“The situation on the Korean Peninsula is more dangerous than at any time since early June 1950”
“The situation on the Korean Peninsula is more dangerous than it has been at any time since early June 1950. This may sound overly dramatic, but we believe that, like his grandfather in 1950, Kim Jong Un made the strategic decision to go to war“. This is what the former CIA Robert L. Carlin and the nuclear expert Siegfried S. Hecker, both at Stanford University and both protagonists of missions in North Korea, write in an article published in the analysis magazine on North Korea ’38 North’ titled ‘Is Kim Jong Un Preparing for War?’.
“We don’t know when or how Kim intends to pull the trigger, but the danger – the two write in an article dated January 11 – is already well beyond the levels of routine warnings in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo about Pyongyang’s ‘provocations’. In other words, we do not see war preparation themes in North Korean media appearing since early last year as typical North Korean bluster.”
“Raising the specter of Pyongyang’s decision to move toward a military solution – in effect, to give warning of war – in the absence of ‘concrete’ evidence is tricky. Typically, it will come up against the now routine argument that Kim Jong Un would not dare take such a step because he ‘knows’ that Washington and Seoul would destroy his regime if he did so. If this is what politicians are thinking, it is the result of a fundamental misinterpretation of Kim and Kim’s vision of history. of a grave failure of imagination that could lead (both on the part of Kim and Washington) to disaster.”
Per Carlin, former head of the Northeast Asia Division at the US State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, where he took part in negotiations between the US and North Korea, and Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and professor emeritus of Stanford University, “the failure to understand the history of North Korean politics over the past 33 years is not simply an academic problem. Getting history wrong has dangerous implications for grasping the importance of what we face now.”
Washington and Seoul, they note, “cling to the belief that their alliance, supported by ‘iron’ deterrence, will keep Kim on the trajectory of the status quo, perhaps with some small provocation. There is the completely understandable belief that the increasingly frequent symbols of our intent to retaliate will keep the North at bay, as will our oft-stated belief that if the North attacks, the counterattack will totally destroy the North Korean regime. However, in the current situation, clinging to these beliefs may be fatal”.
North Korea, they point out, “has a large nuclear arsenal, according to our estimates of 50 or 60 warheads launchable on missiles that can reach all of South Korea, practically all of Japan (including Okinawa) and Guam. If, as we suspect , Kim has become convinced that, after decades of trying, there is no way to involve the United States, his recent words and actions point toward the prospect of a military solution using that arsenal.”