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North Korea: Preparing for War

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Yves here. Since I don’t follow the military beat closely (I can do only so many things in a day, plus the runup to the Iraq war and quite a few of our recent Mideast interventions shows you can’t rely on mainstream media reports when US interests are at stake), I can’t judge the accuracy of this assessment. But it certainly is plausible. North Korea’s recent anti-US films have gotten international attention, but they tend to be treated as “oh those North Korean despots, up to their old trick of playing up foreign threats so as to distract their population from their distressed state.”

The markets and economic pundits seem to be shrugging off the possibility of any escalation in international tensions. At a minimum, it seems this risk bears closer scrutiny.

By Jen Alic, a geopolitical analyst, co-founder of ISA Intel (www.isaintel.com) in Sarajevo and the former editor-in-chief of ISN Security Watch in Zurich. Cross posted from OilPrice

The latest in the North Korea drama is the release of a video portraying US President Barack Obama and American troops going up in flames. But it’s not just cheap and cheesy rhetoric by a new leader who wants to be taken seriously: North Korea is preparing for a war because the US has been preparing for an offensive.

Earlier this month, we were regaled with a similar video, this time portraying a US city being attacked by North Korean missiles. Before that, in December, North Korea launched a satellite, and its official news agency declared a “Nationwide preparation for an all-out great war for national reunification.”

Earlier this week, satellite images indicated renewed activity at a North Korean nuclear site where a test was launched in early December. On 12 December, North Korea launched a long-range rocket putting a satellite into orbit. This is a major success for North Korea and few others have achieved it. (South Korea responded by successfully launching its own satellite into orbit for the first time in late January.)

The Obama administration’s stated policy on North Korea—the one for public consumption—is “strategic patience”, but there’s nothing patient about this policy. On the public platform, the media finds it amusing to jest about the careful and seemingly unserious US response to North Korean provocations. Behind the scenes, however, the US has been working up to an offensive since the death of Kim Jong-il a year ago—with Washington hedging its bets that the succession comes along with enough instability to open an window of opportunity for regime change.

Pyongyang’s activities since then have been those of a country on edge, and this is why:

• The first joint military exercises between the US and South Korea since the death of Kim Jong-il suddenly changed their nature, with new war games included pre-emptive artillery attacks on North Korea.

• Another amphibious landing operation simulation took on vastly larger proportions following Kim Jong-il’s death (the sheer amount of equipment deployed was amazing: 13 naval vessels, 52 armored vessels, 40 fighter jets and 9,000 US troops).

• South Korean officials began talking of Kim Jong-il’s death as a prime opportunity to pursue a regime-change strategy.

• South Korea unveiled a new cruise missile that could launch a strike inside North Korea and is working fast to increase its full-battery range to strike anywhere inside North Korea.

• South Korea openly began discussing asymmetric warfare against North Korea.

• The US military’s Key Resolve Foal Eagle computerized war simulation games suddenly changed, too, simulating the deployment of 100,000 South Korean troops on North Korean territory following a regime change.

• Japan was brought on board, allowing the US to deploy a second advanced missile defense radar system on its territory and the two carried out unprecedented war games.

• It is also not lost on anyone that despite what on the surface appears to be the US’ complete lack of interest in a new South Korean naval base that is in the works, this base will essentially serve as an integrated missile defense system run by the US military and housing Aegis destroyers .

The bottom line here is that the US and South Korea have gone on the offensive, and this is prompting a flurry of activity by Pyongyang, which will now put even more effort into its nuclear program.

While it is perhaps more amusing to paint a portrait of Kim Jong-un as an eccentric attention-seeker, and while there is an element in Pyongyang’s actions that is about solidifying stability at home, what this is really about is North Korea’s belief that an invasion is imminent.

A move on North Korea would also be in line with the Obama administration’s Asia-Pacific strategic shift, which has the US Navy bringing old forward bases back online across region, from Thailand and Vietnam to the Philippines and Australia.

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48 comments

    1. OMF

      After over 60 years of never-ending horror, it is nauseating to think that the West’s the first act after the liberation of the North Korean people may well be to cast them headfirst into the gaping maw of our dysfunctional market system. And to do this after seeing what happened to the Soviet Union.

      If the North Koreans end up rebelling against their liberation, the West will have only itself to blame.

      1. R Foreman

        It’s a race against time now to establish military control over the largest outliers (NKorea, Iran) before the market system becomes so fouled that the military itself rebels.

  1. toxymoron

    You may want to compare with what the Japanese are telling:
    http://www.moonofalabama.org/2013/02/withheld-intelligence-shows-mistrust-between-allies.html

    “…Senior U.S. administration officials held secret talks in North Korea on at least three occasions in 2011 and 2012, The Asahi Shimbun has learned.

    Although the visits had potential implications for Japan, Washington did not inform its security partner at the time and only informally confirmed one of them when the Japanese side pressed, government and other sources in Japan, South Korea and the United States said.

    U.S. military planes flew from an air base in Guam to Pyongyang and back on April 7, 2012, and again on a longer visit lasting from Aug. 18-20, the sources said.

    It is believed that those aboard included Sydney Seiler, director for Korea at the U.S. National Security Council, and Joseph DeTrani, who headed the North Korea desk at the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence. …”

    1. Sasori

      Ha,
      Your quotes remind me of reading about how Harold Macmillan’s UK government was not consulted or even informed in any meaningful way (apart from after the fact) of US actions and strategy in the Cuban missile crisis.
      The famous line from a Kennedy staffer that Chomsky has been quoting for ages [that Britain would] “act as our lieutenant (the fashionable word is partner),”

      I’ve always considered the UK and Japanese positions to be roughly analogous to each other; it’s funny to see that they don’t get told what’s going on by the colonel either.

      I guess the US position in the region has become more aggressive lately, and I guess you can see that region becoming a potential flashpoint in the far future, but nobody is stupid enough to do anything that will start a war in the foreseeable future

  2. Bakasone

    Sarajevo? Well, why not, everybody seems to have something to say about the hermit kingdom. To understand what’s really going on in Northeast Asia Bruce Cuming’s “North Korea: Another Country” is a great book to start with. All Pyongyang is still good for is to give China the look of the indispensable mediator, the aspiring regional power with the “soft power” approach to diplomacy, etc. That’s why Beijing keeps Lil’ Kim alive.

  3. Middle Seaman

    Obama’s dysfunctionality may trigger additional outbreaks of viollence, but a North Korea one should be considered way too much. Fighting a huge and nuclear force is a huge risk to property and life. This article presents no information to substantiate its prediction.

    For instance: “the sheer amount of equipment deployed was amazing: 13 naval vessels, 52 armored vessels, 40 fighter jets and 9,000 US troops” actually is not a huge exercise at all. 40 fighter jets and 9000 troops will not be enough even for a single skirmish.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You aren’t up to date at all. The biggest military EXERCISE was the Millennium 2002 Challenge, which by the way was a dry run for the invasion of Iraq, had 13,500 troops. This is in range. And I’ve only Googled casually, but my sense is that Alic is right, they used at least as much materiel.

        1. SubjectivObject

          Pretty definite about paying attention to the current details and historical precedents.
          Just sayin’.

      1. John F. Opie

        Um, no.

        REFORGER (REturn of FORces to GERmany) exercises were pretty much the largest western exercises ever held.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exercise_Reforger

        REFORGER 1988 was the largest western exercise, with 125k troops.

        The Warsaw Pact also held large-scale exercises, such as Soyuz-75 and Shchit-88, where they mobilized around 100k troops in conjunction with nuclear war exercises (the Polish military published these after they left the Warsaw Pact to underscore how necessary it was for Poland to leave the Warsaw Pact and no longer be militarily associated with the collapsing Soviet Union, as well as to make it clear that such military planning was now consigned to history: the plans were very real and completely contradicted what the Warsaw Pact said the exercises were all about).

        Modern large-scale exercises are either computer-modeled (they have gotten very good at introducing monkey wrenches into the scenarios) or very small scale for proof-of-principle testing. They also cost too much.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Thanks for that. I was going on the PR for the Millennium Challenge, which repeatedly described it as the biggest, most elaborate, costliest, etc. Probably it was mainly the latter. They did use a lot of computer simulations and it ran for three weeks, which might also explain the puffery (aren’t most exercises more like a week-ten days?)

          1. John F. Opie

            Yves -

            Preparing for a REFORGER was at least 4 months in advance and six to eight weeks ex post facto. The logistics of moving large numbers of people around are not that hairy – cruise lines do it all the time – but getting them to where they are supposed to be precisely on time is, as this is the difference between military and private time-keeping (i.e. it makes little difference if a private transporter is a few minutes late, but all the difference if a military transport fails to show up at the right time: for the want of a nail, etc.).

            It is beyond the scope of this conversation to take this into greater detail: suffice to say that preparation is significant and non-trivial, but the only thing that really counts is being where you are supposed to be at the right time with the right people and right equipment: making it to your assembly point 20 minutes late can mean disaster, rather than inconvenience.

            I think the organizers were pounding their chests and doing the usual PR yanking of chains. The US runs a fair number of exercises every year, low-visibility and without much fanfare, with allies and those considered friends, with the goal of improving training and the ability to operate together. This is considered normal training these days, and rightfully so.

            The experience of REFORGERs and the like are analyzed to the last bit and byte, resulting in computer simulations that really are quite realistic and extremely useful. Red Flag (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Flag_exercise) is a continuing series of ongoing exercises that not only help train, but also gives feedback as to what is needed to dominate what is called the AirBattle Space, which is one of the reasons that a future US force structure (F22+F35) looks the way it does. There are also tank shooting competitions and the like, but these are very low key.

            REFORGER exercises were cancelled not only because the Warsaw Pact disappeared, but also because they were very, very public, cost a lot in terms of reimbursement for ruined crops (moving a squadron of tanks at speed through a cornfield doesn’t leave much corn for harvest) and other damage to roads and the like.

      2. Claudius

        The United States is not going to preemptively strike North Korea.

        While there have been joint operations, and while the operations have changed in size and scope over the recent years, it is not in response to North Korea, but rather aimed at China, as the US fears recent Chinese muscle flexing in the Pacific theatre.

        The article is long on speculation and short on factual analysis when compared with the US Army’s own strategic assessment ( http://www.iiss.org/publications/str…e-on-the-kore/ ). The summary points:

        • The combination of North Korea’s long economic decline and enhanced U.S. and South Korean military capabilities has diminished the ability of North Korea to launch a successful invasion of South Korea.

        • Nonetheless, the KPA retains the ability to inflict heavy casualties and collateral damage, largely through the use of massed long-range artillery.

        • In effect, Pyongyang’s most credible conventional threat is to devastate Seoul (and a good portion of South Korea) rather than to seize and hold it.

        • North Korea’s conventional threat also is sufficient to make an allied preemptive attack to overthrow the North Korean regime a highly unattractive option.

        • In theory, U.S. forces could carry out preemptive attacks to destroy known North Korean nuclear facilities and missile emplacements, but such attacks would likely provoke North Korean retaliation and trigger a general conflict.

        • Moreover, Washington and Seoul cannot overthrow the Pyongyang regime by force or destroy its strategic military assets without risking devastating losses in the process.

        • Meanwhile, North Korea cannot invade the South without inviting a fatal counterattack from the United States and South Korea.

        Jen Alic is an ‘eclectic’ writer (across a broad range of religious/cultural/political subjects and an ‘international’ sleuth offering on her ‘isaintel’ website) with no ‘journalist’ accreditation or credible media affiliation, so she is best described as a blogger (that’s not meant as a pejorative; it simply emphasizes that her analysis is more factoid -based opinion rather than primary source, subject matter based expert analysis).

        If North Korea is indeed preparing for war, then an analysis that presents something that is at least as substantive and as authoritative as the US Army’s own analysis is needed.

        This is the third most recent posted on NC that has a Military Industrial Complex (MIC) bent (The most recent being the preposterous Iran/EMP/Boeing nonsense and the second being the ludicrous Chinese aggression/MSDF/PLAN nonsense). As you caveat (often) these types of articles with “it’s not my beat”, perhaps NC shouldn’t even be walking in this part of the neighborhood?

    2. Bill Smith

      What are “armored vessels”?

      Haven’t these exercises occurred like almost every year for the last 60 years? What exactly are the pre-emptive artillery attacks? What’s the ratio of their tubes to ours? Whose are dug in?

      As to the Millennium 2002 Challenge being the “biggest” exercise – that is ranked by money not equipment. Think about it… every year during the height of the Cold War the Reforger exercises where much bigger when counted by personal, tanks, aircraft & ships but because they were long ago the cost was smaller in nominal terms.

      1. Max424

        re: size of military exercises

        Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but in the earlier phases of the Cold War, like before total ICBM redundancy kicked in (mid-60s), the US would have had –at least!– 40 warplanes in the sky at all-times.

        And by warplanes, I mean 40 plus airborne nuclear fighters and bombers edgy as IndyCars revving at the starting line.

    3. Max424

      re: inadequate forces for a skirmish.

      There will be no need for skirmishing.

      If or when we attack North Korea, it will involve lighting them up with approximately 100 tactical nukes. The 9,000 members of the beach assault/obvious bluff force will not be needed/can never be landed as they would only fall victim to –radium delayed– friendly fire.

      In other words, the DPRK will never know occupation, as their current –and recently updated– nuclear power status renders this an impossibility.

      Note: Could we lose billions of dollars worth of valuable warships in the attack? Yes we could. The NKP’s Strategic Rocket Forces might get lucky, and get off one or two nuclear-tipped anti-ship missile salvos. But hey, that would be the price you pay. You sacrifice a few (in this case, about 22% of your Navy), for the greater good of the many.

      And the loss-of-a-few might have the added benefit of producing some memorable post-war poetry (or if you prefer, some Tennysonian propaganda):

      Half a fathom, half a fathom,
      Half a fathom onward,
      All in the Sea of Death,
      Sailed the four carriers

      Forward, Task Force Sixty Eight!
      Was there a swab afraid?
      Yes tho the sailors knew
      No admiral had blundered:
      Theirs not to make reply,
      Theirs not to reason why,
      Theirs but to do and die:
      Into the Sea of Death
      Sailed the four carriers.

      Note II: The deep valleys of northern Korea would make a perfect location for American THAAD/Patriot ABM batteries, and the mountains there for all-seeing X-band radar missile-guidance systems, should, you know, Our* country ever get truly serious about protecting (?) Us* from distant outgoing warheads.

      *That’s We the People!

  4. Mark P.

    Eh. The article itself is hyperventilation, not analysis, since its author doesn’t mention the main thing that’s worrying Washington now and that’s changed the strategic calculus.

    Yes, both sides are escalating the threat displays as a bargaining tool and as credible deterrence. Yes, as during the Cold War, possibilities exist for such deterrence to go terribly wrong.

    Still, this is how the game has always been played. The Norkeans know that South Korea alone could flatten them with conventional military forces. However, South Korea and the U.S. — for all that it might have some novel weaponry advantage up its sleeve, as it did during Gulf One — know that, nevertheless, 60,000 artillery pieces are aimed at downtown Seoul and the Norkeans probably can’t be taken down before they inflict unbearable damage on South Korea.

    So that’s all the same as it ever was.

    Where the strategic calculus has changed is that — as the article fails to mention — Washington is worried, based on past performance, that the Pyongyang regime will take its new nuclear manufacturing capability and start selling enriched uranium and bomb-making material on the international market. And, indeed, this is credible.

    Hence, if there was a way to take down the Norkeans without too much of a cost, that would be Washington’s preferred goal. Alternatively, if the Norkeans do start selling nuclear ordinance on the international market and it leads to something terrible, Washington will retaliate terribly.
    So, yes, Washington and South Korea are building up their military options.

    However, Pyongyang knows all this. So, right now, this is just more threat-based bargaining — only this time the U.S. and its allies have to feel some assurance that the Norkeans aren’t going to sell fissile material and nuclear and missile (and the Norkeans seem still a long way from ICBM capability) components on the international market. Given that the Norkeans have always broken every agreement they’ve made and defied the U.S. in every way they could, short of getting themselves nuked, it’s going to be hard for Washington and its allies to be reassured.

    Nevertheless, war would be an unbearable cost for either side to pay. Things could get there, unfortunately. But at this stage, as I say, it’s still threat-based. bargaining.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I think you are misreading the article due to its sensationalistic title. I read it as saying that North Korea is acting as if it is feeling more threatened, and that is because… mirabile dictu….Washington has been escalating the threats. You point out that there is a more serious proximate cause, which is possible sales of uranium. That is a helpful addition to the puzzle, but does not disprove the main contention of the article, that the threats and counterthreats have risen.

      1. Mark P.

        Yves wrote: ‘… that the threats and counterthreats have risen.’

        No doubt. But in turn Washington’s threats have risen as a direct response — mirabile dictu — to the fact that the Pyongyang regime has become more threatening as it enhanced its nuclear capability.

        We could get into a chicken-or-egg argument on this. Setting that aside, as a disinterested piece of analysis, two eventualities are now probable:

        [1] Washington and its allies will have to accept that strategically it’s rational from the North Korean POV to have a nuclear deterrent and that this is now a fait accomplis.

        [2] North Korea is going to have to accept that the U.S. is absolutely serious about drawing a line about Pyongyang’s selling on nuclear materials.

        That latter point is where it gets ugly and how it escalates. Whatever light you wish to cast U.S. actions in, Pyongyang is a pariah state with a history of total non-compliance. Hence, the rational strategy for the U.S. and its allies is to impose hard sanctions — and this means, for instance, pulling over North Korean ships, etcetera. Which in turn will probably mean shooting, won’t it?

        1. Jim A

          Thing is,the Norks have enough non-nuclear ways to attack that they have deterrence without nukes. They can flatten and poison Seoul and lob missiles at Japanese cities.

      2. Beppo

        We just tried and failed to sabotage their “satellite launch” after being misled by a ruse dropped in NK to China communications (That we routinely listen in on). The US and SK are sabotaging and causing trouble in NK all of the time. Of course, we never hear about it. But this rhetoric comes from more than just US threats, it came on after real actions.

    2. Laughing_Fascist

      Yep. The location of Seoul so close to the DMZ eliminates virtually all of the Allies options to pre-emptively strike NK. Estimates are that NK could rain down 12,000 artillery projectiles in one hour. On top of that, they have rocket launchers capable of 4,400 rockets in one burst, and could reload several times an hour. Seoul would in fact be a sea of fire, not to mention that those same artillery pieces could also cause devastation to US forces positioned at the DMZ.

      OTOH, SK and the U.S. cannot just sit by while the North develops a major nuclear missile capability on top of its devastating conventional artillery capacity. So what is a peace prize U.S. president to do? Cut off food aid, sanctions and military exercises. Not pretty.

      On this sea of fire threat, the NKs have said this before in response to military exercises so no big changes to the rhetoric:

      “February 28, 2011: U.S. and South Korean forces conduct large-scale joint military exercises. North Korea threatens to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire” in response to the exercises, which U.S. officials claim was planned long in advance of the recent peak in tensions.”

      http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/dprkchron

      But such an attack is by no means impossible. NK’s military doctrine is likely based on the old soviet strategy calling for a pre-emptive invasion of europe if they “believe” an attack is imminent.

    3. from Mexico

      Mark P said:

      Where the strategic calculus has changed is that — as the article fails to mention — Washington is worried, based on past performance, that the Pyongyang regime will take its new nuclear manufacturing capability and start selling enriched uranium and bomb-making material on the international market. And, indeed, this is credible.

      You speak as if Washington has some scintilla of credibility. It doesn’t.

      Remember the “Axis of Evil” — Iraq, Iran and North Korea from Bush’s Jan. 29, 2002 State of the Union Address?

      Remember the Bush Doctrine, the US’s new policy of “preventative war”?

      Remember Obama’s drone policy, where he can arbitrarily assasinate anyone, anywhere in the world on a whim?

      If one looks at the US’s track record for the past 50 years, it is one of continuous escalation of violence and aggression, both against foreigners and against its own citizens. And yet you try to portray the US as the defender? Go figure.

      1. Mark P.

        ‘You speak as if Washington has some scintilla of credibility. It doesn’t’

        I don’t care in the least about Washington’s ‘credibility’ — or lack of it — and how it’s perceived by others.

        What would that have to do with the price of beans, or with what Washington’s strategic aims are? The latter were what I was addressing.

        You might consider paying more attention and ranting less. You are suffering from ideologically-induced comprehension deficit.

        1. from Mexico

          True to form for the typical neocon.

          They try to sound reasonable and informed. But point out some of the obvious facts that contradcit their hype, and their true pugnacious character comes gushing to the surface.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          The lady doth protest too much. From Mexico’s response wasn’t even close to “rant” territory.

    4. American Slave

      Ah yes the good old ace card excuse to attack at will. What about Pakistan and there huge stockpile, people don’t need NK for nuclear materials they could build an atomic pile to make plutonium like we did during the Manhattan project, shipping something so radioactive would be stupid as it would be able to be found by satellite. If NK having a nuke will prevent us from invading than im glad, we need to spend our money on that laser that can even shoot down artillery shells.

  5. Mark P.

    The folks at Arms Control Wonk worry about this stuff all the time, are basically on the side of the angels, and are more authoritative than me or anybody else that’s likely to post at NC.

    So people might want to check out with what they think at Arms Control Wonk. Comment threads there are intelligent and highly knowledgeable –

    http://armscontrolwonk.com/

    http://guests.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/3399/after-the-most-recent-north-korean-detonation-what#more-3222

    1. Mark P.

      Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) has
      “North Korea’s Estimated Stocks of Plutonium and Weapons-Grade Uranium” here –

      http://isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/dprk_fissile_material_production_16Aug2012.pdf

      To precis: roughly 38 kg of weapons-grade Pu believed to have been produced, all of which was converted for weapons. Western weapons are nowadays usually 4 kg for the plutonium pit that sets off the uranium, which would imply 9 weapons worth available to Pyongyang. If the Norkeans are still doing Fat Man pit sizes (6 kg each), 6-7 weapons.

      There are other possibilities if the Norkeans are doing HEU/composite cores now. In that case, who knows?

      Still, they have a limited Pu supply, a limited HEU supply facility.

  6. from Mexico

    Yves said:

    …you can’t rely on mainstream media reports when US interests are at stake…

    I think a more accurate statement would be:

    …you can’t rely on mainstream media reports when the interests of the 1% are at stake…

  7. Tom Finn

    Excuse me, but I see very little reference to the Elephant in the room, you know, China? Being born in ’52, I was a bit young to be in the know, but seem to have heard something later about them being involved in the last dust up over there.

    1. Transor Z

      Jesus, thank you. Discussion begins and ends with geography: China. The word “China” doesn’t appear once in the OP. if you don’t appreciate the role China plays in this theater you have no business holding forth on this topic.

  8. Steve Roberts

    Just my guess, North Korea will be wanting to return to the bargaining table soon. They bluffed Clinton and Bush into this and it earned them a nice payout. If people get excited, Obama will be forced into providing a nice settlement offer to appease them.

  9. Norman

    The old saying: you play with fire, you get burnt. The thinking that has driven the U.S. since the 1950′s seems to have too many failures in the U.S. being the cop on the beat. This exercise seems to be just that, ideas, scenarios, what have you. One thing seems clear, the fear factor for the American people is alive and running. As long as the boogieman can be portrayed, well, need I say more? Also, if anyone believes that in this time period, that China will sit by and let the U.S. turn N.K. into a no mans land, better enter rehap before it’s too late.

  10. The Heretic

    A few years ago the North Koreans were being excessively obstinate while negotiating with the Americans, I believe the issue was that they wanted exclusive negotiations with the US, while the US wanted multi-party negotiations concerning N. Korean nuclear technology development. North Korea blustered war. A few days latter, the main oil pipeline from China to N. Korea, had to be shutdown for unforeseen maintenance issues. A few days latter N.korea returned to the negotiating table, and the pipeline problems were resolved. China is ‘the Hand that rocks the Cradle’. As long as China does not want war, there will be no war.

    Mind you, China would like the issue of Senkaku/Daiyo Islands resolved. In my opinion, the Japanese people are a polite people; hence, the bold move by Shinzo Abe to declare the islands the property of Japan could be viewed as a diplomatic insult to China. Hence China either stirs up N.Korea (or allows N.korea to self stir), in order remind the Americans that there is no peace in Asia without China, and to spur Americans the push the Japanese to a more amendable agreement with China(I.e. restore the status quo)

  11. Lee

    My local NPR radio station, one of the largest in the country in terms of listeners and contributors, had an hour long program featuring several experts on the awfulness of the North Korean regime with particular detailed attention to the suffering of its people. This is always a bad sign.

    1. American Slave

      “My local NPR radio station, one of the largest in the country in terms of listeners and contributors, had an hour long program featuring several experts on the awfulness of the North Korean regime with particular detailed attention to the suffering of its people.”

      Is that the same NPR that also had that one report about how good genetically modified food is even tho when they feed it to rats for a year it caused liver failure and is killing off all the bees.

      Yeah that’s a quack station to say the least, if they want to do something useful than they should do a report about the wonderful gulf arab states like Saudi Arabia. North Korea is not so bad at all compared to those.

  12. rob

    I see no reason why the US would invade/attack north korea.
    as others have said; on the face of it,south korea would suffer in the first hour of attacks.Nothing could stop that.There is too much money to be lost.Markets would be destabilized.Not that what is rational has stopped anything before.
    But nkorea is a useful threat.
    How much money are they worth to the armaments industry who needs a limited threat they pose to sell the whole missle defense shield?
    The leaders of nkorea already rule in hell, and aren’t going to jeopardize that. Just like saddam hussein had the throne in his hell, and was never going to make an attack that jeopardized that.
    I would bet there isn’t going to be an actual puch thrown by the nkoreans.Just a posture, with their show of nuclear technology, so they can get more at the bargaining table, and a tacit understanding that we don’t invade nuclear armed nations.Just non nuclear plussed nations.
    And I would say, this does leave china in the drivers seat.There really isn’t any reason , to change anything.Everything is fine, we need a boogeyman, and nkorea fits the bill.china needs a buffer, and the problem child of nkorea works for that.
    All of the posturing and seeming alignment of attacking nkorea, fits perfectly in a defense establishment that doesn’t want to hold bake sales for future budget appropriations.
    So unless, oil is discovered, that can be taken from a former nkorea,without china holding sway…I say nothing will come of it.Japan will go along

  13. Susan the other

    And now for something completely different: In the 1950s Germany sang popular songs about 1999 “Neunzehnhundertneunundneunzig’, really. And they looked forward to that date patriotically as if it were some pre-agreement. So lookit: Vietnam didn’t like being divided and they came together against all odds it seemed (but maybe not); Germany only jumped the gun by 10 years when they too came together too; and Korea wants to reunite as well. This is about the reunification of Korea. But Korea can’t just rely on some news flash that Korea has decided to reunite. It almost has to be more dramatic than that,.

    1. Bridget

      My South Korean friends have told me for years that they hope for reunification. (Unlike my Taiwanese friends, who want no part of China)

      Many South Koreans believe that they still have family in North Korea. They actually have no way of knowing, because there has been no communication in decades, but a united Korea is still within the living memory of many of the older generation. The problem, of course, is reunification, how, when, and under whose terms.

      I have no idea how younger South Koreans feel.

  14. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit

    Meh. Korea. Been there, done that, both dotmil and dotciv. They’re still fighting from the Three Kingdoms period from almost 1,400 years ago, as best I can tell.

    North Korea rattles sabers. Gets goodies. Lather, rinse, repeat as necessary.

    It’d be fascinating to see what would happen if the Americans said “skip it, we’re outta here, you guys and China and Japan sort things out amongst yourselves.”

    Sort out the tong-il (or no tong-il), with China – who does NOT want thousands of starving NK refugees pouring across its border – footing the bill, with some input from a Japan who may still feel a BIT of guilt over the annexation, though said guilt is wearing pretty darned thin after nearly 70 years…

  15. Hugh

    In general, both the US and North Korea act in bad faith. Both promise. Both renege. Both rattle the other’s cage. As long as the posturing continues, that is actually a positive sign. It’s when the posturing stops and everything goes quiet that I would be really concerned.

  16. Rufus T. Firefly, Jr.

    Yes, I say we go for it. I say we invade North Korea right away. After we’ve already scored such spectacular victories in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no reason – absolutely no reason – not to invade the nuclear-armed North Korea. Our brave men and women in uniform can take down Kim Jung-un (or whatever his name is), they can bring about market reforms, and they can bring democracy to the people of North Korea. And above all, they can impose austerity on them too. Yes, we can”, as our great Presidente once said. Yes, we can.

    And after that I say we take on Iran. “Yes, we can” there too. Next in line: China, and then Russia. Better yet, I say we invade all four of them at the same time: North Korea, Iran, China, Russia. Yes, we can. We’ll show them what America is all about. We’ll show them that we’re still numero uno. We’ll show them we’re the greatest nation in history, and we’ll show them what American exceptionalism is all about. And, above all, we’ll show them that we’re still the most intelligent nation in history…

    I say let’s go for it. I say “yes, we can!”

    Rufus T. Firefly, Jr.

  17. Rufus T. Firefly, Jr.

    One more thing:

    I expect the two Koreas to be reunited in the next several years. It is the presence of the US in the region that keeps the animosity up. Once the US empire fades into irrelevances and eventually collapses, it is to be expected that the Fascist government in South Korea to be replaced by more rational people, who would then make true progress toward reunification.

    Once that happens, North Korea would be a great place to invest in. It would be, as Jim Rogers recently said, like investing in China in 1975. And this is a “China” with an advanced infrastructure and a highly educated population.

    Rufus T. Firefly, Jr. (beloved son of People’s Republic of Fredonia, still the greatest democracy in history).

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