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Who Will Contain North Korea?

North Korea has just pulled off an impressive dual feat—the successful test both of an intercontinental ballistic missile and an atom bomb in the 6-kiloton range.

Pyongyang’s ruler, 30-year-old Kim Jong Un, said the tests are aimed at the United States. So it would seem. One does not build an ICBM to hit Seoul, 30 miles away.

Experts believe North Korea is still far from having the capability to marry a nuclear warhead to a missile that could hit the West Coast. But this seems to be Kim’s goal.

Why is he obsessed with a nation half a world away?

America has never recognized his, his father’s or his grandfather’s regime. We have led the U.N. Security Council in imposing sanctions. We have 28,000 troops in the South and a defense treaty that will bring us into any war with the North from day one, and a U.S. general would assume overall command of U.S. and Republic of Korea troops.

We are South Korea’s defense shield and deterrent against the North.

And while America cannot abdicate her responsibility and role in this crisis, we should be asking ourselves: Why is this our crisis in 2013?

President Eisenhower ended the Korean War 60 years ago. The Chinese armies in Korea went home. Twenty years ago, the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia abandoned communism and ceased to arm the North, and Mao’s China gave up world revolution for state capitalism.


Epochal events. Yet U.S. troops still sit on the DMZ, just as their grandfathers did when this writer was still in high school.

Why? North Korea represents no threat to us, and South Korea is not the ruined ravaged land of 1953. It has twice the population of the North, an economy 40 times the size of the North’s, and access to the most modern weapons in America’s arsenal.

Why were U.S. troops not withdrawn from Korea at the end of the Cold War? Why should we have to fight Seoul’s war if Pyongyang attacks, when the South is capable of fighting and winning its own war?

Why is South Korea’s defense still America’s obligation?

Had the United States moved its soldiers out of South Korea, and its planes and ships offshore, and turned over to Seoul responsibility for its own security, would the North be building missiles that can hit the United States?

Undeniably, Kim Jong Un runs a tyrannical, wretched regime.

But its closest neighbors are South Korea, Japan, Russia and China.

Why is Kim Jong Un not primarily their problem, rather than ours?

Had we departed 20 years ago, the South would have built up its own forces to contain the North. Instead, we have allowed it to remain a strategic dependency. And the same holds true for Japan.

Japanese and Chinese warplanes and warships are now circling each other near what Tokyo calls the Senkaku Islands and Beijing calls the Diaoyou. These rocks were occupied by Japan in 1895, when the Empire of the Sun was at war with China and colonizing Taiwan.

After Imperial Japan fell in 1945 and disgorged its colonies, the Senkakus, along with the Ryukyus—of which the largest is Okinawa—were returned by President Nixon. And as the Senkakus are but a few rocks sticking out of the East China Sea, no one seemed to mind, before reports surfaced of oil and gas deposits in adjacent waters.

Beijing restated China’s claim. Last week, Chinese warships reportedly locked firing radar on Japanese ships and helicopters near the islands. China denies it.

What has this to do with us?

The United States has reportedly signaled Japan that the Senkakus are covered by our mutual defense treaty and if China attacks in those waters, and Japan goes to war, we stand with Japan.

Sixty years ago, U.S. commitments to go to war to keep South Korea and Japan from falling into the Stalin-Mao sphere were supported by Americans, who willingly sent their sons to the Far East to defend the “frontiers of freedom.”

But South Korea and Japan long ago became economic powers, fully capable of undertaking their own defense. And the Cold War enemies we confronted no longer exist.

Why have we failed to adapt to the new world we are in? As Lord Salisbury said, “The commonest error in politics is sticking to the carcass of dead policies.”

Vladimir Putin’s Russia is not Stalin’s. If Putin is in a quarrel with Japan over the Kuriles, why should that be our quarrel?

If Japan is in a quarrel with Xi Jinping’s China over the Senkakus, why is that our quarrel?

Are our war guarantees to Japan and South Korea eternal?

Undeniably, should the U.S. seek to renegotiate its defense pacts with Seoul and Tokyo, each would consider, given the rogue regime in the North, a nuclear deterrent of its own. This would stun and shock China.

But what help have the Chinese been to us lately?

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? [1]” Copyright 2012 Creators.com [2].

21 Comments (Open | Close)

21 Comments To "Who Will Contain North Korea?"

#1 Comment By Cliff On February 15, 2013 @ 9:04 am

I believe we should remain committed to the defense of South Korea and Taiwan. Not that they likely need our help — South Korea can certainly fight off the North, and while Taiwan might fall to China’s superior numbers, the price isn’t one that China will want to pay (unless it’s goaded to act). In evidence of this, consider that neither North Korea nor China made any moves during that time when the US military was taxed to its limit in 2003 and subsequent years.

I believe we should withdraw from NATO and close down all our overseas bases, except for those in Korea. The reason for the exception is simple: Taiwan and South Korea are, if I may use language that feels odd in the mouth of a leftist who opposed every war we’ve fought from Vietnam on, beacons of democratic self-government. They were both ruled by military dictatorships, which we supported, both made a transition to democracy on their own, and have succeeded at it. And both face credible, if somewhat remote, threats from their neighbors. I think we should have a marker down in support of those two countries.

It’s curious that I, who marched against the Vietnam war, should find myself taking this position in opposition to a former member of the Nixon administration.

None of the above should be taken to mean that we should involve ourselves in territorial spats over some uninhabited islands. Let the parties to that squabble figure that one out.

#2 Comment By KateLE On February 15, 2013 @ 9:15 am

You can’t go around withdrawing our underpaid military personnel around the world. How on earth are Haliburton executives supposed to get their bonuses if you do that?

#3 Comment By The Wet One On February 15, 2013 @ 9:43 am

Umm… Unless I’m mistaken, NK isn’t really expanding at all is it Mr. Buchanan.

I realize that they are flexing and growing their techno-nuclear might, but that, properly understood, is not expanding and in need of “containment.” Nor is it entirely clear how one “contains” the spread of knowledge, which is in essence what you’re advocating here. I suppose you could undermine their education system, but they can simply buy what they can’t learn can’t they?

Historically, one contained the expansion of other states borders or influence. There is no expansion of NK’s borders and there’s no evidence of NK’s increased influence in the world. Certainly not on what has been presented here.

But now I see it, this article is a clever reverse of the containment of the U.S. using NK as a foil. Why has the U.S. expanded for far into the far east where it has, according to you, no interest? A good question, with a ready answer, but not an answer that I’m sure is adequate to reply to the spilling of U.S. troops so far and wide about the globe.

Perhaps it is time to drop NK into another country’s lap for worry. Perhaps it is time that the Empire pull its centurions back from the far reaches and bring them home. The containment of America, self imposed and directed rather than imposed by inability to sustain the imperial enterprise, may be wise policy. Let others fill in the gap. It is their world too after all. Cleverly done Mr. Buchanan, cleverly done indeed.

#4 Comment By Chris On February 15, 2013 @ 10:51 am

But what help have the Chinese been to us lately? What about all the cash the Chicoms have been lending?

#5 Comment By David Helveticka On February 15, 2013 @ 11:53 am

PB asks why this is our problem? Because Corporations have investments there and because we are dependent on SK manufacturing. But are these really “American Corporations” if they don’t employ a majority of Americans outside of their US headquarters?

US military and the US soldiers defend International Capitalism, that is their purpose..even as incomes of the American worker are falling because these corporations outsourcing jobs and import workers.

May Marx and Lenin were right after all…?

#6 Comment By Philo Vaihinger On February 15, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

“America cannot abdicate her responsibility and role in this crisis[.]”

Why the hell not?

Little late to do so, when the fat is in the fire?

Well, better late than too late.

The fecklessness of America’s political leadership is not a sufficient reason for America to get dragged into war or for America’s young people to be forced to fight and die in a struggle that should not be ours.

#7 Comment By Adam On February 15, 2013 @ 12:48 pm

North Korea is essentially a willful child of China. China is the responsible party as their philosophy is typically that of having their border nations act as a kind of physical buffer. Our presence in South Korea is about as effective today as our presence in Germany. Neither is in place to combat any clear and present danger.

#8 Comment By James Canning On February 15, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

The US should not encourage Japan or South Korea to develop nukes.

David Pilling had interesting comments in the Financial Times yesterday, regarding the NK nuclear programme and what to do about it.

#9 Comment By James Canning On February 15, 2013 @ 12:50 pm

If of course agree with Pat Buchanan that Japan and South Korea are rich countries well able to pay for their own defence.

#10 Comment By titansfan78 On February 15, 2013 @ 1:14 pm

Yea James but the way rich countries protect themselves is develop nuclear weapons, or have american garrisons protect them. I’m afraid you’ll have to decide which option you like best and root for that.

#11 Comment By Bob Waite On February 15, 2013 @ 5:02 pm

North Korea is the most atrocious state in the world. It is pure hell for those who live there and the regime probably is serious about becoming a nuclear power. I do think in some ways we are over committed and in some places we definitely are over committed, but there is a kind of common decency at stake in this situation. I hate to disagree with Pat Buchanan, because I see him as one of the most astute analysts of contemporary politics, both international and domestic and he has a genuine moral compass, not one that points based on ideology. However, I think that only the power of the United States can deter such a determined totalitarian state. And I think that our troops say something about how much tyranny we will accept in the world. I m not sure that communism is no longer a threat. And I am certain that they are dangerous and we are a the kind of credible deterrent that Japan and South Korea could and never will be.

#12 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 15, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

I would like to reccommend: State of Mind a 2004 film documentary.

I like Korea. I still think the great hope lies in the unification or at least the normalization of relations between the North and the South.

I am keenly aware that our mission in the region is only a partial concern. My understanding is that strategically, we are positioned to deal with any potential threats by China as well.

This is a tough call. Our financial interests in the region are substantial. Any disruption plunging the region into violent destabilazation could be catastrophic for the US. So I can understand why a presence, the very appearance of force might be seen as a deterrent.

But it is unclear, just how much of a threat N. Korea would be without the US presence. I have no doubt that a nation at a state of war might be very disconcerted about the nation they are at war with rightouside their door. As a man in seemingly a permanent state of war —- I understand their posture. N. korea, has a clear and concise view of their enemy — and it remains the US.

#13 Comment By Fran Macadam On February 16, 2013 @ 1:49 am

‘”Our” financial interests in the region are substantial.’

We, referring to ourselves and the many neighbors we’ve lived to over the decades in this great land of ours, do not have any financial interests in the region. Nor have “we” real Americans ever been asked for our opinion or been consulted on foreign policy.

In fact, the foreign policy has been, and as pointed out here, is detrimental to us, in the past, now and even worse into the future.

The financial interests being protected are those of the same Wall Street one per-centers whose income has skyrocketed during the financial crisis they created for the rest of us, which has eviscerated our incomes, job security, job opportunities and any return on our savings – while they were bailed out and given the first fruits of inflationary policy.

Foreign policy is made at the behest of Wall Street and in its own interests, which these days, don’t even occasionally coincide with those of Main Street.

#14 Comment By Nick K. On February 16, 2013 @ 11:34 am

South Korea could more than handle the North militarily. This is not to say that the US should not maintain an extremely close military relationship with Seoul, but we probably don’t need to keep an entire corps-sized element deployed there.

“But South Korea and Japan long ago became economic powers, fully capable of undertaking their own defense. And the Cold War enemies we confronted no longer exist.”

The Cold War enemies we once faced are indeed gone, but that does not mean that a new threat is not emerging. True, China is not the Soviet Union in the 1950s, and given internal problems that it faces, it may never even get close in terms of power. But still, do we really want to leave Japan and Korea alone to repel the rising New Han Empire? If Russia could be counted on to reliably counter China then that would be a different story, but I don’t think that it can because of its demographic situation.

#15 Comment By Ronald S. On February 16, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

We the US are still at War with North Korea, Japan and South Korea are not.

Are you suggesting we surrender and leave?

The solution is a simple one.

North Korea is only a problem because of support from China. China has used North Korea as a check on US power for 60 years.

North Korea is a Chinese creation… You reap what you sow.

Excuse me China…

If North Korea attacks the US, Japan, South Korea , with Nuclear weapons, we should consider it a Nuclear attack by China.

We offer to assist China in anyway we can to transition North Korea to a stable member of the world order… what is a few 10’s Billion we borrow it from China any way..

If they do not act .. they know our position.

Where is Teddy Roosevelt when you need him.

#16 Comment By 2old2ride On February 16, 2013 @ 4:31 pm

This argument dates back to the mid 19th century.
“Manifest Destiny” was the belief that America should expand to the west;
Well, Americans did. Then the question was; ‘Where now’.
Mission creep led to the Spanish American War and the USA grabbing colonies in the Phillippines and Carribean. Then the citizens reigned in the politicians and Americans returned to Isolationism. We were drug out of that by the Liberals under Wilson. A tenative step onto the world stage became a full bodied presence post WW2, when America was the ‘last man standing’.
Pat (if I may be so bold) whishes to return to Isolationism.
I submit that the social matrix of this planet has changed so radically in the last 2 centuries that Isolationism is vaporware. A soft and fuzzy dream for introverts. No foundation in reality.
There will be either a world state or a mass killing to large to visualise. If it’s world state, then the Constitution MUST be involved. America MUST design and build this world state if there is to be an element of human rights and personal freedom.
That is why it is important for the USA to be involved in global affairs. That means conflict(WAR). Do you want to fight there or here? I vote ‘there’. Do you want to fight alone or with allies? I vote for allies.
A mass killing would involve 99% of the human race. My mind is to small to conceptulize such a horror.
Nobody hands out freedom. Freedom MUST be fought for. That fight is never easy but it’s always worthwhile.

#17 Comment By Cornel Lencar On February 17, 2013 @ 1:34 pm

Who will contain the U.S.?

#18 Comment By Ronald S. On February 18, 2013 @ 6:07 pm

“Cornel Lencar says:
February 17, 2013 at 1:34 pm
Who will contain the U.S.?”

Contain the US from defending people from not wanting to get bombed by a Nuclear North Korea?

Contain the US from hoping the North Korean people can one day have electricity, running water, enough to eat.

Contain the US from defending basic human values (“life liberty and the pursuit of happiness”) when European countries and “Canada” either fail to do or are not equipped to accomplish.

America is now debt financing the freedom of others.
If others wish to help, “We” will happily let them.

Please provide me with their address and I will send them a note along with a self addressed stamped envelope for their reply.

#19 Comment By J On February 19, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

I didn’t know we’d become China’s strategic vassal, rather than rival, already. Can someone please tell me when exactly it was we lost the competition and what the price was for our selling out the democracies of the region- South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines? Has anyone notified the Republican Party of our capitulation, btw?

#20 Comment By WorkingClass On March 24, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

Are our war guarantees to Japan and South Korea eternal?

Yes and no. Those guarantees will remain in force until the U.S. Empire goes the way of the old Soviet Union. Or until the U.S. normalizes relations with Cuba. Whichever happens first.

#21 Comment By tom On April 6, 2013 @ 4:13 am

We are still in Korea because the military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us of does not know how to contract. It only seeks to grow. That simple truth will be our downfall if we do not contain our military industrial complex..