Yesterday, North Korea announced it was ripping up the 56-year armistice with South Korea that has kept a very uneasy peace on the penninsula all that time. This after a series of missile launches and the underground test of a nuclear bomb at least the size of the ones dropped by the Americans on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.
Even North Korea's long time ally, Mainland China, is upset that the leadership of the "Hermit Kingdom" may have finally gone too far. But exactly who is in charge of the PDRK these days anyway? We're used to their "news anchors" reading prepared statements, but these ones are getting increasingly belligerent. There is no indication that the North is planning a major attack, but they do have missiles that could be fired on major cities in the South, including Seoul which is just 50 kilometres from the DMZ.
The Korean War is often called the "forgotten" war because we often forget just how much the balance of power was at stake in the years following the end of WW II. I think the Americans would like nothing better than to leave the South, provided some way was found to reunite the country as a free and democratic one.
But this isn't exactly like East and West Germany. The infrastructure issues weren't as bad comparatively as in North Korea, and while reunification is still problematic the restoration of democracy was quite smooth if for no other reason than the East as well as West Berlin (technically an occupied international city during détente) automatically became of the European Union with all its benefits. And, it wasn't like the East deliberately starved its people.
North Korea, however, is the new powder keg of the world. And it simply can't be trusted. Food aid is stolen by the government and given to apparatchiks or sold in markets (clearly with the label "UN" or the country of origin) to the highest bidder, if one can afford it. Their huge army, goosestepping 24/7, is on permanent standby for war on a moment's notice. (Even active National Guard units in the States, such as the one in Alaska, are normally on 48 hour standby).
The double-talk of the North Korean ambassador the other day, incidentally, is another example of just how clueless they are. A country certainly has the right to develop nuclear power, but to use it for military purposes takes it one step further. If North Korea can have the bomb, why not the South? If the UK and France have nuclear weapons, why can't Germany, Italy and Poland?
For that matter, Canada has weapons-grade capability. Publicly our police is non-proliferation, but I'll bet a dozen donuts that it's never crossed the minds of our Prime Ministers to consider it, even privately, to develop our own nukes.
This is a very serious situation. Every agreement that North Korea signs is ultimately broken -- by North Korea. If they launch a war it will be the PDRK's suicide but it will come at a very heavy price, with hundreds of thousands of civilians lost on both sides. But if in the end the decades long slavery inflicted on the North's populace is broken, that won't be a bad thing.
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