How to Answer the North Korean Threat

February 21, 2013 2:27 am 0 comments

North Korean soldier stands guard with rocket in the background. Photo: http://www.conservativecommune.com.

North Korea’s third nuclear test, on Feb. 12, coming two months after firing a missile into orbit, brings the country perilously close to becoming a nuclear-weapons state in fact, not just in the regime’s extravagant rhetoric. On Tuesday at the U.N. Conference on Disarmament, Pyongyang’s representative threatened South Korea with “final destruction.” Such bellicosity is nothing new, but North Korea has never been so close to being able to make good on its threats.

Predictably, those who urged for years that Pyongyang could be negotiated out of its nuclear objective now argue that the world must accept reality and rely on deterrence and containment. Just as they claimed sanctions would prevent the North from crossing the nuclear threshold, they now say that sanctions will prevent it from selling these arms and technologies world-wide.

These remain counsels of defeat, resulting ineluctably in the North’s continued progress. A new Northeast Asian nuclear reality is emerging, but the U.S. and its allies shouldn’t placidly acquiesce in it or its dangerous implications, particularly regarding Iran and other proliferation threats.

Military force isn’t an option as long as Seoul remains resolutely opposed, understandably fearing that South Koreans would be targets for Pyongyang’s retaliation through nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. The South might change its view because of ever-more-belligerent conduct by the North. But for now South Korean politicians are again demanding that the South develop nuclear weapons. Similar arguments are being made sotto voce in Japan.

It is simply not in America’s interest to see nuclear weapons proliferate, even into seemingly safe hands. But if President Obama pursues his dream of a “nuclear zero” world, Japan, South Korea and other countries long sheltered under America’s atomic umbrella will have urgent second thoughts. Mr. Obama has never seemed to comprehend that unilateral U.S. strategic-weapons reductions are as likely to encourage nuclear proliferation as reduce it.

The Since Pyongyang verges on possessing deliverable nuclear arms that we cannot safely pry from its grasp, the obvious alternative is to replace the North Korean regime with one that will renounce nuclear weapons, as did post-apartheid South Africa and post-Soviet Ukraine and Belarus. The best way to achieve that aim is through peacefully reunifying the Korean peninsula.

Opponents of such a move will cry that China would never agree. Beijing may be immovable, but the U.S. has barely tried persuasion. If China continues insisting on maintaining North Korea as a buffer state, Kim Jong Eun’s dictatorship will survive. But if, as is increasingly true for younger Chinese leaders, Beijing comes to see the North as the albatross it is, the possibilities for change become palpable.

Beijing publicly says it opposes a nuclear-armed North Korea because the resultant instability in Asia will impede China’s economic development. This is a clear and correct analysis. Unfortunately, China hasn’t followed its own logic, and its North Korea policy has long been schizophrenic.

Beijing condemns Pyongyang’s nuclear program but doesn’t exercise its extraordinary leverage, notably supplying 90%-plus of the North’s energy and substantial amounts of food and humanitarian aid. China’s real fear is that pressuring the North could cause the regime to collapse, creating two threats: a flood of impoverished Korean refugees into northeastern China and American troops on its Yalu River border.

Both fears are exaggerated. First, Washington, Seoul and Tokyo should make it clear that they would do everything possible to prevent or mitigate a refugee crisis following the collapse of the North Korean state. That is desirable on humanitarian grounds alone, but also because North-South integration would proceed more beneficially from thorough planning to stabilize the North’s population in place and to provide adequate assistance after the Kim regime collapses.

Second, the U.S. doesn’t need or want its military forces situated along the Yalu, any more than for years Washington has wanted them positioned along the Demilitarized Zone. The American objective, currently being implemented, is to have them near the peninsula’s southern tip, available and mobile for use elsewhere in Asia and the Pacific. Chinese leaders may not welcome that deployment either, but they find it more palatable than facing U.S. soldiers across the Yalu.

North Korea is an unnatural relic of a “temporary” Moscow-Washington arrangement following Japan’s defeat. It has no historical claim to legitimacy as a separate state. Its citizens have never freely consented to it. And its continued existence leaves 23 million people perennially close to starvation. We have repeatedly heard from naifs that Pyongyang was about to open up. It never does. North Korea cannot open and survive, as the regime itself well knows. But it almost has deliverable nuclear weapons.

Persuading China to support reunification is the best answer. If China disagrees, nuclear-capable Japan and South Korea, ranking among China’s worst fears, could become reality. A reunification strategy should have been pressed decades ago, but better late than never.

This column was originally published by the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations” (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    “Jews Out!” was just the name of a child’s game that three little girls played in World War II Europe. But all is not as it seems because the three girls were Jewish, but hiding their true identities. In award-winning author R. D. Rosen’s riveting non-fiction work, Such Good Girls, “Jews Out!” wasn’t a game; it was a struggle for survival. The girls, Sophie, Flora, and Carla, grew up at a time and a place that did not allow them [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    JNS.org – “He was part hippie, part yippie, part beatnik, and part New Age,” wrote Elli Wohlgelernter in a Jerusalem Post eulogy in 1994, following the Oct. 20 passing of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Twenty years later, more robust accounts of Carlebach’s life have come to the surface. Earlier this year, Natan Ophir published the book Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission & Legacy. This past summer, Rabbi Shlomo Katz’s The Soul of Jerusalem hit the shelves. But even the authors will admit [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    As Hamas loses its grip on power in the Gaza Strip as a result of war, poverty and disillusionment, the Islamist terrorist group has developed an ingenious way to raise the moral of the 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs it was elected to serve. While currently focused on delivering a rocket into every Israeli home, Hamas has not left its own people behind. To gently wipe away the tears of children strategically placed inside kindergartens as human shields, the Hamas Interior Ministry has [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish History Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    It’s hard to make a new contribution to the field of Holocaust studies,  but German historian Götz Aly accomplishes just that in Why the Germans, Why the Jews? His premise is that the origins of the Holocaust were rooted in the specific anti-Semitism found in Germany in the decades and centuries before World War II. Aly (who is not Jewish) seeks to prove his theory by studying only pre-Holocaust history, and tracing how the German people’s envy and hatred of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    JNS.org – During the current conflict in Gaza a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others—be it during Operation Protective Edge or at other times—have gone further than simply supporting the Palestinians by actively supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, making false accusations about the Jewish state, ignoring Israel’s position on the conflict, or justifying the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. Many of these [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.