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June 11, 2005

North Korea Solutions. [Dave at Garfield Ridge]

What to do, oh, what to do about North Korea?

USA Today's Al Neuharth had an editorial in Thursday's edition entitled "Are We Nuts Over North Korea?" I don't know if we are nuts, but after reading the editorial, I can vouch for Neuharth's insanity.

South Koreans aren't panicking over possible North Korean nukes. Their overriding goal is ultimate reunification.
Funny, that's North Korea's goal too. Although probably in not the same manner as South Korea would desire.
A "bullet train" runs from Seoul, the South Korean capital, to here. There's talk of extending it across North Korea, perhaps in time for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
I'm certain that your average North Korean citizen will tearfully wave as the sealed train passes them by, and your average North Korean gulag inmate will die of exposure building the rail line.
On a practical and personal note, I was able to buy North Korean booze on the south side of the DMZ at the popular "Unification Village" store.
And obviously, Al hit Kim's tipple as he wrote this piece.
North Korea's dictator Kim Jung Il is a bad guy. But he's not suicidal. Even if he has the bomb, the chances of him nuking his neighbors (or us) are as far-fetched as was Bush's claim that Iraq's Saddam Hussein was a threat to us with weapons of mass destruction.
Har, har. You're a knee slapper, Al! What, did your North Korean hooch suddenly give you psychological insight into the mind of the world's most reclusive dictator? Gee, there's nothing to worry about, Kim's not suicidal, Al vouched for him!

As for the far-fetched claim about Saddam Hussein, guess who could have been first in line to offer a little cash to Kim Jong Il in exchange for a gift-wrapped nuke? The only thing Saddam's looking to buy now is a fresh pair of BVD's sans skid marks.

Any thought of a preemptive military move against North Korea is nuts. Instead, Bush should talk and walk toward tearing down this wall, à la President Ronald Reagan in Berlin in 1987.
I certainly don't relish the prospect of a military confrontation with North Korea. Unlike Al's, my day job involves understanding the military issues involved in all their gory detail.

Yet, his use of Ronald Reagan's name to endorse a "tear down this wall" strategy in North Korea, self-serving yet admirable, ignores one simple fact: South Korea doesn't want that wall torn down.



Foolish or not, they've always wanted a "managed" transition for North Korea. The last thing they want to deal with is the chaos of a collapsing communist state on their borders, nor do they wish to face the challenge of reunification. The South Koreans have seen how German reunification has saddled the once-vibrant German economy-- and North Korea makes East Germany look like The Netherlands in comparison.

AEI's Nicholas Eberstadt has long written on North Korea, and I've had the pleasure of hearing him speak a number of times on the challenges we face in East Asia. Last week, he had a perceptive piece in the Weekly Standard arguing that South Korea open its borders to North Korean refugees, ala West Germany in 1989. He argues persuasively that such a strategy not only puts effective pressure on the very heart of the North Korean regime, it's a non-violent action that North Korea would be hard-pressed to prevent without isolating itself even further. Finally, such a move doesn't require the assistance, overt or covert, of the intransigent Chinese-- no need to beg Beijing to apply behind-the-scenes pressure on Kim's regime.

However, unlike the rotgut-fueled lunacy of Al Neuharth, Eberstadt acknowledges that the greatest impediment to the implementation of a "refugee strategy" is South Korea itself. Despite decades-worth of public pronouncements for unity with their imprisoned cousins to the north, South Korea privately would like to avoid the problems I've mentioned above, problems that would inevitably result from mass emigration from North Korea.

Bottom line: even if North Korea was dumb enough to stand idly by while its populace escaped however they could, wealthy South Korea may not be willing to accept all those refugees.

Not a lot of good options here, folks.

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posted by Ace at 05:36 PM

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