In response to Mr. Armstrong's article and my comments below I received this message reminding us of some important north Korean history with some very good recommendations which many of us have supported over the years to include the emphasis on combined Psychological Operations (now MISO), ending the "transformation" and move of US forces to Camp Humphreys (in reality the dissolution of the ROK/US Combined Forces Command) and reinstitution of Team Spirit. But he makes the important analysis that we have very, very rarely responded to the north with any "sticks." (and even then in 1976 and Operational Paul Bunyan following the axe murders and 2010 following Cheonan and Y-P Do our responses were merely shows of force). So this is a good counter to Mr. Armstrong because while the UN has implemented sanctions we have not used any significant sticks over the the past 6 decades and in fact from the north Korean/Kim Family Regime perspective the list below indicates a pattern of success or at least that the north can get away with murder.
The problem is the world has never tried the stick with north Korea since 27 July 1953. We have only tried diplomacy under all its names - working groups, exchanges, talks, inspections, sanctions, UN recognition, and the list goes on. What the world has never done to north Korea is punch the bully back in nose when he punches, terrorizes, or threatens to punch the other kids on the block. north Korea has done so many things over the years that would have gotten any other nation on the planet the opportunity to feel the full might of the United States military might. And I am not referring to the skirmishes over the years along the DMZ. Perhaps Mr. Armstrong needs a little perspective on the real history of nK?
Who else in the world has taken a US naval vessel in international water and turned it into a museum? Military Response - None.
Who else has held the crew of a US naval vessel for a year? nK! Military Response - None.
Who else has shot down a US recon plane in international airspace? nK! Military Response - None.
Who else has sent a military hit squad to kill the President of our treaty ally? nK! Military Response - None.
Who shot down a US military helicopter? nK! Military Response - None.
Who chased US recon planes in international airspace? nK! Military Response - None.
Who was repeatedly found to be training terrorist such as the PLO in the 1970's? nK. Military Response - None.
Who murdered two American officers in the JSA? nK! Military Response - Operation Paul Bunyan - tree cam down, north Korea fails to live up to their threats to prevent tree coming down. (lesson here?)
Who orders civilian aircraft to be bombed? nK! Military Response - None.
Who ordered a terrorist bombing in Burma trying to kill President of Korea and his cabinet? nK. Military Response - None.
Who starved two million members of his people while spending his money on booze and weapons program? nK! Military Response - None. No Aide like Bosnia, Somalia, Lybia, or Syria.
Who launched an ICBM over a Japan another treaty ally? nK! Military Response - None. Unless you count ceasing PSYOP in 2000 and removal of US BCT in 2003.
Who held a ICBM and Ballistic Missile 4 July Party? nK! Military Response - None. Unless you count the removal of numerous US units from peninsula and the announced reductions in ROK military size.
Who tested Nuclear Weapons? Military Response - None. Sanctions not even to level of India and Pakistan's from their nuclear tests and we carried on with the 6PT. nK! Military Response - None. Unless you count more US units leaving.
Who makes fake US currency and weakens the dollar world wide and disrupts currency exchange throughout asia? nK. Military Response - None.
Who sank a allied military vessel of a MDT partner? nK! Military Response - None!
Who shelled an island killing military and civilians? nK! Military Response - None
It seems in reviewing history, one should reach the conclusion is that diplomacy has been the problem because the north believes that the military option doesn't exist for the United States or our allies because we are too scared of the risks of war. We are too scared that nK can shell Seoul and kill millions in a few hours. Thus they believe all we can do is negotiate and talk to them. We have nothing backing up our diplomacy.
In their eyes, we have no stick at all. And that is the problem. You can negotiate when you have no leverage. A nation and regime that has already demonstrated they will starve millions of their own people to maintain power will not be scared by a few more sanctions. When your economy is as dismal as their there is no real effect. They can smuggle what they need to remain in control and keep the loyal class fat, dumb, and happy
Maybe the time has come to dicard the failed diplomacy path and stand up to the north.
Here are a few easy things we can due to show we are prepared to conduct military operations if needed:
1) In response to their inference to the renouncing the 1992 accord, announce that the U.S. is returning nuclear weapons to Korea and will assist Japan and the ROK in developing their own nuclear weapons programs. Furthermore, announce that the US nuclear policy is being revised and we will return to our pre-1992 positions that we reserve the right to conduct a pre-emptive nuclear strike on nations that threaten the U.S., especially those that are self-proclaimed nuclear and chemical capable states.
2) Announces the need for the Alliance to completely re-look its stance and military posture including opening all previous agreements up to revision to include - OPCON transfer, Yongsan Relocation, the Land Partnership Plan, the move to Humphreys, and treaties on weapons limitations such as missile range
3) Demonstrate that the US is fully committed to the Alliance recommending the US return its force structure to 1992 levels to include the reintroduction of US brigades that left the peninsula since 1990 and that the Alliance will resume the conduct of the TEAM SPIRIT exercise suspended since the 1994 nuclear agreement
4) Resume full scale combined PSYOP, an act not taken since prior to 1972.
Then, watch nK's reaction and only then, consider asking nK and the PRC if they would like to resume diplomatic discussions on denuclearizing the peninsula.
For diplomacy to work, the north has to participate. Mr. Armstrong's conclusion is completely logical from the point of view of the ROK, China, Japan, Russia and the US. Unfortunately the Kim Family Regime does not have a similar view and since it has never conducted diplomacy in accordance with any acceptable international standard for the last 60 years I am not optimistic it will at any time in the future. Certainly the actions of Kim Jong-un and the regime over the past year have reinforced that. Actions speak louder than words (although north Korean propaganda is pretty loud too). But it is better to jaw jaw than war war.
So, where do we go from here? The United States and the United Nations have little choice but to impose sanctions in response to North Korea’s actions, which clearly violate earlier sanction conditions. But it is hard to see how such sanctions can deter a determined and defiant North Korea, especially if the sanctions are not rigorously enforced. The best we can hope for is that the latest confrontation will finally bring all sides together – including both Koreas, the United States, China, Russia, and Japan – to solve this issue.
Diplomacy, not threats or sanctions – and certainly not military action – is the only viable path to resolution.
January 25th, 2013
11:59 AM ET
By Charles Armstrong, Special to CNN