Thank Heavens For ABM

North Korea continues to prepare for a flight test of their Taepo Dong II-class intercontinental ballistic missile, with a range that could potential reach targets within the continental United States. North Korea also almost certainly possesses multiple nuclear warheads which could be mounted on these missiles.

The United States needs to continue to develop a wide-spectrum anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defense technology from boost-phase defenses like modified Aegis-class cruisers and airborne lasers to space-based interceptor technologies. The North Korean regime is too dangerous to be allowed to utilize such weapons against the United States or its allies.

Thankfully, President Bush made the decision in 2001 to scrap the 1972 ABM Treaty and pursue the development of these technologies. President Bush did so in full accordance with the conditions of that treaty, and it is a very good thing he did. Terrorism isn’t the only threat this country faces, and ignoring the very real threat of an attack with ballistic missiles would be a grave omission.

I agree with Captain Ed on this one, North Korea’s test gives us an opportunity to test our ABM systems in operation. The United States should warn the North Koreans that any ballistic missile leaving their territory will be intercepted and destroyed. The threat to Los Angeles, Seoul, or Tokyo is simply too great to ignore. If we don’t have such technologies yet, this should only highlight the need to develop them – as Michael Ledeen is known to say, “faster please.”

The North Korean Gambit

Donald Sensing has some thoughts on North Korea’s nuclear announcement and Daniel Drezner is also considering the possibilities.

What little we know of the Hermit Kingdom suggests that the last few weeks have been full of instability. For the first time, anti-regime propaganda has been sighted within the country – an act that is punishable by death. There are persistent and credible rumors that North Korea’s government is in a state of disarray.

I’m inclined to believe that this is an act of desperation. The Christian Science Monitor has an excellent roundup of reactions on the subject that provides a good briefing into the implications of the DPRK’s announcement. It’s clear that the North Koreans believed that their official admission of having nuclear weapons would produce some kind of breakthrough with either the US or China, preferably both. Instead it’s clear that China is beginning to run out of patience with North Korea, and the US will not budge on the issue of bilateral negotiations.

The North Koreans plan may have been to get the US to agree to bilateral talks and then walk away from the table complaining loudly, giving them the ability to play victim and hopefully gain concessions from the Chinese. That’s why Kerry’s bilateral talk plan was so foolish – it would give the North Koreans exactly what they wanted.

The only viable option we have right now is paradoxically to do nothing. As the CSM piece makes clear, a military option is simply too devastating to consider. Giving into North Korean demands will only give the North Koreans what they want and weaken our position. Economic sanctions will be considered a provocation by the North Koreans, and the DPRK is already barely able to maintain itself as it is – sanctions wouldn’t be particularly effective.

Instead the best policy is to do what has been done before, let the Koreans scream and shout, then let them save face later by coming back to the table. North Korea knows that any attack against Japan, South Korea, or the United States would be met by full nuclear retaliation, and Kim Jung Il seems more of a megalomaniac than someone with a death wish. The North Koreans may not have the benefit of time, as their country continues its long slide into utter collapse. The North Koreans hope they can force the issue with us and make us work on their timetable – we’ve no need to oblige them.

The Collapse Of The Kim Regime

The Times of London has an excellent piece on the current situation in North Korea:

In interviews for this article over many months, western policymakers, Chinese experts, North Korean exiles and human rights activists built up a picture of a tightly knit clan leadership in Pyongyang that is on the verge of collapse.

Some of those interviewed believe the “Dear Leader”, Kim Jong-il, has already lost his personal authority to a clique of generals and party cadres. Without any public announcement, governments from Tokyo to Washington are preparing for a change of regime.

North Korea is one of the world’s most closed society, if not the most closed, but the signs of revolution are everywhere. The removal of Kim Jung-Il’s portraits, the sudden change of tone in the media, anti-Kim messages scrawled on images of the North Korean despot, and evidence that the North Korean government is frantically liquidating assets for cash.

Not only that, but the Times also notes:

Bush’s re-election dealt a blow to Kim, 62, who had gambled on a win by John Kerry, the Democratic candidate. Kim used a strategy of divide and delay to drag out nuclear talks with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea through 2004.

Kim lost his bet and now faces four more years of Bush, who says that he “loathes” the North Korean leader and has vowed to strip him of atomic weapons.

The situation in North Korea is unstable, and Christian activists are working to help get as many people out of the Stalinist regime as possible. Hopefully whatever happens will result in some kind of easing of regional tensions and a new hope for a free Korean peninsula, but history has shown us all that such changes can often occur with a speed and violence that is blinding and deadly.

What Is Happening In North Korea?

Something unusual is happening in North Korea. Captain’s Quarters notes that images of Kim Jung Il are being removed in Pyongyang. It seems unlikely that a meglomanaic like Kim Jung Il would relinquish even part of his cult of personality so easily.

Roger L. Simon also finds that anti-regime posters have been spotted in North Korea – something that would be practically unthinkable unless Kim Jung Il’s police state has somehow been weakened. There are also conflicting reports that Kim Jung Il’s honorific titles are being toned down in the North Korea media. A North Korean defector is denying that the situation has any relevance, but something does appear to be happening in the country.

These moves could stem from the death of Kim Jung Il’s longtime consort and mother of his heir apparent Kim Jong-chul.

North Korea is quite possibly the world’s most dire country. Starvation is rampant, with credible reports of families turning to cannibalism to survive circulating in human rights circles. The Stalinist regime of Kim Jung-Il rules North Korea with an iron fist, and the country is engaging in the systematic murder of dissident in Nazi-like concentration camps.

Unfortunately, with the North Korean military able to devastate Seoul before they could be stopped, a military solution is out of the question. The loss of life on both sides and the catastrophic effects to the Asian economy would be unacceptable. With China adding significant troop strength along their Yalu River border with North Korea, the Chinese government is worried about the flow of refugees from the DPRK. Should something catastrophic happen, a Chinese invasion of North Korea remains a strong possibility.

Whatever happens, when the world gets a good look at the living hell that is North Korea it will show just how depraved such a totalitarian society can be. The human cost of Kim Jung Il’s tyrannic reign is beyond imagine.

Hell On Earth

Anne Applebaum has an important piece in the Washington Post on the death camps of North Korea – concentration camps every bit as terrible as Auschwitz that the media seems to have ignored.

Later — in 10 years, or in 60 — it will surely turn out that quite a lot was known in 2004 about the camps of North Korea. It will turn out that information collected by various human rights groups, South Korean churches, oddball journalists and spies added up to a damning and largely accurate picture of an evil regime. It will also turn out that there were things that could have been done, approaches the South Korean government might have made, diplomatic channels the U.S. government might have opened, pressure the Chinese might have applied.

Historians in Asia, Europe and here will finger various institutions, just as we do now, and demand they justify their past actions. And no one will be able to understand how it was possible that we knew of the existence of the gas chambers but failed to act.

The fact is that these camps have been confirmed by enough people that we know that they exist. We know that North Korea is a hell on Earth, a state in which starvation is common, and the people are oppressed in a way that makes Nazi Germany seem almost tame in comparison.

Yet the international human rights community would rather talk about the conditions at Camp Delta in Cuba than the horrors of Korea. The UN’s too busy covering up its complicity in helping Saddam Hussein build palaces and elaborate mosques rather than providing food or medicine. Even the Bush Administration has put this member of the "Axis of Evil" on the back burner.

Even so much as a drop of radios and a broadcasting station showing the truth about the real world could make an incredible difference in North Korea. Increased political pressure on China could force change in North Korea. Eventually this problem will have to be dealt with, and by that time military options may be the only options left on the table. The situation in North Korea is one of unspeakable human misery that is compounded with each day of inaction. The Kim Jung Il regime is one of the worst abusers of human rights in the world today and quite possibly in human history. Ignoring this problem as so many have done is not a positive step towards eliminating the concentration camps and gas chambers of the North Korean regime.

The Holocaust Of Our Time

Mitch Berg writes a sobering and important piece on the living nightmare that is North Korea. He points out that what is going in inside the borders of North Korea is a genocide that must be stopped:

On the eve of World War Two, most of the Western world buried the story of the Holocaust, until they couldn’t bury it – when the troops started liberating camps. Before the war, it was an inconvenient stumbling block for diplomatic negotiation. During the war, the powers that be either doubted the story, or thought it smacked of WWI-style propagandistic overkill. In the end, they were both wrong.

Attacking Kim – or Castro – today is like attacking Hitler or Stalin in 1933; despite their ghastly crimes against humanity, the lunatic left fears the beginning of a slippery slope.

The story may go away – it may never even arrive, as far as the consumer of American news is concerned. We – those who pay attention to these things, and the part of the Blogosphere concerned with actual rights for real humans – need to do our best to fix that.

I believe that if we are to have a truly peaceful world, it is unacceptable to allow such barbarous actions to continue. For too long the West ignored the concentration camps of Germany. For years, the gulags of Russia were ignored until brave men like Alexander Solzhenitsyn forced the world to confront the horror of the Soviet regime head on.

In the twenty-first century, many have a difficult time believing that things like concentration camps and mass graves still exist. Yet in North Korea there is a human disaster that must be dealt with, but is being ignored.

Therefore, I will be joining with the Northern Alliance of Minnesota bloggers to raise our collective voices on this issue. The Free North Korea blog has much valuable background on this subject, and more on what can and should be done to free the people under the vicious bootheel of Kim Jung Il.

Human rights activists like Norbert Vollertsen have been beated and bloodied for trying to make the world aware of what is going on inside North Korea.

This is not a partisan issue. All members of the human community have an interest that transcends party or affiliation to end the suffering of others. Only through awareness and moral outrage can this situation be ended. Too few people know what is going on behind the DMZ where Western cameras cannot go. These are stories that must be told and evils that must be stopped.

Solzhenitsyn wrote that "The simple step of a courageous individual is not to take part in the lie. One word of truth outweighs the world."

It is time to tell the truth about what is going on in North Korea.