Hair-Trigger Korean-U.S. Situation

The 1953 Armistice in Korea was followed two months later by the “Mutual Defense Treaty Between the United States and the Republic of Korea“. This commitment on the part of the U.S. was a mistake. It was an entangling alliance with far-reaching consequences. This brought S. Korea under the nuclear bomb protection umbrella of the U.S., and this gave N. Korea an incentive to develop nuclear weapons. It lent permanence to the U.S. as an enemy of N. Korea. It gave the S. Koreans a negative incentive to negotiate a permanent peace with N. Korea.

The two Koreas on 19 February 1992 committed themselves to a treaty ban on nuclear weapons. However, they could not agree on inspections. Joint military exercises of S. Korea and the U.S. were a sticking point, again being negative fallout from the U.S. defense treaty with S. Korea.

When and if, or even before, N. Korea has the capability to launch a nuclear-tipped missile aimed at Washington or Los Angeles or a city in between, there arises a strategic problem that stems from that 1953 defense treaty but was entirely unforeseen at that time: Why should Washington be willing to defend S. Korea and open itself to such a nuclear threat? Why should Washington be willing to exchange Washington for Seoul?

Since Washington is not willing to face such an exchange, there exists now a hair-trigger situation. The more that N. Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities mature and the more that its leader threatens the U.S., the closer the U.S. gets to a pre-emptive attack on N. Korea. Furthermore, the U.S. is getting closer to an attack triggered by some military movements or preparations in N. Korea that can be construed as precursors to an attack of some sort.

N. Korea, being aware that any such move will almost surely and instantly lead to the large-scale destruction of its state, its people and its country, should be open to negotiations. The U.S. has less incentive to negotiate because the loss of life and property in both Koreas carries less weight than Washington’s power. N. Korea may think it has the winning hand, but if it does, it is under-estimating the ruthlessness of the U.S. government. It should heed Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

What is there to negotiate anyway? Negotiations have failed for decades because both sides had demands that the other side could not agree to.

It is perhaps odd in view of this very dangerous situation to be drawing a lesson that the U.S. should never have allied itself with S. Korea and that entangling alliances are to be avoided as a matter of basic high principle, but if this situation is resolved, we still need to untangle ourselves from numerous other such alliances.

George Washington: “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world.”

Thomas Jefferson: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations-entangling alliances with none.”


2:14 pm on August 10, 2017