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Opportunity for U.S. to Extricate Itself from Korea

May 23, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

It doesn’t pay to be number two in North Korea. In December the young dictator Kim Jong Un executed his uncle, Jang Song Taek, supposedly Kim’s top adviser. Now Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, who climbed atop Jang’s corpse, has been relieved of his important positions.

Choe’s fall is particularly important because, though he was an aide to Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, he rose rapidly under the younger Kim. Dumping Choe reshapes the political environment of Kim’s making.

Going home should be the foundation of U.S. policy toward the Koreas.”

While Kim’s dominance in Pyongyang does not guarantee the regime’s survival, it dampens hope for any change outside of Kim. Today’s Korean Winter isn’t likely to give way to a Korean Spring. Moreover, nothing suggests that the North’s communist monarchy is about to give way. Indeed, the elite, at least, are doing better than in years past.

People in the countryside still suffer, but they a revolution aren’t likely to make. Many observers have waited a long time for regime collapse in the North. They probably will have to wait a lot longer.

In fact, given North Korea’s history and Kim’s age, he could rule for another 30 or 40 years. And so far he doesn’t appear to be much interested in reform.

If anything, he appears to be more committed to his government’s nuclear weapons program and confrontational foreign policy than were his predecessors.

North Korea’s policy toward the South has oscillated wildly, but has headed mostly downward. It recently conducted a live fire drill near the disputed Yellow Sea border where it launched a deadly bombardment of a South Korean island back in 2010.

The North also appears to be preparing a fourth and “new form” of nuclear test. North Korea recently test-fired two medium-range missiles, predicting “next-stage steps, which the enemy can hardly imagine.”

The Obama administration obviously is frustrated, and reportedly is considering easing its preconditions for resuming the long-stalled six party talks. However, it’s unlikely that many policymakers believe renewed negotiations will lead anywhere. Which has left the major U.S. response to tie itself closer to its South Korean ally, loudly reaffirming that America will defend it if necessary.

Washington needs to reflect first on why the North is such a problem for America. A small, impoverished, and distant state, even with a handful of nuclear weapons (but no delivery capacity), obviously is no match for the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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