Friday, December 3, 2010

Deterrence Theory

This is how to prevent war when diplomacy fails, with the details provided from this AP article in my newspaper, the Albany Times Union:

President Lee Myung-bak's government is suffering intense criticism that its response to North Korea's Nov. 23 barrage on a South Korean island was weak, and over the stunning revelation that the South's spy chief dismissed information in August indicating the North might attack the front-line island of Yeonpyeong.

Lee's nominee, Kim Kwan-jin, told a parliamentary confirmation hearing that further North Korean aggression will result in airstrikes. He said South Korea will use all its combat capabilities to retaliate.

"In case the enemy attacks our territory and people again, we will thoroughly retaliate to ensure that the enemy cannot provoke again," Kim said. The hearing is a formality as South Korea's National Assembly does not have the power to reject Lee's appointment.
This public diplomacy approach by Kim Kwan-jin to prevent war will probably be more effective than China's private diplomacy 6-party talks approach given the politics on the Peninsula today.

The Korean War Armistice Agreement was held together for over a half century due to deterrence theory. It is good to see this approach restored, because it ultimately reduces the probability of war more than any other diplomatic approach right now.

Remember, South Korea is leading the political response to address North Korea. There will not be 6-party talks until South Korea decides it is time for 6-party talks, our position on the issue will follow their lead.

Because we are following their lead, I am uncertain whether the US will do anything unilaterally unless South Korea approves. I still believe that South Korea is looking for a way to influence North Korea in an indirect way, and the only thing we are learning is that the indirect way will not be China. The United Nations remains another diplomatic avenue to be leveraged, but the effectiveness of anything that could come from the UN remains unclear.

What we do know is that time is on the side of South Korea, because North Korea has an impending serious food problem due to the impacts of flooding on the crops in North Korea this summer. North Korea needs aid, and the way pressure is being applied means North Korea is going to have to find a reasonable way to ask for aid if they expect to receive it. That will be a new approach in and of itself for North Korea, and they may not know how to do it without losing face. The outcome might mean North Korea becomes a bigger burden on China than it has been in the past - which might also be exactly what all of these actions by South Korea are intended to do.

Meanwhile, tensions remain high, and the President has his eyes on the right ball.
The Obama administration told the United Nations nuclear watchdog that North Korea likely has built more than one uranium-enrichment facility, significantly raising the proliferation threat posed by the secretive communist state.

U.S. and European officials are pressing the International Atomic Energy Agency to better scrutinize Pyongyang's potential role in sharing its nuclear technologies with third countries. But the U.N. agency's ability to monitor Pyongyang is limited: North Korea kicked out the IAEA's inspectors in 2009.
Some have suggested that the Wikileaks cables highlight how much the US doesn't know about what is going on in North Korea. Well, duh - the IAEA has had the same complaint for over a year now. It isn't even clear if China really knows what is going on in North Korea anymore. The veil of secrecy surrounding the North's nuclear program has been remarkably effective.

Finally, several western media outlets have headlines that suggest China is upset about the US-Japan exercises that start today. This looks like western media spin to me. You can read this Xinhua News Agency article and decide for yourself. My read is that China's reaction to the exercise is being overblown and is mostly Fox News style overreaction.

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