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Seoul Threatens Pyongyang with American Force

March 8, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Politics has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous in North Korea. One minute Great Successor Kim Jong-un is cavorting with American basketball great Dennis Rodman and telling President Barack Obama to call. Next the North Korean People’s Army is threatening to abandon the six-decade-old armistice and use “lighter and smaller nukes” against the United States and South Korea.

Of course, the North’s rhetorical barbs no longer sting, so long has Pyongyang relied on provocation and brinkmanship. Yet the latest outburst should remind American policymakers that the United States has different interests than South Korea regarding the Korean peninsula.

For decades Washington has played the dominant role in Korean affairs, yet America is an interloper, with no significant geopolitical stake in the Koreas. Washington’s initial forays more than century ago were essentially frivolous, as the emerging American republic sought to join the great imperial powers in Asia.

The defeat of Japan in World War II left the United States deeply involved in East Asia, including the Korean peninsula. Washington played its role badly and quickly found itself hopelessly entangled in the struggle between two antagonistic Korean states. The Cold War turned the peninsula into a global battleground, with the Demilitarized Zone becoming a celebrated boundary between totalitarian communism and the West. For years the Republic of Korea mattered more to the United States as a symbol than as a country.

After years of micromanaging South Korea’s defense, Washington should say no more.”

The end of the Cold War then dramatically reduced Washington’s stake in the Koreas. Americans have substantial family and business ties with the South, but none warrant military involvement in the peninsula. War between the two Koreas would be a tragedy that would unsettle the region, but not threaten U.S. security in any fundamental way. The mere fact that such a conflict would be highly undesirable does not mean that Washington must be prepared to intervene.

This is especially true since the intra-Korean balance has shifted dramatically. The ROK has raced past the North in virtually every measure of national power, while neither Beijing nor Moscow likely would intervene on the latter’s behalf in any conflict, especially if begun by Pyongyang. The great Korean anomaly is not Kim Jong-un’s Western fascinations, but Seoul’s failure to use its growing wealth to create a stronger military sufficient to deter the Kim family criminal enterprise that is otherwise known as …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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