The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking

North Korea’s Nuke

Posted by Bill Nance on May 25, 2009

When I awoke this morning to the news that North Korea had confirmed an underground nuclear test of a bomb about the same size that detonated over Hiroshima. I knew it was going to be a bad day for U.S. diplomats and policy makers.

Aside from the fact that any time a new nation joins the “Nuclear Club” it’s bad news, North Korea is particularly troubling because of the nature of the regime.  North Korea is a major exporter of missile technology to places like Iran among others, and is listed as a major supporter of terrorism. Additionally it’s been launching very provocative missile tests near to Japan, which quite legitimately fears the prospect of a nuclear-armed North Korea with missile capability just off it’s coast. When you add in the essentially psychopathic behavior of it’s dictator, Kim Jong Il, it’s a scary situation indeed.

So what are the options for the United States?

Nothing military, according to Stratfor, for one simple reason.

North Korea has some 10,000 fortified artillery pieces trained on Seoul. It is essential to understand that South Korea’s capital city, a major population center and the industrial heartland of South Korea, is within range of conventional artillery. The United States has been moving its forces out of range of these guns, but the South Koreans cannot move their capital.

…It comes down to this: If the United States strikes at North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, it does so placing a bet. And that bet is that North Korea will not respond. That might be true, but if it is not true, it poses a battlefield problem to which neither South Korea nor the United States will be able to respond. In one scenario, the North Koreans bombard Seoul and the United States makes a doomed attempt at shutting down the massive artillery barrage. By the time the guns are silenced — even in the best-case scenarios — Seoul will be a mess. In another scenario, the North Korean army executes an offensive of even minimal competence, which costs South Korea its capital and industrial heartland. The third is a guerrilla onslaught from the elite of the North Korean army, deployed by minisubs and tunnels under the DMZ. The guerrillas pour into the south and wreak havoc on U.S. military installations.

Today I had the pleasure of the company of my brother-in-law who has spent the last three years in Japan, speaks the language fluently and is familiar with the culture and politics there. According to him, this could be the impetus to change Japan’s constitution to allow it to have an army and air force beyond the tiny self protection force it currently has. It could also be the impetus for Japan to “go Israel,” meaning that Japan builds it’s own nuclear missiles. -Something that Japan could probably accomplish in a matter of months, if not weeks.

So for Barack Obama, it’s a bad situation all the way around. Negotiations have proved useless, the South Koreans have no interest in a conflict with their brothers to the north and the Chinese have been unwilling to restrain their vassal.

Here’s a fun scenario I thought of: (It will never happen, but it’s fun to think about).

Tonight the president makes a call to the Prime Minister of Japan and convinces him of the existential threat to his nation and proposes a deal:

The United States will provide Bunker-Buster bombs and the best satellite photos and intelligence about North Korea’s nuclear program and have Japan make the strike.

Yes, the world will howl, but the bet, as discussed in the Stratfor article above will be changed to some degree in that the jets are Japanese.  The U.S. can condemn the strikes and make horrified noises while simultaneously blocking any meaningful UN resolutions in the Security Council.

As I said, it will never happen. But wouldn’t it be nice?

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