Sunday, October 08, 2006

North Korea conducts nuclear test

North Korea apparently conducted a nuclear test, although what was actually tested remains unclear as of this moment:
The specter of an Asian atomic arms race loomed over the region Monday after communist North Korea shocked the world by announcing it conducted its first-ever nuclear test in a brazen move that fueled global jitters.
Russian intelligence revealed that Pyongyang was prepared to demonstrate the nuclear capability it first announced that it possessed less than four years ago. But the Russians thought it would be months before North Korea would act upon the threat. The Chinese warned it would be sooner. China has the best window into the Hermit Kingdom.

No nation appears to be thrilled about North Korea's reticence. Japan, which led the charge at Turtle Bay against North Korea, has promised sanctions in response to nuclear testing. Former Prime Minister Nakasone's (from '83-87) think tank encourages Japan to go nuclear in response to the growing threat of aggression in the region. The country with the infamously pacifist constitution has the fourth largest military budget in the world. The Japanese historically detest Koreans and the feeling is more than mutual. Tokyo has a host of incentives in military growth and in the acquisition of nuclear weapons. But the argument that kept Japan from going nuclear when it seriously considered doing so in 1995 is the same that threatens to keep it from picking up the ball today:
Tokyo weighed atomic weapons back in 1995 to counter the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea. But the government ultimately rejected the idea because it might deprive Japan of U.S. military protection and alarm neighboring countries.
That is the same argument the conservatives in South Korea make. I'm with the liberals (the nationalists) in both countries. I don't see how the US benefits from having 30,000 pieces of cannon fodder stationed near the DMZ while the ROK, with a population twice the size, military spending over four times as great, and an economy 24 times the size of its starving, dwarfed northern neighbor, claims that it is threatened by an attack from Pyongyang that it cannot handle without American security guarantees.

China is also irked by North Korea's recklessness:
As international tensions over North Korea have soared, China has deployed extra combat units of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to man the border from the
Yalu River in the south to the Tumen River near Russia - evidently fearing the risk of chaos and collapse.
The PRC faces a refugee crisis if Kim Jong Il does anything to get himself obliterated, like say attack Seoul with nuclear weapons (especially if the South had the ability to respond unilaterally in-kind). Further, China, which wants increased influence in its own backyard, clearly doesn't benefit from Northern provocations that prod South Korea, Japan, and possibly even Taiwan to go nuclear and further increase military spending. Russia, the North's other pal in the region, is in a similar predicament.

The UN Security Council, which of course includes both China and Russia, unanimously agreed that Pyongyang had to drop its plans for the nuclear test. Three days later, Pyongyang gave the impotent international body the middle finger. The vaunted international community will do nothing in response to testing of nuclear weapons--weapons similar to the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WWII and capable of killing an estimated 200,000 people. The US has little vital interest in doing so and risks embarrasing overextension if military conflict breaks out.

The solution seems to be for the very capable nations of Japan and South Korea to provide for their own defense and act as a counterbalance to the North Korea immediately and to China in the future. South Korea can legitimately site the North's abrogation of the 1991 treaty in which both Koreas pledged not to go nuclear. Kim Jong Il's perverted playboy lifestyle is in jeapordy if either Seoul or Tokyo decide to go nuclear. Suddenly the North would face assured destruction if it launced a nuclear attack while being utterly incapable of matching either nation conventionally (the only things North Korea will has are air power and nukes).

I see no reason for the US to carry the water of Japan and South Korea when the two can do so on their own, and in the process become powerful players with geopolitical goals similar to those of the US. Why not speed up the drawdown and instead of having 5,000 more troops out of the South in a couple of years, have everyone out, while encouraging our friends in the region to arm themselves?


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