The ferocious regime of North Korea is openly preparing for World War III,
boasting of the impending incineration of the United States. A North Korean
general recently told his commanders that the next war would begin with the
nuclear obliteration of the United States. He did not explain how this would
be accomplished, but a few moments of reflection suggest only one possible
For those who discount a major threat from Russia and China, the North Korean
general must be put down as an empty braggart. Establishment thinkers and
scholars today believe that North Korea remains all by itself, without the
support of Russia’s huge nuclear arsenal. But even so, North Korea is a
force to be reckoned with.
On Tuesday Maj. Gen. Jerry D. Humble, commander of U.S. Marine Corps forces
in Korea, gave a briefing on the Korean military situation for scholars and
government officials at the George Bush Center at Texas A&M University.
“Things aren’t always as we see and hear,” said Humble. In the last 12
months, contrary to all expectations, the North Korean armed forces have
grown by 10 percent. Humble presented charts showing that North
Korea now has 1.1 million troops, 4,300 tanks, 13,000 artillery and 600
ballistic missile weapons.
Even more significant, in terms of signaling North Korean intentions, the
communists have pushed their massive artillery forces up to the DMZ, where
they are vulnerable to attack. “This is not a defensive deployment,” Humble
said. So many North Korean troops, in fact, have advanced right to the edge
of the DMZ, that allied forces are perplexed by “the loss of unambiguous
warning [of attack].” In other words, the North Korean forces are now
deployed for a surprise strike of unprecedented proportions.
In the last 24 months the North Koreans have increased their long-range
artillery deployment by 25 percent. “They have a couple of nuclear weapons,
maybe more,” explained Humble, who added that “threat equals capability plus
intention.” One might almost ask why certain capabilities have been created
to begin with.
According to Humble, North Korea has put over 250 artillery systems capable
of firing chemical weapons up-range of an area inhabited by 20 million South
Koreans. Set-up time for attack is 14 minutes, said the general. The North
Koreans are also aiming thousands of long-range guns within range of South
Korea’s population centers. According to Humble, these guns can deliver
10,000 rounds per hour for several hours, turning the urban heartland of
South Korea into what the communists have described as “a sea of flames.”
Referring to the North Korean enemy, Humble asks, “Why has he
continued to increase his capability?” Further questions flow from this: Does the path of peace coincide with “North Korea’s continued and ever-intensifying military buildup? What about North Korea’s continued development of long-range missiles and weapons of mass destruction?”
Expressing typical Marine Corps spirit, Maj. Gen. Humble said, “I want to
tell you the North Koreans aren’t 10 foot tall, they’re 4′ 2”. But they’ve
got a lot of 4′ 2”. There’s some terrible, terrible capabilities on the
North Korean side. But if they attack we’re going to beat this aggression.”
As the destructive capability of North Korea has grown over the past two
decades, the communist economy has suffered. Humble showed unclassified
night-time satellite photos of the Korean Peninsula. In these dramatic
shots, North Korea is almost completely dark, except for a small patch of
light around the communist capital of Pyongyang. South Korea, on the other
hand, is almost entirely illuminated from one end to the other. “The North’s
economy isn’t about to collapse,” said the general; “it has already
North Korea is suffering under darkness because the communist war machine has
sucked the country dry. In a nation of 23 million human souls, 1.1 million
are under arms while 5 million can be called into active service from the
reserves. This is a tremendous mobilization capability, hardly imaginable.
“North Korea,” said Humble, “is getting colder, darker, poorer and
Meanwhile, the North Korean military is bigger, meaner, uglier and closer.
Lately the North Koreans, under the leadership of Kim Jong Il, have extended
an olive branch to South Korea and the West. Kim has initiated a diplomatic
outreach to eight countries in Europe and Asia. He has begun talks with the Red
Cross, talks on economic relations with South Korea. He has also allowed an
exchange of mail while negotiating steps toward building a transportation
corridor through the DMZ. Anticipating this corridor, the South Koreans are
already building a road to the North. “Mines have been cleared,” said
Humble, “but no work is going on the northern side of the DMZ at this
The South Koreans, eager for peace and unity, are being seduced by sentiments
of hope. The communist dictator has played upon their deepest national
yearnings. Symbolizing the naive expectations of the South Korean people,
the road they are building to the North, for the sake of which they are
punching an open hole in their own defenses, is best understood when we look
to the North and see no corresponding road being built from the other
direction. Here we find that reciprocity is mocked.
For years the communists were unable to drive a wedge between the United
States and South Korea. Now, at long last, by offering South Korea the
prospect of peaceful unification on democratic terms, the communists have
finally cracked the solid front against them. There now appears a deep split
in South Korea over the issue of trusting the North. This split calls into
question the leadership of America, which is perceived as too hawkish. Many
Koreans, eager for peace and for relief from constant danger, believe that
North Korea’s murderous dictator has good intentions, that the communists can
be trusted because communism’s economic failure obligates them to follow the
path of reform — a path leading to the dissolution of the totalitarian
system. Their theory is that once the Northerners see the prosperity of the
South, the success and freedom of democratic Korea will in itself deliver a
death-blow to the mindless rant of the Kim Jong Il cult (a form of
Marxism-Leninism peculiar to North Korea).
The suffering in North Korea, brought on by communist mismanagement and
stupidity, is staggering. No ordinary regime could have survived such
blunders. According to Don Oberdorfer, a Washington Post diplomatic
correspondent who also spoke at the Bush Center on Tuesday, “Perhaps 1.2
million have died [in North Korea] of starvation or starvation-related
illnesses in recent years.”
Even so, North Korea’s military is thriving. This is because the communists
are magicians who know how to turn starvation and xenophobia into as asset.
They know how to threaten and how to appear pathetic at the same time,
perhaps taking a chapter out of the Kremlin’s great book of tricks.
It is only natural that the North Koreans want money, fuel, food and credits.
North Korea’s allies, China and Russia, simply don’t have resources to spare
(being involved in their own military buildups). How, then, does one of the
most obnoxious regimes on the planet turn ferocity and mass starvation into
When North Korea was about to begin processing uranium sufficient to make 50
nuclear weapons in 1994, the leaders of South Korea, Japan and the U.S.
became alarmed. Former Defense Secretary William Perry spoke of this crisis
in a Tuesday luncheon address (also at Texas A&M). This crisis, he said, “is
engrained in my memory forever.”
With North Korea about to crank out nuclear bombs like sausages, our Japanese
and South Korean allies were begging us to do something. People in Tokyo had
visions of hydrogen bombs raining down on their country. North Korea was a
crazy country run by madmen. They had to be stopped.
It was thought by some that the U.S. would have to bomb North Korea’s uranium
production facilities. This would lead to a terrible war. Anticipating this
result, a large U.S. military deployment to the Far East was worked out by
Perry, who had the order ready for President Clinton to sign. As Perry tells
it, Clinton was hours from signing the deployment order when a call came
through from the North Korean leader, Kim Il Sung. The communists wanted to
make a deal.
Clinton gave them the deal of a lifetime. It became known as “the agreed
framework” which ended up making North Korea the recipient of millions in
foreign assistance from the U.S. and others. Remarkably, the North Koreans
won the resources they needed to feed their people, fuel their economy and
continue their deadly military buildup. All they had to do was stop their
nuclear weapons program.
But did they really stop it?
Hope was the bait which hid the steely hook of Kim Jong Il. Instead of
confronting North Korea in 1994 we assisted them. What came next was richly
deserved and even laughable. In 1998 the North Koreans shocked everyone.
They launched a long-range missile, demonstrating a theoretical capability to
hit U.S. territory. Our reward for helping them feed their people, for
paying them to moderate their behavior, was a further extension of North
Korea’s striking power.
Again, the Clinton administration did not realize its own contribution to the
problem. Using what they thought was a sophisticated strategy of
“engagement,” our statesmen and defense intellectuals justified (to their own
satisfaction) a policy of appeasement. In taking this approach the
Americans, South Koreans and Japanese were digging themselves a deep hole.
Lured by hopes of an imminent communist collapse in Korea, the allies made
one misstep after another. There was also an added complication. “If the
funding [to North Korea] had been terminated [in 1998],” explained former
Defense Secretary Perry, “North Korean plutonium production would have begun.”
North Korea’s long-range missiles would then have nukes fitted onto them!
There is the blackmail threat itself, out in the open, talked about in a
matter-of-fact way, without shame. Here is a case of raw self-deception
patting itself on the back. As Secretary Perry tells the Korea story, our
payment of blackmail was a diplomatic coup! It was a golden opportunity to
collapse communism! Shortly after Perry’s speech, Vice Adm. Paul G. Gaffney
gushed momentarily about “my hero, Secretary Perry.”
A curious delusion, encouraged by incestuous academic and government
institutions, has overtaken our policymaking elite. These are nice people,
smart people; and while they can no doubt write a washing bill in Babylonic
cuneiform, their geostrategic elevator doesn’t reach the top floor. By
sophistical twists their thinking takes the shape of a grand intellectual
pretzel. The final shape of their thought inevitably loops back to bite them
In 1998 Perry did not revert to his 1994 strategy of reinforcing Korea with
U.S. troops. Why not? Because by 1998 there weren’t any U.S. troops to
spare after the elimination of several Army divisions by President Clinton.
The United States was in no position to confront the North Koreans about
their nuclear infrastructure. The hook, once inserted into our collective
mouth, could not be removed. “Some believed we should confront the North
Koreans,” Perry told the assembled notables on Tuesday. “It was clear to me
that this policy would split the alliance.”
And he was right. The South Korean public had just elected a new president
who was determined to seek peace with the North. Even though the North had
broken the spirit of the earlier agreement, along with many other promises,
the United States was yet willing to support the communists because the
blackmail pressure had intensified as our allies followed our lead. We also
flattered ourselves that Pyongyang’s nuclear program had stopped, and took
comfort in the thought that we were, after all, outmaneuvering a pathetic
regime that couldn’t feed its own people and would soon come unraveled. It
did not occur to anyone that the regime was feeding its people at our expense
– while 13,000 guns were pointed at us.
After the 1998 North Korean missile test, U.S. appeasement required a new
formula. “If North Korea would forego its nuclear and missile weapons
programs,” said Perry, “we could continue to support them.” Even more
important, noted Perry, “We could present a united front.” In other words,
Japan and South Korea no longer had the stomach for a direct confrontation
given the growing and terrifying power of North Korea. Sadly, Perry’s much
vaunted “united front” was a myth. There was only a united appeasement, a
solid and shared delusion. “It was clear,” explained Perry, “the North
Koreans were interested in our positive proposals.”
Of course they were!
North Korea develops nuclear weapons, so we pay them for every nuke they do
not make. North Korea develops long-range missiles and, once more, we rush in
with further payments. But each dollar’s worth of aid only increases the
number of bullets made available to the sullen North Korean generals who are
now poised on the extreme edge of the DMZ. All the while, North Korea
prepares its forces for yet another type of mass destruction warfare —
biological and chemical!
And so it happens that we are flanked once again.
With Perry looking on, I stood up from my seat and asked Major Gen. Humble
about the fact that the North Korean Army had been inoculated against
weaponized smallpox, a biological weapon. I noted that four Russian
youngsters had contracted a mild form of smallpox in Vladivostok last June
(after coming into contact with disposed vaccine ampules). “Even the
Russians are inoculating their people.”
“I had my shots,” said Humble. “The problem is with the younger people.” He
further explained that a large exercise was under way and new methods of
defense against biologicals were being devised. “We are dealing with this
problem,” he offered. “We think the next eight months to 18 months are going to
Maj. Gen. Humble did not explain the reasons for this curious statement with
regard to timing. His answer on the biologicals also seemed fuzzy. Later
that day, I overheard two defense analysts agreeing that their jobs would be
threatened if they gave a negative assessment of U.S. defense capabilities.
Well, at least they’ve analyzed that item correctly.