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NORTH KOREAN leader Kim Jong Un applauds during the second day session of the 8th Conference of Ideological Officials of the Workers’ Party of Korea.(Photo by: REUTERS)
'The Korean denuclearization threat'
By AARON BRAUNSTEIN
08/11/2018
Both before and since the June 12 summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, the media has been abuzz with the import of the tête-à-tête. Its heavy focus, however, on the issue of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is deceptive as to all issues involved.

More dust has risen with the NBC report from US intelligence sources that Pyongyang has increased nuclear fuel production since the summit at one additional secret site. Since then, a UN report has concluded that the North has not halted nuclear and missile programs.

At the same time, Washington and Pyongyang have begun squabbling over whether economic sanctions against the latter should already be lifted. This may show three or more things: total disdain for Washington in general and Trump in particular; a belief that Trump will not want to squander his political credit coming out of the summit by reacting too harshly against his new-found friend, Kim; and/or that the latter has simply added additional bargaining chips for the future devil-detailed negotiations.

A business-savvy leader in the White House may wish to see it in such light. Be this as it may, the world’s focus remains deceptively on the nuclear equation. There is no denying the fact that, unlike Iran, North Korea already has a meaningful nuclear arsenal and that it is surely threatening.

Estimates of this arsenal have ranged upwards toward 60 bombs, possibly including one or more hydrogen bombs, and missiles capable of striking the United States. The over-riding issue, however, is not this muchmouthed nuclear threat, but the inverse, a “denuclearization threat.”

The North Koreans can be expected to demand in exchange for denuclearization the removal of all American forces and nuclear presence not just from the peninsula but also from its surrounding waters. Removal of all nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula still leaves Pyongyang’s Korean People’s Army (KPA) as a formidable force for conventional military projection, especially if commanded to launch a near suicidal offensive.

The KPA’s conventional standing forces and close to six million paramilitary personnel with near suicidal devotion represent 25% of the North Korean population, that part that eats regularly.

Added to this, is a cyberwarfare force of over 2,000 hackers whose effectiveness would be multiplied in a first strike. After “peace in Korean time,” there will remain the heightened danger that North Korea will launch its conventional forces deep into the South.

The fact that the South Korean capital Seoul is a near and supposedly easy target could make the gambit that much more tempting for the likes of a Supreme Leader. The triggers for a US repost of immediate danger to its troops and of a North Korean nuclear threat would both be gone. It is thus less likely that the US would launch onto both northern and southern Korean soil the one weapon system capable of stopping the North’s onslaught – tactical nuclear weapons.

And if so, there is the greater parallel danger that the North Korean tyrant may just bet, even if wrongly, on Washington not reacting with full force to such invasion. In relative terms, the devastation that would result to Koreans in the South would be not much greater than the country-wide disaster that already is the North Korean hinterland left behind in the wake of the KPA’s advance.

Let not Western and Israeli pundits lull all into loose and wishful thinking that denuclearization of the area in itself will be good for Israel, the Middle East and the world.

The Korean Peninsula may thus finally be reunited, not through peace but by force. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei may only have to wait for a possible North Korean onslaught against the South. Of particular note in this regard, are June 4 media reports that President Basher Assad of Syria has stated: “I am sure that North Korea’s President Kim will achieve the final victory and realize the unification of Korea. And as Syria speaks, so thinks Iran.”

After such unification, renuclearization of a united Korea will soon follow with the collusion of Iran. Pyongyang and Tehran have a long sordid history of active nuclear and missile collusion, ready to be reactivated in both countries with a vengeance.

Washington should contemplate the geopolitical fact that, as missiles fly, the intimidating distance between Kim’s capital and Los Angeles is the same as between Tehran and New York, the other way around the globe.

The outcome will be an even greater danger to the Middle East than currently, not to mention the rest of Asia and America. Only a comprehensive, phased “package” plan of both denuclearization and conventional demilitarization for the entire Korean Peninsula can eventually hope to avoid war.

The follow-on negotiations to the recent Trump-Kim summit will thus test the true intentions of North Korea’s current “peace” offensive. Israel and the world will be watching to see if the Trump White House has such resolve.

In the meantime, it is with much merit that in response to a question as to how one can know if Kim is lying, US National Security Advisor John Bolton replied: “When he opens his mouth.”

The author served several American presidents as a US Foreign service officer (1966-96) including 15 years in the Arab, Muslim and East Asia regions in addition to Washington, DC. He is the founder of the non-profit, non-sectarian Jewish Covenant Alliance R.A. www.covenantalliance.org
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