It’s hard to believe that in a few days President Trump and Chairman Kim will sit down to start talks on ending the Korean War – a war that ended 65 years ago. How time flies!
The key issue could/should be how to reintegrate North Korea into the international community – eventually nuke free. But we need to reflect a little on what went on to bring us to this point.
The Japanese invaded Korea and annexed it to Japan in 1910. In the 30’s Japan invaded China; then in the 40’s Japan invaded the Philippines, and most of Southeast Asia. It also attacked the US and scuttled the US fleet at Pearl Harbor. The war in the Pacific was a naval and air war throughout the Pacific and a horrendous land war in China and much of Asia. The US and China were allies in Asia; the US and Russia were allies in Europe. The Second World War ended in the Pacific after the US exploded two atomic bombs in Japan. The US and Japan are now close allies.
After the war, the US occupied what became South Korea, and the Soviet Union occupied what became North Korea. Meanwhile the Chinese Civil War, which had started in the 30’s between the Chinese nationalists and the Chinese Communists ended with a victory for the Chinese Communists in 1948.
In 1950, the North Koreans attacked the South, using Soviet arms. The US Army eventually beat back the North and went all the way to and beyond the Chinese border at the Yalu River. The Chinese with Soviet assistance and encouragement then intervened and forced the US, UN and South Korean forces back to the 38th parallel where the country remains frozen and divided today. Both nations were totally gutted by the war and the US bombing campaign utterly destroyed North Korea’s industrial base and reduced its cities to rubble.
US General Douglas MacArthur wanted to 1) invade China and 2) use nuclear weapons on North Korea and China as needed. He was sacked by President Truman and replaced by General Matthew Ridgeway who beat back the Chinese and North Korean attacks, but did not further invade the North. A truce was signed in 1953. But the Korean War has never been formally ended. This was all occurring at the same time that Senator Joe McCarthy, Roy Cohn and others were whipping up red hysteria and selling agendas of hate and distrust of the Army, the State Department and the US government.
North Korea has been an impoverished famine ridden nation that has developed nuclear arms and has shared its technology with other states interested in developing a nuclear capacity.
South Korea became an economic success story. The economy of South Korea is multiple times (36.7 times as per current figures) that of North Korea's in terms of GDP. ... The GDP per capita is $33,200 in South Korea, while it is $1,800 in the North, according to the CIA World Factbook. North Korean Vs. South Korean Economies | Investopedia
South Korea has a population twice as large, and spends twice as much on its military as does North Korea. North Korea spends 20% of its GDP on its military and has an armed forces of 1.2 million. South Korea spends 2.7% of GDP on its military. Less than 30,000 US troops are stationed in South Korea, but they are a trip wire in case hostilities start.
North Korea has ballistic missiles capable of reaching the US and has over 50 but less than 100 nuclear bombs. They may or may not have the technology necessary to deliver their bombs on their missiles. The bombs and missiles are a threat to the US, Japan and South Korea.
The Trump Administration would like to negotiate an end to North Korea’s nuclear weapons and appears to be ready to offer economic assistance and opportunities to the North. Its unclear what the North wants and whether it has any willingness to give up its nuclear capacity. Its real interest should be economic growth and opportunity for its people; it’s unclear whether that is what’s on Chairman Kim’s agenda though we should all hope it is. The Trump Administration does not want to get played and end up looking like a chump, but rather wants to have a trumpet-able diplomatic success at a time when it is in conflict with nearly every traditional US ally but Israel. I doubt he’d be going to Singapore without ironclad assurances that he is going to come out of it with a real and measurable success.
Japan, China, Russia and South Korea all have strong regional interests in not allowing the US/North Korea relationship to break into open warfare; it is not clear what else they have in common other than a shared fear of open conflict. The Korean people would like reunification; that may not be a result desired by their leaders or their neighbors, but look what happened in Germany. China does not want to lose its ally North Korea into a unified Korea and probably has the leverage to prevent that. Japan and South Korea do not want to lose the US nuclear umbrella. And all three are embroiled in trade disputes and tariff wars with the Trump Administration. Interesting times!!
Prepared by: Lucien Wulsin