Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Korean War Restarts With A Whimper


SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- North Korea threatened military action Wednesday after South Korea joined a U.S.-led effort to limit the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction, the official Korean Central News Agency said.
An image from North Korean television on April 9 shows leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang.

South Korea said Monday that it was joining the 6-year-old Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) because of "the grave threat WMD and missile proliferation is posing to global peace," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young.

The effort is aimed at halting shipments of weapons technology, a rare source of hard currency for North Korea, but Moon said the south would continue to uphold a shipping agreement with the North.

"Our revolutionary armed forces ... will regard" South Korea's participation "in the PSI as a declaration of war ..." the North's official news agency said.

Pyongyang also announced it was no longer bound by the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War.

The silver lining here is that for all the ways the Korean War could restart, at least we aren't waking up asking, "Where's Seoul?"

Already there are folks suggesting that this is proof that Bush failed or proof that Obama's foreign policy stances showed weakness as conservative pundits warned and has invited a more belligerent stand by our enemies. Others have noted the lose-lose situation we face with North Korea given their ability to cause massive devastation on South Korea even with just conventional weapons before we can even hope to stop them. The diplomacy is similar to a hostage situation where prior presidents have struggled to find what could be the breakthrough to ending the hostilities that have lasted all these decades.

Time will tell how far Kim is willing to push this current nonsense, but there may be hope for Obama supporters out there wondering if his Secretary of State and Vice President were serious about him being naive on foreign policy. Kim may be seriously considering direct talks but attempting to do so from a position of strength in order to get the most out of the interaction. This could end up being the first signs of engagement just as much as it could end up being a belligerent "hail mary" by an ailing despot at the end of his rope.

One can only hope that Obama is eventually vindicated here, no matter how unlikely it seems at the moment. The alternative could get damn ugly.


coyote said...

WSJ had a much calmer approach to their reporting...

Also regarding the test - while it rightly should be condemned - I read somewhere (prob wsj) that it was like 1/20th of the power of the one dropped on Japan. Doubt it could erase Seoul.

Glock21 said...

The news reports I saw rated the latest test around the intensity of Hiroshima. Small as far as nuclear weapons go, but still big as far as weapons go in general.

The issue with Seoul is both conventional and nuclear. Currently there is enough artillery aimed at soul to level it regardless of their nuclear capability... with a couple thousand US troops also in their sites.

The nuclear issue is a bigger one for proliferation as opposed to the deterrence issue. Granted the deterrence issue sucks if they threaten to nuke a Japanese city or (if they get their ICBM program up and running, us) others if they attempt to intervene in some renewed attempt to unify the country by force.

The proliferation issue is a big one as the links to Pakistan's bomb development trace back to NK, who is always desperate for money due to the sanctions, and willing to sell nuclear intel to others.