Last month Amnesty International released a report stating that North Korea had publicly executed its own starving citizens for the crime of stealing food. The report’s release coincided with another issued by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which claimed that North Korea could produce four to eight nuclear bombs in the coming year, eventually manufacturing up to thirteen bombs per year by 2010. Considering North Korea’s massive human-rights violations, its production of WMDs, its untrustworthy national government, and its ties to states that sponsor terrorism, isn’t it time for the United States to start thinking about what a postwar united Korea should look like? After all, if the same logic used to justify action against Iraq is applied to North Korea, there’s actually a more solid case for regime change.
In terms of human-rights violations, a review of Amnesty International’s report shows a regime that is unwilling to live up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. By starving its citizens, jailing, torturing, and executing those who desire their fundamental human rights, and restricting access to independent human-rights monitors, Kim Jong Il’s government shows that it has failed to carry out its most basic responsibility: taking care of its citizens.
Concerning WMDs: In 2002, North Korea removed itself from the 1994 Agreed Framework–a treaty designed to freeze its proliferation efforts–and announced that it intended to restart its mothballed nuclear program. Not long after, North Korea revealed that it had a secret nuclear-weapons program, one that had been in operation while the country was still under the obligations of the 1994 treaty. Then, in January of 2003, North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Unlike Saddam, who spent years trying to thwart international efforts to determine the intent and extent of his weapons program, Kim Jong Il is taking great pains to make sure that we know about it. Add in North Korea’s chemical and biological-weapons arsenal, and its burgeoning missile program (over 600 Scuds in its inventory, including Taepo Dong 2 missiles capable of reaching the United States), and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that we won’t waste much time hunting for WMDs there, post-regime change.
Unfortunately, by violating the 1994 Agreed Framework and by engaging in a strategy of deception, North Korea has proved that further negotiations are meaningless, as any treaty signed by North Korea is not worth the paper it’s written on. The North Koreans are simply allowing us to make diplomatic overtures while they continue to build up their WMD program.
But perhaps most disturbing are North Korea’s ties to states that sponsor terror. Evidence suggests that North Korea has sold ballistic-missile technology to countries that the State Department lists as sponsors of terrorism, namely, Iran, Syria, and Libya. If North Korea is willing to sell missile technology to these states, what is to stop her from selling nuclear technologies to them as well? A cash-strapped North Korea might even consider cutting out the middleman and selling WMDs or related technology to the terrorists themselves.
Those who would argue against a regime change in North Korea cite the military capabilities of Kim Jong Il’s forces, specifically the artillery pieces that can range Seoul and the nuclear weapons that may already be in Kim’s possession. They might also argue that U.S. forces are stretched thin and are unable to force an invasion against such a foe.
These arguments are dealt with quite readily by former CIA Director James Woolsey and Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Thomas McInerney, who argue that massive air power–using stealth and precision weapons–could effectively neutralize North Korea’s antiquated artillery and destroy its nuclear capability. Such a campaign–combined with a U.S./South Korean ground offensive–would likely result in rapid victory.
And unlike Iraq, we will not have to look far for troop contributions in support of a post-war strategy: South Korea would be well suited to lead these efforts.
As Vice President Cheney told a gathered crowd of world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos last weekend: “There comes a time when deceit and defiance must be seen for what they are. At that point, a gathering danger must be directly confronted. At that point, we must show that beyond our resolutions is actual resolve.”
It is time to show North Korea our resolve.
Roger D. Carstens is a member of the Council of Emerging National Security Affairs.