Mon 20 Dec, 2010 10:07 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
I'm happy I don't know what's going on in Ignore-land.

Yeah, within 5 is my bet, too.

@cicerone imposter...

They definitley don't give a rat's ass about their own people, but it's a bit of an exaggeration to say that everyone's starving. Recent videos out of the North (some smuggled out) seem to show that most people are managing to scrape together basic foodstuffs, at least. Still, I've little doubt that many are starving in the countryside where cameras haven't been able to reach yet. The human rights and basic freedom issues are ever-present, too.
JTT
 
  0  
Reply Mon 20 Dec, 2010 10:24 pm
@FBM,
I'm happy I don't know what's going on in Ignore-land. My own little echo chamber is all my tiny brain can handle.
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Dec, 2010 11:47 pm
@FBM,
FBM, I remember North Korea's famine from the 1990's, and the following is from the Los Angeles Times:
Quote:
*

North Korean workers in the northeastern… (U.N. World Food Program)

North Koreans fear another famine amid economic crisis
Women who fled to China describe acute shortages and anger after a disastrous currency devaluation. As an ailing Kim tries to secure his son's ascension, some people are beginning to speak out.
March 25, 2010|By Barbara Demick

Reporting from Yanji, China — North Koreans who recently fled to China say many of their fellow citizens are losing faith in the regime of Kim Jong Il after a disastrous currency revaluation that wiped out savings and left food scarcer than at any time since the famine of the mid-1990s, when as many as 2 million people died.
FBM
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Dec, 2010 01:29 am
@cicerone imposter,
Thanks for that. The last thing I saw about the food situation was a month or two ago, and it said that things were improving, markets re-opening, etc, after the gov't recognized that the currency reform was a disaster and publically executed the guy who initiated it. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there's plenty of hunger and starvation to go around. The number of defectors arriving in the South has increased sharply in the past year, and if they were well-fed and safe, that wouldn't be the case.
0 Replies
 
FBM
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Dec, 2010 09:05 pm
For those curious about the apparent nonchalance on the part of SKoreans, here's an interesting article written from their perspective.

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2010/12/164_78374.html
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Dec, 2010 09:33 pm
@FBM,
When you're under constant alert for war to start at any moment, the brain has the ability to take it more in stride, because it's beyond your control - whatever happens or doesn't.

It's the same with a death in the family or close friend; it really hurts at the beginning, but that pain goes away as time passes.

That would be normal.
FBM
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Dec, 2010 09:45 pm
@cicerone imposter,
Agreed. The mind can adapt to a wider range of environments than some people recognize. Three months after I got here in '96, all hell broke loose with NK commandos running around, etc. Talk about freaking out. Now, 14 years later, such things are just...'Oh, well. Here we go again.'

Next up...the largest firing drill ever by the South: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20101222/wl_nm/us_korea_north
0 Replies
 
 

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