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Don't forget the 800-lb. gorilla

Reader comment on item: Korean Delusions [of Appeasement]

Submitted by jackstpaul (United States), Oct 10, 2002 at 19:47

The analogy of North Korea to the other "appeasement" cases is fundamentally flawed because it ignores--despite mentioning--the 800-lb. gorilla in the room: the US.

North Korea may constitute a threat to South Korea, but to the US it's a mere flea. North Korea can't pursue any aggressive moves re: the South because the US won't allow it. Does North Korea somehow think 50 years after the end of the Korean War they will be able to strike the South with capitulation by the US? No. Who else will North Korea strike? China? No. Russia? No. Japan? No. Any other Asian nation or any other at all? No. The only option the North has is to act as a rogue state in a single, final blaze of "glory." Yes, the North, even if it has nuclear weapons, could use a weapon of mass destruction against, say, Japan, once, but only once, before being destroyed. That's the act of an irrational agent; possible but extraordinarily unlikely.

Why does the South seek to warm relations, while still keeping its defenses ready? Because the North is in such bad shape and in steep decline that the South is trying to shape the future seen-as-certain end of the North's reign and reunification of the peoples. The experience of the USSR collapse suggests--along with innumerable details I'll not mention--the example of the eventual collapse of a greatly wounded, limping regime like the North's. Few nations in the world are as isolated as North Korea, and its prognosis is terminal.

Of course the notion of North Korea supplying arms and arms technology to other states is a concern, that isn't at issue in the commentary and comparison at hand.

Whatever North Korea would want to do is held in check by the US, not by South Korea, and that wasn't true of Hitler and Britain--the US wasn't the sole dominant and patron power it is today nor was any other party strong enough to serve as the protector of the appeasers.

North Korea is only a threat--a one-time suicidal strike aside—truly to North Koreans, and no others.
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