There is no upside of giving in. I reject that assessment that it is the US military power that destabilizes the situation because that is an "unsettling" factor in the equation with north Korea. The north may be "unsettled" but any weakness of the ROK/US Alliance and perceived reduction of the commitment of the US to the Alliance will not result in reducing tensions but will instead affirm the north's strategy and will in fact increase north Korean belligerence because they will assess they are succeeding.
The Upside of Giving In to North Korea’s Blackmail
By the Editors Apr 9, 2013 6:08 PM ET
With its provocation-a-day strategy, North Korea has almost exhausted the news media’s capacity for stories about the “ratcheting up” of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Here’s some news from the North, though, that you may not have heard: In recent meetings, the ruling Korean Workers’ Party elected Pak Pong Ju, an economic reformer, to its Political Bureau, which steers political, policy and personnel decisions, and downgraded the role of the military by reducing its representation. Subsequently, Pak was made Cabinet premier. On April 5, even as North Korea warned foreign diplomats that it couldn’t guarantee their safety, the front page of Rodong Sinmun, the country’s newspaper of record, was dominated by headlines urging faster economic development. News outlets that rely on clandestine reports from inside North Korea suggest that preparing for war has given way to preparing for spring planting.
Of course, just because Kim Jong Un has no interest in starting a war doesn’t mean that he can’t stage some dangerous incident -- all designed to get the U.S. to talk to him. He wants that dialogue in order to seek relief from international sanctions, to acquire the aid that his country desperately needs and, not least, to secure his domestic political standing with a high-profile public-relations victory.
The first task of the U.S. is to respond to any actual military provocation in a firm but measured way. President Barack Obama has so far wisely resisted engaging in Kim’s war of words, and has appropriately reinforced U.S. military assets in the region.
Yet as some analysts have pointed out, the dominant military position of the U.S. is itself an unsettling factor on the Korean Peninsula. While the North’s artillery and rockets could inflict a horrific toll on the 10 million-plus South Koreans living in Seoul, the government in Pyongyang knows it would quickly lose any conventional conflict: The prospect of impending defeat could well encourage Kim to go nuclear. For that reason, the U.S. should persuade South Korea to refrain from further loose talk about retaliatory targeting of the North’s “command and control” facilities. Likewise, more publicly announced sorties over South Korea by U.S. B-2 bombers may be stirring, but they are not stabilizing.
Some proponents of a “get tough” approach with North Korea dream that isolating the regime will force its sudden collapse. They should be careful what they wish for. The inevitable humanitarian chaos of such an outcome would generate huge economic costs. Before reunification, West Germany was two to three times richer than the East. By contrast, South Koreans are somewhere between 15 and 40 times richer than their counterparts to the north. As one expert notes, estimates of the cost of reunification range from $200 billion to $5 trillion -- or almost five times South Korea’s gross domestic product.
Most South Koreans are in no hurry to pay that price. As for China and Russia, the prospect of a united, pro-U.S. Korea at their borders is far less appealing than some version of the status quo. Notwithstanding Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent veiled warnings to Pyongyang, officials in Beijing (and Moscow) will do only the minimum necessary to keep the peace.
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