We arrive on a Friday night without a guest commentary ready to go. I know everyone is busy these days and that has led to folks not having the time to write articles for Stand Up For America. It’s OK. I am patient. Seriously though, I don’t have a commentary tonight so I am forced to subject all of you to yet another night of my rambling on and then spending the next day defending myself from claims of partisanship, ineptitude, and generally being a bad citizen. I have been following the situation with North Korea quite closely over the last several months. As a former resident of South Korea, I have a different perspective on all of this. I know I am not alone as I am sure there are others reading who have spent time in South Korea. In my opinion, the last couple of weeks have seen a dangerous increase in the rhetoric that is coming out of North Korea. I know they have always blown off at the mouth, but it feels different this time. So I am taking notice. I hope that those in the White House are noticing as well.
First a little history on North Korea from Wikipedia (I love using them for history, as their introductions are packed full of information and not overly wordy). North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a state in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer area between North Korea and South Korea. The Amnok River and the Tumen River form the border between North Korea and China. A section of the Tumen River in the extreme north-east is the border with Russia.
The peninsula was governed by the Korean Empire until it was annexed by Japan following the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. It was divided into Soviet and American occupied zones in 1945, following the end of World War II. North Korea refused to participate in a United Nations-supervised election held in the south in 1948, which led to the creation of separate Korean governments for the two occupation zones. Both North and South Korea claimed sovereignty over the peninsula as a whole, which led to the Korean War of 1950. A 1953 armistice temporarily ended the fighting; however, the two countries are officially still at war with each other, as a peace treaty was never signed. Both states were accepted into the United Nations in 1991. On May 26, 2009, North Korea unilaterally withdrew from the armistice.
North Korea is a single-party state under a united front led by the Korean Workers’ Party. The country’s government styles itself as following the Juche ideology of self-reliance, developed by Kim Il-sung, the country’s former leader. Juche became the official state ideology when the country adopted a new constitution in 1972, though Kim Il-sung had been using it to form policy since at least as early as 1955. North Korea claims to be a socialist republic, but is widely considered by the outside world to be a de facto totalitarian Stalinist dictatorship. The current leader is Kim Jong-il, son of the late Eternal President Kim Il-sung (and the current news is that the little crazy man has announced his son as his successor as he isn’t going to last much longer).
North and South Korea have never signed a formal peace treaty and thus are still officially at war; only a ceasefire was declared. South Korea’s government came to be dominated by its military and a relative peace was punctuated by border skirmishes and assassination attempts. The North failed in several assassination attempts on South Korean leaders, most notably in 1968, 1974 and 1983; tunnels were frequently found under the DMZ (I have personally been in some of these tunnels and they continue to attempt to dig them today. One of them I remember well was big enough to move an entire division through in less than an hour) and war nearly broke out over the axe murder incident at Panmunjeom in 1976 (I have actually been into the DMZ and touched the tree that was the “cause” of this incident and have pictures of it) In 1973, extremely secret, high-level contacts began to be conducted through the offices of the Red Cross, but ended after the Panmunjeom incident with little progress having been made.
Of the five remaining self-styled “communist” states in the world, North Korea is one of only two (along with Cuba) with an entirely state-planned, government-owned economy. North Korea’s economy is completely socialized, which means that food rations, housing, healthcare, and education is offered from the state for free (Hey that sounds like a GREAT idea). The estimated population in North Korea is 23 million.
In 2005, North Korea was ranked by the FAO as an estimated 10th in the production of fresh fruit and as an estimated 19th in the production of apples. It has substantialnatural resources and is the world’s 18th largest producer of iron and zinc, having the 22nd largest coal reserves in the world. It is also the 15th largest fluorite producer and 12th largest producer of copper and salt in Asia. Other major natural resources in production include lead, tungsten, graphite, magnesite, gold, pyrites, flourspar, and hydropower. I mention this for a very specific reason.
North Korea’s attitude couple with the United States deciding what the rest of the world does has resulted in North Korea living under UN sanctions for decades. They were always able to get out from under those sanctions so long as they operated under the rules set forth by the US and the United Nations. While those rules were not out of place, given their past actions, I do submit to you that if some country came along and told us what to do, we would take sanctions and stand on our right to do as we please as well. They have paid dearly for doing so. Despite all of the vast natural resources mentioned above, North Korea is starving to death, literally. The state, being what it is, takes the bulk of the food and distributes it to the military first. The communist state, unable to provide for its people naturally as a form of government, was further hampered by our involvement there. It is easy to understand why they despise us.
All of this history has been to set up an understanding of how desperate a country North Korea is. They are literally dying as a people and the collapse of the government is imminent if they don’t find a way to improve the level of living there. It is easy to blame the repressive government and they certainly deserve 80% of the blame, but some of it falls on the countries that have denied them the opportunity to flourish as well.
So in order to get help to survive, North Korea has resorted to staging themselves as a grave threat to peace in order to gain concessions from the rest of the world. They threaten to develop nuclear weapons and then the world gives them something in order to get them to stop. It is a bad cycle that every President in the last 35 years has helped to propagate. And it has led some to believe that they are always bluster and never have any bite behind it. But the South Koreans and the 30,000 US soldiers stationed in South Korea have always understood how real a threat they are. I was one of them.
As a quick side note, how cool is that picture? I wasn’t always what I became in the military. You can’t enlist to do the job I did. You have to acquire some rank before you can go there. My original job as a private in the Army was as a crew member in one of these MLRS death dealers, able to level an entire grid square in 60 seconds. They are truly impressive pieces of equipment. While my time with them was short, I admit that it is a lot of fun to have that kind of power at your fingertips. So Danak13, I have been both a caller for the “fire for effect” and the person on the other end of the line too! And nothing answers that request quite like these little puppies. And for the record, I have always loved that request. The results are spectacular to watch.
Over the last couple of years we have seen them threaten to become a nuclear power, relent and agree to stop their nuclear program in return for reduction of sanctions, and now revert back to threatening others again. They have conducted several underground nuclear tests and multiple tests of long range missiles. Their desire to acquire the ability to make nuclear missiles poses a serious threat to the stability of the region. One concern is that South Korea and Japan could seek nuclear ability in response. The other big concern is that they would be willing to sell that nuclear technology to rogue states or terrorist groups. Both are legitimate concerns.
And now we have reports that they are saying that in July they intend to launch a long range missile at Hawaii. That, my friends, is a serious threat from a desperate country. I do not worry that they will hit Hawaii. Most reports I read say their best missiles would fall 500 miles short. I also figure that we will shoot down whatever they launch long before it gets that far. But the fact remains that they are outright threatening to launch missiles at the United States. And that should cause an alarm to go off. Because they have not made such a threat before.
And we are also hearing reports that the US Navy is tracking a ship leaving North Korea loaded with some sort of arms or material. The USS John McCain has been dispatched to possibly intercept this ship. We will have to wait to see what happens with this. For the record does anyone else think it is awful coincidental that the ship sent to deal with this was the McCain? It just seems awful ironic to me.
I will say this. If George Bush were still in office, crazy Kim Jong il would not be threatening to launch a missile at Hawaii. No way, no how. He thinks that Obama is a wuss and won’t do anything about this. And I am not in a position to say whether he is right or wrong. I would imagine that the national apologist attitude of the current administration sets a tone that liberals in America see as a nice change in policy, but the rest of the world views as simply weak.
I am not sure that this time they North Koreans are all bluster. I don’t know that they have the capability to do what they are threatening to do. But I am not quite so sure this time that they don’t fully intend to try. And that could put us in a really hairy situation. Because a launch against the US would be a bold step, successful or not. And Obama would again find himself in a situation that I am not sure he is ready to handle. If he handles it correctly, his faithful worshipers will lost some faith in his pacifist convictions. If he handles it wrong, we could see those on the right use that to completely derail the liberal express that is fast=tracking through Washington. I guess I would have to really think hard to decide which is more important to me…..
But what does everyone else think of this North Korean situation?