Yes,you have our attention–North Korea

North Korea has tested a low yield nuclear device with 4% of the destructive power of the bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima, Japan at the end of World War II. Some believe that the device was much larger but may have failed for technical reasons. We don’t know the truth, because the United States has not devoted the resources to know what is really going on. If you are surprised, don’t be. Intelligence collection is a tricky business.

When Richard Nixon was President, you may remember that one of our ships, the USS Pueblo was brazenly attacked and hijacked in international waters in 1968, off the coast of North Korea. The 82 member crew was taken prisoner and tortured over an 11 month period before their release was negotiated.

There is such a thing as institutional memory. The senior members of the military remember the Pueblo incident well, and it still influences our behavior towards North Korea. As an aside, President Nixon gave the order to attack North Korea in retribution for the Pueblo incident. At the time the President believed a show of force was absolutely necessary to dissuade the Koreans from further provocative acts. Nixon’s Secretary of Defense at the time did not carry out the Presidential directive. To the end of his life, Nixon felt the biggest foreign policy error of his administration was the failure to carry out a retaliatory raid against North Korea for the Pueblo capture. The Pueblo incident has emboldened the North Koreans ever since.

Both the Clinton and Bush Administrations were aware of the Pueblo incident and its aftermath, when attempting to configure a new US policy towards North Korea’s nuclear program. We have 37,000 American soldiers stationed in South Korea protecting our alliance and interests with South Korea. There is a phased troop withdrawal from the South Korea Peninsula taking place.

You have to wonder why we are willing to withdraw troops from South Korea during a time when they wish to pursue a nuclear development process. The answer is that this area of the world is loaded with dynamite, and if it blows up, you don’t want to have 37,000 American troops sitting in the middle of it. North Korea has one of the largest stockpiles of artillery weapons of any army in the world. They are capable of striking Seoul, South Korea’s capital from across the border.

It was recently reported that Prince Bandar, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States had a private conversation with President Bush. In the conversation the Prince told the President that the United States should withdraw US troops from South Korea. Bandar felt it was too dangerous to leave our soldiers in the middle of a possible confrontation where our OPTIONS would be limited. As Bandar put it, without troops on the border, if there’s problem, it’s a REGIONAL PROBLEM. With troops, you could have thousands of American lives at risk, and it becomes a major WAR instantly.

So what do we do about the North Koreans announcing the ACTUAL testing of a nuclear weapon? We have to realize that words have power. We have to be careful what we say. President Bush announced the “axis of evil” speech several years ago. He named North Korea and Iraq as two of the three countries. It would seem that he started his anti-terrorism campaign in the wrong end of the world.

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