The Korean War stopped for practical purposes in 1953, but technically, it never ended.

History repeats.Photo: AFP.

This is a matter of theory for most people around the world, but clearly for the North Korean leadership – and many of its brainwashed people – it’s a brutal reality.

This week’s shelling by North Korea of the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong was just the latest illustration of this attitude.

There are few countries left that genuinely qualify for the title of rogue state, but North Korea is unquestionably one.

Because it’s so implacably locked off from the world, with the small numbers of visitors allowed visas confined to rigid and closely-watched itineraries, few people in the outside world know much about it.

But there are clues available, painstakingly put together by people who specialise in this most enigmatic of countries, and the overall picture they paint is uniformly horrifying.

My program, PM, has taken a keen interest in North Korea over the last decade, and I thought, in the context of the attack, I’d bring together here some of what I’ve learned from those experts.

What kind of country is North Korea?

No statistic brings the economic failure of the Kim Dynasty more graphically than the one unearthed by the author Barbara Demick.

There are, by some estimates, 30,000 refugees in China, some of whom make it to South Korea eventually.

Demick researched their physical health, and discovered that

“If you compare your average 17-year-old South Korean with a North Korean refugee the same age there’s about a five-inch difference in height”.

Now this is a racially identical population. In 1953, at the “end“  of the war, there was no difference in height.

The difference is entirely down to nutrition.

Not only has North Korea experienced a series of catastrophic famines, in which hundreds of thousands have died, but the people of North Korea have been systematically starved for more than half a century.

A country where the schoolchildren sing a song called “We have nothing to envy in the world”, is actually a hell of permanent rationing, in which people regularly forage in the countryside for insects, berries and roots, to keep their families alive.

And if you get sick from malnutrition in North Korea, you’ll be lucky to see a doctor. This is a country which the World Health organisation reports, spends less than one dollar per person per year on health.

Result: major operations performed without anaesthetic, and doctors and surgeons working not for money, but food, cigarettes and alcohol.

The reason is that the vast bulk of the country’s income is channeled to two protected sectors.

The first is the leadership itself, and there have been plenty of stories to attest to Kim Jong-Il’s taste for western luxuries.

The second is the military, including the country’s massive nuclear program, new details of which this week suggest that the aim is now not just an A-bomb, but an H-bomb

North Korea is, as everyone including viewers of South Park knows, the fiefdom of the dictator Kim Jong-Il, who succeeded his father Kim Il-Sung. Now it appears Kim Jong-Il is to be succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-Un.

This hereditary principle makes the country, as some would say, the world’s first communist kingdom.

But one influential Korea expert says that neither the communism nor the “family business” nature of the government is the real organising principle of North Korea.

That, says B.R.Myers, is racism: a profound belief that Koreans are uniquely pure and morally superior to all other races by virtue of their bloodline.

The corollary, of course, is that everyone else is racially inferior.

Myers says that “North Korea’s hatred of the United States, its animosity towards the outside world in general, is implacable. It derives from a race-based way of looking at the world …

This regime cannot go from being a military first government to an economy first government without in essence becoming irrelevant; without in essence becoming a kind of fourth rate South Korea”.

In sum, we’re looking at a racist, totalitarian State which acts with extreme unpredictability and which now undoubtedly has a nuclear weapons capacity, (though its capacity to deliver it is still not fully understood).

Countries it threatens include Japan and especially South Korea, states with which Australia has extremely strong trade and diplomatic ties.

The writer Christopher Hitchens, who has visited North Korea as a journalist, canvassed the diplomatic and military options when I spoke to him in May.

If the North Koreans were to start an outright war, he said:  “that would be the end. We would be able to demolish their regime and we’d be able to demolish it before it got - which it keeps getting, inching nearer to - actual nuclear capacity.

Q: Demolish it how?
A: Well, it’s… Look, if it wasn’t for the threat that it poses to the South… There is another thing by the way it’s said to be able to do which is to open its dams and send water flooding into the northern part of the Republic of Korea. So it has a conceivably devastating riposte. But only once. It doesn’t have any follow-up capacity and all its main nuclear and other facilities could be taken out. It would be an afternoon’s work of a wing of the US air force to take that out and then we never have to worry about that again.
Q: That is as you say the most appalling decision that anyone …
Q. That would be a frightful decision to be- for anyone to be taking.
A: And then we would have upon us the responsibility, suddenly, for the care and feeding of millions of starved, ignorant, traumatised, desperate North Koreans. The world’s worst potential refugee problem”.

That really puts it into perspective, doesn’t it?

In the light of that, it’s easier to see why, even under heavy shelling of one of its islands, or the fatal ramming of one of its warships, as happened earlier this year, South Korea is proceeding with diplomatic caution.

There is one country which still has real influence with North Korea, and that’s China.

The Lowy Institute’s Rory Medcalf says “The key here is China’s role. China is the only power with real capacity to harm the regime in Pyongyang, as it proved when it cut off energy supplies briefly after the nuclear test in 2006.

China’s response will be a grand test of whether it puts the region’s interests ahead of its own relations with its dangerous little brother in Pyongyang. Beijing still absurdly denies that North Korea sank the South Korean warship Cheonan, back in March, even though a credible international investigation proved otherwise.

But Beijing can hardly deny what happened yesterday.

If it takes a business-as-usual approach, its relations with South Korea will be wrecked, and its chances of a working security relationship with the United States will be lost, perhaps for years”.

As Medcalf says, it’s unfortunate that US-China relations are in a trough at present.

Between them, the two superpowers really need to do something to control this most dangerous and unpredictable of international irritants. The consequences of failure could be huge.

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55 comments

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    • Eric says:

      05:11am | 25/11/10

      It’s not just the dams, or the potential nuclear weapons, that threaten the South. Seoul, with its population of ten million, is within easy artillery range of the North. Over six decades, the North has placed thousands of guns in fortified positions aimed at this dense population. Even with modern weapons, there are too many of these to eliminate them quickly.

      It’s estimated by some that 250,000 civilians in Seoul would be killed within the first 20 minutes of war breaking out, by conventional artillery alone. This is a huge obstacle to any military action against the North.

      China’s position in all this is obscure. The North Korean state couldn’t survive without Chinese support, and the regime serves a strategic purpose as a bogeyman to threaten the region. However, there is no way of knowing how much control Beijing has over Pyongyang, if any, or what are the ultimate intentions of either of these two players.

    • TheRealDave says:

      08:53am | 25/11/10

      And therein lies the rub. ANY military response from SK/US will result in Seoul being basically levelled inside the first few hours of any conflict - nuclear weapons aside. The amount of artillery NK has embedded around Seoul is basically a knife in their side.

      At times like this one wonders if it wasn’t a better option to let that idiot MacArthur have his way back in ‘51…..most of China might be habitable by now…

    • James says:

      12:48am | 26/11/10

      I dunno, the US has a pretty amazing air force and navy. If the Western allies struck first, I think we could take out most of that artillery.

    • Gregg says:

      01:58am | 26/11/10

      It probably means a strike needs to be superbly planned for and that could take a few years;
      . the satellite pinpointing of all the NK fortified positions and allocation of sufficient strikes to target them that could all be initiated simultaneously.
      . at the same time if SK do not already have sufficient bunkers for their Seoul population, they need to have a program for for doing so.
      . NK probably have more than a few spys on the ground and so planning and execution need to be done with some cunning, for instance practice runs of getting into bunkers may be the norm and so one time it can be just the real thing and perhaps any spys/sleepers will be in bunkers too and unable to communicate.
      . there’ll probably also need to be some strategic nuclear strikes to take out nuclear sites and major military installations and massive firepower able to be brought to bear on the armed hordes that will likely be ordered across the border.
      It will all mean massive military casualties like never seen before but if dams are left for the non military population and any military no longer interested in it to rebuild a peaceful society, that may be a better result.

      At the time of the attack launch, there’ll need to be hot lines opened to Moscow and Biejing to inform them of what is going down and that no attack is to occur outside of NK.

      Obviously, this is all never likely to happen!

    • Paulus says:

      05:45am | 25/11/10

      China is also a racist, totalitarian state.  Therefore it will always back the North over the South.

    • John S says:

      11:36am | 25/11/10

      Paulus just because two regimes are totalitarian does not guarantee that they will always support each other. Remember the Sino-Soviet split? Back when UN forces first landed they originally chased the North-Koreans all the way up into China and were on the verge of victory before they infringed Chinese territory. If China cared so little about the North then what makes you think they will now?

      If they backed the North it would have a massive impact on their trading ties and economic growth. It would bring them into direct conflict with the US and dozens of other countries across the world. You say they will always back the North over the South. What makes you think they will back either?

    • acotrel says:

      05:58am | 25/11/10

      Towards the end of the Korean war MacArthur wanted to carry the conflict westward and fight every communist on the planet.  I seem to remember Ike sent George Marshall to bring him home, or we would have had WW3 right back then!  We need to look at whether we really care about our trade with China! The situation appears to be a ‘house of cards ‘.  Korea is a problem which must eventually be dealt with, and the longer it persists the worse it will become? A ratbag like Kim is not worth fighting a world war over, but we’re living with a ‘sword of damocles’ hanging over our heads.

    • T.Chong says:

      06:19am | 25/11/10

      N.Korea may be a state run by nutters, with, as we acknowledge, a rigidly controlled population, who are “brain washed” into believing all things bad.
      So, who , in any military action are the ones who would be killed in such numbers that the would make Iraq look a sideshow?
      The same “brain washed” servile and down trodden, mostly illiterate, half starved masses, both military conscripts and civilian.
      How many would have to die, before ” we"could claim a victory?
      Very rarely are those who are actually responsible for the decisions and orders made to bear the physical reality of warfare.
      That will as usual fall upon those with very little , if any say , in how things are run.
      Another issue - while the NK artillary barrage was no doubt unprovoked, its pretty hard to take to much notice of the US outrage.
      The Whitehouse ( either under Dems, or Republicans) has quite a long list of unprovoked military attacks in its honor roll, from The Phillipines, to Grenada, Iraq, plus covert and overt operations via missles etc. in which many 100s of thousands have died.
      Pot vs Kettle.

    • PaulB says:

      08:22am | 25/11/10

      It wasn’t unprovoked.  AP reported that the South Koreans, in a military drill overseen by US advisors, fired into disputed waters after the NKs warned them not to.  Naturally this early report has been pushed down the memory hole as the typical propaganda against a soft target gets ratcheted up.  I think this is actually the spark for a wider (and intended) confrontation between the Americans and the Chinese, the real reason being issues of money and debt.  How this plays out will depend on the actions of these two powers moreso than the Koreas.

    • acotrel says:

      08:28am | 25/11/10

      Does your idea of ‘unprovoked’ include US and South Korean military exercises directly off the coast of North Korea?  I suggest the shelling might have been a RESPONSE!

    • Adam Diver says:

      09:17am | 25/11/10

      @ paulB and Acetrol, obviously its the south koreans fault with all thier democracy and transparency at fault. Not like NK sunk a ship and kiled 40 soldiers, or that a training exercise in disputed waters requires a direct artillery assault on a civilian population. SK should know better that NK will respond, but that in no way abdicates the actions of NK.

      @ Chong - You are quite correct, that the innocent are the ones to suffer. But what can anyone do, there is no chance of providing freedom or quality of life to these impoverished and starving people, that will not directly effect the innocent. Its one of the travesty’s of life that the wicked can cause so much suffering with such impunity.

    • marley says:

      09:18am | 25/11/10

      Well, so far as I’m aware, the naval exercise didn’t deliberately target any civilian population.  It was an exercise, not an attack.  There’s a difference.

    • T.Chong says:

      09:29am | 25/11/10

      Was not aware of the earlier SK, US provocative actions. Thanks.
      that part of the over all picture was definitely, deliberate, censored out of the follow up stories.
      Even worse that such ommissions and spin,  can , and does help shape our public response, as in Iraq, leading to another coalition for killing

    • marley says:

      10:29am | 25/11/10

      @TChong - here’s what the Canadian Broadcasting Corp has on its website right now: 

      “The skirmish began when North Korea warned the South to halt military drills near its sea border, according to South Korean officials.

      When Seoul refused and began firing artillery into disputed waters — but away from the North Korean shore — the North retaliated by shelling Yeonpyeong, which houses South Korean military installations and a small civilian population.”

      And then, here’s today’s Australian:  “The crisis erupted on Tuesday when the North launched an artillery barrage on the South Korean-controlled Yeonpyeong Island as a South Korean naval drill was taking place in nearby waters.” And later, “given South Korean naval exercises were the trigger for the North’s barrage, the {joint American-SKorean] exercises will ensure tension persists on the Korean Peninsula.”

      So I think your accusations of “censorship” are way off base.  The fact that you didn’t read it, doesn’t mean it wasn’t and isn’t being reported.  And in media that are about as mainstream as any.

    • Peter says:

      10:58am | 25/11/10

      If concern about civilian casualties was the ‘trump’ card in these sorts of discussions, we’d never have gone to war to defeat Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan.

    • PaulB says:

      07:31am | 26/11/10

      Adam.  The South Koreans know what to expect from the North.  If they knowingly provide a deliberate provocation then they share in the responsibility for what happens next.  And as for the torpedoed destroyer?  Do some research, some serious questions remain over the origins of the torpedo, which is why there has never been any serious response from the South over that iissue.  How does “all their democracy” place them beyond reproach anyway.  All that democracy didn’t stop them from choosing a staged military provocation over the responsibility to protect their electors did it?

    • the apologist says:

      07:49am | 25/11/10

      I find it highly suspicious that there has not been one official statement from the North Korean Government included in any of the media coverage (to my knowledge).

    • Jordan Rastrick says:

      08:58am | 25/11/10

      The television news reports I saw last night - ABC, SBS, possibly Nine - all ran footage of an apparently official state broadcast from North Korea, denouncing the South, claiming that they fired first, and threatning further retaliations to any escalation.

      If you’re waiting for a Press Release to be forthcoming from the North Korean Foreign Ministry, I suggest you don’t get your hopes up.

    • Mark Colvin says:

      09:04am | 25/11/10

      If you would like a further insight into North Korea’s attitude, try the DPRK’s official website
      http://www.korea-dpr.com/ocn/
      Plenty of reading material there, but frankly, it’s turgid, self-deluded, ideological rhetoric.
      enjoy.

    • acotrel says:

      06:20pm | 25/11/10

      Surely the Yanks, and the South Koreans can exercise elsewhere?  They’ve put us all at risk? If they believe they can suck my kids into a war on the Korean peninsula, they can think again!

    • CityWorker says:

      02:22pm | 26/11/10

      Acotrel, if history has taught us anything, it’s that Australia “will never survive as a happy and fertile oasis of liberty surrounded by a cruel desert of dictatorship”, and that “in the final choice, a soldier’s pack is not so heavy a burden as a prisoner’s chains.”

      F.D.R. and Eisenhower had some very personal experience with getting sucked into a war. They learned the hard way that what we hod dear must be fought for, and the schoolyard bully will always gets around to you eventually.

    • Joe West says:

      08:11am | 25/11/10

      Come on guy’s, if you want to be taken seriously start doing some real independent journalism. South Korea through the US have been pressing the buttons of North Korea for some time. Sailing into the North Korean zone was the last straw and they were told in no uncertain terms to back off. To have civilians mixed in with military is an old chestnut to protect them from attack as used on the island. I thought i would give this site a go as to it’s quality but sadly it is no better than reading the Herald or any Murdoch produced fish and chip paper.

    • Richard says:

      08:45am | 25/11/10

      South Korea have been pressing buttons? Yeah, ‘cause meekly letting one of their navy ships get torpedoed by the North and losing 46 sailors without retaliation was so provocative of those South Korean bastards hey?

      And again with the “we don’t read Wynand papers” campaign against News Ltd: you clowns who think that Rupert Murdoch and America are the enemy are so deluded.

      Please follow through with your threat to shut up and leave.

    • TheRealDave says:

      08:50am | 25/11/10

      Of course, you’ve conveniently overlooked the fact that North Korea has been taking pot shots over the border at SK and US troops with gay abandon ever since 1953. They also launch semi regular incursions, commando raids, naval incursions, tunnel under the DMZ etc like its a national sport with different seasons for different types of operations. But lets not let facts get in the way of a chance of having a crack at ‘the great satan’ shall we??

    • marley says:

      09:21am | 25/11/10

      @JoeWest - you say “To have civilians mixed in with military is an old chestnut to protect them from attack as used on the island. ”  So what you’re saying is, the NKoreans were justified in attacking a mixed military and civilian population.  I guess you don’t have a problem with NATO troops doing the same in Afghanistan, then.  Because if you do, you’re a hypocrite.

    • notsurprised says:

      10:27am | 25/11/10

      Joe West, clearly you have no idea what you are talking about. Have you been to Korea? Have you witnessed any of what you talk about first hand?

    • Colin J Ely says:

      08:32am | 25/11/10

      So Mr West, is it true you and your family are going to go to North Korea for your Christmas Holidays?

    • Joe West says:

      11:51am | 25/11/10

      Colin, i will send you a copy of “Fog of War”,please take note of an interesting discussion Mr McNamara talks about with his North Korean counterpart. Additionaly the title “Fog of War” is very clever because it is best described as the level of ambiguity in situational awareness experienced by participants in military operations. The term seeks to capture the uncertainty regarding own capability, adversary capability, and adversary intent during an engagement, operation, or campaign. The term is ascribed to the Prussian military analyst Carl von Clausewitz, who wrote:
      “The great uncertainty of all data in war is a peculiar difficulty, because all action must, to a certain extent, be planned in a mere twilight, which in addition not infrequently—like the effect of a fog or moonshine—gives to things exaggerated dimensions and unnatural appearance.
      The term may also be a reference to the use of black powder in warfare, which often produced clouds of thick “fog”, obscuring the battlefield from observers.

      My apologies if this is too much for you to absorb.

      You probably still think that Lee Harvey Oswald was the loan shooter of JFK also! That is for another discussion.

    • Mike says:

      12:57pm | 25/11/10

      Joe West,

      Who was Mr Oswald on loan from?

    • Adrian says:

      03:28pm | 25/11/10

      So Oswald was a hired patsy? I knew it!

    • Reg says:

      03:34pm | 25/11/10

      The fog of war was realistic. No bastard ever knew were they were or what was happening, they just did as they were told and attempted to kill anyone who was where he shouldn’t have been, no matter which side.

      Don’t worry about the lone, I have a lot of trouble with “here here” when someone writes “hear hear.”  Of course it should be “here here” which means “look at me I agree.”  I think the person in question acted alone but probably as a patsy for the Republicans or the Democrats or the FBI or the CiA or the Australian Faux Liberal Party.

    • TheRealDave says:

      08:40pm | 25/11/10

      When civilians ‘play soldier’ from several thousand kilometers away you end up with your Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan through clowns like MacNamara and Rumsfeld. Fog of War my arse. Fog of War is walking through the J or through a field in the greenzone and can’t see your hand in front of your face and not sure if theres 30 VC/Taliban just about to ambush you or if a mine/IED is about to blow your bollocks off. Fog of War is not entering data into a computer or using excel to factor in acceptable losses, manning levels, public perception, Public Relations etc.

      MacNammara and Rumsfeld both killed far too many of their own troops, and ours for that matter, due to their own civilian incompetence when it came to military matters and were allowed to get away with it. Unfortunately we will let other appointed civilians do the same in he future.

    • monkeytypist says:

      08:36am | 25/11/10

      It’s interesting how journalists who are normally so concerned to maintain “he said, she said” fence sitting stances are so unafraid of unambiguously calling the North Korean government out for lies and oppression.  I can’t really tell why this is the case for North Korea but very few other countries.

    • Jordan Rastrick says:

      09:11am | 25/11/10

      Its because North Korea really is a rogue state, an international pariah, with as close to zero political or diplomatic sympathisers as a country can have. Even China very clearly lacks much tolerance for the regime, only associating with them reluctantly for strategic reasons.

      The only relevant sources who’d care to provide an alternate “talking head” in this argument are North Korean, and hence forbidden from speaking to the global media; the DPRK government itself is too belligerent to communicate much except threats, or to care about making its propaganda remotely convincing for foreigners.

    • iansand says:

      04:23pm | 25/11/10

      I am disgusted at the universally negative portrayal of Robert Mugabe as well.

    • notsurprised says:

      09:56am | 25/11/10

      The problem is politically not much has changed since the 1953 armistice. The US still support the ROK while China and quietly Russia still support the DPRK. The internal differences between North and South still exist and conflict of varying scale happen on a continual basis. There will be more UN talks, more politicians from countries making more statements to the media and nothing will come of it. There will be more isolated skirmishes in the future and again the situation will remain the same. Unfortunately it is a global political stalemate beyond the two Koreas and it has remained that way since 1953.
      The best thing the world can do is firstly ignore all media coverage to do with the matter and secondly for all countires; China, US, Russia, Japan etc to agree to remove all support and do so simultaneously then say the both the DPRK and the ROK, “As a country of descendants, you work it out between yourselves”.
      The DPRK crave worldwide media attention and status, if they don’t get this they will lose their objective. Without continual support from China, and others, the DPRK regime will become bankrupt and disintegrate. Unfortunately, this probably won’t happen because for various reasons such as the quantity of resulting refugees and the DPRK’s military support for China it is not in China’s interest.
      China is the key defusing this situation and no matter how much they deny or downplay it, they know it and seem content to leave it this way. China’s economy and manufacturing industry have influence over the rest of the world so the situation will remain.

    • AdamC says:

      10:13am | 25/11/10

      The US and other world powers, including (South) Korea, have been deluding themselves for decades about the inevitability of renewed war in the Korean Penninsula. To paraphrase Abe Lincoln, a house divided cannot stand - especially when the second storey is controlled by a dynasty of murderous, communist psychos.

      An inevitable conflict between north and south will not get any easier with time (and expanding northern nuclear capacity), and it is foolish to think that one day the north will simply collapse and solve the problem. (Has that ever happened?)

      If I were (South) Korean, I would expect my government and its alleged allies to do something. It has been over fifty years that the Kims have enslaved and brutalised millions of Koreans. The people of the south surely can’t wait around forever.

      I wonder if this isn’t another manifestation of the American stability fetishists’ strategic naivetee? Does anyone have some insights into this?

    • Richard says:

      10:50am | 25/11/10

      I agree: time to end this now before another dictator has the chance to comfortably enthrone himself in opulence while oppressing all others.
      Now if we’ve become too soft to enforce Realpolitik with blood and iron, we must at least be willing to launch an intense propaganda campaign to convince to citizens of NK to rebel, using all those sneaky WW1 tactics like dropping cigarettes with pro-Western propaganda on the packets over their trenches or something….

    • dancan says:

      11:13am | 25/11/10

      While you’re right Adam I don’t see South Korea initiating a war with the North.  And it’s not just because of the huge military threat sitting on the border.  As I see it, if South Korea initiated the war it would be with the backing of the US this would mean that North Korea would be a US controlled state on the Chinese border, I can’t imagine China ever letting this happen so no matter how reluctant they maybe to get involved there wouldn’t be an option.

      The only way I could see it happening with a minimum of bloodshed and chance of war is by bribing China with trade deals to move in an oust the ruling party making North Korea part of China.

    • notsurprised says:

      10:38am | 25/11/10

      To everyone putting down the US and its actions, don’t forget the first people you would be crying to for help if a regime decided that Australia and it resources were ripe for the taking.

    • Joe West says:

      05:40pm | 25/11/10

      Give me a break notsurprised, Afghanistan turned to the US to help them keep Russia out and now look at the place. The US now control the drug trade THROUGH THE POPPIE FIELDS. Try being a farmer there and grow anything other than poppies ....good luck.

    • notsurprised says:

      07:25am | 26/11/10

      Joe West, if you knew anything about geo-political history you would also know that Afghanistan was completely overrun by tribal warlords when the Soviets left. It used to be the prime breeding ground for anti western terrorist recruits and since the US arrived this has been dramatically reduced.

      Back to the topic of this thread, the US are deployed in South Korea and you don’t find any poppy fields there!

    • Grumpy says:

      11:33am | 25/11/10

      WE"RE ALL GONNA DIE!.............................one day.

    • Reg says:

      03:37pm | 25/11/10

      What me worry?

    • Reg says:

      11:52am | 25/11/10

      Well since a starving North Korean military is of no use to anyone, it would seem apparent that China is assuring their sustenance. The fact that SK has so much to lose by any aggression, represents a stupendous weapon for the North. Then we must ask who would gain if the South were to be eliminated from the commercial field and the answer comes up China every time. Better still if the South was incorporated as part of China and then a revived and appreciative North, minus their choir boy leader, is added to the mix. It matters not to China, what happens in the short term. Either way China wins. The elimination or incorporation of SK and the problem with the North is solved with added value.

    • Mike says:

      01:04pm | 25/11/10

      I think we’re all missing the bigger possible atrocity that could happen. If things return to a full blown war, then surely Hollywood would produce a ‘re-imagining’ of M*A*S*H, and nobody wants that.

    • TChong says:

      02:59pm | 25/11/10

      With or without Maj. Frank Burns ?
      Hey that reminds me of a joke.
      What does Margret Hoolahan and…,

    • Mike says:

      03:19pm | 25/11/10

      With of course. He would be a cross between a neo-con FoxNews commentator and a Tory MP from the mid 80’s.

    • Count Reg of Upper Gumtree. says:

      03:25pm | 25/11/10

      ...hello hello, we seem to have lost the line.

    • HappyCynic says:

      03:45pm | 25/11/10

      No one in the West has the balls to do what has to be done.  We all know what has to be done but it’s the potential civilian casualties that stay people’s hands.  Pathetic and weak.  As horrible as this sounds the civilian population can rebound and rebuild.  At some stage a foot has to be put down and someone has to have the balls to say “screw the civlilian population let’s bomb the sh*t out of them”.

      Unfortunately for the North Korean people the political cowards of today would probably only go that far if North Korean Army launched a nuke at someone.

    • MoralRealist says:

      12:48am | 26/11/10

      ... and will you volunteer to go to Seoul and be with all of those people while you all get blown up, or is that a sacrifice that only Korean people have to make?

      Restraint isn’t weakness. Panic is weakness. We need to keep our nerve, and deal with these madmen on our own terms, and in a way that circumvents genocide. That doesn’t rule out a military strike, but any such action should be well-timed, -planned, and -executed - and preferably completed without hundreds of thousands of human casualties like your solution would appear to entail.

    • Reg says:

      04:25pm | 25/11/10

      Nah, just call in Mossat to eliminate the trouble maker and shower the country with food and Christmas stockings from the UN. One thing about having a starving population is that you can be certain of what they want most.

    • Dieter Moeckel says:

      06:16pm | 25/11/10

      It is a sad indictment of world affairs when an end to a war is not sealed with a peace treaty. The ultimate responsibility for that is the USA who refused to conclude a treaty hoping the be able to get rid of the North given time.
      The same thing happened in Vietnam, except that the north actually beat the Americans and did not sue for a peace treaty because there was no need.
      North Korea might be paranoid, but then so would I be if I were confronted with the USA’s big brother attitude and the overwhelming military superiority - I’d want to be able to protect myself with a nuclear deterrent too.
      The USA has shown a substantial degree of belligerence just recently with war games in the region upsetting North Korea and China and other smaller nations not exactly enamoured of the USA. Let alone the USA hegemony with illegal nuclear trade with non-NPT nation India ...
      The USA should have played the outraged role and taken the moral high ground rather than being belligerent.
      The only way a little bloke can believe he’s safe from a big bl;oke is have a bigger stick.

    • Dieter Moeckel says:

      06:38pm | 25/11/10

      What is the difference between North Korea and Singapore - both are hereditary dictatorships - except one is in the western realm, and the other is in the opposition destitute or not. One is supported by the only superpower left the other by an emerging superpower which scares the crap out of the declining power - remember Iraq - if Iraq really had nuclear capability and some support from a super power the USA wiould not have invaded it.

    • Reg says:

      09:22pm | 25/11/10

      We should tack onto that the fact that Vietnam and China are disputing the oil fields in the surrounding sea and Vietnam has seen fit to purchase six new Russian submarines as part of their reaction to the threat. No doubt the Russians had to reassure the Vietnamese that the technology they supplied could put up a good show against what China had. Oil again, but this time with China the common factor and not the USA.

 

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