Bill Totten's Weblog

Friday, July 17, 2009

All the world's a stage for North Korea

by Eric Margolis

Toronto Sun (May 31 2009)

PARIS - Confrontations between the US, its allies and Stalinist North Korea have become highly stylized kabuki theatre in which fist waving and snarling replaces actual violence.

The US, which has thousands of nuclear weapons around the globe and 28,500 troops in South Korea, warns that North Korea's handful of crude nuclear devices are a world menace. North Korea threatens, if attacked, to turn South Korea's capital, Seoul, into "a sea of fire".

After much angry posturing, the US, Japan and South Korea paid off North Korea's "Dear Leader", Kim Jong-il, to be good.

But after North Korea's second small nuclear test this week, there is real danger this usually harmless kabuki could turn lethal.

North Korea's few nukes are not a danger - yet. The North has 800 inaccurate medium-range missiles aimed at South Korea and Japan but they lack nuclear warheads. North Korea is not believed to have yet mastered miniaturizing or hardening nuclear warheads for delivery by missile.

Pyongyang's blood-curdling threats notwithstanding, its infant nuclear force is primarily defensive. North Koreans have had to literally eat grass to pay for their nukes.

When eventually deployed, Kim's nuclear-armed missiles will deter potential US nuclear strikes on North Korea by threatening counterstrikes on South Korea, Japan and US bases on Okinawa and Guam. North Korea would be unlikely to initiate a nuclear war that would result in its immediate obliteration by US retaliation and vapourization of the Kim dynasty.

New danger

But after this week's nuclear test, a new danger has emerged. The US has renewed threats to stop and search North Korean freighters on the high seas that might be carrying "weapons of mass destruction", missiles or military components to the Middle East. South Korea and Japan will do the same, but only in their coastal waters. North Korea warns, quite correctly, that such a high seas arrest would be an act of war.

The plot thickens. Israel worries that North Korea, desperate for hard cash, will sell more missiles, technology, spare parts and in the future, nuclear warheads to the Arabs or Iran.

So Israel has put intense pressure on the Obama administration to stop any flow of North Korean weapons to the Middle East. The White House responded by threats of a maritime blockade of North Korea.

North Korea says it will retaliate militarily for any high seas seizures, either against South Korean naval forces in the Sea of Japan or by attacking US ships and spy aircraft that shadow North Korea's coast.

If this happens, the US likely would respond with missile strikes and air attacks. North Korea would then riposte with barrages of heavy artillery and long-range rocket batteries along the DMZ against South Korea's capital, a mere forty kilometers (25 miles) distant. Attacks on US bases in South Korea by North Korea's large numbers of Scud missiles could follow.

The Obama administration is playing with fire by threatening an act of war against North Korea, which has so many American troops in its gun sights. Some Koreans, both North and South, see Kim as the authentic Korean leader for defying the mighty US and refusing to give in to its threats.


Like his late father, Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il has repeatedly vowed to reunite the Korean Peninsula before he dies. Time is running out for the ailing Kim. His pledge should not be taken lightly.

The Dear Leader faces internal challenges over plans to name one of his three sons as North Korea's next dynastic leader. But he also knows the US is most unlikely to invade North Korea, which has a very tough, 1.1 million man army that so far appears loyal to the regime.

Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail and a maritime confrontation will be avoided. But the Obama administration, which is now involved in two wars and has provoked a volcanic upheaval in Pakistan, should proceed with caution. America's world power has already reached its limits.

Bill Totten


  • Korea, North and South go back at least four thousand years, probably much more. The West, specifically the United States, the United Kingdom, both look at the Koreas as a nation of relatively meaningless minorities, the powerful in the U.K. and the U.S. being mainly white Caucasians. This cultural intolerance is the deathknell of the West, both unseen, unacknowledged and violently. Which is why North Korea must arm atomically. 'Minorities' have an humiliation, abuse tolerance level that has a limit. It may have been reached.

    By Blogger suzannedk, at 4:36 AM, July 18, 2009  

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