I did a short tour in Korea in 1980/1981 with 2nd Infantry Division at Camp Casey not far from the DMZ. I think there were 38,000 American troop in country. We knew at that time that North Korea had tens of thousands of artillery pieces aimed south. Many were in hardened concrete bunkers and they were spread out across the entire border and in depth. A single salvo would kill hundreds of thousands in Seoul. Today, that would be millions.
Think of that when you think any President since Nixon has had a military option with North Korea. We could bomb them back to the stone age but they will get off at least one salvo and millions of people in Seoul will die. Doesn’t give you a lot of leverage. We had a deal that seemed to be working under Bill Clinton. Fuel oil for shut down of the nuke program. The North was cheating a little but not much. They wouldn’t get a nuke going at that pace, but W. Bush called them part of the Axis of Evil and stopped the fuel oil deliveries.
North Korea went back into the nuke business. Bush tried to get the deal back but failed. And less than 6 years later, they had their first nuke. Bush never had a military option. Neither did Obama. nor does Trump. Are we willing to lose 25 million people including at least one hundred and fifty thousand Americans living around Seoul? With that option gone we have only two more.
Economic sanctions don’t seem to be working so far and we just added a few more sanctions. China could turn up the screws but I think they are as cautious as we are. Russia would just like to stir the pot.
I think it is time to face reality and admit North Korea is a nuclear power. We can’t stop them. They are in the Club and they are not leaving. It is time to change our tone and negotiate directly with North Korea. This is not the option any of us want but it is the only one left. To not face reality will be really dangerous for us and our allies. This is a time we need a real deal maker in office because North Korea doesn’t succumb to threats and they haven’t in the last 40 years. We might not get a second chance.
George DeSerres U.S. Army retired Culpeper
Editor’s note: this letter to the editor has been re-posted with the author’s permission and originally appeared here.