The U.S. and South Korea get conned again

UPDATE: In an overly optimistic (but still guarded) op-ed on these talks, the New York Times‘s Nicholas Kristof seems to think that the big benefit is that we are moving away from the brink of war. But is that the case? Were we really in danger of an armed conflict? I don’t think so, as Kim Jong-un isn’t suicidal and, crazy though he is, Trump would be insane to launch a first strike, which would lead to the destruction of both North and South Korea. Besides, North Korea has made many agreements before about weapons and nukes in particular, and hasn’t kept any of them.


I’d like to believe that yesterday’s meeting between Kim Jong-un of the DPRK and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the Demilitarized Zone was a harbinger of peace and prosperity, but that’s what I want to believe, not what I do believe.

Here are the details from CNN:

North and South Korea announce intention to end Korean War 

Leaders of the two Koreas have agreed to end the Korean War, 65 years after hostilities ceased, in a wide-ranging joint announcement struck Friday, that includes working towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong Un, signed the “Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification on the Korean Peninsula,” at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that has divided the two countries for more than six decades.

Following the signing ceremony, the two leaders clasped hands and hugged in a symbolic act of togetherness after a full day of meetings, including a 30-minute private conversation beamed live around world.

President Donald Trump struck an optimistic note about what he described as a “historic meeting” between the Koreas, saying that “good things are happening.”

A formal end to the war will involve more than just the Koreas. Both China and the US, under the flag of the United Nations, were massively involved in the conflict, and would have to be signatories to an eventual peace treaty.

First, the war has been effectively ended for years except for sporadic and limited skirmishes at the DMZ. The DMZ will remain a heavily guarded border with mines and weapons on the northern edge.If it did not, North Koreans would pour across the border to South Korea. The “ending of the war” is effectively meaningless.

Will the peninsula “unify”? Not on your life. The South isn’t going to accept a joint government, or any dictates by the North; and the North, of course, wants to keep its people under complete and horrible subjugation. That will not change, either.

What about the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”? That’s a laugh. Do you think that the DPRK will give up its nuclear weapons program—its one assurance to its people that it will not be attacked by the U.S.? Remember, too, that there are no nuclear weapons in South Korea—not even American ones. As the Washington Post reported last year:

Since the Korean War, the country has been under the protection of the U.S. nuclear umbrella — an assurance that it would be protected by U.S. nuclear weapons if needed. That safeguard remains even though the United States moved its nuclear weapons out of South Korea in 1991 as part of a bid to persuade North Korea to allow the IAEA to inspect that country’s nuclear sites. At the time, Pyongyang and Seoul also jointly committed to making the peninsula free of nuclear weapons.

We were conned back then, too: part of the continual and canny manipulation of the West by the DPRK. You can read about the North’s continual dissimulation about nukes here.

That US pledge of protecting South Korea won’t change, and we won’t agree that we’ll give up our nukes if the DPRK will, too, because a). they won’t, and b). we have no nukes on the peninsula. But the U.S. does have bombers, submarines, and ICBMs that carry nuclear weapons and can easily reach the North, so the DPRK will be no safer than before.

So what will really change? Perhaps “family visits” will increase, and that’s a good thing. But for meaningful change on the peninsula, I see none. North Korea will continue to develop its nukes, the border will remain sealed, keeping 25 million North Koreans in a state of deprived servitude, and the U.S. presence will continue to “threaten” the North, allowing them to keep their people whipped up. And, despite nothing changing, Trump will of course claim credit for the “good things happening.”

The only real advance that could have come from this meeting would be the elimination of the DPRK’s nuclear program and its unification with the South on terms that would give the North little leverage. That won’t happen. And a mutual “no first strike” announcement won’t stop Kim Jong-un’s development of nukes, which is what we really want.

Meet the new peace—same as the old peace.


  1. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 27, 2018 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    What exactly have the US and South Korea been ‘conned’ out of? What would they be about to do if they hadn’t been ‘conned’?

    It’s a bit of a pantomime but if it means Kim Jong Il and the Orange One aren’t threatening to blow each other to kingdom come (with the possibility one or the other might talk themselves into actually doing something stupid), that’s got to be an improvement.


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 27, 2018 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      Sorry, Kim Jong Un.


      • Heather Hastie
        Posted April 27, 2018 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il.

    • Posted April 27, 2018 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      I agree that putting off war is virtually always a good thing. As far as the “conning” is concerned, it seems obvious that Kim Jong Un is doing small, inconsequential things to get Trump to create the expectation that something big is going to come out of their meeting. This sets Trump up for making concessions just to come out of the meeting with a “win”.

      Clearly Trump needs a foreign policy win right now and he is counting on the Korean meeting to provide one. Advantage: Kim Jong Un.

      • tautology5628
        Posted April 27, 2018 at 10:45 am | Permalink

        Trump does not need an immediate win.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 27, 2018 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

          Of course, Trump doesn’t need a win; if he doesn’t get one, he’ll just make one up. #TrumpFacts.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 27, 2018 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      A reunification of North & South is completely impossible. China uses NK as a buffer & will never give that up.

      The sanctions on oil, LPG & grain are really beginning to bite [even China is playing along with the UN on that] & I think the con here is the North are playing nice hoping for a loosening of the stranglehold. I also think [not sure] that NK bank accounts abroad have been frozen, their businesses abroad are being interfered with, including the smuggling via diplomatic pouch & they are desperately short of real money [dollars] for foreign trading. The North Korean “Won” is just so much colourful toilet paper – rather like the Rouble, but worse.

      • Diane Garlick
        Posted April 29, 2018 at 1:06 am | Permalink

        Why does China need such a buffer?

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted April 29, 2018 at 1:55 am | Permalink

          It acts rather like the buffer formed by the puppet states of the old Soviet Russia [Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania]. China doesn’t want an America-friendly, American-trooped reunified Korea on a 1,400 km land border. Better to have a semi-puppet, autocratic state there to push America back by 300km on a much shorter front [the DMZ is around 250km long].

          Also in extremis China is in a better position in the Sea of Japan regarding China versus US military assets – US has a LOT of bases in the region given that South Korea, Japan & various islands around about are essentially US unsinkable aircraft carriers.

          China wants NK in this peculiar status quo of near [but not too near] collapse through poverty – to be the very, very poor brother that only China supplies with goods & services. On the other hand China is highly concerned about what happens when [probably “when” rather than “if”] the government in Pyongyang collapses. This explains in part China’s cooperation & non-cooperation [the history is bonkers] with UN resolutions involving NK.

          THIS is a fairly balanced & interesting background from the CFR that’s worth a read.

    • Mike Anderson
      Posted April 27, 2018 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      Orange dotard is being conned out of sanctions pressure. That’s all NK wants, sanctions relief. And they’ll probably get it.

      • grant
        Posted April 27, 2018 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        yep. those who are worried that Dotard will give up too much to score a “win” are right…he will agree to sanctions relief for something that looks/sounds good, but in the end will be meaningless.

      • Posted April 27, 2018 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        Yep, I should have mentioned that that was what I considered the “con”. The DPRK will use talks as a way of loosening sanctions, and South Korea (and the U.S., who defends it) will get nothing

  2. Posted April 27, 2018 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    I’m skeptical, but I see no harm in playing along to see where this goes. It is likely the sanctions are really hurting, and Kim Jong Un is looking for some relief without giving up his nukes.

    • Mike Anderson
      Posted April 27, 2018 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      By all means, play along. Just don’t give them sanctions relief without a concession on their part.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 27, 2018 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Is that last line a refection back to the Who? Pretty good. Who knows what will eventually happen in the Koreas. Only the predictors and pundits know and they don’t know either.

    If in the end, it get’s rid of the Orange rage and things go back to status quo that is something. It does appear that the North wants some change and they see their future as dim right now. I think it is best to let them work on it and the real change, if any, may be coming from China. After all, N. Korea exists as it does, due to China and any real change must come from their wanting change.

    South Korea is growing sick of this 64 years of stalemate. The south moved on while the north has accomplished nothing. You cannot eat bombs and missiles.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 27, 2018 at 3:44 pm | Permalink


      There could be positive things that come out of this, but anyone who believes that the DPRK will give up its nukes is dreaming.

  4. mrclaw69
    Posted April 27, 2018 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    N Korea may not be able to continue its nuclear program at the mo given that its test site seems to have become dangerously unstable. That’s likely the reason Kim Jong Un announced the end to N Korean nuclear testing. Rather than magnanimity, or a spirit of internationalism (which is hardly de rigeur for NK) it seems necessity’s the driver…

  5. Posted April 27, 2018 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I agree it’s not much more than window dressing. Still, any kind of talking is better than the belligerence we’ve seen from all sides.

  6. Otternaut
    Posted April 27, 2018 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    How about we start with an International Peace Treaty to replace the 65 year old Korea Armistice Agreement? That would be a good sign of progress.

  7. DW
    Posted April 27, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    It’s really fascinating how people look at this. If Obama was president, they’d be demanding he get another Nobel Peace Prize. But because it’s Trump, the narrative is that we’re totally being conned.

    Of course, regardless of the narrative, it’s all nonsense. Dealing like with the Kim Jongs is like Linus and Lucy. They will always pull away the football. But at least it’s better to have them talking peace than rattling sabres.

    • Posted April 27, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      What makes you think Trump had anything to do with this?

      • Posted April 27, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        Well, I see now that Moon is crediting Trump. Give the devil his due…

        • BJ
          Posted April 27, 2018 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, I can’t think of a single good thing Trump has done until now, and it’s still very likely he had little to do with any of this (that credit would likely go to advisers and others in the administration), but this is significant, and if it goes even further, we will need to give Trump credit for something important, even if he managed to accomplish it almost by accident.

    • Posted April 27, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, but you’re not completely right. When Obama negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran, I didn’t celebrate. I thought it was a mediocre deal, buying a bit of time before Iran inevitably became a nuclear state.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted April 27, 2018 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      I’m sorry, didn’t know they were giving out Peace Prizes for nothing. Or has North Korea and the U.S. signed something and I don’t know about it?

      • BJ
        Posted April 27, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        What did Obama do to get the Peace Prize? It seems they do occasionally give it out for nothing.

        Not that it means they should give it to Trump.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted April 27, 2018 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

          Yes, and what I said had nothing to do with Obama or a peace prize either. I only ask, what has Trump done and where does DW get off. What has actually been done here?

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted April 27, 2018 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

            If I were the boys over in Oslo the only American President who seems to have deserved this prize is Carter. If they go ahead and give one to FDR and Wilson what are you getting it for – War? Hell, Lincoln and Washington should have one.

            • Posted April 27, 2018 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

              FDR? I think you meant his cousin, Theodore (1906). FDR did not win a Nobel Prize. Some truly awful people have one the prize, including Henry Kissinger and Yassir Arafat. ISTM the only thing Barack “Captain Cruise Missile” Obama did to win it was to be black AND president.

              • Posted April 27, 2018 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

                *sigh* “won” (though those who won only won one).

              • BJ
                Posted April 27, 2018 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

                Obama also did a third thing that probably helped: he made really good speeches.

          • BJ
            Posted April 27, 2018 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

            You said, “I’m sorry, didn’t know they were giving out Peace Prizes for nothing.” I was simply noting that the one Obama got was, indeed, for nothing.

            • nicky
              Posted April 28, 2018 at 12:32 am | Permalink

              I think Nobel Peace Prizes are given more as a form of encouragement than for full accomplishment.
              If Mr Kim Jong-un and Mr Moon Jae-in sign a peace treaty, I would not be surprised at all if they’ll get a Peace Prize.
              Note, if Mr Trump Donald would share in that Peace Prize, then Mr Xi Jinping should share too.

              • BJ
                Posted April 28, 2018 at 9:27 am | Permalink

                Hey, if they sign a peace treaty, that would be a hugely significant event, and a Peace Prize would be welcome. It could still be construed as an encouragement to go further, but Obama’s prize was precipitated by nothing beyond being elected.

  8. Posted April 27, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Note that the agreement says they will need international help.

    I regard that as a way out if the US (or China) balks on this (as they have a very bad habit of doing).

  9. Paul
    Posted April 27, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Crazy idea:

    Perhaps Kim Jong Un and his family will become the new royal family and South Korea will take the lead on building a government.

  10. Jon Gallant
    Posted April 27, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, mrclaw, for the Guardian link. I think that report explains everything, in particular key sentences which imply the true origin of Kim Jong Un’s current verbal peace offensive:

    “Beijing is particularly concerned about the North’s nuclear tests, since the Punggye-ri site is less than 100km (60 miles) from the border with China.

    North Korean nuclear tests have caused seismic events in Chinese border towns and cities, forcing evacuations of schools and offices, sparking fears of wind-borne radiation and leading to a backlash among some Chinese against their country’s unpredictable traditional ally.”

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 27, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    China’s convinced it can play Trump. China is the ascendant power in the western Pacific; US power in the region, particularly US soft power, is on the wane under Trump administration policies.

    I don’t for a second believe that Kim Jong-un under any circumstance would give up his nukes; those nukes ensure his regime’s survival. But were he so inclined, why would he do so once he sees the US back out of the deal with Iran? The Trump administration seems intent on voiding the Iranian treaty, so that the US can go back to the good old days of yelling at Iran, and Iran can go back back to enriching all the uranium it can get its hot little hands on.

    Let’s hope that if Trump’s summit with Lil’ Kim goes sideways, and Trump’s dreams of a Nobel Peace Prize deliquesce in the dank Asian air, he doesn’t then in retaliation huddle up with his new War Hawk buddies Bolton and Pompeo and decide that the shotgun sings the song.

  12. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 27, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    If you think of the burden, it is easy to see why South Korea is growing sick of this 64 year stationary war/peace. Military service in South Korea is mandatory. Everyone does 2 years service. For a country of a little more than 50 million they have one half million in active service. The U.S. with more than 6 times the population has an active number of about 1.3 million. So the South Koreans pull their weight and are probably looking to reduce the burden. The north with more than a million in so-called active military need to make a big change.

    We currently have more than 30,000 U.S. military in South Korea but that does not begin to count up the cost, with thousands of military dependents/family and thousands more civilians in support. I won’t mention the numbers in Japan but essentially, they are there for the same reason.

  13. eric
    Posted April 27, 2018 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    I’m generally supportive of ending this (on paper) war.

    The “ending of the war” is effectively meaningless.

    The north has been using us (the US) as a boogeyman to justify their repressive and isolationist policies since the hot war ended. Why have a DMZ? Because the US might attack! Why have a million-man army and develop nuclear weapons? Because the US could attack at any time! Why can’t NK and SK citizens interact? Because US spies and a desire to end our regime, that’s why!

    This gets rid of their excuses. Now, do I think this will lead to an overthrow of the Kim regime? No. Do I think it will lead to a “Berlin Wall” moment when all the barriers come down and people rush across the border? No…not immediately. But I do think it will mean greater interaction between North and South. Less isolationist. And I think this will eventually lead to a moderation or overturning of the regime, as North Koreans get more access to the outside world and realize that it’s their own system of government – not the US boogeyman – that is the cause of their ongoing poverty. Will the two countries unify? I don’t know. Not soon, unless something unexpected happens. However, without a formal end of hostilities I don’t see unification ever happening, while with an end I can easily see it happening sometime in, say, the next 30 years or so.

  14. David Coxill
    Posted April 27, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    The DMZ ,one of the best protected Nature reserves in the world .

  15. Christopher
    Posted April 27, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    It’s hard to believe that there aren’t sinister forces at work behind the curtains here. I’m no conspiracy theorist but I’d be shocked if Putin wasn’t behind some of this, manipulating all three parties involved. It’s hard to imagine what else could be behind the swift change in attitudes, tRump’s and Kim’s. How do two arrogant a$$waffles go from dotards, missile tests, and threats of fire and fury to this new “peace in our time”? The Olympics? I think not.

    • Darrin Carter
      Posted April 27, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      Russia wants to run a natural gas pipeline to South Korea.

  16. Posted April 27, 2018 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  17. BJ
    Posted April 27, 2018 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    I still don’t understand your complete dismissal of these and similar events, which you first made clear (at least, when I first noticed) when the joint Olympics activities took place. It seems you think that any attempts at joint activity between NK and SK; any meetings; any words exchanged or agreements made, are pointless and shouldn’t even be bothered with.

    What is to lose by doing these things? What can SK lose? What can the world lose? It’s not as if SK is making some significant concessions in return for these activities. The only two outcomes from these continued activities can be either absolutely nothing, or something immensely positive. There is literally no downside.

    What happened here is actually enormously positive and historic. The leaders of the two countries meeting, embracing, and talking at length? That is huge. The activities at the Olympics were clearly a first step, and this next step is leaps and bounds further.

    “The ‘ending of the war’ is effectively meaningless.”

    It is hugely meaningful. For NK to declare that they no longer consider their country at war with the South is monumental. It changes the entire narrative within NK itself, within its government, and between it and SK. It has sweeping repercussions, all of them positive. And, again, if it turns out to be a ruse, then who cares? SK isn’t going to remove its weapons from the DMZ, reduce its military, or lose US support because NK said they’re no longer at war.

    Again, what’s most important is the question of what is to be lost by engaging in all of this. If it all turns out to be a ruse, who cares? Nothing was lost. SK didn’t give up anything to have any of this happen. There are two choices: (a) rebuff every overture from NK to no discernible benefit, or (b) accept these overtures, do everything possible to ensure they continue, and hope that they are sincere and lead to something good.

    If all these things are sincere, then this will still be a very long process toward reconciliation (and I agree that it’s very unlikely there will ever be reunification, at least not during Jong-Un’s tenure), but we can’t say at every step toward that goal that each step is meaningless and might as well not be done.

    It’s fine — indeed proper — to be skeptical, but I think it’s very unwise to be dismissive.

    • BJ
      Posted April 27, 2018 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      I would add one more thing:

      It’s entirely possible that Jong-Un does want peace and possibly even reunification. If that has always been the case, his actions since he gained control of NK would still have been completely necessary. As the new leader, he still would have to establish his commitment to NK, its power, its ruthlessness, its weapons and military, and its isolation from the evil West. Let’s assume that he’s not like his father and does want peace and reunification. If he wants what he’s now slowly intimating, he had to start by establishing a strongman image like his predecessor, or he would have been overthrown by the NK military.

      I’m not saying any of this is the case, but his actions since becoming NK’s leader are consistent with any and all directions in which he wishes to take the country. No matter what he wants for the future of NK, starting his reign as leader could only go one way.

    • Posted April 27, 2018 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      I too am optimistic, except with regard to US policy, which tends to make logical sequences of concessions and compromises untenable for NK. I say let the Koreas work things out the best they can by themselves, and have the US, China, and the rest stay out until invited. Fat chance!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 27, 2018 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      Well, there, Mr. Pollyanna, I suspect Jerry figures a pessimist can be only pleasantly surprised, never disappointed. (I kid! 🙂 )

      But seriously, I, too, hope peace comes of this. And if it does, I will be the first to congratulate Donald Trump. (OK, maybe not the first, but I will give the devil his due.)

      Nevertheless, I think there are a couple potential downsides to this escapade you may be overlooking. First, Trump may be so hot for the glory of being the harbinger of World Peace that he cuts any deal so he can claim victory, even a bad one that alleviates sanctions on NoKo, while allowing it secretly to continue pursuing its nuke & missile program — especially if Kim follows the potentates’ playbook of lavishing him with fulsome flattery.

      Even more dangerously — though, admittedly, I can’t fix the odds on any of this, mainly because Trump is winging it, as is his wont, rather than proceeding strategically — I think there’s the potential that the meeting with Kim will miscarry badly, boomeranging around to make things worse. Trump is so volatile, I can see his frustration being unleashed as retaliation (especially as the criminal cases swirling around him tighten and he needs to distract public attention). Let’s not overlook that the national security adviser now growling in Trump’s ear is John Bolton, perhaps this nation’s most bellicose war hawk, a guy who, a scant couple months ago, published an editorial in the WSJ calling for a preemptive strike against the DPRK. Such an attack could spell disaster in ways yet unforeseen.

      • BJ
        Posted April 27, 2018 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

        Hey, I am one of the world’s greatest pessimists, but I’m just trying to do a cost-benefit analysis. Sure, it’s possible that Trump will decide to go completely bonkers and launch a strike at some point, but the chances of that are so exceedingly slim as to be an immaterial consideration, even with the presence of World’s Biggest Mustache Ride. Could he reduce sanctions in a desperate bid to get something done? Sure, but I doubt he’ll do that, as (1) he won’t want to look “weak” like Obama, easily making concessions for little in return, and (2) he’s not the only player in the game. Even if he does make concessions on sanctions, what would those concessions be? The worst would be economic assistance, and any sanctions can be rolled back if things go sideways. But, most of all, what we’re really talking about here in this post isn’t Trump or his administration, but the joint activities between North and South Korea, which is what I was addressing.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted April 27, 2018 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

          Really that’s all irrelevant bollocks 🙂

          NK are conducting intense cyberwar against nations & businesses – it’s something they do knowing it’s much harder for their enemies to reply in kind [due to the much smaller & better air-gapped systems they run]. Then there’s the sharing of WMD technology with other nasty little state actors in exchange for hard currency. Then there’s the 130,000 caged slaves in their camps.

          The recent Olympics charade & the current dog & pony show three-way ‘love in’ are distraction from the truth: only NK will gain from these talks about talks. They look you in the eye with a smile while picking your pocket.

          • BJ
            Posted April 28, 2018 at 9:36 am | Permalink

            Every powerful nation is conducting cyber warfare, including the US, China, Russia, and South Korea.

            What, exactly, will NK be able to accomplish out of all this if it is just a charade? I still haven’t been given a concrete risk that we’re taking.

            If you want to stop NK from sharing WMD tech (there’s no evidence they’re doing this and, in fact, the evidence is the other way around, in that they’ve been getting tech from others for years. They have no tech to give); if you want to stop them from conducting cyber-warfare; if you want to free their people, you have two options: (1) bomb the hell out of them, invade, and pray that it goes perfectly, and (2) try your best to go through a very long process of reconciliation, knowing that it may very well be a charade at any point.

            For all the things you want to stop NK from doing, this is the least risky way. The only other option leads to the deaths of millions on both sides of the DMZ (and likely Japan as well), and that’s if things go well and we still manage to achieve removal of the regime and an occupation of the country to engage in a years-long reconstruction effort (which hopefully doesn’t spark a guerilla war from the people there).

            • BJ
              Posted April 28, 2018 at 9:38 am | Permalink

              There is a third option: do what we’ve been doing for the past few decades and let them continue to be a hermit dictatorship, constantly building their armaments and threatening their neighbors, and hoping that the powder keg never explodes. The diplomatic route is literally the only possibility of neutralizing the threat without horrifying death and destruction, so we better try.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted April 28, 2018 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

              A bit of whataboutism re NK’s cyberwarfare eh? I’m not surprised you came up with that! How about “everyone should have the nuclears cos US did it already with Japan – fair’s fair!”?

              1990s: NK transfers UF6 to Pakistan [A.Q. Khan] who ships on to Libya
              1990s: NK assists Pakistan in manufacture of kryton triggers
              From 1990s onwards: Dozens of NK scientists & technicians worked in Iranian nuclear & ballistic facilities eg Qom testing Hwasong-6 [reverse-engineered Soviet missile] & No Dong-1 missiles
              2003: At Beijing talks, NK privately threatened to export nuclear weapons [obviously an idle threat at the time]
              2006: NK shipping unknown materials to Syria reactor site [below]
              2007: Israel bombs Syrian undeclared plutonium reactor. Reactor was of the NK Yongbyon 5MWE type & financed by Iran. Iran/NK cooperating on weaponised nuclear projects for at least past 20 years & still ongoing
              2013: NK ship intercepted from Cuba – jet & rocket parts
              2016: U.S. State Department formally sanctioned Iranian SHIG for working with NK in “the development of 80-ton rocket booster.”
              2017: Two intercepted KOMID shipments to Assad, Syria in the past year. KOMID is NK’s primary exporter of ballistic missile-related equipment that has been sanctioned by the UN, US & the EU.
              2017/18: UN Security Council report, NK advertising Li-6 for sale – 22 pounds per month & NK selling Syria materials for the production of chemical weapons & NK sending their technicians to Syria to work on valves, tiles & other components for chem lab construction

              UN Security Council report, Feb 2017

              • BJ
                Posted April 28, 2018 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

                It wasn’t “whataboutism,” it was a fact. And your declaration that you’re “not surprised” I would (allegedly) engage in it is implying that I’m somehow a cheerleader for NK, which is just silly.

                Clearly, I wasn’t aware of their attempts to provide weaponry to others. Regardless, none of this answers the ultimate question I’ve been posing in every single one of my posts, so I’ll quote it again:

                If you want to accomplish stopping NK’s nasty deeds

                “you have two options: (1) bomb the hell out of them, invade, and pray that it goes perfectly, and (2) try your best to go through a very long process of reconciliation, knowing that it may very well be a charade at any point.

                For all the things you want to stop NK from doing, this is the least risky way. The only other option leads to the deaths of millions on both sides of the DMZ (and likely Japan as well), and that’s if things go well and we still manage to achieve removal of the regime and an occupation of the country to engage in a years-long reconstruction effort (which hopefully doesn’t spark a guerilla war from the people there).”

                What is your response to this? You haven’t actually proposed any solutions. All you’ve done is talked about the bad things NK does and, by extension, dismissed all efforts at overtures, discussions, negotiations, and any diplomacy at all.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted April 28, 2018 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

          You write “clearly, I wasn’t aware of their attempts to provide weaponry to others.” This is your calling card BJ the massive gap in knowledge & the way you shift the emphasis when you’re making an argument with holes:

          It is more than “attempts”
          It is more than mere “weaponry”

          You make an argument about there being no down side to the diplomacy & yet you know nothing about the shenanigans between Iran & North Korea – how they use each others strengths to navigate around sanctions. How they both still operate on world markets despite sanctions. How China wants ‘things’ to remain close to how they are now. Ken Kukec has given two very good reasons above in this thread why a NK/SK rapprochement may well be an iffy deal.

          The truth is simple:
          ** China will NOT permit a reunification for obvious reasons [get out your globe & take a look!]
          China is happy to have NK acting as the somewhat crazy little brother [but not too crazy] living in the basement while it expands its power in Africa [resources] & the South China Sea [building military bases in international waters for a start]

          We are sanctioning Iran & North Korea for very good reasons & those reasons are no less urgent than in the past. AND we need to do more to turn up the pain, rather than play silly [Olympic] games.

          [1] We can get China to stop taking in NK labour in exchange for goods & hard currency
          [2] We can stop China & Russia from breaking sanctions – illegally supplying NK with fuel
          [3] We can continue to search out NK’s foreign money-making operations [the list is long & not much different from the way the various Mafias make their money]
          [4] We can continue to search out & close down NK’s convoluted international money laundering operations
          [5] We stop pandering to NK’s desires to be seen as a legitimate international player [with embassies, consulates, seats on this & that, DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY] – this is a crime family with a brainwashed & enslaved people FFS

          Iran & NK are not yet a serious WMD threat, they are both run by crafty loons who don’t care a jot about well being or justice within or beyond their borders.

          ** If NK thought they could get away with it they would sell weapons-grade materials [uranium-235 & maybe 233, plutonium-239, Neptunium-237 & maybe americium] to a non-state actor such as some iteration of ISIS – anybody with a billion dollars will do. It has to stop – the real questions are How? When? Where? And better now or later?

          • BJ
            Posted April 28, 2018 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

            You’re clearly a very angry and condescending person. And your suggestions have absolutely zero practicality, largely because we’ve been doing all of them for decades, except the ones involving China, which is a country we have zero influence over. End of discussion.

          • BJ
            Posted April 28, 2018 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

            By the way, all the reprehensible aspects of the NK regime that you previously gave as reasons for refusing to engage with them in any way are things that will continue under your wonderful plan. You say nobody should be engaging with NK, expressing your deep concern about their people suffering, their obtaining and testing nuclear weapons, their spreading weapons, their militarization, etc. And yet your entire plan is to maintain the status quo of the last few decades (“we can continue… “we can continue…” “we can continue…” “let’s tell China and Russia to do things, because they’ll definitely listen to us…”), which would provide 100% assurance that absolutely none of the things you are concerned about will ever change.

            It seems inconsistency (in addition to condescension and anger) is your calling card. Your post is just a painfully long-winded way of saying “keep doing what we’ve been doing, which hasn’t worked for decades and gives us no reason to think will suddenly start working now. Oh, and tell China and Russia to do things, including things that will hurt them economically, like telling China to stop using NK labor.”

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted April 29, 2018 at 12:23 am | Permalink

            Your use of “End of discussion” followed by a further comment containing 120 words [so Firefox says] caused some merriment in my household. 🙂

            BJ writes: “You’re clearly a very angry & condescending person…” I’m patronising you by replying from a position of superior information – so yes I’ll let you have condescension since it must seem that way when you’re assaulted by facts. Also it is the ideologues & the weak who employ tone trolling [BJ writes: “…very angry”] the way you do when they come up empty. You are seeing something through a computer screen that isn’t there.

            BJ invents facts when the ground beneath you is infirm ie it is incorrect that we’ve been employing my suggested tactics [Iran & NK both] for decades.

            BJ repositions my argument of “we can continue…” as if it’s a call for a continuation of status quo when I wrote two things above not in line with what you think I wrote:
            [1] “AND we need to do more to turn up the pain, rather than play silly [Olympic] games.” [that means new measures & that means squeezing on the throat for longer with existing measures]
            [2] “It has to stop – the real questions are How? When? Where? And better now or later?”

            You are a dishonest interlocutor BJ – that’s why in the past I’ve tended to keep away from long threads containing your unresearched leavings.

            I have my morning coffee waiting now, then a nice walk. If you want to keep replying here then we will [the household] read it later & chuckle. Now THAT’S what condescension really looks like.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 29, 2018 at 4:27 am | Permalink

        KK: The new element coming into the mix as US national security adviser is the extreme hawk John Bolton. While I broadly agree with Bolton’s assessment of NK & their gaming of the system, I’m not a fan of his simplistic, aggressive & high body count solutions. The thought of him bending Trump’s ear is rather horrifying.

        I note also that it’s his practise to join dots together [Iran / NK / Pakistan] on evidence that ranges from slim to none. While these links exist it is not in all the areas that Bolton suggests & Bolton must know this. The independent, knowledgeable pros such as 38 North* have tripped him up a few times.

        Anything can happen when a Trump liar/egotist hooks up with a Bolton liar/egotist.

        * Wiki: 38 North “is a website devoted to analysis about North Korea; it is a program of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies”

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted April 29, 2018 at 4:48 am | Permalink

          KK: I’ve just seen up thread that before I did, you’ve already mentioned Bolton [& the sneaky Mike “George Tenet Medal to Saud” Pompeo].

          A grandma sucking eggs error on my part.

  18. Steve Pollard
    Posted April 27, 2018 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m afraid I share the scepticism of some commenters above. In the long term, what Kim must want is reunification on his terms. That would first require a formal end to the Korean War and the removal of US troops from the South, thereby leaving the South vulnerable to a surprise attack from the 1.5m NK troops positioned within 100km of Seoul. And would China stop them? Don’t bet on it.

    Far-fetched? I wish it was.

    • BJ
      Posted April 27, 2018 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      Even if US troops weren’t on the peninsula, an attack by NK would still bring the same US hellfire (of both eponymous missiles and many other missiles and bombs) down upon them as they would if their troops were still in SK.

      Plus, the US will likely still have tens of thousands in Japan, which is just a hop, skip, and a jump away.

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted April 28, 2018 at 3:03 am | Permalink

        a. NK troops could be in Seoul within a couple of hours. Who’s the US gonna bomb?

        b. US troops in Japan – assuming they haven’t been brought home too – won’t be anywhere near able to stop or turn back an invasion of SK. I’m not sure they’d be able to do much to stop an attack on Japan.

        • BJ
          Posted April 28, 2018 at 9:29 am | Permalink

          The point is that the US would bomb North Korea. It’s not US troops that are stopping NK from invading — the US doesn’t have enough troops stationed there to stop over one million NK soldiers — it’s the threat of US firepower. The troops are just icing.

    • BJ
      Posted April 27, 2018 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      In other words, an invasion by the North is far-fetched. The NK regime, like any authoritarian regime, wants to maintain power, and an attack on the South is the best possible way to ensure that they don’t continue to hold it.

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted April 28, 2018 at 3:08 am | Permalink

        Yes, that’s the short-term priority. My hypothesis concerns their long-term objectives. A standard internal NK propaganda line is that the US (and UN) acted to deprive the legitimate government of Korea of half their rightful territory. They want it back.

        • BJ
          Posted April 28, 2018 at 9:30 am | Permalink

          They can want it all they’d like, but, if they have any sense of self-preservation (which they clearly do), they would go invading or bombing SK. US bombs would be dropping on NK within the hour, including on every known government and infrastructure site, with the best bunker-busters they have at their disposal.

  19. SusanD
    Posted April 27, 2018 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    You are absolutely right. The north will never give up anything. They have carried out this con job before. I think that most diplomats and military do not believe for one moment that anything will come of this. The Drumpenfuehrer on the other hand, is so naive that I am sure he believes it will all be good and is already trying to claim the credit. When it goes bad he will then say “I told you so”.

    • Diane Garlick
      Posted April 29, 2018 at 1:58 am | Permalink

      And such an impetuous naif that he will almost certainly go off script (if there’s even a script any more) and agree to or promise (or threaten to do) something absolutely preposterous, then follow though on it since his ego won’t let him listen to saner voices.

      Wonder if Putin told him to go rattle swords in NK to take his attention away from the middle east?

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 29, 2018 at 2:30 am | Permalink

        Trump keeps sacking & shuffling his various security advisors to try & make a Full House from the remaining cards in his deck of sycophants. A presidential president would rather have men & women who serve him/her [one day!] with a certain gumption & the guts to push back against poor ideas when necessary.

        Yes, Trump behaves exactly as if there’s baskets of dirty laundry wafting in eastwards from over the Bering Sea. The tax returns, the ‘tape’, oligarchs, the Bratva [& their cousins in Cleveland & Brighton Beach] & Putin’s other gangsters official & arms length.

  20. Michael Fisher
    Posted April 29, 2018 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    2018 White House Correspondents’ Dinner
    Video: Michelle Wolf roasts the arse off the absent Trump [C-SPAN]

  21. Posted May 3, 2018 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    Check out Christiane Amanpour’s program on PBS:
    North Korean defector sheds light on NK leader’s duplicity.

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