“Was it or was it not a hydrogen bomb?” That seems to be the question that everyone is asking. Some experts seem doubtful of the veracity of North Korea’s claims as the yield recorded in the test seemed similar to its previous tests. There are some others who think that this might be a boosted nuclear weapon – one step below an actual hydrogen bomb.
As experts, pundits, and politicians quibble about the suspicious Richter scale readings, the question that I pose is this: Who cares? If you were mugged by someone carrying a kitchen knife yesterday, and that same person mugged you again today, except this time he was carrying a machete, what difference would that be to you?
While the North Korean government continues to spit in the eyes of every free nation in the world with their ever-improving – both in quantity and quality – nuclear weapons, the rest of the world dithers.
So how will the rest of the world deal with the latest round of North Korean provocations this time?
For their part, the United States Congress seems poised to pass stronger sanctions against the North Korean regime. We will have to wait to see if anything comes of it. And as American presidents are wont to do, President Obama has vowed to take all necessary measures for the security of South Korea.
I guess what President Park actually meant to say was, ‘We urge the world to pass stronger sanctions against North Korea but not really’
North Korea’s latest weapons test even gave President Park Geun-hye and Prime Minister Abe Shinzo an excuse to forget about how much they dislike one another and to jointly call for stronger sanctions. After all, President Park called for tougher sanctions against North Korea on January 6.
However, on January 8, the South Korean government said that it is still “premature” to consider shutting down the Kaesong Industrial Complex – one of North Korea’s most lucrative sources of foreign (read, South Korean) money – or to withdraw South Korean citizens from the site.
So I guess what President Park actually meant to say was, “We urge the world to pass stronger sanctions against North Korea but not really.”
China has much bigger financial problems to worry about and is also quite concerned with the unrest in the Middle East, seeing how that is where they get half of their energy from, but seeing how it is still North Korea’s main benefactor and ally, it still bothered to take time out of its busy schedule to blame the United States, South Korea and Japan for North Korea’s latest nuclear weapons test. Naturally, the Chinese government neglected to mention that the Sunshine Policy had been attempted before – and here we (still) are! – and that they are the ones who are protecting Kim Jong Un and his minions from sanctions.
So to run things down, here is what we have so far:
- The South Korean government will prevent only some South Korean citizens from going to Kaesong “for the time being” – whatever that means – but not actually shut the place down.
- The ROK Army loudspeakers will blare K-pop music at North Korean soldiers across the DMZ. This was underwhelming when that was the go-to approach that the South Korean government chose when the North Koreans planted landmines on the South Korean side of the DMZ last year. It’s even more underwhelming now. My guess is that the speakers will stay on until the North Koreans decide to send their next car accident victim top-level dignitary to Panmunjom for concessions from negotiations with South Korea.
- Even if stronger American sanctions were passed in Congress (and maybe in the United Nations?) and authorized by President Obama, the sanctions will most likely be made practically toothless by the Chinese AND South Korean governments that will do what they can to circumvent them.
THINK THE UNTHINKABLE
So once again, we find ourselves at a stalemate, for we know that as long as the nations involved do not review and change their geopolitical interests – and there is very little hope for that to ever happen – the only thing that can truly end this vicious cycle is the unthinkable.
But don’t we have to think of the unthinkable? After all, no matter how hard we attempt to avoid something unpleasant, we cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding it; much like the way President Obama is probably realizing about his policy of “strategic patience.”
No one outside of North Korea seems certain about the exact number of atomic bombs that North Korea possesses. However, as the number increases, and so does the payload, what is undeniable is that should these weapons ever be used against South Korea, whatever South Korea was, is and could ever be would be blinked out of existence.
In March last year, Professor Robert E. Kelly published a column where he posited that should North Korea’s nuclear arsenal continue to grow after an unspecified number, then considering the existential threat that they would pose to South Korea and Japan, there would be growing incentive by both South Korea and Japan to preemptively attack North Korean missile sites, which would inevitably lead to war.
Therefore, seeing how nobody sensible actually wants a war, and that it is highly unlikely that North Korea would ever dismantle its nuclear weapons, Professor Kelly suggested that South Korea and the United States deploy the THAAD system to counter North Korean missiles.
… the South Korean government has an obligation to do what it can to protect its own citizens
Although South Korea has long resisted deploying the THAAD system within its borders and have instead chosen to deploy its own domestic missile defense system out of deference to China’s objections, it might be time for South Korea to review that decision. After all, if China does not have as much influence over North Korea, as it so often claims, then the South Korean government has an obligation to do what it can to protect its own citizens. That is the least that the South Korean government owes its people, seeing how the South Korean government has been allowing money to funnel into North Korea through Kaesong this whole time.
Seeing how little leverage the United States, South Korea and Japan have over North Korea, not to mention China’s seemingly over-hyped influence, dramatic steps need to be taken to put North Korea in its place.
The only other alternative that I can think of that South Korea can pursue is to follow Chung Mong-joon’s advice and withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to develop its own nuclear weapons. If Mutually Assured Destruction worked for both the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, I do not see any reason why it should not work now.
Of course, that would mean that all that talk about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula would have been for naught and could lead to a debilitating arms race throughout Northeast Asia.
The choices are ugly, but the status quo is unsustainable.
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Featured Image: "Ivy Mike" atmospheric nuclear test - November 1952 by The Official CTBTO Photostream on 2011-12-08 12:18:52