Tag Archives: Korea

Turning the Tables on North Korea

The actions of North Korea in sinking a South Korean ship and shelling a remote South Korean island primarily because it was beyond the armistice line are clear violations of the 1953 armistice agreement. North Korea has been lead to believe by the lack of consequences for its bad behavior that it can do largely as it pleases in attempts to further extort financial assistance from a cowering West which seeks to avoid conflict above all else.

There are worse fates than conflict as we know from our history and bullies left unchecked do not generally improve their behavior.

Our hopes that China would see the craziness of North Korea’s behavior and do something—anything—to bring the regime in line has proved not well founded.  China wants to be respected as a great nation and superpower but shrinks from stepping up to the plate to take a proportionate share of responsibility when the world needs it.  While we clearly want to cooperate with China in finding a solution to this problem, we cannot subordinate our own strategic interests to China’s indecision.

Leaving North Korea unchecked is also dangerous because of its export of weapons and mischief to Iran and other bad behaving players around the world proliferating some of the worst weapons to some of the worst threats to global peace and security.

As we have learned before and the Wikileaks remind us again, often it is only the United States that has the capacity to change the game and provide the leadership to solve the world’s biggest problems.

That is what we need to do now.

Gordon Chang writing in the New Asia blog published on Forbes suggests a way to do just that.  He proposes that since North Korea has already asserted that it does not plan to respect the 1953 armistice that the United States should follow suit and declare that it no longer is obligated to the armistice either and is free to take appropriate retaliatory action against North Korea for any violations.  Chang suggests three specific steps that would tilt the playing field back to balance:

1.       Order Financial Freeze on North Korean Assets.  The US Treasury once before punished North Korea by ordering targeted banks used by North Koreas who hope to do business with or in the US to freeze assets and refrain from any transactions involving the North. This truly ticked off Kim Jong-Il and would do the same today especially if expanded much more broadly.

2.       South Korea could close the Kaesong Industrial Complex.  This industrial zone shared between the Korea’s was established as a bridge builder for future cooperation.  We see how well that worked.  Closing it would, according to Gordon Chang deprive the North of as much as $600 million in hard currency each year.  Surely the manufactured goods could be relocated to other facilities inside South Korea.

3.       Interdiction of North Korean Exports.  Without the armistice, the US and other nations would be free to board, search and seize cargo shipped from North Korea that represented a violation of any UN resolutions, a proliferation of unauthorized weapons sale or a threat to global security.

To be sure these are acts of war and the North will wail it most belligerent epithets at even the suggestion of such actions.  But mice do not generally pick fights with tigers especially when the tiger is hungry or angry.

A willingness of the United States to say ENOUGH!—and mean it would make possible a fresh start by all parties in resolving this problem once and for all.  To back up this change in approach the US would need to demonstrate its resolve by:

1.       Deliver a clear and unambiguous message to North Korea it will defend any attack against South Korea or any US interest will a full and appropriate military response.

2.       Reaffirm US support for unified Korea and a willingness to work with China and others in Asia to facilitate such reunification when the North Korean regime collapses.

3.       Announce that the US was engaging in discussions with South Korea, Japan and others within range of North Korea’s missiles for the deployment of US weapons including tactical nuclear weapons to back up the strategy.

Such a no nonsense strategy for trapping the errant mouse is the only thing a mouse as wily as Kim Jong-Il understands.

Turning Convergence to Strategic Advantage

As the feed-in-tariff problems of Spain and, more recently, Germany caused major ripple effects around the world for renewable energy especially solar photovoltaic technology players, the United States has become the market of choice for global players in renewable energy.  The most recent evidence of that is the outpouring of capital from China being investing in establishing market share in the space.


Because these global players see the convergence of state renewable portfolio standards, Federal stimulus money, investment tax credits and loan guarantees, and America’s insatiable appetite for technology and innovation as solution to a wide range of problems including greenhouse gas emissions reduction.  It is convergence and the welcoming of disruptive technology change that is part of the American genius for continually reinventing itself. While many nations criticize America, our culture, our economic freedom, or respect for the rule of law and opportunity quotient means that people around the world wants to be part of the action in America.

A New World Economic Order Taking Shape

Since World War II America has leveraged its capital and power to help nations and continents recover from the ravages of war, disaster, internal conflicts and other calamities as American treasure was used to rebuild and American power to defend against the Axis power, against Communism, and now Islamic extremism. We should celebrate the success of these achievements and wish our friends the very best in using them for their future economic growth and self interest.

Today, the results of those American efforts combined with the resourcefulness of Europe, Japan, Asia and elsewhere have brought us to a world where American military power is just as strong but America’s lessons in economic power has been multiplied in the faster growing economic miracles of Korea, the leverage of capitalism in China to raise up a great and proud nation, in Brazil and elsewhere.

I am not claiming American credit for these economic miracles, but let’s face it Communism and Socialism did not produce those results.  So today in the early stages of recovery from this great recession we have faced, is it time for America to think about how to point the way for the next stage of global economic growth and renewal?

Time to Emancipate the Children!

Is it time to emancipate the kids and tell them how proud we are of their accomplishments, but now it’s time to buy your own insurance, build your own house, and take responsibility for your own future.  We will help you and love you as always, but it is time for you to be independent.

This is NOT a sign of American weakness or isolation, but a symbol of strength and confidence.

Just as that idea was ruminating around in my head while reading about some of the problems in Europe, along comes an article from Rand Corp about Korea and whether the South is adequately preparing for what might happen in the North.[1] It said that South Korea has relied on American power to defend it for so long that it is failing to take the actions needed to prepare for the potential for either a North Korean attack or worse a North Korean collapse in the future.  Rand says that America is not helping Korea prepare because it is not forcing Korea to accept its adult responsibilities for its own future.

In Loco parentis!

We see that same phenomenon at work in Europe, I think.  I was reminded of that recently when the French were critical of American efforts to help Haiti as being inadequate.  Someone quipped that the French are “always there when they need us.”  It’s true isn’t it?  Europe is proud and haughty but dreadfully ineffective in making decisions, acting in its strategic best interests or projecting its potential power as a global player in the world.  It often acts like a teenager quick to anger but short on common sense.  There always seems to be time to fire off a ‘wise-ass’ text message slamming America, but never time to do their own homework!

The best evidence of that in recent years is the incredibly stupid growth in European dependence on Russian gas when they know that Russia will shut off the gas without a second’s hesitation if doing so achieves some tactical or strategic goal.  Europe dithers in admitting Turkey to the EU because of its angst over Turkey’s Muslim heritage yet many European nations having allowed Muslim immigration for years now refuse to assimilate them into the population so they can become members of the European family because they are not French-enough, German-enough.

Time to Focus on Economic Growth and Revival

America is coming out of recession and despite the rocky road to recovery ahead has great potential for growth and economic revival.  It is time for America to seize its opportunities and project its strengths to achieve that great revival.

Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Send Me Your Smart and Eager Yearning to Breathe Free! The greatest strategic risk in the world today is not the current economy, or security or terrorism it is demographics.  In Europe, Japan, China and elsewhere the population is aging and birth rates are low.  Immigration to America has produced a younger population so our aging problem is not as severe.  But our immigration problem is we are restricting access to America for the very people we most want and need—the bright, educated, smart, technology saavy H1-B dreamers and inventors of tomorrow.  Instead our lack of action has allowed America to be the safe haven of millions of poor seeking a better life.  While the latter are a source of immense talent, we also need the former better educated professionals.  Other rich and powerful countries facing a threat of population decline they cannot stop without changing demographics but their cultures prevent them from doing so.   So they seek to grow fast economically today hoping for a long, graceful decline.  The American tradition of multi-cultural assimilation of immigrants is one of our greatest accomplishments and one of our strategic advantages for the future.  Use It! The US should open the doors to immigration targeting students and well educated professionals eager for a vibrant place to expand their knowledge, take advantage of opportunities for better lives for their families and live the American dream.  If America can reinvest in its population of young, smart, talented and skilled to build a vibrant multi-cultural workforce from that melting pot it will remain the technology leader of the global economy and engine of economic growth for a long, long time.  The US should make strategic immigration reform a high priority.
  2. Join in the Dance of Freedom and Self Discovery! The most pernicious and effective threat to tyrants around the world is the effective export of American culture, ideas, technology and example.  America should celebrate its way of life by sharing it with the world through open communications, unrestricted internet access and technology investments to defeat the best hackers and thought police from blocking access to the world’s ideas.  Google should be shamed into rejection of every attempt to restrict access to the world’s information by China and other countries.  And if it goes along with such shameful behavior others should challenge it by redoubling their efforts to fill the gap in access to the free flow of ideas.  America’s gift to the world is the spirit of freedom, the first amendment writ largely, and the welcoming of many voices.  Just do it!
  3. Tough Love for the Emancipated Kids! I seek an America capable of projecting its ideas and its power anywhere in the world and make no apologies for that view.  It is what we do to be who we are.  For that reason I would say to South Korea that we expect you to step up and prepare to defend yourself and spend your own money doing so.  America will be there for strategic backup, for logistics, for projection of power and deterrence, but we are not going to permit you to off-load your defense responsibilities to us.  In effect, buy your own insurance!  We should tell the Europeans the same thing.  You can’t have it both ways, American defense and America to criticize as cover for your own weaknesses.  If you fear the Russians, quit buying so dang much of their natural gas!  I could rant on, but you get the point!

Looking out for America’s strategic interests

I do not want to sound like an isolationist and do not, for one moment, want to suggest that America should withdraw from the world or not face squarely the strategic challenges ahead.  I simply think we should be more deliberate and less apologetic about doing so. The recovery period ahead offers America a unique opportunity to get our act together domestically and we should do so internationally as well.  Our strategic interests are changing and so must our strategic priorities.

Will this make us more popular around the world?  Don’t bet on it!  The kids are going to be shocked that Mom & Dad are setting them free to get a job, find a place to live and buy their own insurance.  Maturity is a wonderful thing for kids—and spoiled nations. Besides, the ‘old folks’ still have a lot of life left in us and we intend to make the most of it.  If we do well enough, we might just leave a little of that good life capital behind for the kids after we’re gone!  Our kids will do fine in this tough love environment and get stronger in the process—we’re focused on assuring the best place on earth to protect the freedom and opportunity for our grandchildren.

[1] http://www.rand.org/commentary/2010/01/21/KH.html