September 2, 2017

Old Chinese saying: ‘when elephants battle, ants get crushed.’ Think of the current crisis on the Korean Peninsula in which the government in Seoul has been all but ignored.

South Korea’s newly elected president, Moon Jae-in, keeps insisting that the US must not launch war against North Korea without South Korea’s agreement.

President Donald Trump and the US media appear not to have heard Moon’s pleas, or are simply disregarding them.

Amazingly, six decades after the end of the 1950 Korean War, South Korea’s 650,000-man active armed forces and 4.2 million-man reserves remain under the command of a US four-star general. This neo-colonial arrangement was supposed to have ended years ago, but successive conservative South Korean governments maintained their nation’s acceptance of Washington’s Asian Raj. So does Japan.

The most recent South Korean rightist leader, Park Guen-hye, was ousted for alleged corruption and is now in jail awaiting trial. Many of South Korea’s rightists are Protestant Christians – as was the US-backed Korean War leader, strongman Syngman Rhee. South Korea’s Christians are ardently anti-Communist and support war against North Korea. Whatever happened to turn the other cheek?

President Moon, an anti-war moderate leftist, keeps calling for a peaceful solution to the present crisis. Most South Koreans back him. As I’ve found on my many assignments in Korea, most Southerners shrug off the threat from North Korea – or even laugh it off. They certainly don’t want a full-scale war on their front door. The 1950-53 conflict left at least 2.5 million Korean civilians dead and most of the peninsula’s major cities bombed flat by US B-29’s.

North Korea, by contrast, constantly harangues South Koreans that their nation is a US ‘puppet’ and ‘colony’ run by traitors. Pyongyang insists that North Korea is the authentic Korean state while the South is a mere US/Japanese colony. Many young South Koreans absorb such claims; some are even proud of North Korea for standing up to the mighty United States even though South Korea’s economy is 45 times larger than that of threadbare North Korea.

Kim Jong-un’s bombastic challenge to President Trump is emboldening Korean nationalists. Many point to the fact that North Korea developed nuclear weapons and delivery systems on its own while South Korea was stopped from doing so by US pressure in the 1970’s.

At the same time, North Koreans are jumping for joy that their nation just launched a medium-range missile over Japan that panicked and humiliated the much hated Japanese. The missile launch came on the anniversary of Japan’s takeover of Korea as a colony in 1910. Imperial Japan exploited and humiliated the proud Koreans, treating them as sub-humans. Koreans have never forgotten. Many long for revenge.
That’s what Kim Jong-un is doing.

The second North Korean missile to fly over Japan makes painfully clear that Japan must have nuclear weapons to defend itself, something this writer has been urging for years.

Otherwise, the world’s number three economy is utterly naked to its foes, who include North Korea and China. Emphasizing the point, this week air raid sirens wailed in various parts of Japan, giving the population a big scare and undermining respect for its conservative government.

Point defense missiles – Japan’s current response – won’t give it adequate protection. As France’s Maginot Line so dramatically showed, fixed defenses can be overcome by spirited, innovative offensives. To defend itself, Japan – and perhaps South Korea – need massive retaliatory capability. But even then, if there is a north Asian nuclear conflict, it’s likely North Korea will save at least one or two nuclear missiles for revenge against Japan.

China’s Foreign Ministry has proposed the obvious, sensible solution to this trumped-up crisis: the US to cease its provocative annual air, land and naval demonstration around North Korea’s borders in return for the North outing a moratorium on its provocative missile tests. So far, Washington has refused this sensible solution.

Meanwhile, in a little-noticed, menacing statement, China’s Ministry of Defense just warned that China ‘would not allow’ US or South Korea troops to enter North Korea. This is a very serious warning that deserves utmost attention in Washington.

It reminds me of Imperial Russia’s warning Austro-Hungary not to invade Serbia in the fall of 1914 – or else. The ‘or else’ came: World War I. And, of course, Mao’s China warning US Gen. Douglas MacArthur not to cross the Yalu River in 1950 – or else. Soon after, 500,000 Chinese troops invaded Korea.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2017

This post is in: China, North Korea, South Korea, USA

8 Responses to “LISTEN TO THOSE ‘OR ELSES’”

  1. Surrounded by enemies who call for their destruction…
    Allies who may or may not help them due to their own agendas…
    Memories of brutal occupation, cultural genocide, and continued treatment as less than equals…
    Seems to me this is why Israel has been allowed to operate their weapons program all these years, do not all the above also apply to North Korea? and how can we have a conversation on Nuclear Proliferation without bringing up the Israel example?

    • The Kim is alive, right now, because of his nuclear weapons… else he would have gone the way of Gaddafi and Hussein… I’m pretty sure the Americans would have taken us to WWIII with the Cuban crisis… and you can thank Nikita for not going to the end… Kennedy would have brought it on… and the world said nothing…

  2. Another great capsule and perspective.
    One upcoming item is the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, only six months away in Feb. 2018.
    Seoul has indicated that North Korea would be welcome to host some events, but the offer has not been taken up.

    • With the American border conditions, I’m surprised that the world sports federations hasn’t boycotted the United States… spectators and competitors can/will be barred…

  3. I’m just sitting here waiting for everything to become unhinged. The Donald cannot extricate himself from the corner he’s painted himself into and can only bluster, using fire and brimstone, and maybe, thermonuclear weapons.
    There is no peaceful solution. The Kim has ratchetted things up another notch… it appears there has been an underground nuclear explosion. The American media has ‘soaked’ this up stating that it could have been an earthquake or an underground test. The rest of Europe has said nothing and are equally as culpable for what may happen. They had an opportunity to calm things down and did nothing. For them, they truly deserve ‘the hottest places in hell’.
    Timing is perfect from the Kim… he’s just tightened the thumbscrews another bit. The signatures of an underground nuclear blast and an earthquake are drasticaly different… a first year geology student can tell the difference. Interesting that no other countries have stepped forward saying what the event was other than alluding it to be a nuclear test, as the Americans would have you believe.
    I’m waiting for bombs to fall any moment… I’m typing as fast as I can to make sure this mail gets out while it can . This would be a really good reason to shut down the internet. I’m surprised its lasted as long.
    The Donald is not ignoring the Kim and is only rattling his sabre a little more agressively; it has been shown on numerous occasions that this approach does not work. The Kim is a master of ‘oneupsmanship’ and has successfully ‘p*ssed on Donald’s cornflakes’ on numerous occasions… enough to unhinge a meglomaniac. The Kim may be the last of his lineage.
    It’s a real shame that they gave such a buffoon launch codes. It will not be a war, it will be a slaughter with a huge body count on all sides. China has clearly stipulated that the Americans are not to bomb North Korea. We’ll see what happens with China, Russia, India and Pakistan; it may be a time for ‘settling accounts’.
    You are most correct when you note that South Korea and Japan have fallen under the ‘wings’ of the great Uncle Sam. The US is there only because it gives them an excuse to have a huge military presence in the area. I haven’t kept track of the troup count since the Americans got ‘chased out’ of Vietnam, but I suspect they just shifted their personnel to South Korea, Japan, and others in the South China Sea area.
    Canada will follow and agree that the actions of our southern neighbour are totally justified and ‘it had to be done’ for the safety of the world, mom and apple pie. What happens when the time for talking is passed?
    A war would greatly boost Trump’s popularity before the mid term elections.

  4. Excellent column! Eric, let’s just hope that there are at least a few sensible people in the White House who are reading your columns and taking seriously what you are saying. Maybe they would have some influence on Trump. One wants to think that cooler heads will ultimately prevail on both sides of the North Korean situation, but one can never be sure. We have unstable individuals acting as heads of state in both Washington and Pyongyang, so now we have to be prepared for the worst.

    • Steve, you’re wishing for an awful lot… the ‘fire talk’ is getting worse, and, unless the Donald lays low… there is only one outcome… and the Donald isn’t in the habit of ‘laying low’.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.