Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thoughts on Strategy for the Korean Peninsula

My remarks last week at the Institute for Corean-American Studies (ICAS) conference on The Korean Peninsula Issues and United States National Security.

Thoughts on Strategy for the Korean Peninsula

David S.Maxwell
Georgetown University


Let me just begin with a few framing remarks:

We have successfully deterred a resumption of hostilities by the north for 64 years and I believe we have to continue to deter for as long as it takes until we resolve the security problem on the peninsula. We should keep in mind the wise words of Sir Lawrence Freedman who said "Deterrence works, until it doesn't." 

A Strategic Planning and Preparation Paralysis arises from a fear of what comes next - how to navigate through the War/Collapse Paradox.

In 1998, Dr. Kurt Campbell when he was the DASD for East Asia Pacific affairs made the astute remark:
"There are only two ways to approach planning for the collapse of North Korea: to be ill-prepared or to be really ill-prepared." 

Sun Tzu wrote "never assume the enemy will not attack, make yourself invincible." - The Collapse Corollary is: Never assume the KFR will not collapse - prepare now even though we cannot predict if and when. We should realize that collapse will be catastrophic.

Lastly, we suffer from the tyranny of proximity - the range of north Korean artillery threat to the Greater Seoul Metropolitan Area. This restricts our policy options and strategy.

Here is the Problem: There is no US and ROK comprehensive strategy to solve the "Korea Question" and address the full spectrum of threats caused by the existence of the Kim Family Regime (KFR).

We must answer these Key Questions: What do we want to achieve in Korea? What is the acceptable durable political arrangement on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia that will serve and protect ROK and US interests?

For any strategy you must make assumptions when you do not have all the facts but must continue planning. You continue to use the assumptions until they are proven as facts. And if the assumptions prove false or erroneous then you must adapt your plans and strategy based on the new facts. Since Korea is such a hard case I feel it is necessary to list fifteen assumptions that drive my strategic thinking.


Assumptions:

(Continued at the link below)

http://www.icasinc.org/2017/2017f/2017fdsm.html

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What Would War With North Korea Look Like?

At the link is a 23 minute BBC radio program called The Inquiry which features Su Mi Terry (Part One), yours truly (Part Two), Bruce Bechtol (Part Three), and Balbina Hwang (Part Four) in which we describe the first Korean War, how the war will resume, how it will be fought, and what will be the aftermath.

What Would War With North Korea Look Like?

Alarm about North Korea has spiked. Earlier this month, the North claimed to have successfully test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit Alaska. Some experts estimate that North Korea is now 18 to 36 months away from launching a missile able to reach Los Angeles.
President Trump has warned that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea is possible. His closest advisers have said that “the era of strategic patience is over”.
So, in this week’s Inquiry, we take a look at the two sides’ war plans and ask: what would war with North Korea look like?
Producer: Sarah Shebbeare
Presenter: Neal Razzell
(image: A combined fire demonstration of the North Korean People’s Army celebrating their 85th anniversary on 26 April 2017. Credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

ISIS in Mindanao: A Threat to the U.S.?

ISIS in Mindanao: A Threat to the U.S.?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017
We should be clear: Mindanao is not Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan.  We cannot approach a province of our longest standing treaty ally the same way we do in Syria or any of the other 18 or so countries to which the ISIS virus as spread.
As ISIS nears defeat in Syria and Iraq it is trying to keep its ideology alive by spreading to other countries where it is taking advantage of conditions of political resistance that weaken governments and provide safe havens for training, recruiting, and eventual resurrection of its quest for the Caliphate.  This is what appears to have attracted ISIS to Mindanao.  The attraction  is mutual, as threat groups such as the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the Maute Group have embraced the ISIS ideology to enhance their legitimacy and gain recruits, resources, and respect.  
Does this phenomenon in the Philippines and its neighboring countries pose a significant security threat to the U.S. that requires a U.S. military response?
Appreciate the Context
While the ISIS presence makes the headlines, it is important to remember that the Philippines and its neighbors are sovereign nations that are established, relatively stable, and advanced  compared to Syria and other ISIS locales.  However, the Philippines face myriad threats that complicate the security situation.  These range from the external threat of China and the territorial dispute to the existential threat posed by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP) and the New Peoples Army (NPA) which seek to overthrow the government.  President Duterte's drug war also garners much of the headlines. 
In Mindanao, in addition to the NPA, there is the continued friction with rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) despite the 1996 peace agreement that established the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.  There are the terrorist groups of the ASG and the Indonesian based Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).  There are also clan conflicts (ridos) and sometimes-violent competition among local political groups.  Lastly, among the major threats, there is the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that seeks return of its ancestral domain and has nearly reached a peace agreement with the government though it has not been fully implemented. 
These conflicts together pose a serious challenge to the central government and regional structures, and this leads to sanctuary within Mindanao that allows various groups to survive and thrive.  Although there is no unified resistance to the central government, the widespread but disparate political resistance creates a cauldron that breeds political violence that ISIS has begun to exploit.
Understand the Problem
The nature of the problem is not solely a security threat.  Although the Marawi siege with the Maute Group is a lightning rod that brings focus on ISIS, it is only a symptom of the underlying problem.  It is a Philippine problem and a problem that can only be solved in the long term by the Philippine government at the national, provincial, and local levels.
To illustrate this, I will share one anecdote.  In 2007, I participated in a meeting with US diplomats and MILF leadership in their headquarters in Cotobato.  The purpose of the meeting was to express US support of the ongoing peace process and inform the MILF that a peace agreement will bring US support to the MILF just as  USAID did in 1996 for the MNLF when it signed the peace agreement.  The MILF leadership was quite clear that while they appreciated all the development support the U.S. and the international community would provide, if their political problems were not addressed and solved by the Philippine government, their insurgency would continue.
This can be applied to most of the threats in Mindanao.  The political problems that exist, from the national to the province to the barangay or village level are exploited by groups who seek to use political resistance and political violence to develop their own political power. 
The U.S. executed Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines (OEF-P) under the authority of the 2001 AUMF which limited U.S. support to the security forces only conducting operations against Al Qaeda-linked organizations which at the time were the ASG and the JI. As described, the problems in the Philippines go beyond AQ, just as they go beyond ISIS.  It is a problem when the U.S. myopically focuses on a narrow threat that is only in its interests and does not take a holistic approach to the broader challenges faced by its ally.
While ISIS does not pose a direct threat to the U.S. from Mindanao, the political and security problems of the Philippines can serve as an incubator to allow the ISIS threat and others to metastasize and spread throughout the region.  If left unchecked it could use Mindanao as a sanctuary to rest, refit, and train new recruits.  It could exploit the maritime routes to move extremists to new targets of opportunity when it is ready to strike again.  At the very least, ISIS can use Mindanao to keep its ideology alive so that it one day can regain strength to attempt to re-establish its Caliphate somewhere.
Develop an Approach
How should the U.S. respond to the emergence of the ISIS threat in Mindanao?
First, the Philippine government must request additional support.  Despite the end of OEF-P in 2015 the U.S. has continued to provide security assistance in the Philippines to include advice and assistance with the ongoing siege in Marawi. 
Second, just as in OEF-P in 2001 it must conduct a thorough assessment of the situation in complete coordination with the Philippine military that will lead to a combined campaign plan that will integrate US support to the security forces.  The assessment will assist the Philippine government in determining the acceptable durable political arrangement necessary to stabilize the region.  This will also ensure that Philippine and U.S. interests are sufficiently aligned.
Third, the American Embassy in 2006 coined the phrase "Diplomacy, Development, and Defense" (3D) and as in 2006 the effort needs to be holistic and led by the Chief of Mission to ensure full U.S. interagency support to the Philippines.  A military only or military led mission is insufficient.  The approach must focus on assisting the Philippines more broadly than simply combatting ISIS.  It must support Philippine development and political solutions as well as security.
Fourth, the U.S. should act as part of a coalition of friends, partners, and allies.  Recent reports indicate that Australia has made the largest financial commitment to the situation in Marawi, along with the U.S. Japan, Thailand, and the EU.  China has provided the fifth largest contribution with the bulk for medical support of soldiers wounded in Marawi.  Although there are complexities that come with this approach, working as part of a coalition will minimize the focus on the U.S. and allow for greater and more effective support to the Philippines rather than the U.S. being the sole focal point for political opponents.
Fifth, the U.S. must use the right tools and forces for the mission from the capabilities of USAID to the appropriate military advisory forces from across the spectrum to include civil affairs and psychological operations as well as special forces who have developed decades long relationships with members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.  These forces are well suited for operating "without being in charge" as they recognize that this is a Philippine problem and a Philippine fight.  This is not "leading from behind."  This is the appropriate understanding of the relationship between U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) and host nation forces in a sovereign nation.
A consideration for any support provided cannot be narrowly focused on ISIS and most certainly cannot use a similar approach as the U.S. has used in Syria and Iraq.  On the one hand, the challenges are bigger than ISIS, so the support to the Philippines must be broader.  On the other, a myopic focus on ISIS will enhance its legitimacy and provide fuel for growth.  It should be treated as a symptom and not the disease in the Philippines.  This must be an important theme in a supporting information and influence activities campaign.
In conclusion, ISIS is a growing global threat that is seeking to sustain itself for the long term even as it appears on the verge of defeat in Syria and Iraq.  It will exploit local political conditions in countries where it can find sanctuary so that it can live to fight another day.  However, in the Philippines, ISIS is only one security challenge.  The U.S., if requested, can provide advice and assistance to support a 3D approach  - diplomacy, development, and defense - that can reduce the ISIS threat by supporting Philippine political solutions.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

​15 assumptions about the behavior of North Korea’s Kim Family Regime (KFR)

These were written a couple of months ago (after the ROK/US Presidential Summit in June).

​15 assumptions about the behavior of North Korea’s Kim Family Regime (KFR)

By David Maxwell
Best Defense guest columnist
  1. The KFR will not give up its nuclear and missile programs.
  2. China and Russia will not solve the Korean Question or force the KFR to give up its nuclear and missile programs.
  3. China and Russia will exploit KFR threats to undermine U.S. credibility and split the ROK/U.S. alliance.
  4. A preemptive strike will not be able to eliminate the KFR nuclear and missile threats.
  5. A preemptive strike will result in a catastrophic response from the north.
  6. Survival of the KFR remains the vital national interest to the north, thus it can be deterred from catastrophic attack.
  7. The regime will not trust any security guarantee by the United States and will not waver from the belief that the United States seeks the end of the KFR.
  8. Sanctions do not help the problem without enforcement by China and the international community.
  9. KFR global illicit activities provide hard currency to support the regime and nuclear and missile programs
  10. The north will only submit to unification if the KFR remains in power.
  11. The north is prepared to achieve unification by coercion of the ROK or force.
  12. The most important deterrent to resuming hostilities by north Korea is to sustain the illusion that the Kim family regime will continue to survive.
  13. Policy of the Trump and Moon administrations are mostly in accord re: NK and should remain constant — both agree to (1) pursue denuclearization of North Korea in a peaceful manner — i.e., without seeking ‘regime change’; (2) to the use of sanctions/pressure as diplomatic tools; (3) and to supporting South Korea’s lead role in re-opening interKorean dialogue
  14. Emboldened by the above, President Moon Jae-in will doggedly pursue the policy tenets and principles that support his new Berlin Doctrine.
  15. The only way we are going to see an end to the nuclear program and threats and to the crimes against humanity being committed against the Korean people living in the north by the mafia-like crime family cult known as the Kim family regime is through achievement of unification and the establishment of a United Republic of Korea that is secure and stable, nonnuclear, economically vibrant, and unified under a liberal constitutional form of government determined by the Korean people.
David S. Maxwell is the associate director of the Center for Security Studies and Security Studies Program in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.  He is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel with five tours in Korea. 
Photo credit: KCNA/AFP/Getty Images

Thursday, August 31, 2017

North Korea: Why do they want nukes? | In 60 seconds

Everyone should take sixty seconds and watch this video from Nick Eberstadt.  Please go to this link to watch the video.  There is more information packed into this video than you will read in all the newspapers and scholarly writing in the next week.  You will understand not only what they want nukes, how they conduct provocations, and why, the weakness of the alliance they seek to exploit and ultimately the design of regime's strategy for victory.  If we could understand what is presented in these 60 seconds we could devise a strategy to counter the regime's and achieve our strategic objectives.



August 28, 2017
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North Korea: Why do they want nukes? | In 60 seconds
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Throughout the Cold War, the United States and Russia stockpiled nuclear weapons as a deterrent to one another. Does North Korea have the same motive? AEI’s Nicholas Eberstadt argues that Kim Jong-un is making nukes with the intention to use them for a political checkmate.

·       North Korea

Sunday, July 30, 2017

We Need a Radical New Approach on North Korea

I strongly disagree with ending the "one Korea policy" As Jay Lefkowitz argues.  I would submit that we have had a "one Korea policy" in name only and only paid lip service to it over the past 6+ decades.  We have never really pursed a strategy to support the unification of the Peninsula which of course requires a long term integrated strategy with the US supporting the ROK in achieving unification.  Despite our rhetoric we have de facto supported two Koreas from recognizing the DPRK as a member of the United Nations to conducting direct negotiations (Agreed Framework and others) to maintaining back channel communications (the New York Channel and multiple track 1.5 talks). And of course de facto recognition of the two Koreas is exemplified by the 6 party talks.  And I will not even go into the details of negotiating with the regime and how it has undermined or broken every agreement made with the ROK, US and the international community.  (And note that his argument may be undercut by reports that President Moon is calling for deploying the additional THAAD launchers and developing organic ROK offensive missiles and increasing the range of current systems).

I also think that the Kim Family Regime's actions may also indicate another facet of its strategy that I have not recognized in the past. In addition to its standard blackmail diplomacy - conduct provocations to gain political and economic concessions (and also conduct provocations to support internal regime/domestic politics)  I think the regime's actions are designed for immediate effect and to draw immediate responses from the US in particular but the international community in general so that policy makers and strategists cannot design and implement long term policies and strategies.  American and international politics demand immediate responses to north Korea provocations and the regime understands this.  The regime continues to create dilemmas for the ROK, US and international community and take away the ability to have the initiative for a long term strategy.

At the risk of beating a dead horse here is what I have written before (and below the article I have pasted some additional details and links.

I would like to see the development of a holistic strategy for Korea and Northeast Asia as part of a new American Grand Strategy.  We cannot have policy and strategy focus on a single north Korean threat but instead must develop policy and strategy that will ultimately solve the "Korea Question" (which comes from paragraph 60 of the 1953 Armistice that recognized that the only solution on the Korean peninsula was through unification and resolution of the "Korea Question.") The Korean portion of the grand strategy would recognize and focus on the "Big 5" for the Korean peninsula:

    1. War - must deter, and if attacked defend, fight and win.
    2. Regime Collapse - must prepare for the real possibility and understand it could lead to war and both war and regime collapse could result in resistance within the north.
    3. Human Rights and Crimes Against Humanity - (gulags, external forced labor, etc) must focus on as it is a threat to the Kim Family Regime and undermines domestic legitimacy - and it is a moral imperative.
    4. Asymmetric threats (provocations, nuclear program, missile, cyber, and SOF) and global illicit activities.
    5. Unification - the biggest challenge and the solution.

The bottom line is that the only way we are going to see an end the nuclear program and threats and to the crimes against humanity being committed against the Korean people living in the north by the mafia-like crime family cult known as the Kim Family Regime is through achievement of unification and the establishment of a United Republic of Korea(UROK) that is secure and stable, non-nuclear, economically vibrant, and unified under a liberal constitutional form of government determined by the Korean people.

Until we develop a strategy that allows us to cope, contain, and manage the Kim Family Regime (which must include a strategic strangulation campaign to cut off resources that support the regime elite and fund the nuclear and missile programs) while we pursue long term, integrated, and cohesive actions that focuses on the above strategic aim we will continue to be in the reactionary mode while the Kim Family Regime maintains the initiative.

Excerpt:

What is needed is a drastic change in our approach to the Korean Peninsula. Specifically, we should abandon our “One Korea” policy, long embraced by Republicans and Democrats. It’s no longer realistic or viable.

We Need a Radical New Approach on North Korea

With its latest provocation — a ballistic missile launch in the direction of Japan — North Korea is reminding Washington that its boast of having weapons capable of reaching the “heart of the United States” may not remain propaganda for much longer. The threat from Pyongyang should be one of President Trump’s most urgent priorities.
Yet so far, despite the White House’s sharp rhetoric about how North Korea will not be allowed to continue its nuclear program and how China must bring North Korea in line, Mr. Trump’s policy appears to be as ineffectual as those of his predecessors. The proof? With every missile launch, the North moves incrementally closer to having a delivery system for its nuclear arsenal that can reach Seattle and San Francisco.
What is needed is a drastic change in our approach to the Korean Peninsula. Specifically, we should abandon our “One Korea” policy, long embraced by Republicans and Democrats. It’s no longer realistic or viable.
North Korean soldiers, rear, looking south at a photo op among officials commemorating the signing of the Korean War Armistice agreement. Credit Pool photo by Jung Yeon-JePhoto by: Pool Jung Yeon-Je
Ever since the cease-fire that halted the Korean War in 1953 and maintained the border between what became North and South Korea along the 38th parallel, the official stance of the United States has been to support a unification of the peninsula under the leadership of its close ally, South Korea. This, of course, is anathema to China, which more than anything else wants to reduce the influence of the United States in Asia.
Under no circumstances will China tolerate what it sees as a client state of the United States (and a vibrant free-market democracy) on its most porous border. The reality on the ground, as difficult as it may be for the Trump administration to stomach, is that despite America’s great military and economic might, it has very limited influence over North Korea. China, on the other hand, has substantial influence over the North: More than two-thirds of North Korea’s trade is with China. The reality is that the path to resolving the North Korea crisis goes through China.
The challenge for Mr. Trump is to find a way to persuade the Chinese that a regime change in North Korea — or, at the very least, serious containment of its nuclear ambitions — is actually in China’s best interest. Short of such a strategy, the president is left with two options, neither of which is practical: He can use force to decapitate the Kim regime on his own, or he can escalate America’s presence in the region by increasing the number of American troops and moving short-range missiles into South Korea and Japan to have an effective response to a first strike from Pyongyang.
The former option would destabilize the region and cause millions of North Koreans to seek refuge in South Korea and China. The latter option faces serious political obstacles. First, China’s foreign ministry spokesman made clear in June that any uptick in United States military presence in the region would “severely damage China’s security interests and undermine the regional strategic balance.” Second, Moon Jae-in, the newly elected president of South Korea, is vocal in his opposition to the installation of the THAAD (terminal high altitude area defense) antimissile defense system that the Pentagon has sought to deploy in South Korea.
So what can Mr. Trump do? The worst possible outcome would be for him to sit back, as some of his predecessors have done, proclaiming ever more red lines as North Korea methodically tests missile after missile. Eventually — and perhaps imminently — the Kim regime will develop a successful ballistic delivery system for its growing nuclear arsenal. And that will present a grave threat to Americans, not just those living in Alaska.
The right option, though painful, is to negotiate with China. Diplomacy is all about carrots and sticks. And the time is right to offer China a real carrot by making clear that our aim is no longer a unified peninsula. A major benefit of abandoning our “One Korea” policy is that if China does not reign in the Kim regime even after the United States assuages China’s concerns about American influence, the United States will then be on much stronger footing in resorting to sticks, such as unilaterally increasing its military presence in the region and deploying a missile defense system, much like Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s when he announced he would put missiles in Britain, Italy and Germany to send a message to the Soviet Union. Moreover, despite paying lip service to unification of the peninsula for reasons of nationalism, it isn’t clear that most South Koreans really want to absorb more than 20 million North Koreans into their nation. So a reversal of American policy could well lead to greater regional stability.
We should hope that the time doesn’t come when the United States has no alternative other than to challenge North Korea militarily. It’s not that Washington lacks the power to do so effectively. It’s that military action, as we have seen over the last two decades, brings with it unforeseen and often problematic collateral consequences. But diplomacy is ineffective when it is untethered from a realistic assessment of the needs and interests of all the relevant parties. And that is what has plagued recent administrations. If the United States finally wants to start making progress in its effort to combat more than a decade of nuclear expansion by North Korea, it has to start by dropping a cornerstone of its Korea policy.
Additional thoughts:

Assumptions:

1.  The KFR will not give up its nuclear and missile programs.
2.  China and Russia will not solve the Korean Question or force the KFR to give up its nuclear and missile programs.
3.  China and Russia will exploit KFR threats to undermine US credibility and split the ROK/US Alliance.
4.  A pre-emptive strike will not be able to eliminate the KFR nuclear and missile threats.
5.  A pre-emptive strike will result in a catastrophic response from the north.
6.  Survival of the KFR remains the vital national interest to the north, thus it can be deterred from catastrophic attack.
7.  The regime will not trust any security guarantee by the US and will not waver from the belief that the US seeks the end of the KFR.
8.  Sanctions do not help the problem without enforcement by China and the international community.
9.  KFR global illicit activities provide hard currency to support the regime and nuclear and missile programs
10.  The north will only submit to unification if the KFR remains in power.
11.  The north is prepared to achieve unification by coercion of the ROK or force.
12.  The most important deterrent to resuming hostilities by north Korea is to sustain the illusion that the Kim Family Regime will continue to survive.
13. Policy of the Trump and Moon administrations are mostly in accord re: NK and should remain constant — both agree to (1) pursue denuclearization of North Korea in a peaceful manner—i.e., without seeking ‘regime change’; (2) to the use of sanctions/pressure as diplomatic tools; (3) and to supporting South Korea’s lead role in re-opening inter-Korean dialogue
14. Emboldened by the above, President Moon Jae-in will doggedly pursue the policy tenets and principles that support his new Berlin Doctrine.
15. The only way we are going to see an end to the nuclear program and threats and to the crimes against humanity being committed against the Korean people living in the north by the mafia-like crime family cult known as the Kim family regime is through achievement of unification and the establishment of a United Republic of Korea that is secure and stable, non-nuclear, economically vibrant, and unified under a liberal constitutional form of government determined by the Korean people.

8 Contingencies
1. Provocations to gain political and economic concessions.
2. nK Attack – execution of the nK campaign plan to reunify the peninsula by force.
3. Civil War/Chaos/Anarchy.
4. Refugee crisis.
5. Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster relief.
6. WMD, loss of control – seize and secure operations.
7. Resistance to foreign intervention (e.g., insurgency).
8. How to handle the nKPA during regime collapse short of war.

3 Guiding Principles:
1.  Defense of ROK is paramount – all decisions must support defense of ROK against the full range of threats from the north.
2.  Must provide options to national policy makers – early decisions required to overcome the law of physics: time, distance, and space.  Must have the right capabilities in the right place for employment at the right time.
3.  Transparency is critical when dealing with the 5 Parties and international community (except for the classified program to support internal resistance).  Must have decisive and consistent themes and messages.  This is not the situation in which we should employ deception.  Only through clear articulation of alliance priorities and intent can we have a chance of reducing the chance of conflict due to misunderstanding of intentions.  Examples for consideration (and these should be consistently expressed by the ROK/US Alliance):
            A.  Defense and Security of ROK is the number one priority.
            B. UNC and ROK/US CFC have the following priorities:
                        (1) Security of nuclear weapons, followed by chemical weapons and then the biological program
                        (2) Security, health, and welfare of the Korean people living in the north.
                        (3) UNC and ROK/US CFC desire to work with all interested nations to bring security, stability and long term peace to the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia.
                        (4) UNC and ROK/US CFC will support the establishment of a unified peninsula – a United Republic of Korea.

7 Steps of Preparation
1. Shared vision – a new durable political arrangement** 
2. Roles & Missions  - national responsibilities for action
3. Organizational Framework for operations  (UNC/ROK/US CFC, independent operations, other)
4. Command, Control, Coordination, and liaison processes & methods (including information sharing)
5. Concept of operations for deploying required forces (air, land, and sea)
6. Resource commitment – which countries provide what
7. And most important  - information/psychological preparation of the environment



1. The previous administration’s policy has been known informally and unofficially as strategic patience.  It rests fundamentally on two pillars:  first is maintaining effective deterrence and being prepared to defend against and defeat a north Korean attack the ROK and second it is focused on causing the Kim Family Regime to give up its nuclear weapons.  In fact all US diplomatic initiatives rest on the condition that the north must show that it is committed to denuclearization.

2.  However, the north has no intention of giving up its nuclear weapons and missile programs.  The regime has rewritten its constitution to name itself a nuclear power.  It believes that nuclear weapons are key to the survival of the Kim Family Regime which is the single vital national interest of north Korea - not survival of the nation state or the prosperity and welfare of the Korean people living in the north.  The regime believes that it must have nuclear weapons to deter the US from attack.  It believes that the US will not attack a nation with nuclear weapons and it looks to the example of Saddam and Qaddafi as to what happens when a nation does not develop nuclear weapons or gives them up (and the Libyan case makes the regime distrust the US more than anything else).  Nuclear weapons are also a key tool as art of its blackmail diplomacy as the threat of use, proliferation, as well as holding out the possibility of talks provides the regime with leverage to use with the US and international community.  Lastly, the regime wants to be recognized as a powerful nation and having nuclear weapons is key to such recognition.

3.  What does the north want?  It has no intention of negotiating away its nuclear weapons program,  It wants to be recognized as nuclear power.  In fact it would like to be so recognized on a par with the Russia, China, the UK, France, US, Pakistan, and India.  It would be willing to negotiate with the US but it wants to do so and focus on limitation and reduction talks in the same pattern as the US-USSR SALT and START negotiations during the Cold War

Whether or not the regime collapses will be a function of the internal dynamics of the regime unless there is a deliberate strategy to conduct "strategic strangulation."  This would require a concerted effort by the international community to deny hard currency and goods to the Kim Family Regime (KFR) through interdiction of all its illicit activities around the world from money laundering to counterfeiting to drug trafficking to sales of military equipment.  If the regime was sufficiently "strangled" and cut off from external support then we might see the conditions rise that could cause regime collapse along the lines of Robert Collin's Seven Phases of Regime Collapse (see Robert Kaplan's 2006 Atlantic article -linked below).  However, I am doubtful that the international community would be supportive of such a strategy.

If hard currency and luxury goods were cut off the regime could lose the support of the elite which could lead to regime collapse.  As we were conducting planning for north Korean instability and collapse in the 1990's we defined regime collapse as the inability of the Kim Family Regime (thought the Korean Workers Party) to "govern from the center" (I.e., Pyongyang) combined with the loss of coherency and support of the military.  Those two conditions can lead to active resistance to the regime, then fracture, and then formation of a new national leadership (or not) - See Robert Collins' Seven Phases of Collapse.

However, when thinking about causing the deliberate collapse of the Kim Family Regime we must keep in mind that the single vital national interest for north Korea is survival of the Kim Family Regime.  Its single strategic objective is to reunify the peninsula under regime control to ensure survival of the KFR.  This means when faced with imminent collapse Kim Jong-un may make the deliberate and from his perspective very rational decision to execute his military campaign plan to reunify the peninsula by force.  This means going to war.  This is why we have to take a holistic approach to the Korean security situation and look at it in terms of what I call the "Big 5." 

An Information Based Strategy to Reduce Korea’s Increasing Threat

Unification Options and Scenarios: Assisting A Resistance

Beyond the Nuclear Crisis: A Strategy for the Korean Peninsula

Should The United States Support Korean Unification And If So, How?

Irregular Warfare on the Korean Peninsula

Information and Influence Campaign in north Korea When, Why, and How?

When North Korea Falls

A Preemptive Strike on North Korea? Does it make sense? What comes after? What comes before?

Thoughts on Strategy for the Korean Peninsula

My remarks last week at the Institute for Corean-American Studies (ICAS) conference on The Korean Peninsula Issues  and United States Natio...