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Korea Crisis - Introduction

Choe Son Hui, North Korea's First Vice-Foreign Minister, was quoted by North Korea's state news agency as saying 05 December 2019 the foreign ministry "can not repress displeasure over the utterances made by President Trump inappropriately at the most sensitive time." Choe added: "If any language and expressions stoking the atmosphere of confrontation are used once again on purpose at a crucial moment as now, that must really be diagnosed as the relapse of the dotage of a dotard."

North Korea's second-highest ranking military official said his country would quickly retaliate if the United States were to use military force against it. The statement on 04 December 2019 by Pak Jong-chon, chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army, came hours after U.S. President Donald Trump said that military action may be exercised against Pyongyang if necessary. Pak said regime leader Kim Jong-un was "displeased" with Trumps remarks and stressed that the only thing preventing physical conflict between North Korea and the U.S. is the close relationship between their leaders. The official said the U.S. is not the only country that can use armed force and warned that it will be a horrible thing for the U.S. if it employs military action against North Korea.

The Norths state-run media publicized multiple photos of Kim visiting the symbolically-important Mount Baekdu in an attempt to demonstrate Pyongyang's determined resistance against Washington. Pyongyang also announced the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party will convene a plenary meeting later this month, where Kim is widely expected to present a detailed roadmap of the "new way" North Korea will go should Washington fail to pivot in an agreeable way by years end.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Heino Klinck said the military exists to serve as a deterrent and as a stabilizing force. Klinck said if deterrence of aggression fails, South Korean and U.S. forces will take joint action to "fight and win." The U.S. official added while the Pentagon has provided the space for diplomatic efforts to denuclearize the North by not responding to its every single provocation, there may come a time when the response may be different.

Speaking to reporters on 03 December 2019 in London at the annual summit of NATO leaders, U.S. President Donald Trump revived the threat of military action against North Korea, as negotiations remain in limbo over how to match the North's denuclearization steps with U.S. concessions. Touting the strength of the U.S. military, Trump said all options are on the table. "Now we have the most powerful military we've ever had and we're by far the most powerful country in the world. And hopefully we don't have to use it. But if we do, we'll use it. If we have to, we'll do it."

Speaking of the North Korean leade, Trump said: "He really likes sending rockets up, doesn't he? That's why I call him Rocket Man." Trump added that he and Kim have "a good relationship." Trump had threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea in 2017, when tensions were sky high over the regime's testing of nuclear weapons and ICBMs. However, now Trump emphasized the close personal relationship he has formed with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, adding he hopes Kim will follow through with his commitment to dismantle his regime's nuclear weapons program.

The two Koreas agreed 06 March 2018 to hold a third inter-Korean Summit at the truce village of Panmunjom the Peace House, to be exact. The "Peace House" sits on the South Korean side of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone. They also agreed to establish a hot line between the two leaders to ease military tensions on the Korean peninsula. North Korea had repeatedly said it will not put its nuclear program on a negotiating table, while the United States made it clear that it doesn't want talks for the sake of talks and said all options, including military measures, are on the table. But North Korea made clear of its willingness to denuclearize and also made crystal clear that there is no need for the North to hold on to its nuclear weapons if their sovereignty is guaranteed. South Korea's chief special envoy also relayed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's readiness to hold openhearted nuclear talks with the United States.

The South Korean official said the North also confirmed it will not resume strategic provocations, including additional nuclear or ballistic missile tests while talks are under way, noting the North also promised not to use conventional or nuclear weapons against the South.

North Korea wants the United States to sign a non-aggression treaty, and has accused it of pushing the Korean Peninsula to the brink of nuclear war. Washington says it will not reopen official talks with the North until it halts it nuclear programs.

The Clinton Administration and North Korea signed the Agreed Framework, which called on North Korea to freeze operation and construction of nuclear reactors suspected of being part of a covert nuclear weapons program. While this agreement framed our relations for about 8 years, from North Koreas vantage point it was a ruse, as the entire time Pyongyang continued to develop its uranium-enrichment capabilities.

Then, in an effort to continue nuclear negotiations with North Korea, the Bush Administration took a multilateral approach and began the Six-Party Talks. Once again, concession after concession, this method of negotiation also failed and stalled since December 2008.


The interest of Japan, South Korea, China and the United States are not identical. All share a very strong interest in North Korea giving up its nuclear program. But China does not want to see the North Korean government collapse, possibly sending hundreds of thousands of refugees across its border. China is interested in maintaining its good relationship with North Korea, and, therefore, does not want to impose sanctions, or stop aid to apply pressure on Pyongyang. Japan is concerned about the issue of Japanese citizens the North has kidnapped.

South Korea wants to avoid provoking a North Korean attack, and wants to pave the way for eventual reunification of the Korean Peninsula. The eventual unification of Korea will be extraordinarily expensive. One estimate [by Goldman-Sachs] suggested that if unification were to occur today, the cost might range from $0.77 to $1.2 trillion dollars over a decade. If unification were to occur in 2010, the cost estimates rise to $3.4 to $3.6 trillion dollars over 10 years. These expenditures would amount to 1/6th to 1/4th of the ROK GDP each year over a decade (compared to German expenditures of 1/10th of GDP per year).

Humanitarian aid to North Korea has continued despite the nuclear crisis. The Bush administration has long said that North Korea should derive no benefit from breaking the various nuclear agreements. But the US suggested that further aid offers from other parties to the talks would not be a kind of inducement that would trouble US officials.

OPLAN 5027 is the operations plan that is the "go to war in Korea" plan. Tasks performed during the Destruction Phase of the OPLAN reportedly involve a strategy of maneuver warfare north of the Demilitarized Zone with a goal of terminating the North Korea regime, rather than simply terminating the war by returning North Korean forces to the Truce Line. In this phase operations would include the US invasion of north Korea, the destruction of the Korean People's Army and the north Korean government in Pyongyang. US troops would occupy north Korea and "Washington and Seoul will then abolish north Korea as a state and 'reorganize' it under South Korean control.

The revelation on North Korea's nuclear weapons program sparked fears around the world. Once again, an unexpected move by North Korea has left the United States and its key North Asian allies, South Korea and Japan, doubtful about the communist state's motives and its willingness to abide by global agreements and the norms of international diplomacy. Washington's revelation that North Korea has a nuclear weapons program raised concerns around the globe, especially coming after months in which Pyongyang appeared to be reaching out to the rest of the world.

North Korea has a long history of turmoil in its relations with South Korea and the United States. Fighting in the Korean War halted in 1953, but the conflict, technically, is not over. The warring sides signed only an armistice, not a peace treaty. Today, communist North and capitalist South Korea remain divided by a Demilitarized Zone running the width of the peninsula. On either side of the DMZ barbed wire and minefields are laid to deter invaders. The two countries have a million troops at the ready. More than 37,000 US soldiers remain in South Korea, to help fight if the North attacks.

In the past five decades, relations between North and South have repeatedly swung from rapprochement to the brink of war. Almost every time the two governments edged closer, some event pushed them apart. And in most cases, the event was a North Korean action. North Korea's hot-and-cold maneuvers are a well-calculated tactic. Originally, North Korea was established by its founder Kim Il Sung who was a guerilla fighter against the Japanese. So he brought that type of mentality to the way that he governed. And indeed North Korea has always been a kind of guerilla state.

Throughout the decades, North Korea sent spies into the South, attempting to kill national leaders. In 1968, North Korea seized the USS Pueblo, a US spy ship, in international waters, and held its crew for a year. Their unification strategy during the early decades, at least until the 1980s, was to win by force. That means building up their military. And secondly, by weakening South Korea. If a South Korean president is assassinated, there will be turmoil. They were attempting to destabilize South Korean society.

But in the early 1970's, North and South Korea began a series of covert contacts. They surprised the world in 1972, pledging to peacefully pursue reunification. In 1974 that pledge died, in part because a North Korean defector brought to Seoul maps of extensive tunnels the North was digging beneath the DMZ. The tunnels could be used to launch a surprise attack against the South. In August 1976, North Korean soldiers nearly brought the two sides to war when they attacked a South Korean team pruning trees in the DMZ. Two American Army officers were killed with axes in the fight.

Relations hit a low point in October 1983, when Pyongyang tried to assassinate South Korean President Chun Do-hwan during a state visit to Burma. He survived, but several South Korean officials were killed by a powerful bomb planted by North Korean soldiers. In the early 1990s, the North's already impoverished economy grew weaker, largely due to inefficient central planning. Despite food aid from the United States, South Korea, Japan and the United nations, a famine raged. Aid donors worried their offerings were going to the military instead of to the people.

Then another critical concern emerged: the North's suspected nuclear weapons program. In 1992 North Korea allowed inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency for the first time. But instead of winning praise, North Korea was accused of violating the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it signed in 1985. It blocked further inspections. But the United States and North Korea signed the Agreed Framework in October 1994, under which North Korea pledged to freeze its suspected nuclear program in exchange for two light-water nuclear reactors and supplies of heating fuel.

The pattern of progress and obstacles continued . In 1998, North Korea test fired a missile over Japan, showing it could easily hit the country with large weapons. But in 2000, North Korea held an unprecedented summit with South Korea, agreeing to a series of projects to work toward reunification.

Following the first-ever North-South summit in Pyongyang on June 13-15, 2000, inter-Korean contacts developed rapidly with a series of ministerial-level and other government meetings, reunions and a letter exchange among separated family members, and economic agreements on avoidance of double taxation, investment guarantees, and dispute settlement procedures. The North and South Korean governments agreed to re-establish a rail and road link across the DMZ. South Korean tourism to the Kumgang Mountain area of North Korea may be expanded with the possible opening of another overland route, and the North announced plans for new Special Economic Zones at Kaesong and Sinuiju. The process of reconciliation slowed in 2001 and many of these initiatives had yet to be implemented.

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Page last modified: 05-12-2019 18:20:56 ZULU