TCS Daily

Axis of Evil vs. Axis of Interests

By Austin Bay - October 11, 2006 12:00 AM

South Korea's Samsung Corp. is one of the largest private employers in the Texas county I call home. Samsung's international headquarters, located in downtown Seoul, South Korea, lies within the range fan of North Korean FROG-7 type rockets. A North Korean fighter-bomber, flying south from North Korean airspace, will be over Seoul in two to three minutes.

Given the destructive effects of conventional artillery and bombs, North Korea doesn't need a nuke to wreak havoc on Seoul -- which means Kim Jong-Il's criminal regime doesn't really need a nuke to attack Texas' economy, either. Launch a conventional attack across the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ), and the global managers and senior staff of a major Texas employer risk becoming immediate casualties.

Meet the 21st century -- at least, the economically, politically and technologically linked elements of the 21st century. This linkage explains, in part, why the United States says it regards any military attack on South Korea and Japan as an attack on the United States. This linkage also helps explain China's aversion to war (especially nuclear war) on the Korean peninsula. South Korea has become a major Chinese trading partner.

This is a radical, fundamental change from 1950, when Kim Jong-Il's father, Kim Il-Sung, began the Korean War. Kim Sr. and China's Mao were communist allies. In 2006, Kim Jr. remains a communist. China, while definitely an authoritarian state, now benefits from trade and markets, which means at some point China's leaders know North Korea's regime and rogues like it ultimately threaten the wealth-producing system modernizing their state.

While Stalinist North Korea starves and slips deeper into poverty, democratic South Korea has become a world-class economic and political success. South Korean diplomat Ban Ki-moon has just been nominated to serve as U.N. Secretary-General -- which gives Ban a global podium. Secretary-General Ban sends the message that South Korea is a world leader, while Kim Jong-Il's North is a criminal rogue that meets day-to-day expenses by counterfeiting cash and smuggling drugs.

Except South Korea lacks nuclear weapons. Nukes give Kim one shred of international prestige. For small men like Kim Jong-Il, nukes are their means of escaping tin-pot irrelevance. Instead of killing thousands with conventional munitions, he can now threaten millions with radioactive devastation. With a ballistic missile, his reach extends well beyond Seoul.

Hence Kim's nuclear extortion racket: "Pay me off and guarantee the survival of my impoverished, criminal regime, or I'll nuke my economic and human hostages and cost all of you more in lives and money than the bribes and media kowtow I demand."

But Kim's nuclear test -- though a small bang in a cave -- may have finally wrecked his nuclear racket.

South Korea's "sunshine" policy -- intended to nudge North Korea toward modernity -- has failed. Kim's July missile volley ended Japan's policy of public quiescence and private uneasiness. Likewise, U.S. diplomacy, aimed at ending North Korea's emerging nuclear threat, has failed. The Clinton administration attempted to buy the nukes with economic carrots, the Bush administration (with its six-nation talks) tried to pry the nukes loose using a diplomatic "squeeze." Neither gambit worked, because both strategies to be effective relied on steady Chinese cooperation.

Which is why the nuke test may boomerang on Pyongyang.

North Korea's July missile volley embarrassed China. The nuclear test appears to have galvanized it. Chinese security specialist Shen Dingli said last week that North Korea "considers its national interests (in acquiring nuclear weapons) to be greater than its relations with China." In Shen's words, China's diplomacy has also "been a failure."

Kim's nuke test publicly exposes China's failure -- a major power's failure on its own border.

No one likes to lose face, but "face" is particularly important in North Asian diplomacy.

Forcing North Korea to kowtow (in the regional parlance) is a way for China to re-establish its political position. But this must be done without resort to war.

That suggests a land and maritime embargo of North Korea, with the Hermit Kingdom's borders hermetically sealed. An embargo is the "stick" the Bush administration's "six-nation" diplomacy lacked. Such a cooperative international operation might actually "pry the nukes" from Pyongyang. An effective embargo requires a committed China. It's time for China to demonstrate the political will to protect its own linked economic interests.

Austin Bay is a syndicated columnist and TCS Daily contributing writer.



China needs to fix this...

If China seals off North Korea, as only they could do, the population of North Korea will cross the border in astounding numbers. The Chinese already have a very large issue with such refugees.

China enjoys the buffer zone North Korea creates between themselves and our own military presence in South Korea.

South Korea and Japan should both seriously "gun up" if we are clearly unable to protect them in the region. China really does not want to see that happen.

The play is for China to have its friends inside the North Korean military remove Kim Jong-Il and immediately ask for Chinese intervention to maintain order. Done with skill and grace this can happen without a fight. This is an old trick and it amounts to annexation. North Korea would fundamentally become a protectorate and for all practical purposes a province of China.

We would all go along with this. It is the only thing that might work in the near term and time is of the essence. Otherwise, Japan will simply amend its constitution and rearm faster than anyone thought was possible. Then South Korea becomes their buffer state and the Chinese have a tough military rival in their arena that they already know all too well.

What I have described should happen without warning, quickly and soon.

Good short term solution
never thought along these lines.

several points not normaly discussed
China's internal problems are grave, and have kept Hu from exercising proper control over his errant dog, Kim il.

Hu just managed to regain control over Shanghai by arresting the top people there including the regional governor. These people had been able to bribe the military with the enormous amounts of money they have been making. Hu's strategy has been to publish ALL the reports of riots across China and their brutal suppression by the regional governors in an attempt to turn the Chinese public against the leaders of these runaway regions.

While Hu was distracted and weakened by the Chinese military refusing to control Shanghai, Kim il acted like the bad dog he is. One of the signs that he was disrespecting Hu and not just acting the bad dog part was the story of the trains.

China sends food & fuel to NK in trains, nice modern trains compared to Kim’s rotten old trains. So Kim stole several trains from Hu in a move of blatant disrespect, sent the crews home without their trains. The rockets & the "nuke" (still out on whether it was or not) were just more of the same.

Now if you will notice, NK has a new Patron, somebody else blowing their horn this week, Russia.

The Russ are the only ones claiming NK's nuclear blast was undeniably real, not faked, not a dud of small proportions like the rest of the worlds intel community is saying. Their reports seem strangely exaggerated to all involved, unless you consider that NK was originally a Soviet creation and Kim’s traditional partner in crime is enormously irritated with him for several reasons.

One other un-mentioned thing, China already controls most of NK's northern infrastructure, roads, rails, water, power, mines, air bases. They have been preparing for NK's collapse and their de-facto take-over at least of the northern part of NK for some time.

Kim il's flirtation with Russia may be an attempt to back the Chinese out of his country, but I'm betting Putin doesn't have the stomach to stand up to Hu.

Insightful. You forgot another country.
"We would all go along with this. It is the only thing that might work in the near term and time is of the essence. Otherwise, Japan will simply amend its constitution and rearm faster than anyone thought was possible."

I would bet that Japan already has disassembled nukes, to be made ready the moment their Constitution is ammended. You forgot Taiwan. Taiwan will be next join the nuclear club, even before Japan.

The Virtues of Democracy
Austin Bay writes a compelling article comparing the two Koreas. The hippie-dippie, unhinged liberals, ought to sit back and ponder his points. Our so called "bad boy nation" contributed significantly to South Korea's success. Austin Bay's insight implicitly substantiates our decision to go to war with North Korea in 1950. Furthermore, his article reinforces our moral obligation to challenge nations to embrace democracy's ideals.

all true
But the U.S. needs to respond to this as well.

I would secretly get China's permission and then park an aircraft carrier battle group inside NKs territorial waters. I would then send fighter and attack planes to overfly the entire country while publically threatening to turn back any ship heading to NK unless Kim's government immediately dismantles all nuke devices and the scientific and manufacturing facilities under the watchful eye of U.S. inspectors and IAEA inspectors.

Of course we need to involve China as a partner and Japan, Tiawan and South Korea at some level. We don't want to raise tensions in the region, just in North Korea. Then, while Kim's eyes are on the U.S. China can get the ball rolling the way you noted and probably pull of a bloodless takeover.

Not the libertarian way
This is a spill over from some libertarian TCS articles, but the stark comparison between North and South Korea should argue favorably for a foreign policy that promotes and defends liberty.
DPRK followed the isolationist path.

The Problem
An embargo of North Korea is essentially a threat of destruction to the regime. At that point, Kim can either relent, give up nukes, and thus demonstrate that he can be coerced with embargoes, thus eliminating his bargaining platform for propping up his regime. . .

. . .or he can institute the apocalypse NK has been prepping for decades, attack South Korea, and kill millions of people while setting back SK a couple decades, and probably triggering huge global economic consequences. Maybe launch some missiles at Japan, China, Australia, or anyone else he can reach, loaded with whatever they have.

The problem is, there is no way to reign in North Korea without simultaneously threatening it with effects just as bad, from Jong-Il's point of view, as if it were militarily annihilated. Thus, there is no disincentive to not do stuff that would get NK militarily annihilated.

Exactly the problem with them having nukes
It is an act now or face constant threats and intimidation later situation. S. Korea needs to realize that there is no out of this hard spot. They need to see the N.Korea regime reined in or annihilated, regardless of the cost, so they can move on. The economic cost would end up as only a notable blip on the economic radar in the long haul.

I Would Hardly Call it a 'Notable Blip'
Even excluding WMDs, too much of SK's population and infrastructure is too close to the border. It might be a 'notable blip' for most of the world, but for South Korea, it'd be virtual armageddon.

The problem from the SK perspective is things pretty much are already as bad as they can be. Nukes wouldn't make as much difference for them, as they probably wouldn't be aimed as South Korea anyway, but Japan and the US.

Then why appeasment to the level they reach? To me it is the type of extortion they can not afford and should not allow. And any nukes will be aimed first at the south; it is a twofer (U.S. and South Korea) but probably not directly at the capital; initally.

How much arty is NK going to be able to throw with any accuracy before U.S. and SK air power virtually neutralizes it? How much damage can they really do? I would say it is certainly going to change the landscape for a while, but not do immeasurable damage to the economy and infrastructure.

I think everyone massively overestimates NKs capabilities. Sure, if they were allowed to fire unchallenged for a day or two they could probably do quite a bit; but what are the chances of that really?

There is no conventional way to stop it quickly
NK has been building artillery into the mountains since the Korean War 'ended.' Even with exact targetting data known beforehand, even we can't put enough bombs on target fast enough to make a real difference in the short term, especially since we'd need to either destroy their air defenses first, or accept much higher casualties.

I'm not even sure using nuclear weapons would work, either, given the proximity to the border. Anything big enough to smash the mountain fortifications would cause as much damage to SK as the artillery barrage.

Yeah, the US military is the most powerful in the world by far, but our biggest advantages are, essentially, mobility-based. Between North and South Korea, there is not enough room between the border and Seoul to do any kind of sophisticated defense tactics.

About the only wizard-tech way I could see us changing the equation is if we developed an anti-artillery laser slaved to spotter radar, and produced enough of them stop a large percentage of the expected incoming artillery shells/minute.

But it is amazing how much a little hazing fire can throw off the aim. As for air defense, whatever dude. Ground defenses (sams) have always been more fizz than pop (especially against ground hugging fighter-bombers) and one poorly trained squadron of F-16s can pretty much handle the entire NK fighter force. Add a carrier battle group to the air power already in SK and we would own the skies in a matter of hours.

There isn't much wiz-tech in 2,000 pounders and 10,000 pound bunker busters combined with fuel air explosives and daisy cutters. It is just your old fashinoned conventional 1 KT/hr constant bombing barage (20TX100 sorte/hr from over 200 fighters and fighter bombers.) Sure NK gets the first 20 min. to an hour almost free; but they will pay dearly in guns and manpower for every minute after that.

Seoul would take a serious pounding in the first few minutes, but that will happen no matter what. Overall, damage would probably slow production for a couple of weeks to a couple of months.

Time to recognize the puppet master
Just as Stalin approved the invasion of the South Beijing has approved North Korea's nuclear policies. The spineless political elites of the US who believe that pushing cookies will solve any problems refuses to grasp what is happening and how the PRC is an enemy and not our friend. North Korea is a joke, the monster here smiles at us, taking our cash while stabbing us in the back.

What Bay has riught is that arming South Korea, Japan and Taiwan is not what the PRC wants.

There are about 10,000 artillery pieces that can hit Seoul in NK. These could rain down several million shells before they could all be stopped.
There are also many rockets and rocket launchers.

As to our ability to destroy them quickly, I just point to the recent dust up in S. Lebanon.

daisy cutters
1 daisy cutter takes out 1 artillery piece. It takes cargo plane to deliver one daisy cutter.

NK has 10,000 artillery pieces in place, not counting those that could quickly be moved into range.

How long will it take to drop 10,000 daisy cutters? Even assuming we have that many.

As to hazing fire. It's almost worthless. The artillery pieces are bunkered. They've been fortifying the positions for 50 years.

Not likely
But given that, you mass bomb the area with 2,000 pounders (20 per planeX200 attack planes=4,000 on first mission. I used a variety of ordinance because there are a variety of target situations.

But that really isn't the point. Seoul will face some dammage no matter what the response. Is this a reason to cave to blackmail and do nothing until Kim decides he wants the South?

Who cares what China or the rest of the world might like. He has already showed his ability to slip the Chinese leash and do what he wants.

Now he has nukes.

I just don't see him as the type to die of old age before trying to use them.

No comparison
Much of the NK arty is fixed and fortified (as has been noted) They can't shoot once and move quickly. 10,000 artillery pieces, if the crews are very good, will drop about 1,000,000 shells on Seoul in the first hour. No matter what, it could get pretty nasty if they are allowed to fire unhindered for more than 15 minutes.

But I think everyone over estimates the situation. True, left unhindered, NK could shell Seoul to dust in a matter of hours.

But at what cost to them?

No way Kim aims 10,000 arty pieces at Seoul and ignores the military complexes. to do so is suicidal. It would cost him his entire air forces on the ground, all his artillery and much of his other military power.

Kim is crazy, but he is not stupid. Everyone assumes he would do such a thing. The problem is that he might. But how is Kim with Nukes a better deal than forcing his hand and making him either back down or commit national suicide?

I simply do not understand SK and the world continuing to allow this as shole to do these things.

won't do any good.
Saturation bombing doesn't work against hardened targets.
Missing by a few dozen feet just gives them a big headache.

Seoul will face more than just damage, it will face hundreds of thousands of dead.

return fire will take out the arty, but it will take weeks to get them all
In the meantime, they will be raining down death and destruction on much of SK.

Quite doubtful
The weight of a 150 round is about 60 pounds, if you allow for six rounds a minute for an hour, and half that rate for the next three hours you'd have 900 rounds expended. Do you have any idea how large the storage facilities would be for that number of shells, now try multiplying that by 10,000. The logistics are just too fantastic to make any sense as you can see.

Worse, since these artillery pieces are static their fields of fire are going to be very limited. The emplacements are little more than death traps for the crews unless they have been constructed with mutliple firing positions. Possible but this would only delay the inevitable.

Just something to consider. Also remember that 150s are field pieces, 170mm and 210 are more likely to be encountered and they employ heavier shells making the problem of logistics even greater. Recall the vaunted Iraqi artillery in both Gulf Wars.

Very little understanding of the Targeting and logistics
I put a 2,000 pound bomb within 50 ft of a hardened target and the crew will be dead or very badly concussed for quite a while. Also, we know where most of these arty pieces are, makes targeting much easier. If they are within close proximity, a fuel-air device will kill every crew in a half-mile radius (and then some).

There are entirely too many negatives to give NK any real credit for their ability to seriously damaged Seoul as a whole.

Daisy Cutters aren't healthy for crews
Anyone who has ever seen a daisey cutter is always amazed at the havoc caused. I understand some Brits who saw them used in Afghanistan said, "the yanks are dropping nukes." Worse the North Koreans have a paper tiger air force. Their pilots get less than an hour's flight training monthly and have such limited fuel (to prevent defections) they cannot really get good training. Lack if fuel also precludes large scale maneuvers with motorized formations.

Mark is guilty of being impressed by numbers.

And that air force is equipped mainly with two-generation (at least) old planes.

To give mark his due, if the NKs made a real effort of it, they could drop a very large number of shells on Seoul before any response could get organized. I never said their would be no damage, just that the level (without Chinese help) would, If I were a South Korean, be worth the the risk and eventual payoff (no more blackmail or a drastically changed NK or unified Korea under South Korean control).

And, yes, Mark is a bit over-impressed with the numbers.

There would be massive destruction
I have little doubt that if the NKs attacked the destruction would be devastating. I also have little doubt that there would be no replay of the first Korean War. Most people haveno idea of what role logistics play and how hard it is to supply a modern army. As far as numbers go, I'd be the last to down play quanitity but I'd rather have quality. I wonder what would happen to the NK army once it was subjected to the firepower of the allies. I think it would suffer from massive desertion, especially once they ended their attack phase and were in retreat. Besides its hard to surrender to someone's who retreating although the Russians managed it even in 1945.

And I may think Kim is crazy, but he is not stupid. He don't think he would cross that line first if it was at all aviodable. But he may if he has nukes and delivery systems.

Why, since that would seem to create guaranteed destruction of N. Korea? because, in the end he is crazy and a wild bluffer of a poker player. He beileves no major power would dare use nukes, even if they were used by him in a limited attack against the South. He has had no reprecusions from any of his previous provoctive actions and he has in fact sometimes gained from them.

One of the problems the US has is to underestimate our enemies
Our opponents may not perceive facts or reality as we do but they are in their own way careful in their decision making. Unfortunately from what I have seen as the media goes global, our enemies see a vision of Am,erica as presented by people like CCN and Obermann, Dan Rather and that ilk. If you do not understand Americans, believe me foreigners know as much about the US as Americans know about them, little or nothing. This means there impressions and beliefs are based on certain events they believe are indicative of American character not understanding America's true character because they have no real exposure to it other than Hollywood and tv.

Saddam invaded Kuwait because he believed Americans couldn't stomach Vietnam and wouldn't have the stomach for another war. He really didn't understand how decisions were arrived at or the temporary nature of political figures and how they reflect nothing but their own views.

The problem that I see is after blackmailing Clinton successfully and seeing the actions of Democrats to cut and run Kim may believe that the US cannot take action against him if he takes action. Now if he were to take action it would have to be major in order to guarantee something in the bargaining table it couldn't be just rattling the sabre. A limited attack would be a joke because it would force the trip wire. This is the danger. If the wire is tripped Bush's hand is forced. Because of the strain on the military I believe the US would then use the opportunity to destroy NK military potential and leave it a smoking ruin for the Chinese to clean up and if not for the communists to literally eat their own.

The danger would be after the November elections if the Dems did win both houses. At this point Kim might believe the Dems cut and run talk to then undertake military action.

The odd thing is the more the Dems undercut national resolve the more likely we are to be forced into war. The key here is how you define limited and what is at stake.

I was talking about a limited nuclear attack
Probably against South Korea. Maybe dropping a nuke in on Puson? Then trying to bluster the world, and especially the south, into accepting a unified Korea under his rule or face more of the same.

The only reason he would attempt this is because he believe no world nuke power, not even China, would dare use nukes. He sees us all as weak and ineffectual.

And yes, if the dems take controll of congress, and especially if they do that and take control of the whitehouse, he may see this as a perfect opportunity. He will definately consider it if we do cut and run in Iraq!

A lead in to why the South is so keen on appeasment
They don't trust the U.S. (at least some of them don't) My cousins wife is from Seoul and she told me that many Koreans think the U.S. will not defend South Korea if it becomes a major, bloody conflict. The first time we talked about this was in 1991 and she told me, "Sure, Reagan and Bush would stand and fight, but you can't tell me Jimmy Carter wouldn't have pulled out and left South Korea on its own. There is real problems with some American Presidents and Korea doesn't know if it can trust the U.S. anymore."

We talked about this issue again in 1997 and she was a bit uneasy about Clinton. "He probably would not pull the plug and leave South Korea, but he would try to negotiate a settlement even while we were fighting for our lives. In the end he would give Kim major concessions to end the fighting, rather than fighting to win; especially if China threatened to get involved. Korea jsut can't trust American politics and politicians."

I just talked to her a couple of days ago and was surprised that she viewed Bush jr. in about the same light as Clinton as it concerned Korea. "He is too busy in the middle east and I don't think he is willing to commit a large number of troops to Korea if war broke out. He wouldn't back down though, he would probably try and win it from the air and through diplomacy, hoping to get China to work with him. All the while the North would be punishing south Koreans and taking ground. Even if Kim nuked Seoul, he won't use nukes, not to save South Korea he won't. This is a very dangerous situation right now, you can't trust Kim, he might do anything."

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