November 24, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Nuclear North Korea

Standing at just five-foot-two, North Korean president Kim Jong Il wears platform shoes and a bouffant hairdo to add a few extra inches. It's not hard to imagine that his nuclear arsenal compensates for some other type of shortfall. But whether it's testosterone, terrorism or tyranny that drives him, the fact remains that he's got the free world by the short hairs. It's easier to deal with a rogue nation such as Iraq that does not yet possess nuclear weaponry, even if the mopping-up incurs almost daily casualties. But when such a nation gains the power of thermonuclear fire, few options remain for dealing with an unstable dictator with his fingers on a couple of A-bombs.

The situation is complicated by a lack of viable solutions. The U.S. already tried to buy off North Korea in 1994, promising aid in exchange for dismantlement of the country's nuclear program. That went nowhere, as Kim Jong Il's regime pocketed the money and continued its nuclear program in secret. Similar diplomatic efforts would likely meet the same end. North Korean defector Hwang Jang-yop, former North Korean secretary of foreign affairs and mentor to Kim Jong Il, recently warned Congress that the regime is "profoundly unstable" and could not be trusted to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

The U.S. can tighten the economic screws, shutting off food aid and instituting harsh sanctions for North Korea's violation of the nuclear arms proliferation agreement. But this would only worsen a humanitarian crisis in North Korea that has already claimed millions of lives since the country's allies stopped shipments of oil and other aid in the 1990s in response to Kim Jong Il's nuclear saber-rattling.

Alternatively, the U.S. could launch a military strike, which would likely trigger an all-out war, complete with radioactive, chemical and biological fallout. But with a well-trained army over one million strong, North Korea would prove a much more formidable opponent than Iraq or Afghanistan.

That leaves the final option of accepting North Korea as a nuclear power, keeping tabs on what the regime does with its nukes and allowing the country's neighbors to keep the pressure on. But can President Bush remain on diplomatic terms with a country that has threatened to "turn the citadel of imperialism into a sea of fire"? Capitulation from Washington seems unlikely from an administration that has labeled Kim Jong Il's regime part of an "axis of evil." A cowboy from Texas doesn't seem like the sort to put up with a tin-pot dictator trying to blackmail the world's greatest superpower into submission.

Though the U.S. acted quickly and decisively to depose Saddam Hussein, Iraq was ironically the least nuclear-capable of President Bush's "axis of evil." North Korea already possesses at least one or two nuclear weapons, and Iran seems well on its way to weaponizing its spent nuclear fuel rods. Did the U.S. simply follow the path of least resistance by invading Iraq first? Or was the war in Iraq a warm-up act for the main event in North Korea or Iran?


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year (almost), I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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November Columns:

11/28: Family Willow
11/27: Thankful
11/24: Nuclear North Korea
11/21: All Jacko, All the Time
11/20: Mantrimony
11/19: Tutankhamen: Page One
11/18: The Dying Light
11/16: Back to the Grind
11/13: Overpriced
11/12: Land's End
11/11: Veterans' Day
11/10: Cabo Bound
11/9: Supercharged
11/8: Internet Buzz
11/7: Recharged?
11/5: Open Mouth, Insert Foot
11/4: No Wiggle Room
11/1: A Week Lost in Time
Previous months in The Archive

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