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Against Preempting The Korean Missile:

In today's Washington Post, Charles L. "Jack" Pritchard, former special U.S. envoy for negotiations with North Korea, strongly disagrees with the suggestion by William Perry and Ashton Carter that the U.S. should consider preempting North Korea's missile test.

For 1,971 days the Bush administration ignored North Korea's missile program as unimportant and unthreatening to the security of the United States. Then it woke up. Unfortunately, the alarm clock was North Korea's preparation to test a long-range missile. By simply putting a Taepodong ICBM on the launch pad, North Korea has managed to turn truly smart people into foolish ones. . . .

So what do we do now? Attack North Korea and cross our fingers in the hope it doesn't annihilate Seoul or pass weapons of mass destruction to al-Qaeda? Refuse to talk to the North Koreans? Take them to the U.N. Security Council and slap their wrists?

Make no mistake: A missile test is a step in the wrong direction, and the appropriate first response would be for the United States to reimpose the specific sanctions that were lifted in 2000 as a direct result of the missile moratorium.

But the missile test is not a violation of anything more than our pride, ripping a gaping hole in the false logic that talking with the North Koreans somehow rewards and empowers them. To the contrary, we should be opening avenues of dialogue with Pyongyang. . . .

By not talking with North Korea we are failing to address missiles, human rights, illegal activities, conventional forces, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and anything else that matters to the American people. Isn't it about time we actually tried to solve the problem rather than let it fester until we blow it up?

grosnhoj (mail):
North Korea will not launch in my opinion. They have two options: 1) launch and risk having their missile shot down or 2) not lauch and say they had no intention of launching.

The American Left will say our technology is too flawed to shoot down an enemy missile but my guess is North Korea has more faith in American technology than we do.
6.23.2006 3:24pm
EricK:
Attack North Korea and cross our fingers in the hope it doesn't annihilate Seoul


N. Korea cannot annihilate Seoul. Yes their artillery is in range of Seoul but, the US and S. Korea can and will quickly put that out of commission.

false logic that talking with the North Koreans somehow rewards and empowers them.


As in any negotiation we need to be in a position of power before we can talk, otherwise talking and negotiating will empower them.
You really need to view dealing with N. Korea like you are dealing with a 3 year old.
6.23.2006 3:40pm
David W Drake (mail):
IMO, NK is putting on this launch (or perhaps better said, this show of a launch) in order to get us to negotiate with it with a view to giving them more money and aid. The Clinton Admnistration attempted to purchase NK's cessation of its nuclear program for money and other aid. NK got the money and kept the nuclear program. It seems to me that the Bush administration has rightly been too intelligent to play that game. I do not believe the Bush administration has been ignoring NK--after all, there have been multinational negotations involving NK ever since it permitted the world to "discover" its nuclear program. The Bush Administration however (again I believe correctly) perceives NK's various threats as simply bargaining chips to get more money.

What should the Bush Administration we do? I don't know, but I suspect that we will consult ROK, Japan and China first. After all, they are all much more directly threatened by NK than we are. There are two things we should not do: negotiate one on one with NK and try to destroy the missile on the launch pad.
6.23.2006 3:52pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
If someone from the Bush administration advocated a preemptive strike against NK, the Democrats would be screaming. Nevertheless I think Perry is wrong. Even if we manage to abort this test, they can do another from a hidden site. What's to stop them from testing from a silo, which would be invulnerable to a strike with non-nuclear ordinance? Besides it's China and Russia that should be stopping them. The real reaction to NK will come from Japan, which will rearm, and rearm quickly. They have plenty of Pu and plenty of know-how to become a first-rate nuclear power. Their stuff might even work reliably unlike the junk we have. So a possible future is NK, China and Japan all armed with missiles carrying nuclear warheads. Remember China and Japan still hate each other with a passion. A lot of old scores remain to be settled.
6.23.2006 3:56pm
Steve P. (mail):
You really need to view dealing with N. Korea like you are dealing with a 3 year old.


Really? When they play by the rules, they're routinely ignored. Treating them like children reinforces the idea that we look down on them... and so they have less to lose. As long as they have the missile ready to launch, they have a card in their hand. Once it's fired (whether or not it's a successful launch, that's unimportant at this point), they've lost any kind of bargaining power, and will almost certainly face some form of sanctions. So, it's important that they don't fire the missile unless they can't get anything more politically for it -- but they have to keep looking like they're going to. Calling their bluff is the surest way to get them to launch.

But, yeah, let's just nuke 'em. I mean, they're all the way over there in Korea.
6.23.2006 3:58pm
Medis:
I agree with Pritchard that there are entirely too many risks involved in blowing up the missle. But as we were discussing elsewhere, I also think that trying to "solve the problem" through negotiations and another buyout is likely unrealistic, if by "solve the problem" he means getting a permanent and unbreakable deal with North Korea.

But I also don't think that we need a permanent and unbreakable deal with North Korea. Rather, it is entirely possible that a long series of temporary and broken deals can still achieve our goals.
6.23.2006 4:00pm
Tom952 (mail):
false logic that talking with the North Koreans somehow rewards and empowers them.

NK has broken several agreements to create a bargaining position. We demonstrate that we object to that tactic by not giving NK a new round of negotiations in response.

If we did respond and recogized a broken agreement as a valid bargaining position, why should we expect NK to honor any agreements?
6.23.2006 4:05pm
EricK:

Really? When they play by the rules, they're routinely ignored.


When have they played by the rules??
6.23.2006 4:07pm
EricK:
I realize that most people here have never been to Korea, and are unaware of what happens on that border on a daily basis. Most people also lack a basic knowledge of what N. Korea can and cannot do militarily. N. Korea lacks the ability to successfully invade S. Korea, if they tried that the war would not last very long at all. That is why Nuclear weapons are so important to them.
Our best bet for dealing with the N. Koreans is to work with China to try and open up the borders, which will further the goal of regime change.
6.23.2006 4:17pm
Medis:
I think it is important to agree on (or at least discuss) a chronology of events, so that we can properly evaluate various arguments.

As I understand it, before 1994, North Korea had in fact started to reprocess plutonium, and did in fact reprocess some amount of plutonium (perhaps enough to make one or two small bombs).

But after the 1994 agreement, my understanding is that North Korea did in fact stop reprocessing plutonium.

In October of 2002, we confronted them with our knowledge that they had begun a program to enrich uranium. Without exactly admitting it, they claimed a right to have such a program in the absence of a non-aggression pact with the U.S.

So, in December of 2002, we accused them of violating the "spirit" of the 1994 agreement and stopped shipping fuel oil.

In 2003, they stated that they were going to start reprocessing plutonium again and withdrew from various non-proliferation agreements. They started hinting that they might have a nuclear bomb.

In 2005, they formally declared that they had a nuclear bomb.
___________

One brief observation: if this chronology is right, it is important to note that the 1994 agreement was not an unqualified failure. Even if the uranium enrichment program was a violation of the "spirit" of that agreement, we still got them to stop reprocessing plutonium for a long period of time.

So, I would again suggest that there is a possible benefit to a series of such deals, even if North Korea keeps breaking them (in "spirit" or otherwise). And frankly, it may have been a huge mistake not to negotiate a new deal in 2002-03 (conditioned on halting the uranium program), even if that meant "rewarding" them for breaking the "spirit" of the 1994 deal by starting a uranium enrichment program.
6.23.2006 4:27pm
ajftoo:
Medis,

How 'bout we give 'em Czechoslovakia? (Well, the Czech part at least.)
6.23.2006 4:46pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"... we still got them to stop reprocessing plutonium for a long period of time."

How do you know that? Because you read it in the New York Times? The public is unaware of just how feeble our monitoring programs are. There is a basic clash between State, which always wants to do the deal and monitoring folks who want to assure security. Another way to look at it is conflict between the lawyers and the techies. The lawyers usually win. When you ask "how will you know they won't do such and such to avoid detection," States says: "don't bring that up, it's a deal killer." Or "that's too provocative." This is how we get into agreements we really can't police. For example the CTBT. Everybody knows we can't detect a 5 kt test. Egad we even argued over the detectability of 20 kt tests. For political reasons we signed the CTBT without being able to detect low yield shots.
6.23.2006 4:55pm
Tom952 (mail):
What about their agreement to stop missle development?
6.23.2006 4:59pm
Medis:
ajftoo,

If they wanted a free hand to invade South Korea, that would be a relevant analogy. But what they actually want is economic aid. And if Hitler could have been paid off with fuel oil--it might well have been worth it.

A. Zarkov,

I can't figure out if you are actually disputing that chronology. Of course, I claim no personal knowledge, and you are right, I only know what I have read in various public sources. But if you have contrary information, please let me know.

Tom952,

I'm not familiar with the history of what, if any, missile agreements we have had with North Korea. Please fill me in.
6.23.2006 5:12pm
Taeyoung (mail):
Re: EricK:
N. Korea cannot annihilate Seoul. Yes their artillery is in range of Seoul but, the US and S. Korea can and will quickly put that out of commission.
The Atlantic

A report to the Senate Armed Services Committee (asking for money)

Quickly, perhaps. But quickly enough to save Seoul from devastation? According to the Atlantic article above, the military's best case assessment is ~100,000 dead before we can cut off North Korean artillery fire.

I think your characterization is kind of optimistic.

Now, I don't think Kim Jong Il would trigger his annihilation over the policy options being discussed here, so this is really a worst case among worst cases here. But let's not minimise the threat to Seoul.

Re: Medis:
if this chronology is right, it is important to note that the 1994 agreement was not an unqualified failure. Even if the uranium enrichment program was a violation of the "spirit" of that agreement, we still got them to stop reprocessing plutonium for a long period of time.

Even leaving aside the possibility that they've been reprocessing plutonium right beneath our noses, I'm not sure even this is enough to qualify as a "success," unless you define success way down. It's not certain that North Korea didn't decide they had all the fuel they needed for an initial bomb or two anyhow, and were thus giving up little, if anything, under the Agreed Framework.

See, e.g. this assessment here, stating:
The U.S. intelligence community believes that during a 70-day shutdown in 1989, North Korea secretly removed fuel from the reactor and separated the plutonium. Estimates vary as to how much plutonium was obtained. The State Department believes about 6-8 kilograms; the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency say 8-9 kilograms, an estimate consistent with the careful analysis of the Institute for Science and International Security. South Korean, Japanese, and Russian analysts have made much higher estimates, ranging up to 24 kilograms.

North Korea has never admitted it possesses nuclear weapons, but it appears likely that it does. Nucleonics and NBC Nightly News reported in 1993 that reprocessed plutonium had already been converted from a liquid form to metal, and several U.S. officials concluded that Pyongyang had made it into a bomb.

I think this comports pretty well with the timeline too -- North Korea allows inspections by the IAEA only in 1992, and those inspections reveal that North Korea has not been quite honest about how much fuel it's been removing. In 1993, they kick out the inspectors, and announce that they will withdraw from the NPT. Given that this was not the start of their nuclear program, it looks to me like they may have been signalling that they thought they had a bomb, or at least everything they needed for one.

Anyhow, it's much less of an achievement to get a nuclear power to stop producing new nuclear weapons than it is to get a non-nuclear power to stop from making the jump to a nuclear power.

Also -- this just looks like one of those things where you smack yourself upside the head in disbelief, but really: What kind of agreement to prevent the development of nuclear weapons neglects to include uranium enrichment? I mean, we seem to be conceding that yes, back in 1994, we kind of forgot that uranium enrichment might possibly be problematic, when we argue that they violate the "spirit" (as opposed to, say, the "letter") of the Agreed Framework, when they enrich uranium.

Am I missing some subtle point here, or is that just criminal incompetence on our part?

Also, doesn't North Korea have large natural uranium reserves? I thought that was why the Japanese nuclear program (which did not get very far) was based in North Korea, back in WWII.
6.23.2006 5:16pm
William Tanksley, Jr (mail):
"N. Korea cannot annihilate Seoul. Yes their artillery is in range of Seoul but, the US and S. Korea can and will quickly put that out of commission."

How do you know that? My understanding -- which may well be wrong -- was that NK's artillery was embedded in caves and fortifications. I don't have access to any official estimates, but civilian wargamers tend to agree that in that situation, NK's bombardment would be deadly and would take a long time to stop.
6.23.2006 5:19pm
Taeyoung (mail):
Re: my flabbergastenheit over our criminal incompetence:

Actually, the North-South Denuclearization Agreement seems to bar uranium enrichment too. I wonder why we went for the wishy-washy "spirit" language. Hmm.
6.23.2006 5:28pm
Brett Bellmore (mail):

By not talking with North Korea we are failing to address


It's unclear to me that "talking" with North Korea actually "addresses" any of that laundry list of problems in a meaningful sense.
6.23.2006 5:47pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Medis:

I don't have inside information specific to NK. But in general I can say we make serious concessions in our non-proliferation agreements. The devil is in the boring technical details. Administrations want some kind of agreement, even a bad one, so they can't get accused of "not being able to negotiate an agreement while in office." So based knowledge from other arenas, I am skeptical that we know how much Pu NK processed.

The problem goes back to the 1950s where we settled for a stalemate. Remember NK was trying to subvert SK with an active insurgency in the south. In those days we seemed to be able to handle insurgencies, and we beat it back. NK then just decided to turn a cold war hot and invaded the south. Subsequent administrations have just let this problem fester for 50 years. Imagine if we had not insisted on "unconditional surrender" with Japan.
6.23.2006 6:11pm
Some random fella (mail):
When I lived north of Seoul, my job was maintaining ammunition to be used to destroy North Korean Arty should the conflict in Korea resume.

They always told us that the North Koreans would send Artillery pieces out (of tunnels through the thousands of hills and mountains) in waves. Like Galaga. Just a few at a time, and every now and then one gets a good shot off. They're targeting a huge and dense civilian area.

They wouldn't just send everything out into a neat line and start shooting.

The ability of our artillery and particularly our Air Force to blow things up soon after it is discovered is very high, but it would be a very long time before we got everything destroyed.

Too many people are at stake. 100,000 killed is a low estimate.

This sort of talking is typical. Just say the opposite of whatever we're doing is wrong and somebody will agree.
6.23.2006 6:16pm
Tom952 (mail):
Medis - Dated June 20 2006, from ABC News
Three years earlier, North Korea and Japan agreed to a moratorium on missile tests. Signed by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the Pyongyang Declaration said

Link Here
6.23.2006 6:42pm
Tom952 (mail):
Zarkov - Remember, the Chinese asserted an active role in the NK business, and they still control our range of options.
6.23.2006 6:55pm
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
I may be years out of the loop, but I thought the point of not taking to N Korea was to make it clear to the Chinese that N Korea their problem, not ours.
6.23.2006 7:03pm
Taeyoung (mail):
I thought the point of not taking to N Korea was to make it clear to the Chinese that N Korea their problem, not ours.

We were trying to get the North Koreans to agree to six-party talks (the US, South Korea, Japan, China, North Korea, and Russia), but they wanted to talk with us alone.

This may be to make clear to the Chinese that they have a bigger stake in the problem than we have, but I think our actual objective is at least as much to displace the burden of negotiating onto the directly interested parties as much as is possible.
6.23.2006 7:24pm
Bpbatista (mail):
I don't know if destroying the missile before launch is the right way to go, but can anyone identify a single issue with North Korea that has been successfully resolved with "dialogue"?
6.23.2006 7:31pm
Medis:
Taeyoung,

As an aside, I noted in my original timeline above "before 1994, North Korea had in fact started to reprocess plutonium, and did in fact reprocess some amount of plutonium (perhaps enough to make one or two small bombs)."

So, while I agree that it would be better if North Korea had never reprocessed plutonium at all, that appears to have been water under the bridge by 1994. But that doesn't mean that halting reprocessing at that point was inconsequential. Obviously, North Korea producing more nuclear bomb material could make the situation worse in a number of different ways. For example, it would allow them to actually conduct some tests and still have enough material to make into deployable weapons. It would also allow them to build a tactical arsenal that they might use in an attack on South Korea. It would also increase the ICBM threat, particularly in light of the likelihood that their targeting would be pretty bad. It would also give them the ability to sell nuclear material and still retain their own arsenal at the same time. And so on.

So, I don't think that you can dismiss the apparent benefits of the agreement from 1994 until 2003. North Korea may have become a nuclear power before 1994, which is very bad, but nine more years of North Korea reprocessing plutonium could have made things much worse still.

Tom952,

Thanks! I was completely unaware of their agreement with Japan.

I still don't know enough to make much of an assessment. But it looks like after their last missile launch in 1998, they self-imposed a moratorium in 1999, entered a no-launch agreement with Japan in 2000, renewed it in 2004, and reaffirmed it as part of the provisional deal in 2005 that has never been successfully ratified. So, if they do launch in 2006, that would be roughly eight years between launches.

So, it seems like deals in this area may also buy time. Again, one obvious question would be whether this could be continued indefinitely with a cycle of deal-broken deal-new deal. The same logic would hold: if we could keep this cycle going indefinitely, it might be the best of a bad set of options.

And also again, we could ask whether our failure to strike a new deal in 2002-03 (or at any point since) has been a very serious mistake, insofar as what was once a dormant missile testing program has now been reactivated.
6.23.2006 8:55pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Walter Mondale joins the "preventive attacks aren't so bad" school of foreign policy.
6.23.2006 9:32pm
Tom952 (mail):
A strategy would be to get NK dependant on a stream of foreign goods, i.e. food, consumer goods, fuel oil, etc.... Since the stream must be constantly refreshed, the dependence it creats may influence NK to forego unwanted actions.

To work, China, Japan, and the other major economies would all need to be on board. Else, any dissenting nation (such as China) could undermine the deal by shipping goods to NK regardless.

Perhaps that is why the U.S. is holding out for the six-party talks.
6.23.2006 10:41pm
Taeyoung (mail):
And also again, we could ask whether our failure to strike a new deal in 2002-03 (or at any point since) has been a very serious mistake, insofar as what was once a dormant missile testing program has now been reactivated.

We can ask that . . . your narrative above, though, makes it look like they tested in 1998, and were satisfied. Then made some diplomatic talk, during which period they developed a new Taepodong missile type (II or III or something) with a considerably greater range. Which they would now like to test. It's not clear to me that the diplomacy did anything -- they were just messing around with Japan while they worked on their upgrade.

Turning to the plutonium issue, I think they were doing basically the same thing.

There, the threat is not appreciably changed until they develop the technology to miniaturise the warhead. So long as they don't have that (and I think they still have not), it doesn't matter how many bombs they have, or how inaccurate their missiles are, since they can only deliver them to their targets manually, using shipping containers or something. I suppose they could say they'll blow up not only "Tokyo and LA," but "Tokyo, LA, SF, Seattle, San Diego, Houston, and New York!" (not that they have said or are likely to say any of this outright) But it is not clear to me that the deterrent effect is much greater, since a credible threat against any single one of those cities is probably sufficient to achieve what I think their long-term aims are. There is a marginally increased likelihood of success (things can go wrong even if you're just shipping the bomb out in a shipping container), and so a marginally greater deterrent. But only marginal.

They know what they have to do, though, to really drive home the threat (and to ensure ideal political control over their arsenal). They have spent the time since the 90's assiduously developing their ballistic missile technologies and acquiring more sophisticated nuclear technology, some to miniaturise the implosion device to the point it can be loaded on one of their missiles (this part from Pakistan, I believe), and some to develop more sophisticated reactor controls (this from us via KEDO and the LWR's). And acquiring the technology to refinine uranium, which, if they use simple gun-type devices, should be small enough to mount on one of their existing ballistic missiles without any additional development work.

This is roughly the policy I think North Korea would have followed anyway. It was adjusted around the margins, probably, as a result of the 1994 deal. Sure, they would have been fine separating more plutonium -- here in the US, we feel keenly the value of a bigger nuclear stockpile. But I don't think it would have been a high priority for them (although running the reactor itself would have been -- they have real energy supply issues). Anyhow, in substance, having established that they could detonate a nuclear weapon, it would be only natural that they would turn the finite resources of their nuclear program towards refining other technologies to transform the deterrent effect of their nuclear arsenal. They could produce more nuclear material, but without a superior delivery mechanism

This is not to say that there was absolutely zero benefit from the 1994 Agreed Framework. Among other things, we did manage to get some visibility (via IAEA) into their existing reactor technologies, as well as verify that no, we probably can't suborn their leadership class -- this is the assessment I've heard from people who have come back from KEDO-related meetings in Pyongyang, and this kind of information is far from worthless. The other small benefit we get is that to the extent they hold off on making missile tests, nuclear demonstrations, etc., they are denied certain knowledge about the success of their own program too (this is also one of the few real advantages I can see in destroying their missile in its launch phase -- they'll get no data on its performance in orbit and reentry). But again, we're talking tiny benefits, when weighed against the diplomatic hoopla, which was about preventing North Korea from making the jump to nuclear-power status.

Bottom line for me: whether Kim Jong Il controls 4 nuclear weapons (based on the South Korean and Japanese estimates of weaponised plutonium) or 13 nuclear weapons (assuming 4 nukes by 1994, and 6kg of separated plutonium/year from Yongbyon 1994-2003), the deterrent effect seems only marginally different. Not wholly trivial, but not a whole lot.

Lastly, could he have tested one? Well, I'm pretty sure Kim Jong Il could test one right now, if he wanted to. But he doesn't want to -- like the 1998 missile test, he will probably delay any test detonation until there is a political reason for it. And until the point that he reaps no further benefits from continuing ambiguity over whether he really has a working nuclear device or not.
6.23.2006 10:42pm
Dick King:

According to the Atlantic article above, the military's best case assessment is ~100,000 dead before we can cut off North Korean artillery fire.


Yeah, I normally go to The Atlantic for my military strategy knowledge :-) .

Having said that, perhaps this is obsolete in the face of the Predator/Hellfire technology being shown to be reliable?


The ability of our artillery and particularly our Air Force to blow things up soon after it is discovered is very high, but it would be a very long time before we got everything destroyed.


I assume the US military know where these caves and bunkers are or could find out fairly soon, so they could have Hellfire-armed Predators loitering in the right places while they destroyed the ballistic missile. Then any artillery piece that got taken out of hiding would be destroyed within tens of seconds at the cost of one or two Hellfire missiles. We would have to maintain the Predator shield until the crisis is past, but this doesn't require a tremendous ongoing expense at all. It would require South Korea to let us base the drones in some places in South Korea beyond artillery range, but that shouldn't be too difficult to arrange given the circumstances.

They could try to overwhelm the current stock of loitering Predators at any one bunker by bringing out too many pieces at once at any time, but that would be cruise missile bait.

-dk
6.23.2006 10:49pm
Taeyoung (mail):
I assume the US military know where these caves and bunkers are or could find out fairly soon,

We have been looking for North Korean invasion tunnels for 30 years now. We found 3 in the 70's, and then another in 1990 or so. Defectors have told us that there are on the order of 100 such tunnels.

Now, maybe we've found them, and have managed to keep it secret -- that would be gladdening news. I'm not betting on it though.

Similarly, we know where some of their artillery are. But I'm certain we don't know where it all is, or even most of it, and that if we can't find North Korean tunnels on our side of the DMZ, it's hardly likely we can find them over on theirs.
6.23.2006 11:18pm
Taeyoung (mail):
Yeah, I normally go to The Atlantic for my military strategy knowledge :-) .

It was the first thing that came up on Google. And a much, much lower number than I've generally seen bandied about. Anyhow, the sources in the article are military, and named individuals, not anonymous Seymour Hersh style sources, so I think it's reasonably credible.
6.23.2006 11:23pm
Enoch:
I assume the US military know where these caves and bunkers are or could find out fairly soon, so they could have Hellfire-armed Predators loitering in the right places while they destroyed the ballistic missile.

Nope. Not enough Predators. There are 11,000+ artillery pieces, only about 60 Predators.
6.23.2006 11:54pm
EricK:

How do you know that? My understanding — which may well be wrong — was that NK's artillery was embedded in caves and fortifications.


Correct, but we know where they are at, training to take them out is one of the primary things we train for.


We have been looking for North Korean invasion tunnels for 30 years now. We found 3 in the 70's, and then another in 1990 or so. Defectors have told us that there are on the order of 100 such tunnels.


I don't know where you got that, but I have personally been in more.
6.24.2006 12:25am
Dick King:

Nope. Not enough Predators. There are 11,000+ artillery pieces, only about 60 Predators.


Closer to 125, but never mind.

1: Who says one predator only gets to destroy one artillery piece?

2: The pieces need to be shuttled into and out of the bunkers, and the entry hole can't be all that big or it would create an exposure to laser-designated bombs. Sounds like a choke point to me. In fact if a piece is immobilized in the right place that could create a nuisance to say the least.

-dk
6.24.2006 3:34am
Medis:
Taeyoung,

For the reasons I gave above, I do think the difference between the number of possible weapons matters quite a bit.

But here is the bigger picture. I think your theory (and correct me if I am wrong) is that North Korea is developing its nuclear weapons/ICBMs at its own pace, and is merely buying time as it does so. As I have noted before, if you are right, then we may have to intervene at some point.

However, I also think that the public data is equally consistent with North Korea's ultimate goal being the buyouts themselves, not developing deployable weapons. I understand you don't believe that, but if it were true, then the cyclical buyout strategy might work.

Personally, I don't feel that I know enough to decide this issue (about North Korea's ultimate motives). So, all I feel qualified to suggest is that if you are wrong, and if North Korea is really just interested in the buyouts, then a cyclical strategy might work.
6.24.2006 9:18am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
North Korea is just acting out again to get the US to talk with it directly. I think a preemptive strike on the missle would be a foolish over-reaction. Secretary Perry, while an expert on military matters, is not on foreign policy or diplomacy, much less on North Korea. I don't think a single North Korea expert favors his policy.

I for one can't understand why the US won't talk to its enemies, be it North Korea, or Iran. I understand the idea that direct talks confers prestige, and that should be used as a bargaining chip. I tend to think you learn much more by the direct talks, however, and think the prestige point is of little value.
6.24.2006 2:17pm
Enoch:
Closer to 125, but never mind.

Inventory: Active force, 57; ANG, 0; Reserve, 0

Keep in mind that about half of them built so far have crashed.

Who says one predator only gets to destroy one artillery piece?

OK, so each Predator has two Hellfires, and let's assume no Predators ever get shot down or crash or break down, and every time they fire they kill an artillery piece. Even given such unrealistic assumptions, how long do you think it will take those 125 Predators (to use your figure) to kill 11,000 artillery pieces, given that they have to fly back and reload after every two shots? Now compare that to how rapidly the artillery can fire (300,000-500,000 rounds per hour across the full length of the DMZ).

Bottom line, Seoul will be LONG GONE by the time the Predators kill the last artillery piece. The "Predator shield" you propose is no kind of shield at all.

The pieces need to be shuttled into and out of the bunkers, and the entry hole can't be all that big or it would create an exposure to laser-designated bombs. Sounds like a choke point to me. In fact if a piece is immobilized in the right place that could create a nuisance to say the least.

The artillery doesn't have to come out of the bunker to fire. They open the shelter door, fire, and close it again.

True, the hardened shelters wouldn't last forever, but they don't have to last very long at all to wreck Seoul, if that is the objective.
6.24.2006 2:56pm
Medis:
As an aside, doesn't North Korea have a stockpile of chemical weapons, including for artillery? An attack with those on Seoul (particularly with the element of surprise) could cause a huge loss of life in a very short time.
6.24.2006 4:38pm
nrein1 (mail):
By the way artillery fire isn't the only thing one needs to worry about in the event of war. My understanding was that in the event of war it was assummed that ROk and US forces would fall back some before counterattacking. Middle case scenario was for the North Koreans to take Seoul up to the Han River. These scenarios may have changed since the Iraq was as some of equipment that was expected to be rapidly brought onto the peninsula is now in Iraq.

Also there is the issue of infiltrators. There are tunnels and from what I remember, expectations are for 50K North Koreans on the southern side of the DMZ causing havoc. This is not to say that the North's forces wouldn't be defeated, just pointing out the absolute mess a war on the Peninsula would be.
6.24.2006 6:23pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
If it's so easy to take out artillery, why are our bases in Iraq mortared every day for months on end?

Nobody who assaulted a defended shore in World War II will believe that it's a simple matter to identify and disable emplaced artillery. The problems in doing so have not been solved by things like Hellfire missiles.

They have been solved, in part, by radar shell trackers that can pinpoint a firing point, and these work some of the time. Evidently, not all of the time.

++++

If our fundamental desire is regime change in N. Korea, expecting China to help change the regime of one of the last three Communist countries seems unrealistic.

N. Korea is almost China's only ally and no more than a minor irritant to China.
6.24.2006 9:59pm
Enoch:
one of the last three Communist countries seems unrealistic.

(counting on fingers) China, North Korea, Cuba, Laos, Vietnam... =D
6.24.2006 10:59pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
I'm sick of hearing, "we can't win, waah wahh wahh..."

We can defeat any enemy. The question is, do we have the will to do it? I'm with Truman, let's nuke the SOBs.
6.25.2006 2:22am
Medis:
DRWN,

A better question is whether the costs of such an action (properly defined as including all negative effects, foreseen or otherwise) might outweigh the benefits.
6.25.2006 6:51am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Enoch, I pondered a while before I decided '3' was the correct number.

Vietnam seems half-communist at most, and the expectation (perhaps overoptimistic) is that Cuba will remain communist until Fidel dies, which cannot be very far off.

But, point taken.

I doubt China takes a lot of comfort in the alliance with Laos.
6.25.2006 3:23pm
Leland:
I'm very concerned about some of our "intellectuals" who, at one time or another, set policy in the US. First, we have an editorial suggesting we commit a very overt act of war, and then everything will be fine. Now, we have an editorial suggesting that an overt act of war is bad, but instead, we should just rollover to the DPRK, so long as they don't launch or hurt South Korea. I'm afraid next week's editorial would be to convince the UNSC to sue for a peace treaty that unifies Korea under DPRK leadership.

For 1,971 days the Bush administration ignored North Korea's missile program as unimportant and unthreatening to the security of the United States.

I guess this guy missed a few speeches and all that money going to TBMD.
6.25.2006 8:55pm