South Korea Is an Ally, Not a Dependent

The Wall Street Journal   |  By Michael R. Pompeo and Mark T. Esper

Seoul can and should contribute more to its own national defense.

South Korean and U.S. Special Forces members in Gunsan, South Korea, Nov. 14, 2019. PHOTO: US AIR FORCE/REUTERS

American presidents have long asked allies to pay more for their own defense—often with lackluster results. But both the U.S. and South Korea now face strategic challenges so large and complex that neither country can afford to allow the status quo to continue. That’s the context of America’s discussions with South Korea about a new special measures agreement.

The U.S.-South Korea alliance is the linchpin of peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia. Shared values of and prosperity in Northeast Asia. Shared values of democracy, the rule of law and open economies form the foundation of an alliance that is as vital today as it was in 1953. America’s longstanding commitment and presence have enabled South Korea to develop a vibrant democracy and the world’s 12th-largest economy. Together, we celebrate this success.

In past decades South Korea has made major contributions to the alliance. It has modernized its fighter aircraft and enhanced antisubmarine and ballistic-missile defense capabilities. President Moon Jae-in’s government increased South Korea’s defense budget by 8.2% in 2019 and intends to raise it by a further 7.1% annually until 2024. South Korean forces have deployed in support of U.S.-led coalitions in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq and the Persian Gulf. South Korea also intends to procure military equipment that reflects a commitment to force modernization. The U.S. is grateful for these contributions.

But as sovereign allies, we must find a better way to share the costs of defense with South Korea and secure a stable and prosperous future for the Korean people. We are in an age of unprecedented threats that demand robust responses and team efforts. As a global economic powerhouse and an equal partner in the preservation of peace on the Korean Peninsula, South Korea can and should contribute more to its defense.

Today South Korea bears no more than one-third of the costs most directly associated with the stationing of U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula. As these costs rise, South Korea’s share is shrinking. Moreover, these narrowly defined costs are only one part of the picture. America’s contributions to South Korea’s defense in this highly technological age—including some advanced capabilities Seoul still needs to acquire—far exceed the cost of U.S. “boots on the ground” and constitute a far larger burden for the American taxpayer than meets the eye.

The current special measures agreement captures only a portion of the cost of defending South Korea. The U.S. believes it should cover more. As we improve the burden-sharing arrangement, both sides will benefit. More than 90% of South Korea’s cost-sharing contributions currently go right back into the local economy in the form of salaries for South Korean nationals employed by U.S. Forces Korea, construction contracts, and other services purchased locally to sustain an American presence. It’s good for both nations.

Right now the two countries are again engaged in tough negotiations. The U.S. remains firmly committed to reaching a mutually beneficial and equitable agreement that will strengthen the alliance and combined defense far into the future. South Korea’s taking on a greater share of the load will ensure the alliance remains the linchpin of peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, in Northeast Asia—and across the world.

Mr. Pompeo is secretary of state. Mr. Esper is secretary of defense.

Article: https://www.wsj.com/articles/south-korea-is-an-ally-not-a-dependent-11579219989

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Call for Articles!

Submit your articles for KDVA’s 2020 2nd Quarter ROK-U.S. Alliance Journal by March 2nd.

The digital journal features stories and articles by KDVA members and supporters of the ROK-U.S. Alliance. It allows our members and supporters a way to voice their expertise and opinions that add to discussions about the Alliance.

The journal will go to our members, our partner organizations, potential sponsors, Alliance experts in the ROK and U.S. governments, and U.S. and ROK think tanks.

Submission Guidelines: 

  • Articles must be submitted in English.
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N. Korea ranks No.1 in military spending as percentage of GDP


SEOUL, Jan. 9 (Yonhap) — North Korea ranked No.1 in the world in terms of the proportion of military spending in gross domestic product between 2007-2017, though the total amount accounts for only one-tenth of South Korea’s military expenditure, a U.S. State Department report showed.

According to the State Department’s World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 2019 report, the North’s military expenditure averaged about US$3.6 billion a year. That accounts for 13.4 to 23.3 percent of the country’s average GDP of $17 billion during the period.

The percentage is expressed as a range due to the different methods of converting currencies to U.S. dollars, the report said.

Oman was a distant second on the list, spending around 12.1 percent of its GDP on the military, followed by Saudi Arabia with 9.3 percent, according to the report.

In absolute terms, however, the North’s annual military spending during the period ranked only 47th at $3.6 billion, nearly one tenth of the average $34.8 billion South Korea spends on the military.

South Korea’s military spending accounts for about 2.6 percent of its GDP.

The U.S. ranked No. 1 in the world with $741 billion a year on average, followed by China’s $176 billion.

It was also the biggest arms exporter in the world, selling an average $143 billion worth of weapons to foreign countries annually during the period, followed by Russia’s $97 billion.

N. Korea ranks No.1 in military spending as percentage of GDP - 1


Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20200109007500325?section=nk/nk

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Trump reaffirms commitment to N. Korea’s denuclearization

Yonhap News

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 (Yonhap) — U.S. President Donald Trump reaffirmed his commitment to achieving North Korea’s denuclearization in a letter to South Korea’s new ambassador to Washington, the South Korean Embassy here said Tuesday.

Trump wrote a note Monday in response to Amb. Lee Soo-hyuck’s letter accompanying his credentials, the embassy said in a press release. Lee presented his credentials to the U.S. president the same day.

“President Trump said Amb. Lee’s appointment demonstrates the resilience of the South Korea-U.S. alliance and takes on significance in various ways,” the embassy said.

Trump hailed the alliance as a “linchpin” of regional peace and security, it said, and noted the development of the bilateral relationship into a global partnership.

“Moreover, he reaffirmed the commitment of South Korea and the U.S. to achieve the joint goal of North Korea’s final, fully verified denuclearization, and expressed hope that South Korea-U.S. economic cooperation relations will deepen with the implementation of the 2019 revised free trade agreement,” the embassy said.

Lee took over as ambassador in October.

He asked Trump during the credentialing ceremony to continue to show leadership on the North Korean nuclear issue and the president said in response that he would do so, the embassy said in an earlier press release.

This photo, provided by the South Korean Embassy in Washington, shows U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and South Korean Ambassador to the U.S. Lee Soo-hyuck at a credentialing ceremony at the White House in Washington on Jan. 6, 2020. (Yonhap)

This photo, provided by the South Korean Embassy in Washington, shows U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and South Korean Ambassador to the U.S. Lee Soo-hyuck at a credentialing ceremony at the White House in Washington on Jan. 6, 2020. (Yonhap)



Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20200108000600325?section=news

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What the Iran confrontation means for INDOPACOM and North Korea

Military Times   | By:

Iran isn’t the only adversary the Trump administration has said it is ready to fight. The same day the Pentagon announced Iran’s Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani was killed, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in an interview with Fox News that the U.S. “is prepared to exert military force if needed” against Pyongyang.

Kim Jong Un, right, is likely closely watching how U.S. President Donald Trump, left, deals with Iran before taking any actions, experts say. (Susan Walsh/AP)

But what do Esper’s comments and the confrontation with Iran mean for North Korea and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, as the U.S. seeks to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula?

So far, military and foreign policy experts don’t expect immediate or major changes from INDOPACOM in dealing with North Korea, nor do they believe that there is yet cause for concern that a similar situation in the Middle East will erupt in the Pacific.

“I think it’s business as usual, but proceed with caution,” Rick Lamb, a retired Army Green Beret command sergeant major, told Military Times.

“It’s the time-tested ‘Ranger Rule’ from the French and Indian War of 1754,” said Lamb, who was stationed in South Korea in the 1980s and served as a civilian adviser to Special Operations Command-Korea from 2015 to 2017. “’Have your musket clean as a whistle, hatchet scoured, sixty rounds powder and ball, and be ready to march at a minute’s warning.’ Lean forward…and hang on.”

President Donald Trump has met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un twice for denuclearization talks, but he ultimately walked away from negotiations with Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam in February 2019 after Kim demanded the U.S. eliminate sanctions on Pyongyang, while only offering to take down a sliver of his regime’s nuclear weapons program.

Although North Korea signaled a “Christmas gift” was headed to the U.S. by the end of the year, a gift was never delivered. Instead, North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported on Jan. 1 that Kim vowed his regime would never denuclearize and said Pyongyang will unveil a “new strategic weapon” soon.

Lamb said he expects the “Christmas gift” delay was because either the weapons systems were not ready, or that Kim was offered a concession that hasn’t been made public yet. But if no concessions were offered, Lamb predicted Pyongyang will start making noise again.

“Within the next few months we’ll probably some level of provocation from North Korea short of open conflict — and without the loss of life,” Lamb said. “But only when Kim is ready and if he believes he can get a concession.”

What does this mean for INDOPACOM?

South Korea is home to the largest U.S. military base overseas, Camp Humphreys. In total, there are more than 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, and experts remain certain INDOPACOM is prepared to address a variety of scenarios in dealing with a belligerent North Korea.

“I think [INDOPACOM] is concerned with Korea, but also feels fortunate to have plans in place and dedicated commands to fight and win in Korea,” Lamb said. “They will ensure the intelligence, resources and logistics are in place to meet any provocation in Korea while continuing to work with regional partners to build the capacity to thwart an increasingly belligerent China.”

Lamb noted the years he was a civilian adviser to Special Operations Command-Korea marked a period where the U.S. was evaluating deficiencies related to personnel, equipment, infrastructure and other things to fix those weaknesses in the INDOPACOM area of operations.

Lamb also expects INDOPACOM and Special Operations Command Pacific are coordinating with United Nations Command Commander Gen. Robert Abrams — who also serves as the commander of Republic of Korea/U.S. Combined Forces Command — and Special Operations Command Korea Commander Brig. Gen. Otto Liller.

Lamb noted they are the figures who have authority over the troops stationed in South Korea, and call the shots regarding campaign plans.

Kathryn Botto, a research analyst in the Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, doubts a sudden escalation with North Korea would occur and also stressed INDOPACOM is ready for a wide range of situations.

“We’re always going to be prepared for all of the possibilities. I don’t think anyone would look at the current situation and say there’s some chance of this escalat[ing] to the brink of war like we are right now with Iran,” Botto told Military Times, adding that she believes there are signs North Korea is still interested in taking a diplomatic approach with the U.S.

As far as how the Trump administration’s actions in the U.S. Central Command area of operations impact the Pacific, Botto said she expects the situation in the Middle East will decrease the probability of provocations from Pyongyang.

“Hopefully, INDOPACOM is watching this thinking that North Korea is even less likely to take any harmful action,” Botto said.

That said, Botto said there’s a caveat: she predicted North Korea would view the U.S.’s confrontation with Iran as an indicator Pyongyang should not denuclearize and that the U.S. could not be trusted.

In 2018, the Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that put limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for devastating sanctions. Sanctions were subsequently reimposed against Iran.

Ultimately, Lamb said Kim knows going head to head in war with the U.S. will not render favorable results for him or his regime.

“At the end of the day, Kim understands that he would lose a war with the U.S./[United Nations Command] and South Korea,” Lamb said. “A war will bring an end to him and his regime.”

INDOPACOM did not respond to a request for comment from Military Times.

What should the U.S. and INDOPACOM do?

Despite expert’s assurance that the U.S. and INDOPACOM is well-positioned should tensions ramp up with North Korea, there are a number of steps the U.S. should take in the meantime, according to retired Army Col. David Maxwell.

Maxwell, who has several decades of military service in Asia under his belt and is now a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said R.O.K./U.S. Combined Forces Command should work with INDOPACOM and continue to “surge” intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to monitor signals of action from Pyongyang.

“The R.O.K./U.S. Combined Forces Command should also present options to the R.O.K./U.S. Military Committee for increasing readiness exercises and its deterrent posture,” Maxwell said.

Likewise, now is the time to evaluate what assets from INDOPACOM’s area of operations and what assets from bases in the U.S. should be deployed within or nearby the Korean theater of operations, he said.

Maxwell also said joint military air exercises should resume to promote deterrence and to safeguard South Korea. In November, Esper indefinitely delayed the Combined Flying Training Event with U.S. and South Korean troops, and hailed the decision at the time as an “act of goodwill” toward North Korea.

According to Maxwell, the most important thing that the U.S. can do though is have the R.O.K/U.S. Combined Forces Command increase military messaging toward North Korea to demonstrate strategic reassurance and strategic resolve.

As an example, he said the U.S. military should direct its messaging toward “second-tier leadership” — those in North Korea who have military power but are not considered part of the elite — to make sure they understand not attacking South Korea will guarantee their welcome in a united Korea.

Likewise, he said it is critical to provide these military leaders with options as they navigate insecurity in Pyongyang.

“It is long past time to develop a robust combined information and influence campaign to target the elite, the second tier military leadership, and the Korean people living in the North with the right themes and messages,” Maxwell said.

How will Kim Jong Un respond?

Experts believe that Kim is observing how the U.S. has responded to escalations in Iran, such as killing Soleimani after the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was attacked, and understands there would be consequences for any significant provocation.

“Kim Jong Un doesn’t have a deathwish, I think he’s very aware that any major escalation would result in the U.S. responding quite harshly,” Botto said.

According to Maxwell, it remains a question mark whether the conflict between the U.S. and Iran will motivate Kim to keep a low profile or initiate a test of a new weapon — now that he is no longer in the spotlight.

“Assuming he is going to demonstrate his new ‘strategic weapon’ sometime in the near future will Soleimani’s death speed up or slow down the timing of the demonstration?” Maxwell said. “On the one hand he may be like a child acting out and calling for a return of the attention to him. On the other, he might be wise to delay until excitement over Soleimani dies down.”

Meanwhile, Lamb anticipates that Kim may attempt to ramp up rhetoric surrounding a united Korea in an attempt to push South Korea away from the U.S.

“I believe Kim moves regularly under heightened security,” Lamb said. “I think he definitely worries about ordnance coming his way. We may see him increase detente with South Korea to leverage ‘One Korea’ sentiment, tug at heartstrings, and drive a wedge between the U.S. and South Korea.”

But overall, Lamb is skeptical Kim will use the situation in the Middle East as a way to seek influence and instead, will monitor Trump’s behavior.

“I think Kim is watching President Trump closely and his perceptions will inform his actions,” Lamb said.

“I doubt that he leverages the chaos in the Middle East, he doesn’t want to share the stage,” Lamb said. “He’s more likely to monitor it and learn how President Trump operates.”

Article: https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2020/01/07/what-the-iran-confrontation-means-for-indopacom-and-north-korea/

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US strike on Iran could have consequences in North Korea


SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The U.S. strike that killed Iran’s top military commander may have had an indirect casualty: a diplomatic solution to denuclearizing North Korea.

FILE – In this June 12, 2018, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, right, meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sentosa Island, in Singapore. The U.S. strike that killed Iran’s top military commander may have had an indirect casualty: a diplomatic solution to denuclearizing North Korea. Experts say the escalation of tensions between Washington and Tehran will diminish already fading hopes for such an outcome and inspire North Korea’s decision-makers to tighten their hold on the weapons they see, perhaps correctly, as their strongest guarantee of survival. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Experts say the escalation of tensions between Washington and Tehran will diminish already fading hopes for such an outcome and inspire North Korea’s decision-makers to tighten their hold on the weapons they see, perhaps correctly, as their strongest guarantee of survival.

North Korea’s initial reaction to the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani has been cautious. The country’s state media was silent for several days before finally on Monday issuing a brief report on the attack that didn’t even mention Soleimani’s name.

The Korean Central News Agency report didn’t publish any direct criticism by Pyongyang toward Washington, instead simply saying that China and Russia had denounced the United States over last week’s airstrike at the airport in Baghdad.

The North’s negotiations with the U.S. have been at a stalemate since last February, when a summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump collapsed over disagreements about exchanging sanctions relief for nuclear disarmament. The North has recently pointed to that lack of progress and hinted it may resume tests of nuclear bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

While the killing of Soleimani may give Pyongyang pause about provoking the Trump administration in such a way, the North ultimately is likely to use the strike to further legitimize its stance that it needs to bolster its nuclear arsenal as a deterrent against American aggression.

The North has often pointed to the demises of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi while justifying its nuclear development, saying they would still be alive and in power had they successfully obtained nuclear weapons and didn’t surrender them to the U.S.

Solemani’s name will soon be mentioned with them too, said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University.

“North Korea would say that the ‘imperialist’ nature of the United States would never change, and that there is no other option for them other than to strengthen its nuclear deterrent while bracing for long-term confrontation,” said Koh, an adviser to current South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

It’s clear Pyongyang has been closely watching the developments between Washington and Tehran since the Trump administration in May 2018 abandoned a nuclear agreement Iran reached with world powers in 2015.

The North’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper published more than 30 articles analyzing the U.S.-Iran tensions since last August, reflecting the keen interest of Pyongyang’s decision-makers, Hwang Ildo, a professor from South Korea’s National Diplomatic Academy, recently wrote.

Kim and Trump exchanged insults and threats of war during a highly provocative run in North Korean weapons tests in 2017. But then in 2018, Kim initiated diplomatic talks with Washington and suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests. The opening came after months of concerns that the Trump administration could consider preventive military action against the North.

There are views that North Korea’s measured brinkmanship of 2019, highlighted by tests of shorter-range weapons and defiant statements on overcoming U.S.-led sanctions, were influenced by Tehran’s calibrated provocations against Washington, which coincided with efforts to retain European countries participating in the 2015 deal.

Washington’s decision not to retaliate against Iran’s interception of a U.S. surveillance drone last June could have emboldened Pyongyang, which possibly concluded it wouldn’t have to fear U.S. military action as long as it avoids directly threatening American lives or more crucial assets, some experts say.

The U.S. airstrike that took out Soleimani came after Iranian proxies fired rockets onto an Iraqi base, killing an American contractor, and those proxies then helped generate a mob that attacked the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

In comments published New Year’s Day, Kim said there were no longer grounds for the North to be “unilaterally bound” to its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and ICBM tests, which Trump has repeatedly boasted as a major foreign policy accomplishment.

But Kim gave no explicit indication that he was abandoning negotiations entirely or restarting the suspended tests. He seemed to leave the door open to diplomacy, saying North Korea’s efforts to bolster its deterrent will be “properly coordinated” depending on future U.S. attitudes.

The U.S. killing of Soleimani will make the North more hesitant about crossing a metaphorical “red line” with the Trump administration by restarting such tests, said Du Hyeogn Cha, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Kyung Hee University.

“The airstrike does serve as a warning to North Korea about taking extreme actions as the presumption that the Trump administration refrains from using military force when concerned about consequences has been shattered,” said said Cha, an ex-intelligence secretary to former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

Article: https://apnews.com/b6b5f79d170628a0db384f9374ca983f

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KDVA’s ROK-U.S. Alliance Journal Issue: 2020-1

Featuring stories and articles by KDVA members and supporters of the ROK-U.S. Alliance.

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U.S. defense secretary urges N.K. leader to exercise restraint

This AFP file photo shows U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. (Yonhap)

Yonhap News  |   By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, Jan. 2 (Yonhap) — U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Thursday urged North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to exercise “restraint” after the communist nation threatened to reveal a “new strategic weapon” in protest over stalled nuclear talks.

Kim made the remark in a New Year’s message that expressed his frustration over stalled denuclearization talks with the U.S. Experts have said the “strategic weapon” Kim said the world will see in the near future could be an intercontinental ballistic missile.

“We would urge restraint by Kim Jong-un,” Esper said in an interview with Fox News, noting that the best path forward is still a political agreement on denuclearizing North Korea.

“We are on that path. We want to remain on that path, and we would obviously urge Kim Jong-un and his leadership team to sit back down at the negotiation table to do that,” he said.

Esper made clear, however, that the U.S. military stands ready to “fight tonight” if necessary.

“We have a full array of forces. They are ready. They’re Air and Naval, Marine, Army forces. We have our South Korean partners with us, and then we have a broader set of allies and partners out there as well,” he said. “So I’m confident in the readiness of our forces to deter North Korean bad behavior and should that fail, to fight and win as necessary.”

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Esper also said the U.S. has been monitoring the situation very closely but would not say whether there have been indications of an imminent test or launch.

“I obviously don’t talk about intelligence matters,” he said.

Pressed to respond to Kim’s threat to showcase a new strategic weapon, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley weighed in, “We’ll see what happens.

“Our military defensive capabilities are adequate to defend the homeland.” he added.

Questions have been raised about the readiness of South Korean and U.S. forces in the wake of the allies’ decision to scale back some joint military exercises in support of the diplomatic process.

North Korea denounces the drills as rehearsals for an invasion of the regime, and in his New Year’s message, Kim complained that the allies continue to conduct their exercises despite what he said was a personal promise from U.S. President Donald Trump to stop them.

Kim added that under such conditions he sees no reason to be bound by his self-declared moratorium on nuclear and ICBM tests.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, disputed the effectiveness of downsizing the drills.

“I do believe that having canceled the military exercises was an enormous gift to Kim Jong-un without any benefit,” he said in an interview with CNN.

The senator also accused Trump of having weakened the sanctions regime against North Korea.

“You have to engage China vigorously because China is probably the key to whether or not you can have a successful outcome with North Korea,” Menendez said. “None of that, from my perspective, is going on right now.”

Trump and Kim have had three meetings to try to reach a deal on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for U.S. sanctions relief and security guarantees.

But negotiations between the sides have faltered since the leaders’ second summit in Vietnam in February due to wide gaps over how to match their steps.

Trump said Tuesday following Kim’s remarks that he still believes the North Korean leader will stick to his commitment to denuclearize.

“I think he’s a man of his word,” he said.

The same day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that the U.S. hopes Kim will “take a different course.”

“We’re hopeful that Chairman Kim will make the right decision, (that) he’ll choose peace and prosperity over conflict and war,” he said.

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Opinion: North Korea Is Not Done Trolling Trump

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

New York Times  |   By

Mr. Eberstadt is a political economist.

Kim Jong-un just restarted his dance of death with America.

Is anyone surprised? On the last day of 2019, after months of threatening the United States to ease its nuclear standoff with “a bold decision” by year’s end — or else — the leader of North Korea darkly announced that the country would unveil a new strategic weapon “in the near future.” Kim Jong-un also declared an end to a moratorium on nuclear weapons and missile tests. On the first day of 2020, he did not deliver his customary, often fiery, New Year’s address. In other words, he interrupted his regularly scheduled program to bring us his latest threat.

The false calm is over; the old North Korean nuclear crisis is back on — only, it has just entered a deadly serious phase. The government in Pyongyang is looking to establish a new normal: One where it gets to threaten San Francisco with incineration, and we get to do nothing. The United States’ only option for precluding this nightmare is to bring down the hammer on the Kim regime before its capabilities expand even further.

As usual, North Korea is setting the scene and the tempo for the dance of death now unfolding. Mr. Kim has just personally decreed an end to the season of diplomacy — after personally summoning it into existence at the start of 2018.

In his New Year’s address that year, he publicly declared that the North Korean arms industry “should mass-produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles” — the power and reliability of which had been well established, he also said. In the perverse logic of North Korean signaling and gamesmanship, this actually was an indirect overture: a suggestion that Mr. Kim might now agree to an invitation that he halt tests of both nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). It was also a hint that he might be willing to enter into talks with the United States and South Korea.

The gambit was a tactical probe, pure and simple. It cost Mr. Kim nothing, yet it allowed him to find out how much he could game America for.

Apparently he is not satisfied by the results of his experiment in concession-trolling: The United States has failed to lift sanctions, provide protection money or abandon South Korea. So Mr. Kim is shifting back to bare-fanged confrontation in hopes of obtaining those things the old-fashioned way.

By now we should all know the script to the North’s shakedown film. Yet many in Washington and various media outlets seem ready to blame Mr. Kim’s latest move on an American president they detest rather than on the time-honored North Korean playbook from which it is so obviously drawn. Blinded by their loathing of Mr. Trump, these people cannot see that his North Korea denuclearization policy has been more serious — and more promising — than those of previous administrations.

Mr. Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign of 2017–8 is the closest thing to a strategy for crippling North Korea’s war economy that Washington has devised to date. His diplomatic courtship with Mr. Kim, despite its inerasable creepiness, also had a rationale: The voluntary denuclearization of the world’s most totalitarian state could never occur without the assent of its ultimate decision maker.

That experiment has now been run, and we know, conclusively, the result. Hardly surprising, but arguably worth establishing without a doubt.

Pyongyang will never denuclearize voluntarily. Ever. It, too, says that it supports “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” but for the North Korean government that is code language for an end to Seoul’s defense treaty with Washington and the withdrawal of American troops and missiles from South Korea. Pyongyang wants nuclear weapons and ICBMs, and lots of both, because these are the indispensable instruments for achieving the unconditional unification the North has been relentlessly pursuing since its surprise attack against the South in June 1950.

If we are to protect ourselves and our allies from North Korea’s evermore credible nuclear blackmail, we must respond now — with an aggressive long-term program to reduce its killing power overseas and eventually neuter the Kim threat. Many of the pieces for such a program are already in place. What is needed now, in the words of David Maxwell, a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is “Maximum Pressure 2.0.”

North Korea’s weapons programs are built on a precarious and highly vulnerable economic base. The country arguably is the world’s most distorted and highly dependent economy. It is desperately in need of foreign subsidies and illicit revenue from abroad, and now it is in a sanctions vise. The United States and the United Nations have enacted broad and punitive strictures that are already beginning to throttle Mr. Kim’s war economy, forcing Pyongyang to spend down its foreign currency reserves and strategic stockpiles of food and energy.

The beauty of this trap, from an American standpoint, is that these sanctions cannot be relaxed unless Washington says so: Only Mr. Trump can alter America’s, and the United States can veto any resolution to water down the United Nations sanctions. China and Russia are currently lobbying for relief, but America can brush this off.

Moreover, with our unique resource — the dollar, still the world’s main reserve currency — we can force reluctant sanctioneers to get religion on squeezing the North if they hope to have access to trade and finance in the dollar zone. We have much more leverage on China than many realize, by the way: Numbers from the International Monetary Fund earlier this year show that China transacts a higher share of its trade in American dollars that do Indonesia or Brazil.

Yet with all its summit-chasing over the past year and a half, Washington has been unfathomably lackadaisical about implementing its own sanctions: Since the first Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore in June 2018, the number of people and entities officially designated as sanctions-busters has plummeted. We urgently need to make up for lost time.

Getting serious about paralyzing North Korea’s economy also means cutting off its illegal revenues — from terrorist states and organizations in the Middle East, from cybercrime and from the rackets that its embassies run all over the world with diplomatic immunity. The United States and its allies should also be on a permanent hunt to freeze and seize North Korean assets that are stashed or hidden overseas. The Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions and Enforcement Act that Congress recently passed and the $500 million court judgment in 2018 against North Korea for Mr. Warmbier’s death bolster our license for this dragnet.

North Korea’s killing power can be further reduced through diplomacy and deterrence, by strengthening our alliances with South Korea and Japan, enhancing civil defense in both countries, and ramping up missile defense overseas and at home. Better deterrence in the Korean Peninsula also means schooling Pyongyang that it has much to lose through its studied brinkmanship. Why not see to it that any North Korean submarines that venture into the open seas never return to port?

Now that the United States is out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, why not start placing medium-range missiles within reach of North Korea? Those would be in reach of China, too, of course. Could this incentivize Beijing to be more helpful with what we mean by North Korea’s denuclearization?

Human rights should also figure in our threat-reduction program. Did anyone notice Pyongyang’s shrill reaction last month after Washington criticized its human rights record at the United Nations? It threatened that America would “pay dearly.” The Kim regime gets frantic when the issue comes up; it seems to fear few things as much as the prospect of having to face its own Nuremberg trials.

Mr. Trump’s declarations on North Korea’s human rights abuses were splendid at first, but then he let the matter slide as he chased a nuclear deal. Yet Pyongyang’s terrorism at home and its terrorism abroad are two sides of the same coin, inextricably linked. Reducing the threat Mr. Kim poses to his subjects will help reduce the threat he poses to the rest of us, too.

Success in this endeavor will require nerve and constancy. But we should be prepared for nothing less.

Nicholas Eberstadt is a political economist at the American Enterprise Institute and a founding director of the United States Committee on Human Rights in North Korea.

Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/01/opinion/north-korea-nuclear-test.html?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EBB%2001.03.20&utm_term=Editorial%20-%20Early%20Bird%20Brief

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S. Korea, US to adjust combined drills for diplomacy with N. Korea: defense ministry

Yonhap News

South Korea and the United States will continue to stage their combined exercises in an adjusted manner to support efforts for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Seoul’s defense ministry said Thursday.

The allies have either canceled or scaled back joint drills since 2018 to back diplomacy with North Korea.

“We’ve maintained our stance that combined exercises with the US shall be adjusted in close coordination between the two sides in order to support diplomatic efforts for the denuclearization,” ministry spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo told a regular briefing.

Asked about any plan to resume their springtime exercise that had usually been staged in March, Choi said she has “nothing to comment on the issue as of now,” adding that details would be decided “in consideration of how things go.”

Last year, Seoul and Washington decided to end their large-scale springtime Key Resolve and Foal Eagle maneuvers, and instead staged a modified command post exercise called Dong Maeng.

But local media have reported that the two sides have been reviewing an option to resume a field training exercise around March this year to add pressure on North Korea.

Amid stalled negotiations with Washington on its nuclear weapons program, Pyongyang hinted at the resumption of nuclear and long-range missile tests, while warning of “a new strategic weapon” and “a shocking actual action.”

The communist country has strongly denounced the allies’ joint drills, claiming that such a joint maneuver is nothing but a rehearsal for invasion into the North. (Yonhap)

Article: http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20200102000582

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