On Christmas Day, 1989, the hammer and sickle red flag was lowered in Kremlin Square, drawing the Cold War era to a close. The world now knew that the notion of a communist society was nothing more than an impossible ideal. International society would develop and prosper according to free market principles based on liberty and democracy. More precisely, this meant a globalized world marketplace based on openness and reform.
However, the Korean peninsula has trod an exceptional path. The communist camp and the global cold war system may have all but disappeared, but North Korea hastened to ensure the survival of the Kim family regime with a push to develop nuclear bombs, ICBMs, and chemically and biologically armed weapons of mass destruction(WMD.) "Only Cuba and North Korea remain as the true communist nations of the world today," said Kim Jong-il at an emergency enlarged meeting of the Party Central Committee.
To this extent, North Korea could boast of its singular achievement. But its survival is clearly nothing more than the object of an ongoing war of attrition. There is no greater evidence of this than the fact that North Korea still desperately seeks to augment its nuclear weaponry even as millions have died of starvation and millions more today face a similar threat to their existence.
Recently, amid gestures of reconciliation as it piggy backs on China and inches towards the US, South Korea and international community, North Korea has been saying that "if you just provide us with a 'concrete agreement' that guarantees the stability and survival of our regime, we will abandon nuclear weapons." The 'concrete agreement' they desire would be peace agreement between them and the US. For North Koreans, an axiomatic and much desired point of any final peace agreement between North Korea and the US would be the immediate relocation of all US troops stationed in South Korea away from the peninsula. We can assume that this would leave the South open to violent communization and lead to the unification of the peninsula through war.
From the time of the conclusion of the Agreed Framework between the US and North Korea in Geneva on October 21st, 1994, up until today, events on the Korean peninsula have moved inexorably in the direction sought by North Korea.
Your writer was present at a special lecture given at the North Korean Workers Party Central Committee at the time of the conclusion of the Geneva agreement. "By this agreement," said a committee member who attended the Geneva conference, "it has been proven that we made America shake by producing our own nuclear weapons, and achieved victory over them. We will liberate South Korea. The day the people's flag flies in Seoul Plaza is not far off." These words still reverberate around my head.
In efforts to forestall the North Korean project to develop nuclear weapons and to get it to agree to a freeze, South Korea called a halt to its yearly Team Spirit training exercises with the US military, completely removed all tactical nuclear weapons situated in the country, and from the mid-nineties on used part of its citizens' tax contributions to help alleviate successive food crises in North Korea. All of which played a significant role in the successful completion of North Korea's independent nuclear weapons program.
There is one thing South Korea should remember with regards to any 'nuclear freeze' proposed by North Korea. A nuclear freeze does not mean 'weapons decommissioning'. Since the Geneva Agreed Framework was signed, North Korea has carried out two nuclear test explosions. From the outset of the negotiating process North Korea never had any intention to freeze or scrap its nuclear arsenal.
So would North Korea ever give up its nuclear weapons? Facts already in the public domain clearly demonstrate that "North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons and the fact that it is already a nuclear weapons possessing country claims to be a member of the nuclear club should not surprise us." Many South Koreans treat North Korea's claims to being a nuclear weapons possessing country as established fact. Some even complacently aver that "North Korea's nuclear weapons will one day belong to the peninsula after unification."
North Korea was responsible for the sinking of The Cheonan coastal patrol corvette and the attack on Yoenpyong Island last year. Recently it has engaged in cyber warfare with the South when it launched a denial of service attack on the Nonghyub Bank, attacking one of the country's principle financial institutions. Even debating whether North Korea will give up its weapons is a luxury time doesn't afford. There is a crisis with North Korea approaching rapidly over the horizon. If North Korea were to again threaten the South's territorial integrity having achieved decisive superiority in developing tactical weapons including nuclear weapons and other WMD, our defensive options would be limited.
What if North Korea were to launch a disabling attack on the South's financial institutions or nuclear plants having further refined its electronic warfare capabilities? And if it did so what if it had the ability to prevent US intervention? What if North Korea were to mobilize its army of acutely primed special forces and nuclear weaponry to launch a raid in response to any South Korean retaliation?
Of course there are those who ask, "Would North Korea really go that far?" The following ought to be born in mind. In the last ten years South Korea has only very dimly adhered to the principle of North Korea being its "main enemy". In that time a perception has taken hold in the public that "North Korea can barely hold its economy together so it surely can't launch a full scale military engagement." While the South has progressed in this deluded state of false security North Korea has doubled the size and capability of its special forces and upgraded its nuclear weapons program.
Would it enslave and starve millions of people while developing weapons of mass destruction if its intention was really to seek peace on the Korean peninsula? Is such behaviour solely intended to preserve the regime? Or to make preparations for an attack on or a defense from the distant US mainland or Japan? North Korea has never looked at the South as a partner for peace.
And so with what policy should South Korea counter the North? There are those that say South Korea possessing its own nuclear weapons is the appropriate and only commensurate measure. However this would divide the public in the South, costing time and ultimately risking great damage. I would like to propose a viable alternative.
South Korea must obtain detailed information about North Korea's nuclear weapons. Compared to other options this is the most strategic and relatively straightforward. North Korea must have spent many millions of dollars in its quest to attain nuclear weapons over the years. If we were to get hold of all key information relating to their nuclear weapons program, it would just be a matter of time before it was rendered useless.
In this way, we can be assured to achieve pragmatic superiority over the North. North Korea's scope to respond to this measure would be extremely limited. From now on, South Korea should exercise extreme caution in its policy of reckless support and take the more efficient approach to North Korea that this avenue would provide.
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