Tuesday, March 21, 2017

North Korean flash point

North Korea was flagged among the foreign policy priorities for President Trump. The advice was well-placed. Tensions in the Korean peninsula have been rising, with North Korea testing long-range missiles and the US responding with a sophisticated air defence system for South Korea.

Among the options being considered is all-out war, aimed at taking out North Korea's nuclear armoury. The argument is that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is crazy. As an article in the FT points out, he's a rational leader focused on survival. It's the war option that is crazy:
The North Korean nuclear and missile programmes are widely dispersed, including underground and underwater. It is unlikely that the whole programme could be destroyed in a single wave of strikes, which would immediately raise the prospect of nuclear retaliation by the North. Even if the US was miraculously able to take out the whole nuclear programme in one swoop, the North Koreans still have formidable conventional artillery. They could launch devastating barrages aimed at Seoul, the South Korean capital, a city of 10m people 35 miles from the North Korean border. Japan would also be vulnerable to missile strikes, as would US bases in the region. 

...  the better route, in the long run, would be to search for a deal that freezes the country’s nuclear programme, in return for economic assistance and a guarantee that the US will not seek to overthrow the regime. 
And what if such a 'grand bargain' can't be struck? Well, it would be best for the US to live with a nuclear North Korea, as it has lived with a nuclear Russia. The alternatives are too horrifying to contemplate. 

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