Academic journal article Military Review

A Strategy for the Korean Peninsula: Beyond the Nuclear Crisis

Academic journal article Military Review

A Strategy for the Korean Peninsula: Beyond the Nuclear Crisis

Article excerpt

THE ENTIRE international community faces a twofold crisis on the Korean Peninsula--the erosion of the 50-year Republic of Korea-United States (ROK-US) alliance and the development of the nuclear weapons program in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK). All eyes are on the "6 Party Talks," which include the United States, the DPRK, the ROK, Japan, China, and Russia, to decide whether the DPRK will become a member of the "nuclear club" and whether it might provide nuclear capabilities to rogue states and nonstate terrorist organizations.

This crisis is only one problem that exists on the divided Korean Peninsula. The world is faced with this threat solely because of the Kim Family Regime (KFR), established by Kim Il Sung and now led by his son Kim Jong Il. (1)

The Korea Question

The United States needs to do two things to forestall conflict and help the people on the Korean Peninsula solve the "Korea question." (2) The first priority would be to repair the relationship between alliance partners to ensure an effective defensive capability remains in place to deter an attack by the DPRK, to defeat an attack from the North if deterrence fails, and respond to the chaos and instability that is likely to result when the KFR collapses.

The problem with the alliance was evident when U.S. President George W. Bush decided not to visit the ROK during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Thailand in 2003. (3) This situation must be corrected. With a strong alliance, the United States and the ROK could focus on using the alliance's elements of national power to develop and execute a combined, synchronized strategy to achieve a mutually agreed-on end state. This combined strategy would have to accomplish the following goals:

* Forestall conflict or regime collapse until the ROK is prepared for reunification.

* Manage near-term crises caused by the KFR and its attempts to use provocation and blackmail to achieve political and economic concessions.

* Prepare the population in the North for eventual reunification.

This approach assumes no combination of coercion or engagement would cause the KFR to alter its goals or change its behavior; that negotiations by the 6 parties would ultimately fail; and that the efforts of the United States, ROK, and United Nations would not lead to a peaceful settlement of the Korea question. This strategy would not conflict with any attempts to negotiate or try to change regime behavior that would cause it to acquiesce to the goals of the allies and the major powers. In fact, a major part of this strategy relics on negotiation, talks, and engagement. If the assumption proves false, and the DPRK acquiesces and becomes a normal member of the international community, the result will be peace and stability, with the ROK and DPRK coexisting for an indefinite period, which is unlikely.

Michael O'Hanlon and Mike Mochizuki, authors of Crisis on the Korean Peninsula, assume that the DPRK will change its behavior and will be coaxed out of its nuclear weapons program. (4) They argue that a comprehensive approach to issues should go beyond the nuclear program to bring an end to DPRK's nuclear program. David Kang and Victor Cha, authors of Nuclear North Korea. A Debate on Engagement Strategies, take a different approaches. (5) Kang minimizes DPRK's nuclear threat, but Cha takes a hardline view. Both agree that to achieve resolution engagement is needed. I feel that the assumption that the KFR will change its behavior and turn its back on 55 years of a consistent strategy is flawed. However, many of the elements in the books have merit and should be incorporated into a new strategy.

To understand why the DPRK would not change its behavior, we must understand the nature of the regime and its strategy. When trying to recommend a strategy, most outsiders violate Sun Tzu's dictum to "know the enemy and know yourself. …

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