B.R. Myers Responds to Criticism About His Belief that North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Are Intended to Unify the Peninsula


ROK Drop favorite B.R. Myers has been one of the strong advocates of the viewpoint that the overall goal of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is to force the withdrawal of US troops and create a confederation of the Korean peninsula under North Korean terms.  This viewpoint has apparently led to a lot of criticism by people who think the nuclear weapons are just to keep the US from trying to militarily remove the Kim Regime and that the North Koreans are not stupid enough to think they can actually unify the peninsula on their terms:

Image of B.R. Myers from the Korea Herald.

Oddly enough, the most furious people are on the softline or apologetic part of the Pyongyang-watching spectrum. They never get this worked up when North Korea is called a gangster state, a drug-running operation or a giant gulag. Nor do they express such fervent opposition to (say) imperialist proposals for the US and China to get together and decide the fate and political character of the peninsula on their own.

No, it seems that the craziest, most reprehensible thing one can possibly say about North Korea is that it wants to unify the peninsula with as little bloodshed as possible. And apparently the worst thing one can say about the South Koreans — “INSANE” “psychobabble” even – is that the North might have reason to believe they wouldn’t fight to the death against such an effort. (Needless to say, I never said South Koreans are ready to “give away” their republic, as “T.K.” is no doubt well aware.)

I repeat: it is self-styled progressives and liberals who find these ideas so scandalous. True, I have often clashed at conferences with South Korean conservatives who bristle at my emphasis on the North’s nationalism. Being nationalists themselves, albeit of a more moderate sort, they think it makes the regime look too respectable, dignified, legitimate. I am told to chalk up the unification drive to a communizing urge — “it sounds scarier that way,” I was helpfully advised — or to the regime’s evil desire to cause as much suffering as possible. But the other side of the spectrum now seems far more upset.

Particularly striking is the general tendency to identify the idea as my personal thing. “T.K.” has not yet questioned the sanity of South Korea’s Minister of Unification, though he too is alarmed by increasing signals that Pyongyang wants to use its nukes to take over the peninsula. And many quite moderate analysts in South Korea have been saying much the same stuff since the 1990s. But for the Westerners now raging on Twitter, this is my trademarked idea. (As it becomes harder and harder to refute, the tendency will no doubt go in the opposite direction.)  [B.R. Myers]

You can read much more at the link, but B.R. Myers is not the only person who has been advocating this viewpoint.  It makes me wonder if the criticism he is receiving is caused more by the fact that his viewpoint is gaining traction with people inside the Trump administration?

Why Retaliation Against Seoul Should Not Stop US Military Action Against North Korea

Here is what strategist Edward Luttwak has to say about conducting a military strike against North Korea:

Edward Luttwak

One mistaken reason to avoid attacking North Korea is the fear of direct retaliation. The U.S. intelligence community has reportedly claimed that North Korea already has ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads that can reach as far as the United States. But this is almost certainly an exaggeration, or rather an anticipation of a future that could still be averted by prompt action. The first North Korean nuclear device that could potentially be miniaturized into a warhead for a long-range ballistic missile was tested on September 3, 2017, while its first full-scale ICBM was only tested on November 28, 2017. If the North Koreans have managed to complete the full-scale engineering development and initial production of operational ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads in the short time since then — and on their tiny total budget — then their mastery of science and engineering would be entirely unprecedented and utterly phenomenal. It is altogether more likely that they have yet to match warheads and missiles into an operational weapon.

It’s true that North Korea could retaliate for any attack by using its conventional rocket artillery against the South Korean capital of Seoul and its surroundings, where almost 20 million inhabitants live within 35 miles of the armistice line. U.S. military officers have cited the fear of a “sea of fire” to justify inaction. But this vulnerability should not paralyze U.S. policy for one simple reason: It is very largely self-inflicted.

When then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter decided to withdraw all U.S. Army troops from South Korea 40 years ago (ultimately a division was left behind), the defense advisors brought in to help — including myself — urged the Korean government to move its ministries and bureaucrats well away from the country’s northern border and to give strong relocation incentives to private companies. South Korea was also told to mandate proper shelters, as in Zurich for example, where every new building must have its own (under bombardment, casualties increase dramatically if people leave their homes to seek shelter). In recent years, moreover, South Korea has had the option of importing, at moderate cost, Iron Dome batteries, which are produced by both Israel and the United States, that would be capable of intercepting 95 percent of North Korean rockets headed to inhabited structures.

But over these past four decades, South Korean governments have done practically nothing along these lines. The 3,257 officially listed “shelters” in the Seoul area are nothing more than underground shopping malls, subway stations, and hotel parking lots without any stocks of food or water, medical kits or gas masks. As for importing Iron Dome batteries, the South Koreans have preferred to spend their money on developing a bomber aimed at Japan.  [Foreign Policy]

You can read more at the link, but he believes that possible retaliation against Seoul should not influence US decision making because it is a problem caused by ROK governmental irresponsibility over the decades.

Tweet of the Day: How Excited Are South Koreans About Current Talks?

What Will South Korea Pay for North Korean Participation in the Winter Olympics?

The Kim regime has officially agreed to participate in the upcoming Winter Olympics:

This photo, taken by the Joint Press Corps on Jan. 9, 2018, shows South Korea’s chief delegate Cho Myoung-gyon (L) shaking hands with his North Korean counterpart Ri Son-gwon before holdinghigh-level talks between South and North Korea. (Yonhap)

North Korea on Tuesday accepted Seoul’s proposal to hold military talks to reduce tensions and agreed to send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in the South, according to a joint press statement issued after their high-level talks.

In their first formal dialogue in two years at the border village of Panmunjom, they also agreed to reactivate cooperation and exchanges through diverse levels of talks including a high-level meeting, Seoul officials said.

The agreement marked a major breakthrough in the years of frosty ties between the two countries and in last year’s heightened tensions over the North’s nuclear and missile provocations.

North Korea offered to send high-ranking officials, cheerleaders, performing artists, taekwondo demonstration teams and journalists in addition to athletes. The South promised to provide them with necessary conveniences.

They will hold working-level talks to further discuss details of the North’s participation.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but those of us who have watched North Korea for years know they are not participating in the Winter Olympics out of good will.  There will undoubtedly be a bill to be paid by the South.  One way the South may end up paying is if the North Koreans demand inflated travel costs:

North Korea’s participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics will require agreements over a series of logistics issues, such as how to transport the North Korean delegation to the host city, where to accomodate them and who will ultimately cover the bill.  [Newsweek]

Why should the South pay for the Kim regime to attend the Olympics?  It should be the responsibility of the Kim regime to pay their own way like all the other countries.  If the North Koreans have enough money to lob missiles everywhere and set off nuclear bombs they have enough money to cover travel and lodging for their delegation going to the Winter Olympics.

If the ROK government gives in to covering travel and lodging costs I hope President Trump tweets that he will send the ROK government the US’s travel bill as well.

Analyst Believes Olympic Talks Are A Means for North Korea to Get Concessions and Buy Time for More Testing

Here is one theory on what the Kim regime is attempting accomplish with its offer of talks with South Korea over its attendance at the upcoming Winter Olympic games:

But perhaps Kim is a smarter student of the cutthroat game of geopolitics than we give him credit for—seeking to delay a showdown on terms more favorable to him. What if Kim keeps the talks focused on his nation’s participation at the games—and asks for nothing in return?

If talks go smoothly and North Korea does indeed join the games he appears like a winner back home, having secured his nation’s place at the Winter Games. He could even send his sister, Kim Yo Jong, as the lead representative.

Kim could even score another PR victory: imagine athletes from a divided Korea marching into the Olympic stadium together under a unified flag—with members of the Trump family sitting in the same stadium looking on. With there being almost no downside to this for Kim, I would argue this is very likely what North Korea is banking on.

And here is where Kim could get quite slick. He could leverage the positive nature of the talks to propose many other sweeteners to enhance inter-Korean ties—restarting joint development projects, offering family reunifications and even going so far to propose an inter-Korean summit between the two heads of state. This would occur of course while not talking to the Trump Administration—and quite on purpose, dodging key questions about Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile programs. Negotiations would move slowly—with North Korea adding to its list of demands over time, but not quite sabotaging the talks. Negotiations seem to start to drag on, but overall, there is hope—just what Kim is wants.  [Harry J. Kazianis – Center for the National Interest]

You can read the rest at the link, but the analysis continues that eventually the Kim regime will restart missile tests while the negotiations continue.  The restarting of the missile tests is to perfect the reentry technology they have yet to master.  The talks will buy them time to do this which they may otherwise not have under the current dynamic of possible military action from the US.  With ongoing negotiations the ROK may not support any US military action in response to continued testing.  This has the potential of driving a wedge in the US-ROK alliance if the two allies do not agree with how to respond to renewed testing.

Negotiators and Topics Identified for This Week’s Inter-Korean Talks

Here is what will be discussed and who will be discussing it at this week’s inter-Korean talks:

This file photo shows Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon (L), the chief South Korea delegate for high-level inter-Korean talks scheduled for Jan. 9, 2018, and his North Korean counterpart Ri Son-gwon, the chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, the agency in charge of inter-Korean affairs. (Yonhap).

South Korea will seek to discuss ways to ease military tensions and reunite divided families during this week’s high-level talks with North Korea, Seoul’s chief delegate said Monday.

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon made the remarks one day before South and North Korea will hold their first formal talks in more than two years to discuss the North’s potential participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and ways to improve their ties.

“Basically, the two sides will focus on the Olympics. When discussing inter-Korean relations, the government will seek to raise the issue of war-torn families and ways to ease military tensions,” Cho told a group of reporters.

Cho will lead a five-member government delegation to the first inter-Korean dialogue since December 2015. The North’s chief negotiator is Ri Son-gwon, the chairman of North Korea’s state agency in charge of affairs with the South.

The South’s delegation also includes Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung, who has a range of experience in inter-Korean talks. It will be the first time that the country’s top point man on unification and the vice minister are included together in a delegation.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but what is interesting is that the North Korean lead representative Ri Son-gwon is the long time aid of North Korean General Kim Yong-chol.  Kim is believed to have been the person who planned the sinking of the ROK Naval vessel the Cheonan and shelled Yeonpyeong island in 2010.

The selection of RI as a negotiator makes me wonder if he was specifically chosen to remind the ROK negotiators that if the Kim regime does not get what they want from the talks more Cheonan and Yeonpyeong island attacks could happen during the Winter Olympics.

President Trump Says Kim “Knows I’m Not Messing Around”

Here is what President Trump had to say about the planned talks between North and South Korea in regards to the upcoming Winter Olympics:

President Donald Trump, accompanied by Republican congressmen and members of his cabinet, departs after speaking at a news conference following a congressional Republican leadership retreat at Camp David, Md., Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

“Right now they’re talking Olympics. It’s a start, it’s a big start,” Trump said during a question-and-answer session after meetings with GOP leaders in Congress and Cabinet members on the administration’s 2018 legislative agenda.

Kim “knows I’m not messing around. I’m not messing around, not even a little bit, not even 1 percent. He understands that,” Trump said.

Assessing next week’s discussions, Trump said “if something can happen and something can come out of those talks, that would be a great thing for all of humanity. That would be a great thing for the world.”

The president also said that he had spoken with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in, who “thanks me very much for my tough stance.”

“You have to have a certain attitude and you have to be prepared to do certain things and I’m totally prepared to do that,” Trump said, contending his tough words have helped persuade the North to sit down with the South.

Trump had tweeted last week: “Does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total ‘might’ against the North.”  [Associated Press]

You can read more at the link.

Washington Post Analysis Declares President Trump Irrelevant in North Korea Policy

The Washington Post is not happy that the US is not participating in talks with North Korea and the ROK and has thus declared that the President is now irrelevant:

But whatever happens, it does look like U.S. policy on North Korea is rubbing up against the limitations of Trump’s unilateralist view of the world — what Evan Osnos of the New Yorker recently dubbed “retreating from the front.” When Seoul-Pyongyang talks go ahead next week, Trump will be in an unusual position — watching from afar, having capitulated on one key North Korean demand.

The Trump administration had hoped to further isolate North Korea on the world stage. Thanks to Trump’s brash tactics, though, it may be the United States that ends up on the outside.  [Washington Post]

First of all, President Trump did not capitulate on the delay of the Key Resolve exercise.  North Korea wants joint exercises cancelled and so does the Chinese.  The US did not cancel the exercise, they delayed the exercise at the request of the ROK who did not want it to overlap with the Winter Olympics especially if the North Koreans decide to attend.  The exercise is still going to happen just like it does every year and thus there has been no capitulation.

As far as “retreating from the front” and claims of unilateralism, these critics of the President must be living in an alternate reality.  The Trump administration has arguably pursued more multilateral measures than past Presidents.  The Trump administration has aggressively pursued and implemented United Nations sanctions on North Korea.  The Treasury Department has aggressively worked with international partners to target the Kim regimes finances through the global banking system.  They have also worked with other countries to kick out North Korean diplomats often responsible for bringing in foreign currency to the regime.  Unprecedented pressure has also been put on China by the US to faithfully implement sanctions on North Korea.  US intelligence has worked with the ROK to seize ships smuggling oil into North Korea.

Just because the US is not sitting at the table with the ROKs and the North Koreans to discuss a delegation attending the Olympics does not mean US policy is unilateral and the Trump administration has made themselves irrelevant.

North Korea Expert Questions Why North Korea is Allowed in the Olympics?

I am glad to see someone else is bringing up the long held viewpoint I have shared in regards to North Korean participation in the Olympics:

Bruce Klingner

In the 1960s through the ‘80s, the international community was appalled by South Africa’s apartheid regime and thus banned the country from participating in Olympics.

But in response to North Korea’s far more egregious human rights violations—which the United Nations has ruled to be “crimes against humanity”—the world allows and even encourages Pyongyang to participate.

Why the double standard?

The international community has long tried, and failed, to moderate North Korean behavior and bring about political and economic reform by asking Pyongyang to participate in sporting and other cultural events. Yet with each new attempt, optimists breathlessly anticipate that this time, the appeasement will work.

The 2000 Sydney Olympics was one such example. Taking place only six months after the historic first inter-Korean summit, the sight of North and South Korean athletes walking together behind a non-national unification flag was uplifting and a sign of hope.

Yet behind the scenes, North Korea had demanded and received a secret payment from Seoul, along with payment for the North’s uniforms, and agreement that the North’s delegation would not be outnumbered by the South’s. This prevented many South Korean athletes and coaches from marching into the stadium as part of the Korean entourage.

An inspiring sight to be sure, but as with visits by symphonies and other cultural and sporting envoys, this gesture failed to alter North Korea’s policies and real-world behavior.

Similarly, other attempts at sports diplomacy at events in South Korea—including the 2002 Asian Games, the 2003 University Games, the 2005 Asian Athletics Championship, and the 2014 Asian Games—all failed to improve inter-Korean relations. In 1987, Pyongyang downed a civilian airliner in an attempt to disrupt the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

But as the world seeks to isolate and pressure North Korea for its repeated violations of United Nations resolutions, it should ask itself: Why is Pyongyang still allowed to participate in the Olympics, but South Africa was shunned?  [Bruce Klingner]

You can read much more at the link, but most of the world and the IOC fought to keep Apartheid South Africa out of the Olympics, but North Korea a country with a far worse human rights record and a threat to world peace has South Korea and the IOC literally begging them to participate.

This double standard is something that I wish President Trump would Tweet about.