Getting Tough With North Korea

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - October 18, 2006

Kim Jong-Il is a serious threat to America. He is a threat to global stability and security. His recent allegations of detonating a nuclear device and his subsequent rejection of the United Nations Security Council resolution decrying his actions prove his disdain for world community participation. The quirky, yet oppressive leader of North Korea is the most difficult of adversary. At the end of the day, he really does not have much to lose.

Jong-Il has run North Korea into the ground during his total-itarian regime. Upon the death of his father, Kim il-Sung in 1994, Jong-Il took a more open government and immediately instituted a unilateral reign. As president, his father sought and utilized advice from officials while his son surrounds himself with “yes” men. His economy is in shambles. His father introduced a policy of a self-sustaining economy which cut off trade with traditional partners such as the Soviet Union. This policy was instrumental in creating widespread famine throughout the country except for the capital of Pyongyang. Jong-Il had done nothing to enrich his people, with the exception of an impotent attempt to emulate China’s economic model, which has proven to be a disaster.


Although his nation is rife with economic depression and famine, this has not deterred him from aggressively building his military might. His expenditure on military technology and armaments rank among the highest on a per capita basis. It is this penchant for military strength and his vitriolic rhetoric regarding The United States and our allies which has our attention.

Although many believe North Korea and Kim Jong-Il only wants to compel the U.S. to resume foreign aid and remove existing economic sanctions, there is still an undisputable threat to America and the world. First of all, this opens up a new vendor for terrorist seeking weapons capable of massive destruction. Secondly, a de-stabilizing arms race is plausible. Lest we forget, North Korea did test launch several missiles on July 4 of this year.

Unfortunately, the two response scenarios before us are distressing. If we champion economic sanctions, it will plunge North Korea into a more economically dire situation and Kim Jong-Il will feel backed into a corner believing he has nothing to lose. Desperation sets in and an inclination to fire the first salvo becomes an attractive option.


And what a salvo that would be. We must remember that the North has literally thousands of missiles aimed directly at Seoul, the capital of the South. As the 11th largest economy in the world with a tremendously dense population of almost 10 million (plus approximately 30,000 United States military) and situated just 30 miles from the DMZ, Seoul proves to be a vulnerable target. A policy of containment would be preferred. If we choose military intervention, we will embark on a confrontation where nuclear deployment would be a certainty. The devastation would be incalculable.

I am not a doomsday advocate, but the days in which we live dictate a consideration of potential. I am hopeful for a peaceful resolution, but our nation’s security is the filter where all policy decisions must flow. Our leaders must keep our nation truly safe and must not simply placate our people with empty memos and resolutions. As a recent assessment of our military preparedness indicates, if we must fight, we can. I pray it’s not necessary, but I am confident America and her allies will prevail, one way or another.

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