The coming war with....North Korea?

ringsnort wrote:
Actually, there's probably good reason to fear North Korea, but it's not something most people outside of the region think about.

North Korea is very likely going to turn out to be the single greatest humanitarian *and* environmental disaster in the history of the world. And the current policy of containment is simply enabling and perpetuating the problem. As an analogy, imagine a dysfunctional fascist Germany in the early 20th century that was somehow contained from expansion, but it's cruel leadership and death camps still in full operation...for decades. When the truth is finally revealed, I can't help but wonder if the world's choice of containment won't begin to look like global criminal cowardice.

As opposed to doing what? Geographic reailities prevent attacks on NK. Seoul is within range of the massive bombardment that would follow any NATO air strikes, and that's assuming China tolerates an attack on a bordering nation/ally. Until NK attacks the south again, the truce will remain in place.

Ringsnort, the Russians still keep contacts and provide useful things. I think the Chinese have had more economic influence simply because they have much more activity close to NK. But NK is still resistant to Maoist thinking and they seem to cling to the Stalinist way of doing things. I'd say the Russians have more influence on the military side, but I could be mistaken.

Funkenpants wrote:

As opposed to doing what? Geographic reailities prevent attacks on NK. Seoul is within range of the massive bombardment that would follow any NATO air strikes, and that's assuming China tolerates an attack on a bordering nation/ally. Until NK attacks the south again, the truce will remain in place.

Which, if you've read my previous comments, is why I say pretty much time and again that the diplomatic and military heavy lifting for dealing with NoK falls on China and possibly Russia. A just and humane outcome on the Korean peninsula is in everyone's best interest. However, as far as any direct engagement, that isn't and cannot be America's task. If anything, American involvement in NoK peace talks and diplomacy only adds to the drama that the North actively wants. As for NoK providing some provocative opportunity, it's not a matter of if, just when.

Robear wrote:
Ringsnort, the Russians still keep contacts and provide useful things. I think the Chinese have had more economic influence simply because they have much more activity close to NK. But NK is still resistant to Maoist thinking and they seem to cling to the Stalinist way of doing things. I'd say the Russians have more influence on the military side, but I could be mistaken.

This is a fascinating topic and one I'd like to research further if and when time allows. From the little bit of reading I've done, it seems that post-Yeltsin Russia has made several small overtures to NoK over the past decade, mostly in the form of cultural exchange, science and technology agreements, and so on. However, the two most interesting aspects of NoK / Russia relations seem completely at odds with each other: a vestigial "mutual defense" agreement that's still in force today and a total prohibition on the export of any and all military hardware to the North. A very odd relationship, indeed.

ringsnort wrote:
Funkenpants wrote:

As opposed to doing what? Geographic reailities prevent attacks on NK. Seoul is within range of the massive bombardment that would follow any NATO air strikes, and that's assuming China tolerates an attack on a bordering nation/ally. Until NK attacks the south again, the truce will remain in place.

Which, if you've read my previous comments, is why I say pretty much time and again that the diplomatic and military heavy lifting for dealing with NoK falls on China and possibly Russia. A just and humane outcome on the Korean peninsula is in everyone's best interest. However, as far as any direct engagement, that isn't and cannot be America's task. If anything, American involvement in NoK peace talks and diplomacy only adds to the drama that the North actively wants. As for NoK providing some provocative opportunity, it's not a matter of if, just when.

Russia isn't the USSR. They don't subsidize regimes like they used to, and when they sell nations arms these days it's because they want the money, not to influence the local regime. China can have a bigger influence, but China is going to do what's good for China. What is just or humane isn't going to be a part of their thinking, and how does a united Korea under a democratically elected regime benefit them?

NK would have to threaten CHinese trade or security in some way before China changes its approach, I think.

Funkenpants wrote:
Russia isn't the USSR. They don't subsidize regimes like they used to, and when they sell nations arms these days it's because they want the money, not to influence the local regime.

Russia was fairly quick to jettison their client state baggage after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Smart move, too, given the then immediate need for Russia to focus on reinventing Russia for the 21st century. Times have changed, but Putin is still very old school in many ways, including feelings of competitiveness with the West. Russian relations with Syria being a prime example. If Russia were to take the lead on resolving the NoK problem, you can absolutely count on them acting solely for their own best interests.

Funkenpants wrote:
China can have a bigger influence, but China is going to do what's good for China. What is just or humane isn't going to be a part of their thinking, and how does a united Korea under a democratically elected regime benefit them?

NK would have to threaten CHinese trade or security in some way before China changes its approach, I think.

China is a bit more susceptible to the humanitarian aspect of the equation. Yes, their internal societal problems are a sensitive subject to the Chinese and they will neither listen to nor tolerate outside comment or interference. However, China is quickly mastering the global diplomatic game where fostering the correct perception on internationally important issues is often key to furthering China's economic goals. At the same time, China is also flexing it's rapidly modernizing and growing military muscle in a series of territorial disputes with it's neighbors in both the South China Sea and the Sea of Japan. So far the Chinese have played the military/diplomatic game with skill and daring. However, the last thing China needs is a wildcard like NoK messing with their game board when they have so much to gain if things only unfold as planned. No, there's no way China would accept reunification as an outcome in Korea. However, China could decide it's time to clean house and bring the NoK leadership firmly under Beijing's benevolent influence.

ringsnort wrote:
However, the last thing China needs is a wildcard like NoK messing with their game board when they have so much to gain if things only unfold as planned. No, there's no way China would accept reunification as an outcome in Korea. However, China could decide it's time to clean house and bring the NoK leadership firmly under Beijing's benevolent influence.

Actually, China does support Korean reunification. It threw its support behind Kim Il-sung's 1993 Ten Point Program for Reunification of the Country.

China's only true concern is that reunification happens without American meddling and, as part of the ten point program, that American troops be given the boot.

The last thing China wants is to "own" North Korea. It gets absolutely nothing from the relationship. Internationally, North Korea is a political embarrassment to China, a country obsessed with its reputation. Domestically, North Korea is a source of social instability as North Koreans who flee their own country often end up in China.

The best possible thing for China is that North Korea gets peacefully reintegrated into South Korea and that China takes the lead making that happen. The worst possible thing is that North Korea, a country pretty universally viewed as a Chinese lackey state (much like South Korea is seen as an American lackey state), starts World War III.

Additionally, a peaceful reunification of Korea would give China much more credibility with its long term goal to "reunify" Taiwan.

ringsnort wrote:
Russia was fairly quick to jettison their client state baggage after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Smart move, too, given the then immediate need for Russia to focus on reinventing Russia for the 21st century. Times have changed, but Putin is still very old school in many ways, including feelings of competitiveness with the West. Russian relations with Syria being a prime example. If Russia were to take the lead on resolving the NoK problem, you can absolutely count on them acting solely for their own best interests.

Sure, and they don't get anything out of poking a stick into North Korea's internal politics. They want to put a pipeline through NK to sell gas to South Koreans. Their interests, given that they are essentially a energy-based state now, are purely commercial.

Putin likes the old days, but his military is a pathetic shell of what it once was and his economy is about the size of Canada's. The only thing that makes Russia a superpower is nuclear weapons and a seat on the security council. Come to think of it, that makes Russia the same as the UK or France- neither of which are superpowers anymore. The three nations are just remnants of European empires entering an age of being peripheral to world affairs.

Funkenpants wrote:
However, the last thing China needs is a wildcard like NoK messing with their game board when they have so much to gain if things only unfold as planned. No, there's no way China would accept reunification as an outcome in Korea.

Once the Kim family and their supporters in the military are no longer in power, what is the next step? Korea may unify whether the Chinese want them to or not. So if they want Korea to stay split, they're best bet is to stick with the current regime.

OG_slinger wrote:
ringsnort wrote:
However, the last thing China needs is a wildcard like NoK messing with their game board when they have so much to gain if things only unfold as planned. No, there's no way China would accept reunification as an outcome in Korea. However, China could decide it's time to clean house and bring the NoK leadership firmly under Beijing's benevolent influence.

Actually, China does support Korean reunification. It threw its support behind Kim Il-sung's 1993 Ten Point Program for Reunification of the Country.

China's only true concern is that reunification happens without American meddling and, as part of the ten point program, that American troops be given the boot.

The last thing China wants is to "own" North Korea. It gets absolutely nothing from the relationship. Internationally, North Korea is a political embarrassment to China, a country obsessed with its reputation. Domestically, North Korea is a source of social instability as North Koreans who flee their own country often end up in China.

The best possible thing for China is that North Korea gets peacefully reintegrated into South Korea and that China takes the lead making that happen. The worst possible thing is that North Korea, a country pretty universally viewed as a Chinese lackey state (much like South Korea is seen as an American lackey state), starts World War III.

Additionally, a peaceful reunification of Korea would give China much more credibility with its long term goal to "reunify" Taiwan.

Not to mention, as long as SK's president is the offspring of Park Chung-hee (a traitor to his people of the first order), North Koreans have very rational reasons to fear the South.

Paleocon wrote:
Not to mention, as long as SK's president is the offspring of Park Chung-hee (a traitor to his people of the first order), North Koreans have very rational reasons to fear the South.

Not wanting to dive too deep into an off topic rabbit hole, but General Park's rise to power has always baffled me. His military career began as a junior officer...commissioned into the Japanese Imperial Army. He was a collaborator of the first order, actively fighting for the very Japanese forces who had ruthlessly occupied the Koran since 1910. After the liberation of Korea following the end of WW2, Park's military career resumes and his rise to power seems only to accelerate, all the while deflecting obstacles and accusation about his past. There's little need for me to go on reciting his resume. However, what would you say Park is most, um, remembered for? Part of me can't get past his service with the Japanese since that would seem like a career killer of the first order. What does the North most hate him for?

ringsnort wrote:
Paleocon wrote:
Not to mention, as long as SK's president is the offspring of Park Chung-hee (a traitor to his people of the first order), North Koreans have very rational reasons to fear the South.

Not wanting to dive too deep into an off topic rabbit hole, but General Park's rise to power has always baffled me. His military career began as a junior officer...commissioned into the Japanese Imperial Army. He was a collaborator of the first order, actively fighting for the very Japanese forces who had ruthlessly occupied the Koran since 1910. After the liberation of Korea following the end of WW2, Park's military career resumes and his rise to power seems only to accelerate, all the while deflecting obstacles and accusation about his past. There's little need for me to go on reciting his resume. However, what would you say Park is most, um, remembered for? Part of me can't get past his service with the Japanese since that would seem like a career killer of the first order. What does the North most hate him for?

Park and his daughter are very unfortunate in that they seem to fully confirm the suspicions the North Koreans have of the South: that it is just a continuation of the Japanese occupation. The truth is a lot more complicated than that, of course, but their very existance as national figures is a bit like the daughter of Joseph Mengele being put in charge of the nation of Israel.

You aren't allowed to use historic parallels that aren't World War II.

It would be like if Quisling had had a child and that child was the PM of Norway.

Only worse, because theoretically Western culture is less interested in what your parents and other family members did.

I say theoretically because the USA has the Kennedy's, Bush's, and Clinton's, and we're supposed to be the least aristocratic of the bunch.

Yonder wrote:
You aren't allowed to use historic parallels that aren't World War II.

It would be like if Quisling had had a child and that child was the PM of Norway.

Only worse, because theoretically Western culture is less interested in what your parents and other family members did.

I say theoretically because the USA has the Kennedy's, Bush's, and Clinton's, and we're supposed to be the least aristocratic of the bunch.

That and the Kennedys, Bushes, and Clintons never murdered thousands of their own countrymen while in the employ of an occupying nation.

That's not the point, I'm just saying that the fact that we are more likely to elect people immediately related to people we've already elected is an indication that Western culture isn't that different from Eastern culture in how important we find familial ties, despite the popular conception that there is a large difference.

The fact that if one Kennedy worked for the Soviets to murder Americans it would dissuade us from voting for the next Kennedy helps my case. On a related note, we're probably not going to elect a Bin Laden any time soon either.

Yonder wrote:
That's not the point, I'm just saying that the fact that we are more likely to elect people immediately related to people we've already elected is an indication that Western culture isn't that different from Eastern culture in how important we find familial ties, despite the popular conception that there is a large difference.

No, I think it just means we vote for people we are familiar with, considering how many ex-athletes and actors wind up in American politics. I think the same phenomenon is at work here as the one behind why there are so many shows about the Kardashians. Celebrity, not aristocracy, is the simplest explanation.

Yonder wrote:
That's not the point, I'm just saying that the fact that we are more likely to elect people immediately related to people we've already elected is an indication that Western culture isn't that different from Eastern culture in how important we find familial ties, despite the popular conception that there is a large difference.

The fact that if one Kennedy worked for the Soviets to murder Americans it would dissuade us from voting for the next Kennedy helps my case. On a related note, we're probably not going to elect a Bin Laden any time soon either.

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that, to a large extent, Park really did run the government like an occupying army. A lot of that had to do with the fact that he was tremendously unpopular and the consequences of falling from power were likely his death. As it turns out, the death sort of came simultaneous to his falling from power (at the hands of his own bodyguards as he was doing is very best Uday Hussein impression by forcing himself on movie stars).

One of the benefits in running a brutal dictatorship is that you get to rewrite history, enforce compliance to its teaching, and disappear dissidents into forgotten prison camps where they can be tortured into "re-education" or simply dropped from aircraft into the ocean. Doing so pretty much ensures you'll have a constituency of folks who: 1) fear you enough to want to do what you say, 2) see you as a "strong leader" and are Stockholmed into wanting to back you because they love a winner and don't want to be a loser, or 3) truly believe the nonsense you espouse about your being the savior against communism. Do this long enough and with the full backing of the world's most powerful military and economy and you pretty effectively wear down a population's will to resist. Folks become more concerned with keeping their heads down, getting through school, and getting a job and don't talk about politics for fear that they'll end up like the university president loudmouth that was found beaten to death and tossed off a bridge.

Paleocon wrote:
I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that, to a large extent, Park really did run the government like an occupying army. [...]

I've never been a fan of holding the sins of the father over the children, but it does make me wonder. Park's daughter's political career seems not to have suffered despite what I'm sure is a national collective memory of those unpleasant times.