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Three Erroneous Assumptions Made by Most Americans about DPRK

October 25, 2017 5 comments

As regular readers know, I have written more than a few posts about the current situation caused by DPRK aka North Korea testing nuclear weapons and ICBMs. The gist of those posts is as follows: Accepting DPRK as a bonafide nuclear weapon state with a rational foreign policy and acting towards it accordingly is infinitely better than pretending otherwise.

Having said that, I have noticed that a lot of americans keep on making a number of erroneous, and unrealistic, assumptions about DPRK and the current situation. While we certainly cannot go over every one of them in a single post, I thought it would be a good idea to cover the three most important erroneous assumptions (or beliefs) about that country and the current situation.

Erroneous Belief # 1
: Current situation between DPRK & USA can be resolved by military force.

While jingoists, keyboard warriors and many west-point educated generals might want to believe that the USA could resolve its current situation with DPRK through military force, even a basic reality check and some knowledge of relevant history suggests otherwise. Let me remind you that the decision by USA to not attempt a Korean War 2.0 after the 1953 armistice was based in military calculations, rather than humanitarian considerations- to put it mildly.

As many of you know, DPRK has hundreds (if not thousands) of artillery pieces capable of bombarding Seoul on a moment’s notice- not to mention the tens of thousands of rocket artillery and swarms of short-range missiles. The acquisition of nuclear weapons by DPRK in the later half of 2000s makes the destruction of Seoul Capital Area (about 25 million people) almost inevitable if a serious war was to break out between DPRK and USA. To make a long story short, Korean War 2.0 = No Seoul

Then there is the question of whether large urban aggregations in Japan, specifically the Greater Tokyo Area, would get nuked in the event of such a war. It is no secret that DPRK has a number of liquid and solid fueled SRBMs which could deliver a few nukes on top of such large urban aggregations. While Japan claims to have many types of “effective” anti-ballistic missiles, it is highly doubtful that they can do much against a swarm of dozens of warheads within a 2-3 minute window, especially if only 5-6 of them were nuclear.

My point is that even the most optimistic projections of casualties caused by DPRK’s response to a military strike by USA involve millions of dead and dying people in South Korea and Japan plus long-term (potentially irreversible) damage to two of the largest and most prosperous urban areas in the world. And we have not even started talking about the effects of a few nuclear weapon tipped ICBMs going off over large cities in mainland USA.

Erroneous Belief # 2: DPRK is a vassal state of China.

One belief constantly resurfacing in regards to the current situation with DPRK is that China is somehow the real power behind the show. Another version of this belief is that China possess extraordinary leverage over DPRK. The reality is, however, quite different. While China has always been the most important trading partner for DPRK and was its most important weapons provider in the past, its actual leverage over DPRK has been rather limited. Even worse, the political relationship between them has never been especially warm.

China’s support for DPRK has to be understood through the lens of history and pragmatism. To put it bluntly, China intervened in the Korean war because it did not want an american puppet state on its eastern border- which is also why it got involved in the Vietnam war. Of course, China is quite happy to let DPRK poke and prod South Korea, Japan and generally undermine the rationale for american military presence in that region. But let us clear about one thing, Beijing does not control Pyongyang. Nor do they want, or can afford, the current regime in DPRK to fail.

A related delusion still popular among americans is the belief China will help the USA secure DPRK after a “successful” invasion of DPRK. Even if we discount the possibility that major urban centers in South Korea and Japan will be nuked within the first few minutes of a serious armed confrontation, we have to contend with the reality that DPRK’s leadership (or their population) do not see China as their master and will not hesitate to use their weapons against China. Yes.. you heard that right. If DPRK feels that China is cooperating with USA to invade it, there is a pretty high likelihood that some of their nukes will go off over Chinese cities.

Erroneous Belief # 3: DPRK will agree to give up its nuclear weapons.

Another popular delusion harbored by the establishment in USA is that they can somehow convince DPRK to give up its nuclear weapons. While this delusion is especially funny, it is worthwhile to point out that “denuclearization” of DPRK is still the main and only focus of any talks USA is willing to have with DPRK. Let us be clear about one thing, only one nation (namely, South Africa) has ever voluntarily gave up its arsenal of self-developed. Also they had less than a dozen of very primitive nuclear weapons- so it wasn’t exactly a big sacrifice to begin with.

In spite of all the sanctimonious talk about global denuclearization, no other nuclear weapon power has seriously considered giving up its nuclear weapon arsenal. In fact, all nuclear weapon powers have kept on improving their weapons even if two of them (Russia and USA) did reduce the absolute numbers in their inventory in the 1990s. However the total number of nuclear weapons in the world had remained largely constant since those early post-cold war reductions. It is not realistic to expect any nuclear weapon power, let alone one who needs such deterrent capability, to give up nuclear weapons- especially if they were developed indigenously.

Furthermore, the experience of DPRK of negotiating with USA in the mid-1990s, and then again in the early-2000s, has left them with the correct impression that any treaty with the USA is not worth the paper on which it was printed. They correctly recognized that credible lethal force is necessary for any future talks with USA. In other words, DPRK now rightly believes that acquisition of a credible capability to launch a nuclear attack on american cities is a prerequisite to any worthwhile talks between the two parties. The recent fiasco over Trump decertifying a multinational nuclear deal with Iran has simply demonstrated that their strategy towards USA is correct.

In this situation and environment, it is supremely delusional to believe that a regime whose survival is predicated on possessing a credible nuclear deterrent will give it up to satisfy another country which has consistently demonstrated its unwillingness to respect the terms of any agreement it has ever signed. In other words, DPRK (and many other countries) will require a credible nuclear deterrent as long as the USA continues to exist in its current form. Also, USA is no longer seen as an omnipotent military power- especially after its recent humiliating defeats in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

What do you think? Comments?