Monday, October 09, 2006

The Korean situation


For those of you up for a five-minute lesson on Korea, here it is.

1. North and South Korea formed at the end of WWII when the Soviet army met the US at the 38th parallel which is now the border between North and South Korea. South Korea is an ally of the US, a capitalist nation, and somewhat a democracy. It is far more prosperous than North Korea.

2. North Korea is the most frightening, most Stalinist nation on earth. In the last ten years somewhere around a million people have died of starvation. Formerly ruled by Kim Il Sung, it is now run by the dictator Kim Jong Il, his son, who overseas a terrifying police state in which there are informers and spies everywhere and any kind of dissent is swiftly dealt with. There are a lot of rumors swirling about him, and the story from Washington is that he is irrational and dangerous. Nonetheless when Madeline Allbright met him, he did not appear to be so, and judging from their shrewd movements in using the threat of a nuclear North Korea to blackmail the west, I'm not sure how much I believe the party line. The Chinese are interested in propping up this regime because if it topples refugees will flood China.

3. Most of the money is spent on the military, which is a formidable force of around 800,000 men, some 4,000 tanks, 800 aircraft and other weapons, much of which sits directly on the 38th parallel within range of Seoul. The North Korean military has enough artillery in range of Seoul to level the entire city. The South Korean military is vastly outclassed by the North Koreans.

4. The US has a contingent of some 28,000 troops sitting near the DMZ of the 38th parallel, the largest contingent outside of Iraq. Due to the mountainous terrain of Korea, it is unlikely that the US would defeat the Koreans as easily as the Iraqi army was defeated.

5. George Bush moved away from diplomatic solutions after the Clinton administration attempted many such overtures and labeled N. Korea as part of an "axis of evil". During Bush's presidence the N. Koreans have developed a nuclear weapon, developed a delivery system which can probably reach the west coast of the US, and now tested a nuclear weapon. Sources say that they probably have enough plutonium to build up to eleven weapons.

6. The US has already fought a war on the Korean peninsula in which some 40,000 Americans lost their lives and which nearly involved the single greatest defeat in American history. After an initial attack by N. Korea, the US drove the Northern forces all the way to the Yalu river, at which time China intervened on behalf of the North Koreans. The 38th parallel remains the border between these two nations, with families cut in two who have never seen each other.

7. It is estimated that an attack on N. Korea by the US would cause the deaths of upwards of ten million people.

5 Comments:

Blogger Jeha said...

There is little anyone can do, but play the waiting game with Kim junior. And keep tightening the noose around his neck.

I feel that this is the only feasible option for two reasons:

1- His regime is not as strong as we fear; much weakeness is inherent in the make up of the system.

2- The key is China; only the Chinese can bring him down. But they have to do so carefully, and they fear a collapse at least as much as the South Koreans.

On a more cynical note, Kim is more of a problem to his immediate neighbours. The United States can, in the meantime, make the best of a bad situation in two important ways;

1- It will convince Japan to rearm itself. Having become an effective economic partner to the United States, Japan can grow to become an effective military power as well, and supplement US forces in the region.

2- When the Issue of the US baked Taiwan will be opened by China, the problem of Chinese backed North Korea will no doubt be raised.

7:05 AM  
Blogger demabloggery said...

here is little anyone can do, but play the waiting game with Kim junior. And keep tightening the noose around his neck.
==========================
If we tighten the noose he may invade South Korea out of desperation.
=====================

I feel that this is the only feasible option for two reasons:

1- His regime is not as strong as we fear; much weakeness is inherent in the make up of the system.
========================
Actually I think most people acknowledge that the wall is rotten, but people have been predicting it's fall for years. Stalin taught him well.
======================
2- The key is China; only the Chinese can bring him down. But they have to do so carefully, and they fear a collapse at least as much as the South Koreans.
---------------------------
The Chinese are propping him up for that reason. If we could assure the Chinese that we would care for the refugees, it could be a big boost. The problem is that nobody trusts us, and I wouldn't either.
===============
On a more cynical note, Kim is more of a problem to his immediate neighbours. The United States can, in the meantime, make the best of a bad situation in two important ways;

1- It will convince Japan to rearm itself. Having become an effective economic partner to the United States, Japan can grow to become an effective military power as well, and supplement US forces in the region.
============================
In the US we are wary of the idea of Japan as a military power. Their genius and fascist tendencies make for a frightening combination.
==================
2- When the Issue of the US baked Taiwan will be opened by China, the problem of Chinese backed North Korea will no doubt be raised.
================
The Chinese are beginning to rethink that strategy at this point.

9:03 AM  
Blogger vergelimbo said...

Given your special skill in distilling complex ideas and history into bite-sized morsels and bullet points there may be a future for you in the art of media conjuring. My greatest fear is that political leaders gorge themselves on such a diet soundbite nibblies, rather than thorough analysis.

That said, apart from your claim that N Korea has the ability to launch an attack on the US west coast
[huh?] I enjoyed reading your entries and comments.

VL

8:48 AM  
Blogger demabloggery said...

Most experts don't believe that they have a delivery system that can launch an attack, but given the manner in which they have advanced, and continue to suprise us, I don't think such a possibility should be ruled out.

\PS: thanks!

12:43 PM  
Blogger demabloggery said...

PRAGUE, June 22, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- North Korea has a way of creating dramatic situations that ensure worldwide attention.

The latest example of brinkmanship by this small, isolated communist state is its purported intention to test fire for the first time its big new rocket -- the multistage Taepodong-2 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Western intelligence reports say the rocket is on its launchpad and has been fueled. With a purported range of some 3,700 kilometers, the Taepodong-2 is theoretically capable of hitting western parts of the United States.http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/06/B460560E-9A78-47F1-89FE-E00916C4600B.html

1:06 PM  

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