Many experts have offered pessimistic views of the value in the upcoming meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on 12 June. President Trump hosted North Korea’s Kim Yong Chol in preparation for the upcoming meeting in with President Kim Jung Un last week. Four star General Kim Yong Chol’s assignment was to put the meeting into hyper-drive. It looks like the meeting has a green light. This past week Singapore’s Foreign Minister Dr. Balakrishnan visited North Korea to work details of the meeting next week.
The question many are asking is what will come of this meeting and more importantly what will peace on the Korean Peninsula really mean. I believe there is just as much danger in peace as there is in war. Let me explain why.
In the Diplomatic area,
There remains a lot of diplomatic maneuvering behind this meeting. As President Trump and Kim Jong Un sit across the table from each other, what is the political end state each leader pursues? There are other players watching this meeting closely in the Middle East. President George Bush stated in his 2002 National Security Strategy the Axis of Evil included North Korea and Iran, the later being a true enemy to peace in the Middle East. I hope President Trump asks Kim Jong Un about his diplomatic, military, and economic involvement with Iran. Iranian ballistic missile technology is based on North Korean medium and long range technology shared with them. Iran’s missile test facility is almost an identical copy of North Korea’s test facility at Sohae. On the night of 6 September 2007, an Israeli Air Force strike package of eight planes destroyed a nuclear power plant in the Deir ez-Zor region of Syria. The Israelis knew North Korean scientist were providing expertise in the construction of the reactor based on the North Korean nuclear facility at Yongbyon. They even had pictures of North Korea’s lead scientist in a track suit at the site. The rector was built in Syria with North Korean light water technology funded by the Iranian regime. By the way, Yongbyon is one of the most heavily defended pieces of landscape on the planet.
There has been no word of this, but will President Trump sit across the table from Kim Jong Un and outline his twelve demands on North Korea detaching itself from Iran’s agenda just as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlined for a new deal with Iran? North Korea and Iran are tied at the hip and there needs to be a discussion of how North Korea has been involved with Iran in the Middle East.
In the Military arena, there is one item that is a little scary, because it ties peace with a potential collapse of the North Korean economy.
I recently received an article from the news service NightWatch and their 6 June article is something everyone should read. NightWatch subscription can be found here and is $24 a year. It confirms some thing we all knew when I was stationed in Okinawa during the 1990’s. North Korea’s economy depends on their military industrial complex for its life blood. One million men and women serve in the North Korean military on active duty. Their military reserves and Red Guards accounts for another 20% of their 25 million population. A third to maybe half of the North Korean population depends on the military for their meager economic life. If peace comes to the Korean Peninsula, what will the population of North Korea do for work? Many factories producing daily consumer goods have a portion of the floor dedicated to producing something supporting their military. Peace on the peninsula implies a large portion of the North Korean military would not be needed and restructuring or downsizing their military feed economy could potentially cause their economy to collapse. Kim Jong UN relies on the military to keep him in power. Any potential upset to the military complex puts his status as leader in danger. And I’m sure he knows that.
South Korea would also be affected in a similar way but not with the same potential damage to the economy. South Korea and the US have a large military presence with supporting contractors and military industrial complex keeping forces ready in case of war. There are millions of South Koreans and US expatriates depending on those military contracts for their livelihood. Breaking down North Korea’s nuclear program may be small potatoes when downsizing and reconfiguring both country’s military-industrial economies may be the larger problem starring all of us in the face.
In the Economic area,
When I taught at the Joint Forces Staff College in Virginia Beach, I developed a class on nation building and restructuring following a major war. The case study scenario I used was North Korea. Based on the terrific paper called Restructuring Iraq by Dr Conrad Crane at the US Army War College, I created an exercise illustrating how ugly nation building in North Korea might be. There are five whole provinces in North Korea with no paved roads, no running water, no electricity, no sewage system, and very little food. It may take hundreds of billions of dollars to bring what we enjoy as common services in the United States to the provinces of North Korea. Have you ever looked at a picture of their capitol Pyongyang North Korea at lunch time? There are maybe five cars on the road. Restructuring a nation so closed off to the world for over five decades would be an incredible task. How do you gain the trust of people who have been taught for decades you are the enemy when their economy has collapsed? Looks and sounds a lot like Iraqi doesn’t it.
The meeting in Singapore is now five days away.
— Final note, please let me know your feedback and suggestions on Twitter, your thought on this weeks DIME, and what do you want more or less of? Let me know by sending a tweet to @MarkHasara and put #nationsdime in the header.
Have a great weekend!
P.S. — If you’re reading my book Tanker Pilot: Lessons from the Cockpit, I’d really love to hear your thoughts in a review on Amazon here or Barnes and Noble here. I read them all.