Don't Panic

Your war questions Answered

What are we doing these days to counter the growing nuclear threat from North Korea?

I love answering questions about North Korea because it gives me an excuse to read through the reports on the North Korean Central News Agency website (which is now available online in Spanish). Looking through the news there, I read that someone in North Korea has discovered that kimchi, a staple of the Korean diet made of fermented cabbage, helps skin resist aging. The article cited studies showing that rats that are fed kimchi have much thicker skin than their non-kimchi-eating colleagues. I guess that would make the rats more resistant to insults as well.

Despite recently discovering the secret to looking young longer, North Koreans are still in a rotten mood.

The latest thing pissing them off is the June 5 announcement that we're going to pull 14,000 soldiers away from South Korea's border with North Korea. On the surface, moving our forces away from the border seems like the sort of thing that would make North Korea's Evildoer-In-Chief Kim Jong Il happier than a patchouli salesman at a G-8 summit protest. After all, his biggest fear is that U.S. forces are gonna go all regime change on him. The further (and farther) away our soldiers are, the less likely that is to happen, right? Au contraire! It's actually a military escalation and it's pissing off Kim.

Ever since Hawkeye, B.J., Klinger and the rest of the 4077th bugged out at the end of the Korean War in 1953, we've had soldiers on the border to deter North Korea from attacking the South again. Nowadays, with our military so adept at long-range, satellite-guided whoop ass, those frontline soldiers are of diminished importance to our South Korean military strategy. The army that our border-deployed soldiers are deterring is, ironically, our own. Talk about rain on your wedding day.

If we decided to bomb North Korea's nuclear facilities, those soldiers would be sitting ducks in orange sauce for North Korea's 11,000-plus artillery pieces. Moving them back makes them less vulnerable to North Korean artillery and therefore makes attacking the North with our fancy flying weapons that much less risky for us.

The redeployment is the latest in a series of military moves by the U.S. in reaction to North Korea's decision to pull the ultimate in tacky nouveau riche moves — developing nuclear weapons. In March, we moved 24 long-range bombers with nuclear weapons capabilities to the Pacific island of Guam. Pentagon officials characterized the move to reporters as a "non-threatening message" to North Korea not to try any funny business.

So, putting a country within range of getting vaporized on a few minutes' notice is now considered a non-threatening message? We are so totally gangsta now.

Surely our North Korean policy can't be all stick and no carrot. After all, who'd be more receptive to carrots than famine-stricken North Korea, particularly when they could use those carrots in their youth-preserving kimchi? So far though, our diplomatic efforts haven't amounted to a hill of beans, fermented or otherwise.

North Korea wants to negotiate with us one-on-one. Bush doesn't want to. He doesn't want to reward North Korea with one-on-one talks, especially since last time they negotiated a deal with us about halting their nuclear program, they cheated on it and kept building nukes anyway.

Bush wants any negotiations with the North to be some sort of kinky four- or five-way thing involving South Korea, Japan and China if possible. So far, that isn't happening because they aren't comfortable with our tough approach.

There are some positive signs though. A U.S. congressional delegation just returned from North Korea saying that our show of force in Iraq intimidated them into wanting to make more concessions to us. Just as importantly, China is starting to get impatient with North Korea for continuing to recklessly provoke us. A war on the Korean peninsula could hit China with fallout and refugees and devastate its economy. Besides, provoking used to be their job. [email protected]

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