Author Topic: Thoughts on N.Korea not being commonly discussed?  (Read 4258 times)

DTEJD1997

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Thoughts on N.Korea not being commonly discussed?
« on: September 05, 2017, 12:38:29 AM »
Hey all:

I wanted to start a thread on the problem with N. Korea and some thoughts that I've been pondering...things I don't see some of the following being widely discussed in the "main stream media"...

A). China probably has the most influence over N. Korea...but what if the level of Chinese influence is not enough, OR what if China has "lost control"?  Could N. Korea have a dead man's switch defense?  I've heard pundits say that China should just take out Kim Jon Un...they probably could do it, but what if in addition to nukes pointed at Seoul, Tokyo, USA, N. Korea also has one pointed at Beijing?

It could be that China has now helped create a monster that they have lost control over.

B). Most pundits are not discussing that N. Korea has at LEAST hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of their own citizens in prison/concentration camps.  The conditions in which are almost as bad as the third Reich.  Truly horrific things are going on in N. Korea.  Additionally, there was a drought/mass starvation in N. Korea in the mid-late 90's.  It is estimated that up to 3,000,000 of their own citizens perished in that famine.  Mind you, this is a country with a population of somewhere around 22MM at the time.  So about 1/20 to 1/10 of the population died in those years.  The N. Korean regime let it happen TO THEIR OWN CITIZENS to keep their grip on power.  If they are willing to do that, what are they willing to do to S. Korea, Japan, the USA, OR anybody else who gets in their way OR who they have a beef with?

C). To this day, the N. Korean population in general lives in abject poverty.  Witness the satellite photos from space at night showing the vast bulk of N. Korea dark.  Further, look at how small & skinny their military soldiers at the DMZ are.  Their citizens are many pounds lighter and several inches shorter than their S. Korean counterparts.  There are also reports that much of their children are "mentally challenged" due to nutrient/protein/vitamin/food shortages.

There are a huge number of shocking videos on YouTube showing the abject poverty of the N. Korean countryside.

D). The administration of the USA has been kicking the can down the road for at LEAST 20 years.  HOWEVER, the Clintons have to take some special blame.  In 1994 and later years they were railroaded by N.Korea...the treaties they negotiated and entered into gave N.Korea money, food, fuel, nuclear technology/help and cover.  The Clinton administration was simply feeble minded and bamboozled by N. Korea.

Subsequent administrations did not do much either other than write sternly worded letters...to obviously no effect.

E). What about the Iranians, Syrians, and others?  I have heard rumors that Iran has been working closely with N. Korea on their nuclear program.  What a great idea...Iran is under the microscope and entered into a treaty with the USA...so largely shut down and scale back on nuclear operations inside of Iran, and outsource a lot of it to N. Korea.  Iran got pallets of cash from the outgoing Obama administration...a great place to put that cash to work is in N. Korea.

There have also been reports of Syrians working in N. Korea (though not lately) and Pakistanis also there.  Might there be others?

Does anybody have ANY doubt that N. Korea would work with Al Qaeda, ISIS, or other terrorist group if the price was right?

F). Where in the heck is N. Korea getting the uranium/fissile material from?  China? Iran? Others?

G). Where in the heck is N. Korea getting those giant mobile missile launchers from?  China? Russia?

They damn sure well didn't build it themselves.  I doubt N. Korea even has the industrial base to build a car, let alone a giant all terrain missile launcher.

H). Where is N. Korea getting cash to run their nuclear program or anything else?  They've got a bit of trade going with China (minerals, agriculture, guest workers) Russia (guest workers) and bits & pieces of stuff here and there.  However, there have been reports that N. Korea is selling arms all over the globe to anybody who will pay.  There are reports that N. Korea is heavily into counterfeiting, drug trade, gambling, cyber attacks, and all sorts of illicit activity.  Very similar to an ongoing criminal enterprise...

I). There are reports that the N. Korean military, while large, and relatively well funded (for such a weak economy) is critically/comically short of fuel, spare parts, ammunition, medicine, transportation, training and so on.  There was a YouTube video of a military defector claiming that most military units have the ammunition kept by officers, who will then dole it out to the soldiers "when the time comes" and that each soldier is to receive 20 rounds of ammunition for their rifles.  This is due in part to Kim being paranoid that military units MIGHT turn on him, and secondarily because their are such shortages of ammunition.  If this is even close to the truth, how long could they go up against Western foes?  I am going to guess that it would be almost a turkey shoot...A virtual slaughter of the N. Korean military.

The only leverage N. Korea has (other than nukes) is the proximity of Seoul to the DMZ, and how much artillery/missiles could strike Seoul.  No doubt that counter battery fire would make quick work of N. Korea's artillery, but they would get a good number of rounds into the South.

J). How is there not a MAXIMUM level of sanctions on N. Korea already?  How are politicians talking of "stepping up sanctions"?  There should have been a blockade already enabled.  Time to cut EVERYTHING off to the country...no food, no fuel, no power, no money, etc...Of course, China would probably balk a bit...but what is more important to them, trade with USA, Japan, S. Korea, the rest of the world OR N. Korea?

K). There is a very real possibility that a nuclear arms race gets out of hand.  S. Korea might probably get them, Japan potentially?  What happens when Iran gets them?  Saudi Arabia will counter (they have agreement with Pakistan)...and on and on...more countries having the bomb is definitely bad.  Only a matter of time before something somewhere goes haywire.

FINALLY, the USA/west is TREMENDOUSLY vulnerable to attack by N. Korea.  They only need a handful of bombs to destroy the USA.  A few strategic EMP bursts and our electrical grid goes out...that would lead to the likely death of MILLIONS of USA citizens.  How long would it take to get electricity back?  How long would it take get fuel?  Sanitation?  Would cars/trucks/trains have their engines permanently destroyed by the EMP burst(s)? 

Pair that with a air/ground burst in LA, Seattle, Denver, San Francisco or a couple of other USA cities and you've got millions dead and a collapsed society/way of life.  What is the point of turning N. Korea into glass?  We're ruined already and millions of millions of people in USA are dead/injured...

Same thing for Japan. S. Korea, China.  Think of how backward N. Korea is....they are largely immune to the effects of an EMP burst.  No electricity/electronics to be destroyed.

A lot of uncertainty here, but no doubt it would be absolutely terrible. 

The importance of all of these points are debatable/uncertain, but I think politicians of all countries and stripes have mishandled N. Korea for DECADES.

A very bad situation indeed.


John Hjorth

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Re: Thoughts on N.Korea not being commonly discussed?
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2017, 05:30:25 AM »
DTEJD1997,

Re F):

Wikipedia: Timeline of North Korea nuclear program.
Wikipedia: North Korea and weapons of mass destruction.

In short, it started with technology transfer from the former Soviet Union. North Korea has Uranium in the soil underground, extracted by state internal mining, as I read it.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2017, 05:33:25 AM by John Hjorth »
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Schwab711

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Re: Thoughts on N.Korea not being commonly discussed?
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2017, 10:36:38 AM »
I'm not an expert by any means. I'm just interested in all things nuclear and foreign policy so this is some of what I've learned. Take the good stuff and ignore the rest.

A. Yeah. Russia also has influence. (Edit: If I remember I'll try to find the blog, but someone noted that the recent missile launch would have flown over Russian airspace. It's an interesting comment on nuke pointed at Beijing. I haven't read anything else on this idea but it seems logical that they would have to show they can fight their protectors if need be - http://www.mapsnworld.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/world-map.jpg)

B. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/09/south-korea-normalised-fear-north-korea-missile-kim-jong-un

With so few deserters (and the possibility they are planted), it's hard to tell what the truth is.

I would think the best hope for change is something like this:
http://nypost.com/2017/03/17/importing-hope-into-north-korea-one-usb-drive-at-a-time/

C. It seems like yes and no. I certainly don't know but if you follow Will Ripley (CNN) you can see the middle and elite class of North Korea live a lot like folks in China. Maybe not the same level of wealth but certainly more than is normally associated with NK. I've been surprised to learn how well-off some non-elite folks in NK are.

There's a SK woman who wrote a book about her teaching experiences there and she seems to describe something much closer to what you describe. I only read her interview and not her book though.

D. Agree on Clinton and I'll add that GWB's campaign on WMD heavily incentivized rouge nations to get nukes. Things could always be better in hindsight. I think both made decent decisions with the info at the time (obviously there were no WMD but I don't think that was the point of Iraq, for people in the know at the time).

NK was always probably going to get nukes either way, given the protection they received from China. Once Russia and Iran took a special interest, it was a sure thing. There was never a real shot at keeping them from going nuclear and I'm not sure what any president could have done. NK has a pretty important plot of land.

Most of NK's recent advancement seems to be due to Iran/Russia. Iran for enrichment, Russia/former USSR for hardware, and China for nuke design and engineer training (design plans used by NK were stolen from US during the 80's and 90's - http://www.nytimes.com/1999/03/06/world/breach-los-alamos-special-report-china-stole-nuclear-secrets-for-bombs-us-aides.html?mcubz=1).

E. I don't think the USG has any doubt these things are true.

Given the timeline, I would imagine the Iranian cash was at least partially done to help with the ISIS/Syria situation. Maybe intelligence related? NK is certainly a possibility and any new cash in NK would definitely help them but there's nothing Iran could give NK in mid-2016 that NK didn't already have. Either way, it's similar to the WMD issue in that it gives leverage to these types of nations.

F. Iran (Russia/US seem to be pretty good about uranium control - we are both heavily dependent on each other for supply). Related to Iran enrichment, there's a documentary on Stuxnet that came out recently. I heard it's supposed to be really interesting.

G. Russia/former USSR

H. drugs (meth), illegal arms, counterfeiting (NK is biggest USD counterfeiter), tourism, employment in China and KIR/KIZ, rhino horns, ivory, and every other illegal business. They basically are forced into this stuff due to sanctions.

http://www.heritage.org/testimony/north-koreas-connection-international-trade-drugs-counterfeiting-and-arms

I. I don't know anything about this but it's interesting and makes some sense. I know oil is a really big deal for them since they have next to none.

J. Sanctions require international cooperation. Sanctions under Obama were particularly ineffective (not just NK but many other nations) in part because Russia didn't cooperate as promised. Obviously China has always been exempt from these sanctions for most basic materials/goods. If a nation of the size of Russia provides a work-around for everything else then the sanctions are pointless. At least that is my understanding.

K. Word. NK is considered to be a rational actor and I buy that argument. It seems like NK just wants to be recognized by international organizations (which would allow them to diplomatically negotiate their concerns with many nations without tons of red tape).

https://theowp.org/reports/the-rationale-behind-the-irrational-diplomacy-north-korea-style/ - More recent analysis of NK leadership also talks about Obama/Trump so I tried to find a source that just focused on NK. There are better insights out there if you can ignore some opinions of US leadership.

Sweet topic though!

Other stuff:
http://www.38north.org/ - Best organization for NK news
https://www.cfr.org/interview/north-korea-iran-nuclear-cooperation
http://www.heritage.org/testimony/north-koreas-connection-international-trade-drugs-counterfeiting-and-arms
« Last Edit: September 05, 2017, 10:41:04 AM by Schwab711 »

rkbabang

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Re: Thoughts on N.Korea not being commonly discussed?
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2017, 11:46:11 AM »
Thanks for the thoughtful post and replies.  This is just about the most troubling topic in the world right now with no easy/obvious answers.

Some thought I'd like to add is that I'm not convinced that NK really has a fusion device at all, never mind one that can be attached to the top of an ICBM.  I'm also not convinced that they have an ICBM that can reach the US mainland.  That said, I'm don't know that they don't.

I'm not convinced that Kim Jong-un is as crazy and suicidal as western governments like the US want you to believe he is. He is a brutal dictator that is holding tens of millions of people in a country sized prison camp (as well as millions in actual prison camps), but would he actually strike the US or the South first, knowing what the results would be?   I'm not sure.  Would the US strike first?   That I'm more convinced of, especially with Trump in charge.

Nuclear weapons are 70 year old technology now, you can't put the cat back in the bag. We are going to have to accept the fact that we will be living in a world where almost every nation has them.  As scary as that sounds.

Scary times.

John Hjorth

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Re: Thoughts on N.Korea not being commonly discussed?
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2017, 01:08:06 PM »
With all due respect for DTEJ1997's initial post in this topic - it's certainly valid questions to think about - to me, the central questions that I'm asking my self over and over again, are the following:

L) Who is this Mr. Kim really, and how is he, as a human being [perhaps I should rephrase that to just "person"?, to avoid a separate discussion of the proper use of the term "human being"],

meaning [shades of it has already been discussed here on CoBF]:

L.1.) Do you consider him "normal", compared to your own personal yard stick for normality?
L.2.) Do you consider him a mean/evil person?
L.3.) Do you consider him intelligent/bright? [Please also consider for your self, how you might define these criteria]
L.4.) Do you consider him with special tactical capabilities/competences? [perhaps this question is a sub element of L.3.]

More "L" questions might be relevant to ask.

- - - o 0 o - - -

Wikipedia: Kim Jong-Un.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2017, 01:44:25 PM by John Hjorth »
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Cigarbutt

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Re: Thoughts on N.Korea not being commonly discussed?
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2017, 01:16:19 PM »
"I'm not an expert by any means. I'm just interested..." Same here.
Scary times indeed.

I would assume that effective diplomacy (which could vary from doing nothing to massive unilateral intervention) is based on a deep knowledge of the geo-political issues, a profound comprehension of strengths and weaknesses of opposing forces, an intrinsic appreciation of the established and potential alliances, a natural instinct to devise strategy and intuitive personal attributes favorable to crisis resolution.

Scary times indeed.

My opinion is worth nothing but I would venture to say that sometimes the best solutions may be the hardest.

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/north-korea-confrontation-coming-by-richard-n--haass-2016-09

Perhaps easy to say now, but sometimes unresolved problems don't go away on their own.

Even the best of solutions may be quite unsatisfactory.

Good luck.


GregS

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Re: Thoughts on N.Korea not being commonly discussed?
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2017, 01:52:51 PM »
Does anybody have ANY doubt that N. Korea would work with Al Qaeda, ISIS, or other terrorist group if the price was right?

I do.  I assume rationality by Kim, and I think it is pretty certain that if the US traced a nuclear terrorist attack back to North Korea that would literally be the end of the country.  The entire country.  There would be tremendous support in the US for a massive nuclear strike.  Why would Kim pursue that path?  Perhaps if he is truly desperate.  One reason sanctions have to be measured, so we don't create the kind of desperation that leads to irrationality (or, perhaps better stated, makes attacking the US the rational choice).

I would be more concerned with a potential false flag op blaming North Korea, or encouragement of an irrational attack by N. Korea.  I think Russia has expansionary ambitions in Europe and Central Asia and it may be a way to neutralize the west, although the risk to Russia is probably too great.

IMO, a lot of Kim's and North Korea's actions can be explained by fear of a possible imminent US attack.  Just look at our history over decades, and dictators the US doesn't like eventually get removed one way or the other.  Of course, that doesn't apply to nuclear powers.  I'll bet Gaddafi or Hussein wish they had nukes.

Your points on failures of past administrations are well taken.  The time to deal with this was many years ago.  It's probably too late for a military solution without direct provocation by N. Korea because of the major risk to allies and US cities. 

What I don't get is that the recent provocations will undoubtedly cause Japan to re-militarize.  I don't understand how that could be good for N. Korea.  It certainly isn't for China, but perhaps China has no control here.

I also wonder whether the actions we find confusing stem from North Korea's domestic politics.  If the economic situation is truly dire, Kim likely has a growing number enemies.  Turning the attention outward is a textbook move by dictators trying to keep control of their population.

John Hjorth

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Re: Thoughts on N.Korea not being commonly discussed?
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2017, 01:59:04 PM »
GregS,

Rationality is to me relative, in the meaning: how do you define the "don't do"s for a person wired totally different than your self?
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GregS

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Re: Thoughts on N.Korea not being commonly discussed?
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2017, 02:27:30 PM »
GregS,

Rationality is to me relative, in the meaning: how do you define the "don't do"s for a person wired totally different than your self?

Assuming base survival instincts among the players, and then playing out the action/reaction.  Same ideas that let to the Mutually Assured Destruction policies during the Cold War (of course, in this case the ability to destroy the other is one-sided).

If North Korea does X, what will the US do?  Irrationality would be taking an action where the consequences for them would be clearly unacceptable - in the case of a nuke attack, total annihilation at the hands of the US.  As long as Kim understands that would be the consequence, there's virtually no chance he does a first strike (via direct or indirect) if he is sane.  The US would be hurt but not destroyed by a terrorist nuclear attack, and the ability to retaliate would be basically unaffected.

The problem to me is North Korea (or anyone) misreading the situation rather than doing anything crazy.  In the case of selling nukes to terrorists, misreading would come from either thinking they can get away without being caught, or thinking the US lacks the will for retaliation.  In the latter context, Trump's provocative comments make sense, in that he is clearly trying to show North Korea he has the will to retaliate and would do so asymmetrically.

Of course, it's an inherently unstable situation as many things can go wrong or misjudgments made.  This is a key reason why the can has been kicked down the road as far as it has.  I also think the situation would escalate if Kim felt his loss of power and death were nearly inevitable as he would have nothing to lose.


Cigarbutt

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Re: Thoughts on N.Korea not being commonly discussed?
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2017, 03:29:09 PM »
It may be really hard to apply games theory even if the framework is based on the assumption of intelligent and rational players.

I visited the historic Pearl Harbor site a few weeks ago. Exhibits to learn and remember.

The Japanese army understood that it was a suicidal attack. Leading naval strategist, Admiral Yamamoto, among others, knew that Japan was doomed.

Very intelligent people.

There was a choice between suicide and humiliation.
Sometimes, people cannot reconcile the latter.

Rational?