North Korean fallacies
By Henry M. Seggerman
South Korea’s response to North Korean aggression was inept: The real reason the South’s responses to the Cheonan sinking and the Yeonpyeong shelling were so tame is Seoul.
North Korea has 11,000 heavy artillery pieces pointed at Seoul and could kill one million Seoul residents in a few hours. North Korea can continue with provocations without any fear of heavy South Korean retaliation.
A set of northwestern islands including Yeonpyeong belong to South Korea: The Northern Limit Line (NLL), three miles from North Korea’s coastline, was drawn by U.N. forces unilaterally at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War and was not part of the armistice signed by North Korea.
There is a vague reference to it in a 1992 document, but North Korea has protested the NLL most of the time. North Korean ships must make a difficult 65-nautical mile detour to reach open seas.
Japan and China will help South Korea in its island dispute: South Korea wants Japan and China to join the U.S. in defending its control of the northwestern islands. But how long before Japan raises the issue of Dokdo, South Korea’s easternmost islets, also known as Takeshima in Japanese?
As for China, not only was it ignored in the NLL grab, but also it’s already embroiled in a conflict over the Spratly and Paracel islands. It got Hong Kong back 13 years ago and its biggest island prize has always been Taiwan, anyway.
China has a responsibility to rein in North Korea: From the bloodshed in Tibet and the Uighur region, it’s clear that China does not have much concern about its own people. Why would it see any wrongdoing in North Koreans killing South Koreans?
China will listen to the U.S.: Despite Obama, no one has forgotten that the U.S. tortured and killed prisoners in its “War on Terror.” America’s Mideast policies have made it many enemies around the world. China cannot view the U.S. as some kind of moral paragon. The U.S. also owes China $2 trillion, and is in no position to lecture China.
China is too worried about a refugee crisis: China supplies North Korea 90 percent of its fuel oil, for free or on easy terms. China has the power to collapse the North Korean regime.
However, it’s dishonest to say China is too worried about a regime collapse and refugee crisis, and thus cannot apply even short-term pressure. There are reports that China cut off oil to North Korea for 72 hours in 2006, to prod North Korea to attend the six-party talks for its denuclearization, and it worked.
South Korea can leave the Gaeseong Industrial Complex open: About 120 companies generate $940 million in annual trade at Gaeseong. North Korea gets hundreds of millions in wage income, which is a lot for its tiny economy. North Korea will not believe South Korea is serious in any way if Gaeseong remains open.
North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons: No country in the history of the world ever gave up its nuclear weapons. Pakistan, Israel, India, and Iran are not going to give up their nuclear weapons, and neither will North Korea. This only happens with regime change, as with South Africa and the Ukraine.
Kim, Jong-il saw Saddam Hussein get hanged because he did not have nuclear weapons, so he will never give them up now. The six-party talks are nothing but a deceitful game played by China and North Korea.
Kim Jong-il is dying: He had a stroke and does not look well, but there is far too much “echo chamber” talk predicting his death within a year or two. Elevating Kim Jong-un now does not prove he is dying; don’t forget, Kim, Il-sung elevated Kim Jong-il 18 years before he died.
Kim Jong-un is just like his father: Many South Koreans blame Kim Jong-un for the Cheonan sinking and the Yeonpyeong attack. This is ridiculous. Kim Jong-un is 27 years old. The artillery used in the attack has been in preparation for more than a year.
Kim Jong-un might turn out to be a reformer like Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam. In early December, he even made a speech about “soup with chunks of meat … not necessarily bullets.”
U.S. troops are essential to South Korea: A new Korean War is extremely unlikely. However, if one did break out, within a few weeks, the U.S. would counterattack with a massive aerial bombardment.
It would assemble a large multinational invasion force in the hundreds of thousands ― far more than its 28,000 troops there now. The 28,000 only represent 1.5 percent of the total North and South Korean soldiers.
South Korea’s choice
As of right now, South Korea has discontinued firing artillery from Yeonpyeong into waters North Korea claims. China may have succeeded in persuading North Korea to suspend hostilities and is pressing to resume six-party talks.
South Korea and the U.S. no doubt think that sitting down at the table with North Korea will validate its violent claim over the northwestern islands.
It may be that South Korea is prepared to negotiate an adjustment to the Northern Limit Line, and even sign a peace treaty with North Korea. However, talks will never lead Kim Jong-il to give up his nuclear weapons.
If South Korea wants to keep the northwestern islands and denuclearize North Korea, the only way to accomplish this is through reunification. And reunification will only be possible if China is willing to threaten North Korea with an oil cutoff. And China will only pursue reunification on its terms, not American terms.
My guess on Chinese terms? First, U.S. troops will have to leave South Korea. Second, China will have to derive economic benefits ― perhaps getting exclusive rights to exploit North Korea’s considerable mineral wealth. Finally ― and this is the most difficult ― China will need a guarantee of stability. In regime change, there really will be a danger of a refugee crisis in China’s northeast.
Perhaps such a guarantee might come with the help of the Korean People’s Army (KPA); after all, there are 1.1 million of them. A united Korea would be insane to just discharge them; this could lead to years of conflict, as we saw when Bush discharged the Ba’athists.
Assuring the KPA in advance of paid employment in a united Korea could provide stability. They are better-educated and better-fed than the average North Koreans and could expedite the vast infrastructure rebuilding to come.
Henry M. Seggerman is president of International Investment Advisers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.