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Posts Tagged ‘Korean War’

What Trump and Biden get wrong about North Korea – Responsible Statecraft

Posted by M. C. on October 27, 2020

The good news is that there are growing voices in Congress that recognize the importance of peace with North Korea as a crucial step towards denuclearization. There are now 50 members of Congress who have co-sponsored House Resolution 152,

Written by
Christine Ahn

At last week’s presidential debate, the American people were presented with two widely divergent points of view on how to address North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal: Either engage with its leader (and thereby “legitimize” a “thug”) or apply more sanctions and pressure in order to “control” North Korea. 

But this is a false dichotomy. Meeting or not meeting with the North Korean leader hasn’t been the failure of U.S. policy. And more pressure and sanctions will not convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons arsenal.

To make any substantial progress, the next administration must take a wholly new approach to achieve a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. 

Most urgently, the next administration should officially end the Korean War with a peace agreement. Contrary to the belief held by most Americans, the 70-year-old war never officially ended and was only halted by a fragile ceasefire signed in 1953. That means that the risk of an escalation (intentional or accidental) that triggers a full-scale — potentially nuclear — war remains, endangering us all. 

Both the Trump and Obama administrations depended on a mixture of sanctions, political isolation, and the threat of military force to try to compel North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. But both “maximum pressure” (Trump) and “strategic patience” (Obama) failed to make progress toward that goal. A positive step was the 2018 Singapore Agreement in which the United States and North Korea agreed to establish new relations toward a peace regime and a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. While North Korea has improved its military capability, it has not tested any long-range missiles or new nuclear weapons since then. 

But since last year’s Hanoi Summit, talks between North Korea and the United States have stalled. That’s because engagement with North Korea was not accompanied by a fundamental change in U.S. policy. The United States keeps expecting that pressure will convince North Korea to unilaterally disarm without providing any sanctions relief or security guarantees.

What actually put the prospect of denuclearization on the table was the possibility of peace that began with the 2018 Olympics diplomacy between North Korea and South Korea. It manifested in the Panmunjom Declaration, in which President Moon Jae-in and Chairman Kim Jong Un declared “that there will be no more war and a new era of peace has begun on the Korean peninsula.” The Declaration calls for inter-Korean economic and civic projects and replacing the Armistice Agreement with a peace agreement. But the United States has impeded these reconciliation efforts.

Instead of further militarizing the region and applying more sanctions and pressure, which are harming innocent North Korean civilians, the next administration should engage in the hard work of sustained diplomacy based on specific, concrete next steps. Diplomacy isn’t a “gift” to North Korea; it’s what needs to happen to get to peace. Talking with North Korea should not be viewed differently from what Washington does with any authoritarian power. Ignoring North Korea only kicks the can down the road in addressing Pyongyang’s growing nuclear capabilities and arms proliferation. Furthermore, a majority of Americans support the United States negotiating with adversaries like North Korea to avoid a military confrontation.  

Specifically, the next administration should replace the “all or nothing” stance with step-by-step, reciprocal, verifiable actions to advance denuclearization and peace. That could mean building confidence through opening liaison offices, easing sanctions, facilitating reunions between Korean-American families and their loved ones in North Korea, and formalizing a moratorium on North Korean long-range missile and nuclear testing and U.S.-South Korea military exercises. 

But most crucially, we must end the Korean War. This continued state of war is not a mere technicality; it’s the root cause of militarism and tensions that must be resolved if there is to be real progress with North Korea. 

The good news is that there are growing voices in Congress that recognize the importance of peace with North Korea as a crucial step towards denuclearization. There are now 50 members of Congress who have co-sponsored House Resolution 152, which calls for an end to the Korean War and a peace agreement. Notably, all of the Democratic contenders for the next chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee — Reps. Brad Sherman, Joaquin Castro, and Gregory Meeks — are co-sponsors of this important resolution.

The status quo means more nuclear weapons, more human rights violations, more separated families, more suffering from sanctions, and the ongoing risk of nuclear war. It’s in everyone’s interest to change course with a realistic, concrete plan toward peace and denuclearization, but this is ultimately in the hands of the next U.S. president. Americans must urge him to choose wisely.

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We Should Celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Korean War by Leaving | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on June 27, 2020

Today America’s presence looks ever more anachronistic. South Korea enjoys more than 50 times the GDP and has twice the population of North Korea. The South has one of the world’s largest economies and is known for its technological prowess. It is internationally engaged and respected. So why can’t it defend itself from the impoverished, backward, and isolated North?

Of course, many South Koreans want to keep their defense subsidy. Being protected by the world’s sole superpower has obvious advantages.

The U.S. doesn’t need to protect the south any longer.

U.S. President Donald Trump attends with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Observation Post Ouellette at Camp Bonifas on June 30, 2019 in Panmunjom, South Korea. (Photo by Handout/Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)

Barely five years after World War II ended, the Korean War began. On June 25, 1950, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea launched a full-scale invasion of the South, drawing in both the U.S. and China. The conflict ended essentially where it started, with an armistice. American troops still remain on station against the now nuclear North.

Until recently, U.S. involvement in a second Korean War would have meant horrendous conventional combat, but the damage would have been limited to forces on the Korean peninsula and nearby. Today, however, America’s homeland could be targeted by a nuclear attack. Nothing at stake is worth that risk. With the Republic of Korea capable of defending itself, Washington should formally end the conflict, drop its security guarantee, and bring home its forces.

As Japan surrendered in World War II, the allies viewed Korea’s status almost as an afterthought. Moscow and Washington split the Korean peninsula into occupation zones divided by the 38th Parallel. Two separate nations quickly evolved, threatening each other with war. But only the Soviet Union armed its protégé with heavy weapons. After securing support from Moscow and Beijing, the DPRK’s Kim Il-sung launched an invasion of the South.

The Truman administration won United Nations support, since the Soviets were then boycotting the Security Council—to protest the continued membership of Chiang Kai-shek’s government—and rushed U.S. troops to the ROK’s rescue. However, as allied forces neared the Yalu River and North Korea’s complete defeat loomed, the People’s Republic of China intervened, creating what U.S. commander Douglas MacArthur called “an entirely new war.” The battle lines soon settled near the original border and a couple years of static combat ensued. An armistice was signed in July 1953.

However, American forces remained to protect a devastated country ruled by the aging, irascible, unpopular, and authoritarian Syngman Rhee. He was ousted by a popular uprising that eventually led to a military takeover and Park Chung-hee’s ascension to the presidency. In the 1960s, Park oversaw the South’s economic takeoff, during which the ROK raced past the DPRK, removing an important justification for America’s continued presence on the peninsula.

After Mao Zedong’s death in 1976, China moderated its hostility toward Washington. Democracy came to South Korea in 1987. The Cold War ended as the 1980s closed; the Soviet Union formally dissolved in 1991, after which Russia, and then China, recognized Seoul. The case for a continuing American military presence on the peninsula dissipated, but Washington kept its forces in the ROK to advance its status as the world’s “unipower.”

Today America’s presence looks ever more anachronistic. South Korea enjoys more than 50 times the GDP and has twice the population of North Korea. The South has one of the world’s largest economies and is known for its technological prowess. It is internationally engaged and respected. So why can’t it defend itself from the impoverished, backward, and isolated North?

Of course, many South Koreans want to keep their defense subsidy. Being protected by the world’s sole superpower has obvious advantages. However, there are costs as well for the South: Washington does not treat its allies as equals, only as minor partners. The U.S. often finds it difficult to take no for an answer. Still, at only a modest sacrifice of its sovereignty, Seoul spent less on the military and devoted more to economic development, which proved highly profitable over the years.

America’s interest in turning the ROK into a defense dependent is less clear. Members of Washington’s foreign policy elite generally believe the U.S. should run the international system. Infantilizing allies enhances Washington’s dominance even while increasing the costs and risks faced by Americans, especially those serving in the military. Those who extoll the U.S.-South Korea alliance celebrate a system in which Washington, not Seoul, takes the lead in dealing with North Korea, decides on sending “the armada,” as President Trump called it, off the North’s coast, chooses to ban commerce with Pyongyang, and maintains operational control of the South Korean military in wartime.

And Washington, not Seoul, decides when South Korea will go to war to support other American objectives. At least, Washington imagines that it gets to make that decision. Only here is the alliance perhaps ready to break down. Americans routinely speak of the relationship having dual uses. That is, it defends against the North and other regional threats, which in practice means containing China.

However, South Korean officials seem unlikely to allow the U.S. to drag their nation into a war with China, turning it into a military target of a country with a very long memory, to back American objectives of little if any importance to the ROK. Which means anything other than defense of the South from a North Korean or Chinese attack.

Seoul has long been wary of U.S. aggressiveness. President Kim Young-sam claimed to have blocked Clinton administration plans to attack the North’s nuclear facilities. Roh Moo-hyun publicly insisted that his government’s approval was necessary for Washington to employ facilities in the South. Even a future conservative South Korean administration is unlikely to allow the U.S. to use ROK bases in a conflict with China over Taiwan or other East Asia-Pacific contingencies.

If not, then Washington is defending South Korea for nothing.

Some Americans imagine the military cost to be negligible, since Seoul contributes toward American basing costs. That issue, of course, is currently tied up in a bitter dispute over the so-called Special Measures Agreement. However, the main expense of the Korean commitment is not deploying units in the ROK but raising additional units for use to defend the South if necessary. Every additional security guarantee requires a larger military. Adding permanent force structure—men and materiel—is not cheap. If Washington didn’t promise to protect much of the known world in both Asia and Europe, it could rely on a much smaller military to protect America.

The U.S. is blessed with oceans east and west and pacific neighbors north and south. America’s missiles, navy, and air force ensure that no other nation can reach the U.S. without facing devastating retaliation. In fact, deterrence is relatively cheap. Power projection is far more costly. For this reason the bulk of the Pentagon’s efforts perversely are devoted to protecting other nations not essential to U.S. security, such as South Korea.

The ROK mattered during the Cold War: America faced a hegemonic threat, the Soviet Union, for a time allied with the newly created PRC. With a global contest for influence, even smaller conflicts could have outsize consequences.

That was then, however. Today the Korean peninsula has no particular security significance for America: a war would be disruptive and destabilizing, but of far greater concern to surrounding states. It would be a humanitarian tragedy, but not that much different than terrible conflicts involving the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Liberia, Syria, and Sudan in recent decades. In none of them did Washington see any reason to intervene militarily. Most important, the ROK is well able to defend itself. Whatever its importance, there is no need for Washington to protect the South.

That was the case even before the North began developing nuclear weapons. Today Pyongyang is commonly estimated to possess 20 to 30 nuclear weapons and enough fissile material to make another 20 to 30 bombs. The DPRK almost certainly could hit American units stationed in South Korea and throughout the region, including on Guam and Okinawa. North Korea also has been developing ICBMs capable of targeting cities in the continental U.S. If it is successful, America’s defense commitment to the ROK will become prohibitively expensive. For nothing at stake in Korea is worth risking one or several U.S. cities.

And they would be in danger even in an initially conventional conflict. In 1950 American and South Korean units pursued the broken North Korean military toward the Yalu river, the border with China. Defeat seemed imminent, at which point the PRC intervened. Today Beijing almost certainly would not save the Kim dynasty. However, if faced with defeat Pyongyang would have an incentive to threaten nuclear war unless Washington pulled back. Of course, America could respond with ruinous retaliation. But since conventional defeat also would mean the end of the regime, it would have little to lose. A credible threat of nuclear war could save the regime without triggering nuclear war.

Which necessitates that the U.S. avoid involvement in any future Korean conflict. The South should develop a conventional deterrent capability and consider creating its own nuclear arsenal. The Park government began researching nuclear weapons in the 1960s, before abandoning the program under pressure from Washington. However, this time the U.S. should leave the decision with Seoul. Proliferation is not a good solution, but it still might be the best option. And it would offer another important benefit: helping to restrain China as well. Surely an independent ROK nuclear deterrent is better than having Americans promising to risk nuclear war on South Korea’s behalf.

The Korean War was a tragedy but perhaps an inevitable outgrowth of the Cold War. Today the ROK has won the competition between the two Korean states. Threats remain, but ones which Seoul is able to confront.

Washington should mark the anniversary of the Korean War by opening discussions with the South over returning defense responsibility to South Korea. America’s defense commitment is an anachronism. Equally important, the U.S. faces extraordinary challenges at home: it is time for Washington policymakers to focus attention and resources on meeting Americans’ needs.

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Is a New US Mideast War Inevitable? – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on July 20, 2019

“Great nations do no fight endless wars,” said Trump.

Yes, they do. As the British, French, Germans, Japanese and Russians showed in the last century, that is how they cease to be great nations.


In October 1950, as U.S. forces were reeling from hordes of Chinese troops who had intervened massively in the Korean War, a 5,000-man Turkish brigade arrived to halt an onslaught by six Chinese divisions.

Said supreme commander Gen. Douglas MacArthur: “The Turks are the hero of heroes. There is no impossibility for the Turkish Brigade.”

President Harry Truman awarded the brigade a Presidential Unit Citation.

In 1951, Turkey ended a neutrality dating to the end of World War I and joined NATO. In the seven decades since, there has been no graver crisis in U.S.-Turkish relations than the one that erupted this week.

Turkey has just received the first components of a Russian S-400 air and missile defense system, despite U.S. warnings this would require the cancellation of Turkey’s purchase of 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

“The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities,” said the White House…

Wednesday, the Pentagon warned Turkey against military action in an area of Syria where U.S. troops are deployed. The Turks appear to be massing for an incursion against U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces Ankara regards as terrorist allies of the Kurdish PKK inside Turkey.

How America and Turkey avoid a collision that could wreck NATO, where the Turks field the second-largest army in the alliance, is not easy to see.

U.S. hawks are already calling for the expulsion of Turkey from NATO. And expulsion of U.S. forces and nuclear weapons from the Incirlik air base in Turkey in retaliation is not out of the question.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sounds defiant: “We have begun to receive our S-400s. … God willing, they will have been installed in their sites by April 2020. … The S-400s are the strongest defense system against those who want to attack our country. Now the aim is joint production with Russia. We will do that.”

While potentially the most crucial of recent developments in the Middle East, the U.S.-Turkish situation is not the only one.

The UAE is pulling its forces out of Yemen as Congress seeks to restrict U.S. support for Saudi forces fighting Houthi rebels there and to sanction Riyadh for the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

If the UAE pulls out, and the U.S. cuts its military aid, the Saudis cannot prevail in a war they have been unable to win with our help after four years of fighting. And if the Houthis win, the Saudis and Sunni Arabs lose, and Iran wins.

This week, to strengthen the U.S. presence for any confrontation with Iran, President Donald Trump is sending 500 additional U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia…

In 2011, Barack Obama ordered U.S. planes to attack Colonel Gadhafi’s forces in Libya. We brought him down. Obama then backed Syrian rebels to overthrow the dictator Bashar Assad. In 2015, U.S. forces supported a Saudi war to roll back the Houthi rebels’ victory in Yemen’s civil war.

None of these wars has produced a victory or success for us.

But taken together, they did produce a multitrillion-dollar strategic and human rights disaster. Meanwhile, China gained much from having its great rival, the world’s last superpower, thrashing about ineffectually in the forever wars of the Middle East.

“Great nations do no fight endless wars,” said Trump.

Yes, they do. As the British, French, Germans, Japanese and Russians showed in the last century, that is how they cease to be great nations.

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Why Do North Koreans Hate Us? One Reason — They Remember the Korean War.

Posted by M. C. on May 21, 2017

For the record, it was the North Koreans, and not the Americans or their South Korean allies, who started the war in June 1950, when they crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded the south. Nevertheless, “What hardly any Americans know or remember,” University of Chicago historian Bruce Cumings writes in his book “The Korean War: A History,” “is that we carpet-bombed the north for three years with next to no concern for civilian casualties.” Read the rest of this entry »

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