Columns

American sabre-rattling may cost South Korea deeply

Alexander
Scott

Monday, September 18, 2017

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N orth Korea is a renegade State — a s tate seemingly run by madmen and where poverty and desperation are the daily realities of life. It is a nation that, on the face of it, will collapse at any time once enough pressure is applied to them. That is the opinion of the average American pundit as they openly call for a conflict that hardly anyone in Asia wants.

We see American rhetoric spouted about how poor the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is and how the nation would collapse within a few months or weeks of invasion.

The people pushing for a war (or rather the resumption of the Korean war) have no ties to Asia and have no empathy as it relates to looking at a potential enemy. Any amount of empathetic thinking would lead us to stop this mad rush to war.

Time for some empathy. Imagine, if you can, a nation (North Korea) totally levelled during the Korean war. Bombers were ordered to destroy any and everything, and they followed through on those orders, bombing houses to rubble, destroying road networks, and even (to top it all off) destroying the waterworks such as dams and levees. Imagine living through that hell as the entire nation turns to dust and ash, then imagine that the military that caused your nation much suffering is located just south of your border, with all sorts of fancy arms to boot.

Imagine living in a country where your neighbour holds yearly military exercises doing mock invasions of your country and, finally, imagine that again, right on your border, the enemy that caused so much destruction had, and may have again, nuclear weapons pointed directly at you. How would you react? Would you not seek to defend yourself, regardless of whether it is real or imagined?

That is the reality of the North Korean situation; hemmed in on all sides by forces that really wish to make a radical change as to how the nation operates. With all of this in mind, it is pretty easy to empathise with the DPRK. They are a nation that is terrified of the outside, and the US in particular (and with serious grounds for that fear), and it is easy to understand then why they have for so long pushed for a nuclear arsenal to act as a deterrent against potential invaders.

However, we do not have that empathy and, instead, state boldly and loudly that the DPRK must stop missile testing in the face of mock invasions. We have no empathy and are being led to a conflict that I fear we haven't even thought through regarding the serious consequences that we would face.

The DPRK, as things stand, if invaded or bombed, would immediately use the missiles pointed at Seoul. In short, after the opening salvo the South Koreans would already be the losers. As things stand, if any force (external) directly invades the North, then we can almost certainly bank on China giving them reluctant support, because the Chinese would never entertain — and are fearful of having — a US client state right on its border, which is what is already being planned for and prepared by these annual military exercises.

To go around making bellicose statements about how the US can and is considering 'decapitating' the regime of the DPRK is sheer madness if one wishes to see a peaceful and stable East Asia. To not realise that the DPRK is a garrison nation on watch 24/7 for the potential (or resumption of) conflicts is insane from any point of view if, as suspected, the DPRK successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that would leave Juno Alaska in ruins. It would be a total disservice to the people of South Korea and Japan, who would bear the brunt of any North Korean retaliation.

Now these are just facts, hard and cold, but facts nonetheless, and these are facts that seem to be lost in the ether as the world lurches towards yet another conflict (or total calamity). The North Koreans are not looking for a conflict, it is accepted as a fact that the nuclear and missile programmes are for defensive purposes. Whether the threat is real or perceived— and the US has a proven track record in the regime changing game — it is clear that the North Koreans are ready to respond to the threat.

We in the West must see the world from the point of view of the DPRK leadership. They are paranoid — and who wouldn't be if one day the nation that sponsors you collapses — and right now only seek self-preservation through the propaganda that they release to the North Korean public and the army that they lavishly spend on (to ensure that the generals don't mutiny). We see where self-preservation is key to the State.

Now, one doesn't have to like how the DPRK Government acts as it relates to human rights and the treatment of its citizens to see that a conflict with them is pointless and may actually cost us more in ways we can't imagine. We, as a global community, must ensure that no war happens on the Korean peninsula, as I fear that the carnage that this probable conflict would cause will make the Korean war look like a cakewalk. We, as such, must ensure that even while we chastise them for their failure to live up to human rights conventions, etc, that they are not totally shut out and ostracised, because that will only lead to the regime doubling down on its military capabilities.

Instead, we should both kill them with soft power and be patient. Patient for the day that the average North Korean citizen wakes up and realises that the world is bigger than what the State-run media houses say. We must wait for the day that the average North Korean decides to take their destiny in his/her own hands. In short, we must leave them alone and allow that nation to grow at its own pace.

The thirst for conflict in the Pacific is real, and the situation in the DPRK has a lot of people on tenterhooks, but if we allow the people living there to decide their own path, then we can see the change in Government that the West so often calls for. To do anything otherwise, up to and including attacking them, is pointless and selfish. If we really care about the plight of the North Koreans and want to see them live a better life then the threats must be removed. If not, we may as well kiss the Koreas goodbye, because any conflict there will end in the total destruction of both nations.

Alexander Scott is a political and social commentator, legal clerk, sports enthusiast, and proud graduate of St George's College. Send comments to the Observer or alexanderwjscott90@gmail. com.

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