Getting North Korea’s Attention

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The problem with the UN, as Sarkozy suggests, is that it simply cannot respond to threats to peace. As William Pfaff observed in the 1990s, organizations like the UN can actually be “an obstacle to action, by inhibiting individual national action and rationalizing the refusal to act nationally.” The consequence of such inertia is on display in and around North Korea.

North Korea’s behavior demands a response.

The realists will caution that any response should avoid war—and understandably so, given that a full-blown war on the peninsula would devastate South Korea, send shrapnel tearing into Japan, and cost thousands of American lives. Seoul would bear the brunt of Korean War II. With its 10 million citizens, Seoul sits just 25 miles from the DMZ, the northern edge of which is bristling with North Korean weaponry. As former Defense Secretary William Perry explained in 2002, “North Korea deploys more than one million soldiers near the DMZ, and its 11,000 long-range artillery pieces hidden nearby could rain destruction on the South Korean capital.” Gen. Leon LaPorte, the former commander of U.S. forces in Korea, added a chilling footnote in 2005: Every third round fired by North Korean artillery would be a chemical weapon.

In short, now is not the time for a U.S. air strike.

That said, while we strive to avoid a full-blown war—and try telling the families of those killed on Yeonpyeong island and on the Chenoan that this isn’t a war—we need to keep in mind that avoiding war may not be an option due to the kind of regime that rules North Korea.

Whether or not North Korea’s dynastic, decrepit regime wants a war, it’s obvious that it wants attention. We should oblige Kim and his sons, and give them all the attention they could ever hope for.

  • For starters, the U.S. and South Korea should extend the joint naval maneuvers they launched last summer, inviting Australia, Japan, Singapore and other allies to join in.
  • If China doesn’t think the U.S. is serious and continues to allow North Korea to play these deadly games, Washington should play the Tokyo card and declare that the United States recognizes the need for Japan to develop and deploy its own nuclear weapons. In fact, DefenseNews reports that a Japanese government panel recently called on policymakers to be open to lifting bans on “development and possession of nuclear weapons.”
  • Finally, since it appears the North Koreans want an arms race, perhaps the U.S. should give them one and redeploy the nuclear weapons it withdrew from South Korea in 1991. In light of revelations that North Korea has been hiding a secret uranium-enrichment facility, The Financial Times reports that South Korean defense secretary Kim Tae-young has raised the prospect of redeploying U.S. nukes.

The UN hasn’t gotten Pyongyang’s attention for quite a while; perhaps some combination of these forceful but measured and reciprocal responses will.

Alan W. Dowd writes on defense and security.

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  • jacob

    The UN is good only for condemning ISRAEL 24/7/30/365, being as it is in the back pockets of the ARABS…

    But knowing that North Korea's leash is in the hand of Commnist China, if the ANOITED ONE would have any COJONES, should gather his sidekicks in Congress and
    tell CHINA in an unmistakeably way, that it either stops their monkey or not a single MADE IN CHINA nail will enter good old USA without an import tariff of ONE THOUSAND
    per cent… and mean it…

    I dare guarantee results in one (1) hour…..


  • Daniel

    North Korea's actions are simply an extension of Chinese foreign policy. Unfortunately, this makes dealing with this all but impossible since the Chinese own our debt, and could devastate our already weakened economy at any time should it come to conflict. Our leaders do not want the public to know just how precarious our national security situation is. Our only option is to get out of debt, and given our leadership in America, I don't see this happening. Those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it.

  • Wesley69

    The UN is a public forum for discussion and that's about it. It must NEVER be given the power to tax, to create a UN army. (Tax on the use of the seas)

  • Fred Dawes

    The UN Would be on the side of the north , and only one way to deal with evil kill it. and let us not forget the Chinese do in all ways own the North, and if the Rat's in china want the North to attack the south and start the third world war it will happen.

  • Laurence Knoll

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  • Mach1Duck

    I think this solution is too shallow. We are supporting the N. Korean regime by supplying money, oil, food and medical; which the north turns over to their military and the civilains starve. Stop the handout. Secondly the West should stop all N. Korean shipping and impound the ships and crews. This would put the issue on China's doorstep, they would ether have to supply N. Korea with their limited supplies or rein in N. Korea.

  • John

    Israel has an American president, Netanyahu, who understands national security, even though the Wimps of the West don't…we should have such a president! How did we let Netanyahu get away from us? He can even run an airline security system that works and that everyone, except terrorists, likes…no intrusive body searches for them…just an interview that spots terrorists before they detonate anything or anybody…we should be so lucky! I nominate Netanyahu for president in 2012.

  • okrahead

    Leaked letter reveals Obama's special envoy cutting deal with China on Korean peninsula, read it here…