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Vassallo, Scruggs Debate: How Should U.S. Deal with North Korea?

Steve Vassallo: U.S. should take more aggressive measures with North Korea.

Steve Vassallo
Steve Vassallo

It is in the national security interests of the United States to put the Stalinist-type dictatorship on notice that future provocative actions against South Korea or to the region in general will no longer be tolerated. Before exploring what these options are, let’s first examine exactly what we’re dealing with.

North Korea is one of the world’s most isolated countries plagued by chronic food insecurities and poverty. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (its official name) is a one man dictatorship controlled by Kim Jong-un. Twenty five million people live there with 61 percent of the people earning less than $2 per day. The life expectancy is 70. The GDP per capita is $1,800. The currency is the North Korean won or KPW.

North Korea came about after Japan relinquished its 35 year occupation of the Korean peninsula at the end of WWII. It established its independence in 1948, splitting from the South, which precipitated the Korean conflict with the US at the forefront. The country has adopted “Songun” which is a military-first policy.

In recent years and even weeks, the renegade country has become an ever increasing threat to both South Korean and U.S. security. The development of the TD-2 missile has the capability of hitting our west coast with a nuclear warhead. North Korea frequently refers to U.S. hostility and is paranoid about opposition from within as well as outside forces, primarily South Korea. North Korea has also initiated a series of cyber attacks (particularly in the years 2009-2011) that shut down South Korean websites in the military, government and private industry. The country remains a hostile entity with total disregard for international law and decency.

The United States must clearly convey a “no tolerance” policy to this nation that future hostile actions will be met with force. This should include interception of rocket launches; paralyzing the nation’s Internet capabilities following future cyber attacks; and a greater U.S. naval presence in the region. This is all above and beyond economic sanctions. Concurrently, the U.S. should emphasize to China that this ally of their’s could possibly be the fuse to ignite WWIII if not reeled in soon.

In summary, the United States cannot allow a rogue nation to endanger our shores with nuclear possibilities, especially a country that has very little to lose as a result. North Korea does understand one thing and that is force. And they should be reminded every day what happened to Saddam Hussein when irresponsible actions persisted.

(Recognition to U.S. News and World Report; The New York Times; and Concernusa.org)

Dickie Scruggs: I agree with Steve’s Point that North Korea is a regional menace.

Richard "Dickie" Scruggs
Richard “Dickie” Scruggs

I went to the Korean Peninsula several years ago with Mississippi’s Governor and our congressional delegation. While there we were briefed at Panmunjom by military leaders on the challenge of defending South Korea in the event of an attack by the North. It was sobering. I came away convinced that a surprise North Korean invasion had a good chance of overrunning the whole Peninsula.

More troubling is North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal and long-range missile capability. Even if the North’s leaders are not suicidal enough to actually use such weapons, their mere possession gives them a trump card against forcible regime change. And there is always the danger that the North Koreans will sell these weapons to a terrorist group.

No one seems to have a clear plan to deal with North Korea short of a bloody and (probably) nuclear war. Sanctions, boycotts and blockades have only impoverished the people without materially weakening the ruling panjandrum. So far, neighboring China has declined to participate in stringent sanctions.

On the positive side, North Korea is not propagating worldwide terrorism or a pernicious ideology. It is an existential threat only to South Korea. By ensuring that the United States has sufficient conventional forces there and in nearby Japan to stymie an invasion, that’s really all that can be done in the near term.

However, if the United States seriously wants regime change in North Korea, we are not without cards. It depends simply upon what we are willing to trade off to China, the military and economic hegemon in the region. The Chinese could inflict fatal pain on the North Korean leadership merely by shutting its border with that country.

Perhaps, for example, conceding the right of the Chinese to fortify the islands it is artificially creating in the South China Sea would be a sufficient inducement for the Chinese to starve out the present North Korean regime.

So, it seems to me, we should find out China’s price and decide how much we are willing to pay to have the Chinese force fundamental changes in North Korea. Short of a war using American military power, there does not appear to be an avenue that leads to reform or regime change. Delay will only result in more nuclear and missile capability by the North’s leaders, thus increasing the costs of a future resolution.

Dickie Scruggs is one of Oxford’s best-known former attorneys who now expresses his passion for adult education through the GED in a unique state-wide program he has developed, aptly called “Second Chance.” Scruggs is a well known Democrat and anchors the position of the Left in Point/No-Point. He can be reached at DickScruggs@gmail.com.

Steve Vassallo of Oxford is a frequent contributor to HottyToddy.com covering a wide range of subjects. An arch conservative, the popular columnist holds the political position of the Right in Point/No-Point. He can be reached at sovassallo@gmail.com.

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