by Jay Syz
Restructuring Policy towards North Korea
What can we do for the millions of North Korean citizens who are suffering from hunger, violence, and an oppressive dictatorship? It does not take exceptional political lucidity to observe that the current policy towards North Korea must be revised.
Under President Barack Obama’s ‘Strategic Patience’, almost a decade has past and North Korea’s pursuit of terror continues unhindered. Meanwhile, the United States (U.S.) government initially displayed a fierce determination not to settle anything before a total onset of war. Then, no less firmly, it insisted to continue the same failed policy of sanctions and public condemnation. And while the political games continue to get nowhere, North Koreans are dying. It would be nice if it were not necessary to attack the government who is struggling with international diplomacy. But this is no time for indulgence. For North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, nuclear development and human suffering are the orders of the day. The government’s vote for inaction will add to these twisted goals. Politicians attack the North Korean government and in the same breath refuse to take meaningful action against the atrocities. Thus impotent moderation continues to serve the extremes, and our history is still a fruitless dialogue between blind politicians and a deaf nation.
I am by no means unaware of the difficulty in reaching a consensus to undertake military action. To overthrow the current regime, free the North Korean population from abuse, and stop severe human rights violations, the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) will need to carefully plan and execute a multi-pronged, synchronous tactical operation. Given the present state of geopolitics in which North Korea threatens regional stability and world peace, military leaders and countless heads of state understand the need for a new policy paradigm in the region. Given the urgency of the situation, it must
also be recognized from the outset that we cannot allow the optics of procedural red tape and stalemates arising from the political gamesmanship (so common within international legislative bodies) to prevent the execution of this new policy initiative if a time-critical situation boiled over in the region. No international body will be allowed to stand in our way and jeopardize global safety by determining the fate of all Earth’s peoples. Thus, if necessary, we will undertake the necessary actions unilaterally. When millions of people are suffering, it becomes more than a matter to be left to diplomacy.
Today, the threat of North Korea is at its highest level in history. North Korea is infamous for its “regional military provocations; proliferation of military-related items; long-range missile development; WMD programs including tests of nuclear devices in 2006, 2009, 2013, [and 2016]; and massive conventional armed forces” (Kelley and Evans 1). But the issues do not stop there. Other North Korean problems include major land disputes, a large number of displaced peoples, human trafficking, and drug trafficking. Yet despite their constant provocation and rebellion, North Korea has received over $1 billion in U.S. aid under the present policy. Conditions in North Korea are dire. The difficulties begin at the top of the hierarchy with Kim Jong-un and his extremely dangerous leadership.
“Kim Jong-un has consolidated authority as supreme leader…rul[ing] brutally [and] carrying out large-scale purges of senior officials. He has declared a two-track policy (the byungjin line) that pursues economic development and nuclear weapons development” (Rinehart and Nikitin 2). Following this agenda, un carries out nuclear tests and heedlessly violates international warnings. This paper offers a blueprint for restructuring policy towards North Korea to end atrocities and secure global well-being.
The centerpiece of the blueprint is this: The U.S. Government should task SOCOM to carry out a military operation to disarm North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and overthrow the current regime. There are three main reasons why we need this policy. Firstly, North Korea continues to function as an oppressive dictatorship that is unhindered in its goals of advancing its military capabilities and violating basic human rights. Secondly, the multifaceted North Korean problem cannot be resolved until the U.S. and other international entities take military action towards North Korea. And thirdly, given the current
political climate, the optimal time to take military action against North Korea is as soon as possible.
The issues surrounding North Korea have reached a tipping point. According to the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea established by the United Nations Human Rights Council, “the gravity, scale and nature of the violations committed by [North Korea] reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” The report continues to explain how North Korea “can be characterized as a totalitarian state that does not content itself with ensuring the authoritarian rule of a small group of people, but seeks to dominate every aspect of its citizens’ lives and terrorizes them from within” (Kirby, Darusman, and Biserko 2). This excerpt makes clear the urgency for a solution to the North Korean calamity. Research from the United Nations is unbiased and the most reliable when considering international affairs. Thus, when their report describes North Korea as a nation with no parallel in regards to its terrorizing tactics, eradicating these injustices must be a top priority for foreign policy. However, the threat of North Korea is much more than a purely humanitarian one. The nation’s heavy emphasis on weapon development has dramatically elevated their military capabilities and, as a result, their threat to world peace.
In 2015, the annual report concerning the national military strategy of the U.S., written by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admits that “these [nuclear and military] capabilities [of North Korea] directly threaten its neighbors, especially the Republic of Korea and Japan. In time, they will threaten the U.S. homeland as well. North Korea also has conducted cyber-attacks, including causing major damage to a
- corporation” (Joint Chiefs of Staff 2). If there was any doubt before about the seriousness of North Korea as a military threat, there can be none now. The U.S. has the largest and best funded military in the world. Therefore, when a security report from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff specifically cites North Korea as a problem, the matter cannot be taken lightly. Negotiations have failed at every turn. The time for more serious military action is
The present policy towards North Korea is too lenient and embarrassingly ineffective. Early in 2016, the Congressional Research Service made clear that further pursuing diplomacy with North Korea
would be ignorant:
Analysts agree that U.S. and multilateral sanctions have not prevented North Korea from advancing its fledgling nuclear weapons capability… In March 2013, North Korea declared that its nuclear weapons are ‘not a bargaining chip’ and would not be relinquished even for ‘billions of dollars… six rounds of the “Six-Party Talks” from 2003-2008 failed to resolve the fundamental issue of North Korean nuclear arms… Multilateral negotiations on North Korea’s nuclear program have not been held since December 2008. Pyongyang’s continued belligerent actions, its vituperative rhetoric, its claim to be a nuclear weapons power, and most importantly its failure to fulfill obligations undertaken in previous agreements have halted efforts to restart the Six-Party Talks… North Korea has proven skillful at exploiting divisions among the other five parties and taking advantage of political transitions in Washington to stall the nuclear negotiating process. (Rinehart and Nikitin 3-8)
This report makes one point undoubtedly clear: North Korea is treating the current policy like a game. The U.S. and other international entities have tried their best with diplomatic policies, but North Korea has shown time and time again that it will remain unresponsive. The geopolitical climate surrounding North Korea has continued to deteriorate over the past decades, and it is long past due to reconsider the failed policy. Perhaps most concerning is the fact that North Korea has explicitly stated that it has no intention of slowing down its pursuit of nuclear weapons. We cannot wait until North Korea gains those capabilities to implement new policies. We must take every advantage we have in the current situation and act strongly now.
The sooner a military offense occurs, the more effective and less costly it will be. Not only is internal and foreign support for North Korea rapidly deteriorating, but the U.S. Special Forces are also primed for action. Last month, Reuters, a popular news outlet, reported that:
North Korea faces harsh new U.N. sanctions following a unanimous Security Council vote on Wednesday, March 2, 2016, on a resolution drafted by the United States and Pyongyang’s ally China… the sanctions go further than any U.N. sanctions regime in two decades… Two council diplomats said on condition of anonymity that the new resolution makes the North Korean sanctions regime even tougher than the Iran sanctions regime. (Charbonneau and Nichols 1)
China’s devotion to North Korea is at an all-time low and there remains no other relevant North Korean ally. The increasing tension between China and North Korea is confirmed by China’s recent condemnation of North Korea for missile tests and its support of new sanctions. It is important to note that these sanctions are the most severe in decades because this demonstrates China’s willingness to act strongly against North Korea. And while North Korea’s main external support system is disappearing, internal support for Kim Jong-un is also rapidly deteriorating.
Multiple sources corroborate that a majority of the North Korean population – from officials to students – have grown restless. Song-min Choi from The Guardian reports:
Kim’s popularity among citizens has rapidly declined… officials in rural regions and security agents are far more inclined to air grievances more publicly regarding the leadership… Last week the North Korean military reportedly issued a directive banning its forces from discussing the execution of Hyon, for fear of ‘inciting chaos’ amongst armed forces, or worse, garnering sympathy for the former minister… Similar sentiments are shared among the student population, where classmates sporting hairstyles similar to the leader are mocked. (Choi 1)
Simply put, North Korea has no reliable support system. The economic, political, and social foundations in North Korea are obviously weak, and now without a strong ally, the entire nation would collapse from a military offense.
On top of all these factors, the U.S. Special Forces programs are now more numerous and well- funded than ever. An article from Business Insider explains that “SOCOM is scheduled for spending and personnel increases while the rest of the military looks to be making cuts…goals indicate that America’s entire crop of military operators will top off at 70,000. In fact, the number of operators has doubled since 9/11, and their budget tripled — from $3.5 billion to $10.5 billion” (Ingersoll 1). The U.S. continues to add onto the large military advantage that it has over North Korea, making the opportunity to strike North Korea now feasible and necessary.
Thus, I have shown what the nature of the problem, its intractable presence in the status quo, and the significance of the potential impact of not pursuing a military option if the situation reaches critical mass. Next, I will explain the details of my solution and provide a clear link of solvency.
To combat isolationism, the U.S. should begin to devote significant resources reinforcing attempts at ‘opening’ North Korea to the modern world. Many North Koreans live subject to hate propaganda and ignorance concerning the realities of the outside world. South Korea has already undertaken multiple successful campaigns to spread knowledge in North Korea and these efforts should be supported by the
U.S. Measuring the effectiveness of propaganda is difficult. However, the varying degrees of intensity in North Korea’s response to the different tactics offers one way to determine effectiveness – logically speaking, no retaliation would be necessary against ineffective efforts.
1.a South Korean Loudspeakers
Loudspeakers have been historically used to transmit news, dramas, favorable discussion of democracy, the realities of life in South Korea, and less favorable comments on corruption and mismanagement in North Korea to North Korean soldiers. The speakers have proven to be so effective that “in August , North Korea was so incensed [by the speakers] it shifted into a self-declared ‘quasi-state of war’” (Hu 1).
1.b Radio Broadcasts
South Korea has a radio program called The Voice of Freedom, which is transmitted into the North by radio. Other organizations, such as Unification Media Group, also broadcast radio into the North. Ha- young Choi from The Guardian describes how radio broadcasts have been “a battleground between North and South Korea since… 1953, with broadcasting and signal-jamming taking place on both sides”, Choi further explains that the area between the North and the South is “one of the busiest for radio-waves in the world” (Choi 1). As a result, U.S. support in this endeavor is particularly important.
Supporters in South Korea drop leaflets, DVDs, USB sticks and other material across the border towards North Korea. These simple balloons incite possibly the most intense response from North Korea, with “Pyongyang warn[ing] the South more than fifty times each year that its artillery units would shell the areas where the balloons launch” (Jung 30).
2. Military Force
To eliminate the military threat and permanently end the human rights violations, a U.S. force (preferably in a coalition with other nations’ militaries) must carry out a military operation to remove North Korean nuclear capabilities and depose Kim Jong-un.
2.a An International Effort
The U.S. will seek to lead a coalition of UN countries with the primary objective of attacking North Korea’s nuclear sites. Efforts should focus on the Yongbyon site, North Korea’s main nuclear facility where in 2013, North Korea “restart[ed] all nuclear facilities, including its 5MW graphite-moderated reactor, and uranium enrichment plant” after withdrawing from multiple treaties of non-proliferation (Hansen and Lewis 1).
2.b Airstrikes and Drones
Air support will be an equally crucial component in the operation. The main objective of these aerial components should be to support ground forces and remove North Korea’s strongest defense locations. More specifically, the targeting of North Korea’s resources for war and components of nuclear weapons is vital to success. James Igoe Walsh, writing for the U.S. Army War College Press, states that drones “are most useful for counterterrorism in precisely those settings where the challenges of counterterrorism are the greatest, and the ability to collect intelligence is the weakest” (Walsh vii). This description fits the situation in North Korea perfectly.
These strategies, when applied together, will deliver a lethal blow to the North Korean regime.
Once the North Korean citizens are made free – both physically and intellectually – assimilation into modern-day society can begin under direct oversight from South Korea and the U.S., who will also report to the United Nations. North Korean sovereignty must be ensured. The new nation should be ruled by proper elections and real politicians. No improvements, however, can be made until the current policy is revised and a military operation is carried out.
The error of the United States government since the beginning of the troubles has been its utter failure to take a powerful stance and therefore to take military action, which has licensed the oppression
of the North Korean government and the escalation of a military threat. The result has been to reinforce the totalitarian extremists in North Korea.
The only chance for progress on the issue, now as in the past, is therefore to take military action. If the main points are these:
- Freedom must be given to the almost 25 million North Koreans who have hitherto lived under a ruthless
- Complete eradication of nuclear capabilities in North Korea and the cessation of human rights violations depend on strong
- The optimal time for a military offensive against North Korea is
Then the U.S. government must make it clear that:
- It is disposed to treat the North Korean people justly and to help rebuild their government after they are freed from the totalitarian
- It will not sacrifice any of the rights to freedom and safety of citizens in North Korea and in neighboring
- It cannot agree to any form of justice for North Korea that would simply be a prelude to the death of North Korea as an independent
One can therefore imagine that the people of these United States must make a solemn declaration addressed exclusively to the U.S. government and their representatives:
- That the era of totalitarianism is over. And that while some nations do not believe military action to ever be a good solution, they do acknowledge the necessity to end North Korean
- That we nevertheless seek peace and freedom, especially for the North Korean citizens who have been stripped of basic rights. That we refuse in particular to stand idly by while the North Korean dictators strive to increase military power at its own expense, at the expense of innocent civilians, and, finally, at the expense of world
- That we therefore propose a military operation designed by SOCOM in which, each North Korean citizen and each nation will obtain the privileges of a just
Of course, the difficulties will then begin. But there is little chance of their being resolved if this solemn declaration is not made first and directed, I repeat, to the U.S. government by every means of transmission available. This declaration would surely be heard by the politicians, today lazy and disoriented, and would also encourage the majority of the U.S. population and thus prevent us all from misguided inaction.
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Choi, Ha-young. “K-pop against Kim: the radio broadcasts that have incensed North Korea.” North Korea network. The Guardian, 21 Aug. 2015. Web. 29 Mar. 2016.
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