Category Archives: N Korea

South Korea Wants to Declare Peace—Without Peace

WSJ  11/29/2021

South Korea’s “Sunshiners” in President Moon Jae-in’s administration have nothing to show for years of solicitousness to Kim Jong Un, and Mr. Moon’s presidency is nearing its end. So they are doubling down, trying to stage a unilateral “end of war“ declaration—a bit of diplomatic theater asserting the Korean War is formally over, no matter that the North says. The goal is to rope the U.S. in.

Press reports from Seoul suggest the Biden team has been going along with this charade. Washington has said little publicly about the initiative, but Sunshiners in the South, who have been pressing it on Mr. Biden since his inauguration, claim a joint U.S.-South Korea end-of-war declaration is in its “final stages.”

Let’s hope the reports are wrong. Pantomime statecraft and make-believe breakthroughs can’t enhance Korean security—though they could very well make the peninsula a more dangerous place.

In Sunshine (or “engagement”) doctrine—a theory of international relations—the signing of “peace declarations” has been a fixation for decades. For true believers, these declarations are talismanic: Somehow they will end peninsular hostilities. Believers never lose faith when the magic fails to work.

In 2007, in an earlier era of Blue House Sunshine, President Roh Moo Hyun and Kim Jong Il signed a joint statement in Pyongyang resolving, among other things, to “put an end to military hostilities, mitigate tensions and guarantee peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

North-South peace didn’t materialize. Instead, the Kim regime went on to sink a South Korean military vessel, shell civilians on a South Korean island near the Northern Limit Line, set off five atomic devices, and launch vast numbers of short- and long-range offensive missiles.

Nowadays, Kim Jong Un won’t talk to Mr. Moon about a peace declaration—or anything else. (Pyongyang’s propaganda chief, Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong, dismisses Mr. Moon as a “parrot raised in America.”) So Mr. Moon has pivoted and is now pressuring the U.S. to provide him with a joint declaration instead.

A bilateral “declaration” would serve obvious purposes for Mr. Moon and his party, whose nominee for the March presidential election is running far behind his conservative opponent in the polls. But a pretend celebration of the end of the Korean War will do no favors for the U.S.-South Korea alliance. Demonstrating a lack of seriousness about genuine security threats is almost certain to have serious real-world consequences.

With an end-of-war declaration by Seoul and Washington—the world’s only two countries committed by treaty to defend against North Korean aggression—denuclearization of the North would become effectively an abandoned global objective. How do you mobilize the international community to press North Korea on its nukes when you are throwing an end-of-war party for yourself?

By signaling that things aren’t as bad as we thought with the North, the declaration also stands to set back the international North Korea human-rights movement. And no matter how much the alliance tries to spin the declaration, Pyongyang can bank on an international law-enforcement break: for cybercrime, terror-network commerce and other illicit financial operations.

Empty words won’t move the peninsula any closer to peace because the threat of war in Korea today is set by the North, as it always has been. Pyongyang is still committed to wiping South Korea off the map. That is what its nuclear arsenal, missile program and million-man army are all about.

Kim Jong Un won’t be appeased by an “end of war” declaration from reviled U.S. “imperialists” and their South Korean “puppets.” He would regard such a gesture as a sign of weakness—a concession inviting still more demands. While deeming Mr. Moon’s end-of-war declaration “an admirable idea,” Kim Yo Jong, his sister, insisted that dialogue with the South would require an end to “hostile policies”—that is, an end to the U.S.-South Korea alliance, closing of U.S. bases in the South, and lifting of economic sanctions against North Korean proliferation.

As soon as that document is signed, the U.N. Command—the multilateral defense structure that still includes other international forces in Korean peacekeeping—would be doomed to vanish, as the North has long wished. The U.S.-South Korean alliance would come under greater scrutiny in America. After all, isn’t the Korean conflict the original “endless war”?

China and Russia would be emboldened, too. They would take the declaration as an invitation to violate the United Nations Security Council’s North Korea sanctions at will and to lobby for lifting those sanctions.

One immediate loser will be America’s key Asian ally. Such virtue-signaling in the Korean Peninsula would leave Japan more exposed and less secure. Throughout the postwar era, the U.S. has been one of Tokyo’s only reliable friends. Japanese leaders would start to question American credibility and act accordingly. Other allies would do the same.

At the moment North Korea seems all but incapacitated, overwhelmed by its Covid-19 emergency and the ensuing economic crisis that Pyongyang’s own mismanagement exacerbated. An end-of-war declaration would help the Kim regime get back on its feet and back to its familiar menacing playbook.

Mr. Eberstadt holds the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute.


Venn Diagram of Freedom’s Threats: Kim Jong Un-Reliable North Korea Intersects Amazon Servers

The Epoch Times – January 17, 2021 Upda

Commentary by Austin Bay

Strategists know trying to see the geopolitical battlefield from an adversary’s point of view is useful, particularly the view of an adversary with a couple of nuclear weapons and a legacy of provocative violence.

I can’t really enter the mind of North Korean dictator and chain-smoking lard tub Kim Jong Un, so his point of view, rendered as a geopolitical scenario, must be surmised.

Surmised, however, within reason. Invoking reason in these sketchy times stretches credulity, but I’ve reports attributable to Kim himself and sourced by somewhat reliable wire services, reliable South Korean media and subservient North Korean propaganda outlets, the last of which, of course, are Un-reliable.

Full stop. The pun captures North Korea’s vicious totalitarian context. Unfortunately, it has American domestic political and constitutional implications. Examples: Jeff Bezos-Reliable Amazon servers shutting down free speech outlet Parler. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi-Reliable New York Times/CNN/mainstream media refusing to cover the Hunter Biden-communist China corruption story until after the election.

Background. Amazon’s Bezos-Reliable servers denied center-right social media platform Parler access to its servers. That constitutes a brutal, hideous attack on free speech, which is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. A nuke attack? In digital and financial terms, yes, it was a nuke wipeout of Parler.

If you don’t know what I just referenced, then you live in an information-contaminated silence zone—with Amazon the likely silencing system.

I urge you to escape the destructive silence.

Unlike North Korea, Amazon didn’t threaten a nuke attack on free speech. Amazon just did.

We return to the Korean peninsula. The physical devastation of North Korean nuclear weapons is a threat to life in East Asia and North America, and a threat to the global economy, as nuking South Korea, Japan, the United States—aye, China—would murder millions and cause a global economic depression.

Alas, billionaires like Bezos, Amazon’s tech and marketing white-guy genius and biggest shareholder, would likely sleaze through the nuclear economic wreckage.

Maybe. Mr. Bezos—may I call you Jeff? Jeff, listen to me, even though I’m a Republican. Silicon Valley, California, is on Kim’s target list, just like Austin, Texas, where Samsung has its Western Hemisphere lab and where I live.

Kim hates Samsung because it’s a free-enterprise success.

Amazon is a free-enterprise success.

Jeff, bubba. Free enterprise is directly connected to freedom of speech. Check Tom Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Adam Smith—super-genius dead white guys.

Shutting down Parler, Jeff, which you did via a corporate cutout (Amazon), tells me you don’t think of the U.S. Constitution as your protector. Do you really think sucking up to a Democratic Congress and administration will protect your corporate bottom line?

See 1938 and appeasement with Nazi Germany. Did suck-up Neville Chamberlain buy peace in his time?

Back to North Korea: Jeff, play it safe and build a bunker in the Falkland Islands. Check the range of North Korean missiles. In the Falklands, you hunker in a South Atlantic British territory, safe from all but a lucky Kim intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) hit. Plus, you’ve access to courts that more or less protect human rights and your bank accounts. Don’t sweat the Argentines; they don’t have nukes. And you can buy their leaders off with $3 billion or $4 billion.

Don’t you dare argue that one. Look at what the Chinese did with Hunter Biden for a few measly million. You and your pals squelched the Biden corruption info before the election, but, Jeff, it’s a blackmail dagger at the throat of President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

We return to Kim Jong Un, Little Rocket Man.

In 2021, it appears Kim doesn’t know quite what to do. President Donald Trump’s coercive diplomacy put him in a bind. Trump told Kim he should seek condos, not craters. The concept dazzled him. My theory: Kim likes knockout lookers, just like you do, Jeff. And lookers like condos with swimming pools, not bloody craters.

Oh, yes, the wire service evidence. At the Workers’ Party Congress in early January, Kim acknowledged North Korea faces multiple crises. He said he intends to expand his nuclear arsenal. But, Jeff, Kim’s lost.

North Korea faces a COVID-19 crisis. It is also totally broke. But between you and me, Jeff, he knows Beijing has blackmail goods on Joe Biden.

It’s a guess, Jeff. Go ahead; kick me off your servers.

Austin Bay is a colonel (ret.) in the U.S. Army Reserve, author, syndicated columnist, and teacher of strategy and strategic theory at the University of Texas–Austin. His latest book is “Cocktails from Hell: Five Wars Shaping the 21st Century.”


Is Trump Really Ready to Negotiate?

You- and Trump -may not like history, but there it is.
5/3/2018 WSJ. By Jay Winik

How risky is the proposed summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un? As America’s greatest modern presidents have found, summitry is an inherently high-stakes gamble. No matter how well scripted, events can take on a life of their own—or go dangerously awry. In negotiations, Mr. Trump is known for making snap decisions that amount to seismic policy shifts. It’s unclear whether this unpredictability would work in Washington’s favor or Pyongyang’s. Worse still, could a failed summit chill relations, or even propel the two sides to arms? If Mr. Trump looks to history, he will find it instructive. High-profile summits involve protocol and posturing, but they also invariably have epic, if not unexpected, consequences. Consider the Yalta Conference, the meeting of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin in the waning days of World War II. Churchill had a fever of 102, while Roosevelt’s health had failed so dramatically that onlookers gave the president “six months to live.”

The summit sprawled over eight days, replete with morning meetings among various ministers and military chiefs, afternoon meetings of the big three leaders, and private discussions over meals. Roosevelt tried to improvise, but his legendary diplomatic skills failed him. At one point he gave a nearly incoherent speech about the Germany he had known as a boy, which bore no resemblance to Hitler’s Third Reich. FDR had not read his briefing books “as much as he should have,” one State Department adviser later recalled. Instead the president had naively believed his personality would win over Stalin.

Yalta produced major agreements for the eventual four-way occupation of Berlin, German reparations for the Soviets, and the formation of the United Nations. But as the war’s victors divided the spoils, Roosevelt capitulated to Stalin on the pressing issue of Poland. Reluctant to court confrontation with Soviet troops on the ground, FDR acquiesced— over Churchill’s heated objections—to Stalin’s demand for a Soviet-aligned Polish government. This effectively handed the Poles from one master, the Germans, to another, the Soviets.

Roosevelt also gave in to Stalin’s demand that all the buffer nations in Eastern Europe be “friendly” toward Moscow, planting the seeds of the Cold War. FDR’s reputation has since been dogged by charges that he “sold out” to the Soviets. In truth, the U.S. had a weaker military hand in Eastern Europe. FDR had no coherent strategy for overcoming that disadvantage, and he refused to jeopardize the gains he had made elsewhere.

Things went little better in 1961, when an untested and charismatic new president, John F. Kennedy, traveled to Vienna to meet with Nikita Khrushchev. An overconfident Kennedy brazenly thought he could charm the old Soviet. He couldn’t. Instead, a well-rehearsed Khrushchev berated Kennedy with accusations that the U.S. had been supporting anti-Soviet forces in Europe and Cuba. Kennedy was put on his heels. Far from laying the groundwork for better relations, Kennedy’s uncertain performance convinced Khrushchev he could get away with placing Soviet nuclear weapons in Cuba, touching off the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Kennedy, who took it personally, admitted to a reporter after the Khrushchev summit that it was the “roughest thing in my life.” He was so upset by his performance that he pounded the inside of the car door when he departed the Soviet Embassy.

Overconfidence by one side was also decisive at the 1986 meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland. For much of the decade, the American and Soviet superpowers had escalated their arms race. They came to Reykjavik for an informal prep meeting, hoping to lay the groundwork for more extensive talks in Washington.

Mr. Gorbachev shrewdly departed from the script and sought to woo Reagan with a full list of specific proposals for arms control. Reagan didn’t flinch; he and his team had come prepared. The two leaders went so far as to discuss eliminating all nuclear weapons, but then Mr. Gorbachev insisted on imposing limits on research into missile-defense technology.

Reagan refused to budge on that point. Instead he walked away from what he thought was a bad deal. Yet far from finger-pointing, he continued to have a warm relationship with Mr. Gorbachev. Critics charged the impromptu negotiations were dangerous—contemplating the elimination of nuclear weapons without adequate study. They also called the talks a failure, since no agreements were made. Reykjavik, however, set the stage for a far-reaching U.S.-Soviet arms agreement in the future, as well as the historic thawing of the Cold War.

In all this history, there are some clear lessons for Mr. Trump as he sits down with North Korea’s leader. First, always expect the unexpected. Second, resist bad deals. Third, come prepared. Trying to rely on your personality and charm to win over a malleable opponent is a recipe for disaster; it failed not only Roosevelt in Yalta, but also Kennedy in Vienna— and Mr. Gorbachev in Reykjavik. By contrast, having a broad strategy, sticking to principles, and refusing to waver from the bottom line secured Eastern Europe for Stalin, emboldened Khrushchev, and helped Reagan win the Cold War.

When assessing the hazards and opportunities, it is also crucial to consider Mr. Trump’s personality and negotiating approach. Thus far he has been sure-footed on North Korea. But along with his many strengths, he can be thin-skinned and susceptible to flattery. He makes feuds personal and sometimes promises one thing yet does another. These instincts could be counterproductive with an adversary like Mr. Kim, who is not a congressional committee chairman but the dictatorial head of a bellicose nuclear state. Mr. Trump must not lose sight of this. Kennedy effectively did with Khrushchev and paid the price. Reagan didn’t with Mr. Gorbachev and reaped the rewards.

Having rolled the dice, the president will surely make history with Mr. Kim. But whether the North Korean summit will be remembered as a breakthrough or disaster is now up to Mr. Trump.


Let Calm and Cool Trump ‘Fire and Fury’

Agree that people have not changed, even if the speed of the world has. Pres. Trump needs to PAY ATTENTION.
WSJ 8/12/2017

‘North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”— President Trump Tuesday “During the Cuban Missile Crisis we stood behind JFK. This is analogous to the Cuban Missile Crisis. We need to come together.”—Sebastian Gorka, a White House national-security aide, on “Fox & Friends,” Wednesday What is happening with North Korea is not analogous to what happened in 1962, except for the word crisis. Fifty-five years ago was a different age with vastly different players and dynamics. We all mine the past to make our points, but Mr. Gorka’s evoking of the Cuban crisis to summon political support is intellectually cheap and self-defeating.

The Soviet Union and Cuba were trying to hide what they had—offensive missiles in Cuba. Kim Jong Un enjoys showing what he has and taunting the world with it. President Kennedy gave great and grave attention to reassuring a nation and world understandably alarmed by nuclear brinkmanship. Does Mr. Trump? Not in the least.

The current crisis is Mr. Trump’s responsibility but not his fault. His three predecessors attempted, without success, to defang North Korea. How Mr. Trump handles it is his responsibility, and one hopes will not be his fault.

More now even than in 1962—especially when the central players are talking so loud and so big—a great threat is of miscalculation, of misunderstanding a signal or overreacting to some chance event or mishap.

In that area, at least, there are useful lessons to be drawn from ’62. In that crisis, Kennedy was verbally careful. He never popped off, because he knew words had power and how they will be received is not always perfectly calculable. He knew he could not use language— fire and fury— that invited thoughts of nuclear war.

He knew that precisely because you are a nuclear power, you can’t make nuclear threats. A thing too easily referred to will lose its horrifying mystique, its taboo. So don’t go there when you speak, or allow people to think you’re going there.

Kennedy tried for a kind of de-escalating clarity, except when he went for a de-escalating vagueness. He famously called his blockade of Cuba a “quarantine,” because a blockade is a military action and a quarantine is— well, whatever you think it is. He worked hard with aides on public statements, hammering out each phrase. He sometimes used dire language— we don’t want “the fruits of victory” to become “ashes in our mouths”—but he knew who he was up against, a Soviet premier whom he’d met in summit, and whose understanding of such messages could be at least roughly gauged.

In Nikita Khrushchev Mr. Kennedy was up against a rational player. America and the Soviet Union had settled into a long Cold War. Our strategy was Mutually Assured Destruction, but the reigning assumption was that neither side would deliberately launch, because we weren’t evil and they weren’t crazy.

We can’t assume that now. It is not clear Mr. Trump is up against a rational player. He must therefore ask if inflammatory language is more likely to provoke than inform.

Some thought Kennedy, at 45, too young and immature for his job, but few thought him crazy, nor was Mr. Khrushchev’s reputation that of a madman. More than half the world at this point would see Kim Jong Un as mad, and some significant number might view Mr. Trump similarly. Thus the current high anxiety, and the need from America for calm, cool logic, not emotionalism.

Many are relieved Mr. Trump is, in this crisis, surrounded by experienced and accomplished generals such as Jim Mattis, John Kelly and H.R. McMaster. Kennedy, on the other hand, viewed some of his generals as hard-liners reliving World War II, men who hadn’t come to terms with the lethal reality of the nuclear age. After a back-and-forth with Gen. Curtis LeMay, Kennedy was quoted in the Oval Office saying his generals had at least one thing going for them: “If we listen to them and do what they want us to do, none of us will be alive later to tell

them that they were wrong.” (This is from Richard Reeves’s excellent history “President Kennedy, Profile of Power.”) The general public now, however, would see Mr. Trump’s generals as the reliables, the dependables, the sophisticates of the administration. It would be good if they could become the American face—and voice— of this crisis.

Some elements that helped resolve the Cuban crisis peacefully could probably never happen now.

JFK himself called the publisher of the New York Times, the president of the Washington Post and the owner of Time magazine to request pledges of cooperation and discretion. All agreed. He filled in his Republican predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, on the plan to blockade Cuba. “Whatever you do,” said Eisenhower, “you will have my support.”

Before his Oval Office speech announcing the blockade, JFK briefed congressional leaders of both parties with complete confidence. Military aircraft were sent for some of them. Mr. Reeves notes House Majority Whip Hale Boggs of Louisiana was fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. “A military helicopter found Boggs, dropping a note to him in a bottle. ‘Call Operator 18, Washington. Urgent message from the president.’ ” Ten days into the crisis, the president asked his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to meet privately with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Dobrynin. The purpose was to make sure the Russians understood the gravity with which the Americans were approaching their decisions; they didn’t want the U.S. position misunderstood. Both men were tired, and Dobrynin at one point thought RFK was near tears. The U.S. military, he told the ambassador, was pressing hard to invade Cuba. The president would have to agree if Khrushchev didn’t take the missiles out now. Dobrynin said he didn’t know if the Politburo, deeply committed to its position, would back down. They were both telling the truth and lying. RFK was putting it all on the military, Dobrynin on the Politburo, but both were under pressure.

It was a private, high-stakes meeting held, successfully, in secret. Notes were not leaked.

Could any of this happen now?

Parenthetically, Dobrynin did not have a reliable telephone or telegraph connection with the Kremlin. To transmit a summary of his crucial conversation, he called Western Union. A young man, “came by on a bicycle to pick up the telegram,” Mr. Reeves recounts. “Dobrynin watched him pedal away, figuring that if he stopped for a Coca-Cola or to see his girlfriend, the world might blow up.”

Actually, it was lucky the players in the Cuban crisis lived in a slower, balkier world. They had time to think, to create strategy and response. The instantaneous world—our world—is so much more dangerous.

Lessons from the Cuban Missile Crisis? Crises have a million moving pieces and need a central shepherd to keep track of them, to keep a government focused. Real-time decisions made under pressure need to be not only logical but logically defensible. And it’s wise to keep the temperature as low as possible, especially when things turn hot.

The Cuban Missile Crisis came at a less dangerous time, and involved less dangerous men.