October 9, 2006

"Once they do that, it’s serious... Otherwise, the North Koreans are just jerking us around.”

The North Korean nuclear test.

29 comments:

Bob said...

Damn, if only Bush would've stuck to the Clinton/Albright plan. It was working beautifully.

MadisonMan said...

Well what a surprise! The first response blames it on Clinton. Where does the buck stop in Bush's White House?

I wonder how many refugees are poised to swarm north into China from N. Korea, out of the 22+ million population. What are the options when the leader of a country is a certifiable nutjob?

Paco Wové said...

I don't see that this is either Bush or Clinton's "fault". There isn't any reasonable way this could have been prevented, just like there's no reasonable way Iran will be prevented from developing nuclear weapons.

MadisonMan said...

I'd guess the one politician that benefits from this is Denny Hastert -- pushes Foley right out of the news. For now.

The change for N. Korea must come from within, I agree, absent some kind of military intervention. And I don't think China will go along with intervention if it means a refugee crisis. And if China doesn't want it, I don't think it's going to happen.

JohnF said...

Another victory for the international diplomacy corps. Talking to people who lie, getting promises from people who won't keep them, that's the ticket!

This is nothing that a few well aimed cruise missiles would not have fixed long ago, and likely could fix now. And that goes for Iran too.

But what the hey. Why not more diplomacy, backed up with the threat of, say, nothing? Yeah, that's the ticket.

Sloanasaurus said...

The change for N. Korea must come from within, I agree, absent some kind of military intervention.

I don't get people from the left and why they keep bringing up this argument. Organic change in these tyrannical regimes is a pipe dream - it never happens. As in almost every other case, foreign involvement and intervention will be required to throw off the yoke of the N. Korean dictatorship.

I don't blame Clinton for trying appeasement. Sometimes appeasement works. Here it was clear that it will never work, but I don't think we lost anything by trying. We might have found out that Kim Il was a mere playboy and only interested in a comfortable living rather than being agressive. Therefore it was worth trying. Despite appeasement, Clinton would not have done anything different than Bush in his efforts to get a regional answer to N. Korea.

Because appeasment has already been attempted, mainstream Democrats will have more political capital in their own party to support the President in being more aggressive with N. Korea. The left's cry for more appeasment will be less potent because it has already been tried.

More aggressive action is now needed to keep N. Korea from selling its weapons. This may include blockades, and other acts of war, and a massive increase in funding for Star Wars, a program long opposed by the left. I hope Democrats will support the President in these efforts.

Cedarford said...

Madison man - The change for N. Korea must come from within, I agree, absent some kind of military intervention.

N Korea is a totalitarian state that cannot be changed from within as long as conditions remain bearable. The NORKs are susceptible to economic collapse and resulting end of Central authority. Which would eventually mean S Korea reunifies, after some protocols agreed to with China and the US.

And I don't think China will go along with intervention if it means a refugee crisis. And if China doesn't want it, I don't think it's going to happen.

That was conventional thinking a year ago.

1. China lost major face with this one...as it's former puppet state and neighbor that China was supposed to have all this influence with just flipped the Sinos the finger.

2. Suppose you are a Chinese leader. You have a choice. (1)Collapse N Korea by cutting off all aid. Shoot a couple of thousand of refugees if necessary to keep them bottled up as N Korea collapses. Accept reunification of the Korean people and the great benefits China gets from a peaceful Korea with a mutually beneficial trade situation. or (2)See dear old pal Japan scrap it's Constitutional pacifist provision, embark on a nuclear arms and missile race to "deter" the NORKs - possibly followed by the SORKs and Taiwan.

China is hoping to avoid both choices - but if it has to choose, choice #1 is better than the Devil Barbarians of Nanking and the 13 million dead Chinese of WWII remilitarizing.

We are a ways away from climatic scenarios from playing out - but you do operational testing of missiles and nukes - not primarily for delivering political signals - but to improve them, until you have a credible, reliable nuclear warhead arsenal that can similarly be delivered reliably and accurately on the NORKs local or overseas foes by missiles refined in testing.

That is why there will be enormous pressure to stop them. Before fleets of MRBMs menace Japan or ICBMs in the hundreds are aimed at the USA. The nuke test also backs up prevailing opinion that the NORKs are irrational and not deterrable by diplomacy. Not even by China.

Sloanasaurus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
HaloJonesFan said...

MadisonMan: Nukes don't just spring up out of the ground like mushrooms. This plan has been in development for far longer than Bush has been in the White House. Indeed, by the time Bush showed up, nothing short of a full-blown military invasion would have been able to stop them making a bomb!

dmc_in_washington said...

hang on. it's not certain N. Korea actually detonated a *nuclear* bomb.

An unidentified U.S. intel official says a "sub-kiloton explosion" was detected, according to CNN. This is right on the borderline between a conventional and nuclear detonation.

Most initial nuke tests (e.g., India and Pakistan) are multi-kiloton. Remember, N. Korea has a history of trash-talking. It wouldn't be surprising if they were bluffing. This is, after all, a regime that couldn't even build a functioning ICBM as of July. A nuke seems much more complex...

Balfegor said...

I don't see that this is either Bush or Clinton's "fault". There isn't any reasonable way this could have been prevented, just like there's no reasonable way Iran will be prevented from developing nuclear weapons.

With North Korea, also, if you need to blame a Bush, the Bush to blame is Bush I -- my recollection is that North Korea first began removing weaponisable plutonium from their reactor in the very early 1990's, before Clinton become president.

That aside, though, my belief is that structurally, there's very little we could have done in any event, even back in 1989. An invasion would almost certainly have resulted in Seoul being shelled by the thousands of pieces of heavy artillery North Korea has been collecting along along the border since the ceasefire. Seoul was not as big then as it is now (now, it's around 21, 22 million -- roughly the population of Iraq), but it was still big and extremely dense, and shelling would have resulted in death tolls like we haven't seen since, well, the Korean War.

Anyhow, I am most interested in Japan's response. My guess is that this just boosted the nationalists' case for remilitarisation. I don't know Shinzo Abe's views on that matter, but he's considered fairly nationalistic, so he might seize the moment.

Re: DMC in Washington

A nuke seems much more complex...

A nuke seems much more complex . . . but we developed nukes well before we developed functioning ICBMs. So not necessarily.

In any event, though, North Korea claims the detonation was a plutonium bomb, in which case it was probably an implosion-type device. I don't think anyone's intelligence has indicated that they've been able to miniaturise an implosion-type to mount it on a missile. The risk there is a gun-type uranium device, which is (or so I understand) much easier to miniaturise -- that's probably why they shifted their focus to uranium enrichment in the late 90's.

Maxine Weiss said...

Cut off all diplomatic relations with China, immediately.

No more of these inane "Trade Missions".

China is an enemy of the State, and should be treated as such.

Russia and China are our enemies.

The Cold War didn't end, actually.

It's still on.

Peace, Maxine

Icepick said...

Maxine, we can't cut relations with China. Too much of our trade is with them, and they own far too much US debt for that to be feasible. Besides, the US, China and India are presently keeping the world economy afloat, in large measure because of trade between those three.

China is also in a tough spot here. They do not want a unified "westernized" Korea on that flank. So maintaining the NK buffer state seems like a good idea. But NK is a seriously unhinged state, and very unstable. If they (China) try to replace the leadership, it may well precipitate a crisis that could lead to a HUGE refugee crisis and the need for China to occupy NK. Now, SK will definitely NOT like that, and Japan will go ape-shit crazy over that, much moreso than they will if NK really did set off a nuke today. (I'm still leaving open the possibility that they used a large stash of conventional explosives as a bluff.)

At the time of Clinton's 1994 deal, I thought it was absolutely horrible and that it would have a negative outcome. Over time, however, I've softened my stance with regard to 'blaming' Clinton. Really, he didn't have good options. My problem with that deal in retrospect is that it was used to provide a false sense of security on that front.

Somehow, North Korea has become a problem that has no soultion. All we can do is try to manage it and hope that circumstances either change, or that when the crisis comes it will be quickly defused.

Oh, and this really isn't the crisis. Not yet anyway. And Pakistan's nukes worry me far more than NK's nukes would.

Icepick said...

Oh, and the Cold War did end, and we won. However, that did not mean the end of history, or the end of competition amongst nation-states.

Anonymous said...

So this wasn't a nuclear test, just "performance art" with many tons of TNT?

As in art, it's the intention behind the act that matters. Kim Jong-(Mentally)Ill intends for the world to believe he has nuclear weapons.

Most likely, conclusive proof that this was or wasn't a nuclear explosion won't be forthcoming. The only safe assumption is that this was a real nuclear test.

A former Japanese Prime Minister floated the idea a few weeks ago that a nuclear armed Japan wasn't out of the question. Now that seems a certainty.

I also think a Chinese invasion of North Korea isn't out of the question. If they see that regime collapsing, the only way to prevent unification would be to put in their own puppet government. They'd be willing to throw a million troops at the problem, I think.

Revenant said...

Add me to the list of people skeptical that this was a real nuke test. A 4.2 on the Richter scale would suggest an explosion in, at most, the 2 kiloton range. That's a tenth as powerful as the Trinity test in 1945.

If it WAS a nuke test, I'd be very surprised if it was one which actually succeeded.

George said...

The NK govt. said it was a nuclear test; therefore, it was a nuclear test.

It is what it is.

Our govt. has said for years this will not stand.

Iran is watching.

Time for Uncle Sam to put up or shut up.

--

If anyone doubts that the NK regime is unspeakably evil, visit this Austin Bay item (via Instapundit) regarding what the NK govt. does to refugees when they are forcibly returned by the Chinese army:

http://www.austinbay.net/blog/index.php?p=1469

Unspeakable.

Balfegor said...

Re: Revenant

Add me to the list of people skeptical that this was a real nuke test. A 4.2 on the Richter scale would suggest an explosion in, at most, the 2 kiloton range.

I am not sure what to think at this point. I'm reading right now on Nikkei that in addition to our 4.2 reading, the Japanese Meteorological Agency recorded it as 4.9, and that when Pakistan detonated their first (genuine) test explosives in 1998, the magnitude was 4.8.

Joseph Hovsep said...

I think Maxine is insane.

Coco said...

"Time for Uncle Sam to put up or shut up."

And do what?

"If anyone doubts that the NK regime is unspeakably evil..."

No one seriously doubts that the NL regime is evil and deranged. BUt just because they are doesn't mean there is a clear appropriate response here. ANd it certainly doesn't mean that the U.S. is the country that should provide it.

Balfegor said...

Huh. I read here that actually gun-type devices cannot be miniaturised for mounting on a missile. Is that correct? They seem so simple. And wasn't the original gun-type device much smaller than the plutonium implosion-type bomb, back in WWII? Hmm. Interesting.

I wonder why North Korea turned to uranium enrichment in the past decade or so, then. Maybe they just wanted something surefire?

George said...

Coco--

In response to your question "And do what?"

Take out the NK regime with a massive (and, yes, surprise) global strike — with or without Chinese assistance.

Moral logic: Liberate the millions, millions of slaves living in North Korea.

Global logic: Send Iran's mullahs the decisive signal that should they test a nuclear weapon we will exterminate them.

Regional logic: Now that NK has the bomb, Japan will have to go nuclear, something China does not want, further destabilizing the region.

US Domestic Logic: NK may sell a nuke(s) to terrorists, making us subject to nuclear blackmail. (Dear Mr. President—Either all Jews leave Israel in 7 days, or we nuke a major US city. Bye.) And NK either now or may soon have the capability to hit mainland US targets with ICBMs. The warning time on that is about, oh, what, 10 minutes.

We are not Hamlet.

We are a sovereign state that is threatened every day by NK's statements and deeds.

I write all the above in large part to see what sort of response it brings from others who post here. An interesting intellectual exercise. If you like, consider me Fail-Safe's Professor Groeteschele.

Basically, NK has called the US's bluff, less than one month before our fall elections. Clever chess move. NK expects Bush to do nothing rash for fear of losing control of Congress, causing a recession, angering the Chinese, killing thousands of South Koreans, and creating a massive refugee problem.

NK thinks we play poker and will fold.

I say we toss the cards and pull an Indiana Jones by suddenly and shockingly gunning down the terrorist thug with the whip.

The future of freedom belongs to the bold. Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of fear of North Korea?

Balfegor said...

killing thousands of South Koreans

Realistically, we're talking millions of friendly casualties. The best case scenarios are something in the mid hundred-thousands. The worst case scenario is, of course, a nuclear detonation in Tokyo.

Coco said...

That's certainly one way to go George. Thanks for responding.

Revenant said...

Realistically, we're talking millions of friendly casualties.

Highly unlikely unless North Korea already has nukes and the means to deliver them. They can shell Seoul, but the North Korean army is pathetic -- South Korea could probably defeat it by itself -- and the border between the two nations is impassable. I also rather suspect that we've got the capacity to take out the North Korean guns pretty quickly in a preemptive strike.

But since thousands of SK casualties is politically unacceptable at the moment, it doesn't really matter anyway.

ignacio said...

Wasn't this about the size of a suitcase nuke?

George said...

Balfegor--

"Millions of friendly casualties"?

If that would indeed be true in a conventional war between the US/SK v. NK, then allow me to change the hypothetical:

To prevent that, we use multiple simultaneous nuclear weapons on NK's forward artillery positions, annihilating its ability to lob artillery into Seoul and killing only NK soldiers, not civilians. The NK regime then falls into disarray.

We'd save civilian lives, and the thesis behind the new policy would be that the potential threat of nuclear terrorism is so grave that first use of nuclear weapons was required.

It could not be clearer that we're the frog in the skillet, and NK is turning up the temperature one degree at a time. NK is having great success defining political/military deviancy down.

I can't help but wonder if it has intentionally created uncertainty over whether or not it was a nuclear test because it knows the West loves using uncertainty (ala Saddam's WMDs) as an excuse to fly down an endless dark rabbit hole of debate and delay.

I don't like playing the role of Hamlet. Or worse, maybe we're Falstaff.

Balfegor said...

NK's forward artillery positions, annihilating its ability to lob artillery into Seoul and killing only NK soldiers, not civilians.

You, uh, do realise just how close Seoul is to the DMZ, right? It's between 15-20 miles away, with the city centre roughly 30 miles away. Unless our nukes have no fallout, that's still going to render Seoul uninhabitable.

Re: Revenant:

They can shell Seoul, but the North Korean army is pathetic -- South Korea could probably defeat it by itself -- and the border between the two nations is impassable. I also rather suspect that we've got the capacity to take out the North Korean guns pretty quickly in a preemptive strike.

I'm, uh, highly dubious -- I don't think any of our military planners are anywhere near that optimistic. There was an article in the Atlantic a few months (a year?) ago talking with some of the military personnel who were working on North Korea strategies, and they all put 500,000 casualties as the low-end.

South Korea's army could defeat North Korea's -- no contest -- but overwhelming military superiority doesn't really count for much when half your population lives in the primary battlezone, within range of the enemy's guns. I mean, this is not Hitler firing a few V2's into London, or the Paris gun firing into Paris. Think a couple thousand pieces of heavy artillery shelling Manhattan here.

Admittedly, I think were assuming they have the element of surprise, and several hours to shell Seoul in relative peace. It might be different if we had overwhelming surprise along the full length of the border. I don't think anyone thinks we could manage that, though.

Thankfully, none of this is going to happen in the short term -- we're saying the nuke test was a dud, so we'll probably just ignore North Korea for the time being. China, meanwhile, is evidently frothing at the regime, and -- even if they don't have as much influence in Pyongyang as I would like -- they may be able to help us reach a peaceable solution. China may still be interested in grand strategy and toying with a puppet Korean state and all that, but South Korea has huge investments in China now, and losing Seoul would be rather worse for them than for the US.

George said...

Balfegor--

A few minutes ago on NPR the scholar who wrote this month's Atlantic story on NK said that he thought our strategy was, more or less, to try to get the Chinese to do something, but he seemed pessimistic because the Chinese govt., being authoritarian itself, is rather leery of the concept of regime change.

My sense was that he also believed the the SK's had zero enthusiasm for regime change because the refugee problem would be beyond belief. I've also read that it's believed that many top SK officials are being bribed by NK. Also, SK does $1B in annual trade with NK annually, accding to the WSJ.

Everything I've seen, heard, and read today is that we (the US/China/SK) will continue the same process of talking. But we've tried that. Our bluff has been called. It's like the cops surrounding a house, telling the mad bomber inside to come out or else, and when he stays holed up, the police just shrug and keep shouting through the megaphone.

I have to conclude that we are unable to act unilaterially because SK and China vehemently oppose military action. Good for their interests, but we're stuck in the middle.