Mohamad Radytio Nugrahanto- South Korea
In this part of the article I will analyse that Kim Jong Un’s real intention has been to use his nuclear weapon program not only as a deterrent but also as a leverage in any future negotiations or agreements, as the Cuban missile crisis-style strategy used by Soviet Union. Indeed, the world can respond in many ways but from my point of view there are three feasible options to deal with him.
The first one is through negotiated agreement. In return to North Korea halting its nuclear program, west will gradually lift the sanctions against Pyongyang. Other than that, a complete dismantling of the program may also need the west’s explicit gesture of pledging not to disturb the Kim family’s rule over North Korea. in this option, China may mediate for North Korea convincing the Western powers of the need to both reopening trade routes for North Korea and reducing US military strength in South Korea, with North’s stronger emphasis on the former since the North will need to revamp its economy to prevent internal unrest while China may insist on the latter’s. This may be the area where the West can exploit the difference between two, because China, so far, is unwilling to push for more stringent economic sanctions yet eager to see US. THAAD and other weapon systems to be withdrawn from Korean Peninsula.
Any reduction in US weaponry or military presence should be complemented by halting or reducing North’s nuclear programme. As for removal of economic sanctions, any agreement regarding the matter will need China’s role to ensure that every sanction removal be complemented with the North’s transfer of weapons stockpiles abroad (possibly to third party) and complete, unlimited access for UN inspectors to all relevant North Korean nuclear sites to ensure this compliance. In essence, this would be repetition of Iran Nuclear deal or the end of Cuban missile crisis.
Any such agreement would showcase the world that even when your regime has tremendous human right violations, it would not matter as long as you have nuclear weapon in your storage. if it the path that would be taken, it would add a growing list of countries that being spared simply for the sake of “world peace”, from Cuba in 1962 to Iran in Obama era. While it is nothing new for big world powers trying to protect their client states despite the states’ cruelty, a second nuclear agreement will likely encourage repressive regimes worldwide to build up their nuclear armories. Any such agreement would not bode well with Trump administration, who has taken distinctively harsh stance in contradiction with past Obama administration’s strategic patience.
Trump, who repeatedly locking horns with Kim Jong Un regime over the past few months, has also repeatedly pledged to not only dismantling North Korean regime but also to rescind Iran Nuclear Deal, an agreement that he perceive as “an appeasement” by Obama administration. And last, any such kind of agreement would likely becoming a failure, judging from many diplomatic attempts in the past who in the end fails to curtail North’s weapon programs. While it is likely that some kind of “talks for talks” will be held on the issue, it is unlikely the world can achieve such an agreement without reluctant Trump administration in the US.
The second option is through military intervention, or what being called by many proponents and experts as “surgical operation”. Many proponents of this option argue that as China and Russia either unable or unwilling to rein in North’s weapons program, there should be hard-external intervention against the program. Primarily advocated by center-right to right-wing lobbies in the U.S., they argue that if the North manage to reach the stage of full nuclear tipped ICBM, there are nothing that could stop them from essentially blackmailing the world.
While effects of sanctions must be awaited to see its success, they warned against ruling out military option to stopp the program. They claim that as the North propaganda portray itself as a protector of Korea against ‘filthy’ foreigners, there would be no action taken against South Korea even if the West (U.S. and its allies) strikes the North’s military targets. It is in the world’s best interest to stop the program as soon as possible.
First, any attack against North Korea would find little to no international justification. Provided no missiles or bombs landed in any of U.S. or its allies’ territories, they can’t claim self-defense to attack certain sites in North Korea, as provided in UN/international law regarding Rules of Engagement. With no chance of being invited by recognized government to enter their territory, United Nation Security Council (UNSC)’s resolution would be the last resort to do so. Yet, China or Russia will likely veto such resolution. This bring us to second factors, which are China and Russia’s reactions. China would likely become uncooperative after such kind of attacks, making the West more difficult in coordinating their actions.
It would be difficult to coordinate any successful move without Chinese cooperation. Third, North Korea is an unpredictable regime, with the only certainty is their leadership’s mindset to stay in power. Any military attacks against their territory would virtually make the world entering uncharted territory, with more than 20 million South Koreans directly under North’s range of fire and millions of foreigners, many of whom Americans, under Kim Jong Un’s mercy. Proponents’ assumption that North would not dare to attack South Korea would be uncertain at this point, as their mindset may make them wanted to protect that power at all cost, including sacrificing the lives of millions of people. This factor bring us to the last, yet most important factor which is U.S. military’s readiness.
Will the attacks yield the intended result of stopping the weapons programs? Have U.S. prepared themselves to deal with North’s response, including the worst possible scenario of military retaliation? Will they dare to ensure the safety of tens of millions of South Koreans and foreigners under the North’s range of fire? Until the U.S. or any proponents of external intervention manage to answer these questions with high degree of certainty, they would not and should not put tens of millions of people at risk. At the time when the world already overwhelmed by Syrian refugee crisis, another similar one would be the last that the world needed.
The third option is maintaining sanctions strategy. Within a span of two months, numerous sanctions slammed against North Korea through UNSC. For the first time in many years, China joined the latest move to impose sanctions against the North. The latest sanctions, also the heaviest till date, included partial oil embargo and export-import reduction. These sanctions need time to prove their effectiveness, but it is believed once the sanction work for more than 3 months, it would start to dry up the North’s fledgling economy. With these sanctions, North Korea would bleed out slowly, to death .
China may refuse to impose harsher sanctions for now, fearing immediate North’s collapse would create problems for itself. Yet, if -as predicted so far- Kim Jong Un would still proceed with the nuclear and weapons program even after all sanctions slapped, China might realized implementing harshest of sanctions -complete embargo- would be the least painful measures for their own interest. A nuclear and ICBM powered North Korea will invite more and more U.S. military power to the peninsula, and also reduced significantly any control China has over North Korea.
Sanctions would also bring the least possible risk, since it is assumed the most North Korea can do is nothing more than a series of provocative actions without significant direct impact to any countries. Even if in the end they managed to achieve ICBM stage, it will only give the world evident that the only way to stop North Korea without risking major external bloodshed is to impose complete sanctions, a conclusion that even China and Russia won’t be able to oppose.
Certainly, this option also carries some risk. Kim Jong Un, cornered against the wall, may decide to put all cards on the table, realizing his threats to nuke Guam and Japan. It is also possible, albeit unlikely, for China to do ‘surgical operation’ of their own, targeting Kim Jong Un and other Kim-friendly North Korean leadership and replace them with those who will be obedient towards Beijing, ultimately giving China a major control over North Korea that they would hold as long as possible.
Last, it is possible that all those nuclear weapons would instead be smuggled or at least reach outside world either because desperate North sell it to meet their needs or a collapsing North Korean regime losing control over its weaponry. Eventually, these weapons may reach other rogue regimes or worst, fall into hands of terrorists.
Suffice it to say here that all the three options have their advantages and disadvantages. Yet from my perspectives, based on analysis above, the third option would be the less risky and applicable, and the established solution (sanction) will be the best winning strategy.
(For the first part of the analysis: http://www.worldbulletin.net/news-analysis/194363/north-korea-what-does-kim-jong-un-want )
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