gStraight from the shoulder g by Toshio Masuda Nov. 1, 2006
( Free of charge to the people I met)
North Korea Might Have Known Something That the US and Japan Did Not!?
President Bush assured his Asian allies Japan and South Korea that, gAmerica remains committed to their securityh. Bush has also increased cooperation on regional missile defense efforts with these allies in response to the recent nuclear tests by North Korea (NK).
As a result of the US-Japan Security Treaty, there are over fifty US military bases in Japan, about seventy five percent of which are in Okinawa. In recent years, the US Military Transformation Program has been underway and Japan has been supporting that transformation by absorbing the costs associated with transforming the US military presence in Japan and the East Asia region. For example, the United States has requested that Japan pay for 75% of the expenses to relocate 8,000 US Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam, including the cost of building the bases in Guam. This expense is in addition to covering the cost of multiple transfers of US military units within Japan. Also, Japan is paying a significant share of the US Territorial Missile Defense Program (TMD) amounting to at hundreds of millions, indeed even billions of dollars. There had been strong opposition to this program in Japan, but since the recent nuclear reaction test and missile test the program is now well accepted and being accelerated.
Now, what if NK had met the terms of agreement of the September 19, 2005, the agreement done in the Six Party Talks that established the basic principles of dismantling the nuclear power of NK? Keep in mind that the important principle was that NK would dismantle its nuclear capacity in exchange for the US and the other four participants in the talks (Japan, South Korea, Russia and China) to respect NKfs sovereignty and to make the best efforts to normalize relations with the NK in the future.
Instead, and to the NKfs - and maybe to other four countriesf surprise - the US imposed financial sanctions on eight North Korean companies just four days after the September 19, 2005 agreement. These sanctions by the US were viewed by the NK as an immediate threat to its sovereignty and a demonstration of a lack of respect by the United States, especially when only four days had past from the September 19th agreement. The NK companies were alleged to have been involved in counterfeiting US currency and aiding in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The US financial sanctions hurt the NK government, especially Kim Jong Ill and his family.
If US Treasuryfs sanction had not been imposed, there would not have been those launches of missiles and the nuclear testing and President Bush might not have needed to say, gThe NK regime has once again broken its word, provoked an international crisis and denied its people the opportunity for a better lifeh.
For the last 50 years, Japanfs national security has always been in the context of North Korea as the prime enemy of the nation. Since 2004, China has been added to that category. As a result, yearly increases in the Japanese defense budget are a reflection of these enemy situations. So, if we return to the original question, gWhat if NK had kept the accord of September 19thh and what if the NK had no nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction, then what would be happening to TMD budget? Would there be tens of billions of dollars expended by Japan to aid the US Military Transformation Program? How about Japanfs reform of Article 9 of its Constitution, the so-called gno warh clause? Would Japan have considered an effort to truly reestablish its sovereignty by reforming or repealing this clause? (While Prime Minister Abe has appeared to put such a reform on the gback burnerh it can easily return to the national agenda by dint of NKfs missile and nuclear testing.) The answers to these questions are quite interesting, although they do not lend themselves to simple answers.
On October 31, 2006 NK agreed to return to the Six Party Talks, without any conditions, later this month or next month after objecting to a resumption of the talks for nearly a year. The difference between a year ago and today is that NK is now a nuclear nation, the same as the US, whether you agree or not. A country which is developing nuclear capability and one that has nuclear capability are essentially, two different countries. One can stop the former from developing that capability, but it is far more difficult to deny what the latter has and has become.
There will be tough potential consequences if tough sanctions are enforced against one of the nuclear nations of the world, which is indeed what North Korea is becoming. If the five allied nations in the Six Party Talks treat NK as before, there will likely be nothing new from NK but the demonstration of the birth of a new nuclear nation to the world.
Without a total release of the US Treasuryfs financial sanctions against NK and the establishment of a security treaty between US and NK, there will be no dismantling of nuclear capability NK. Yet, releasing the Treasury Departmentfs sanctions is an impossible option for the US. Thus, I think that the only platform for negotiations by the five nations is the UN resolution. But I do not think that this strategy works for the long term, but just for a short moratorium on tests until NK further matures its nuclear testing capability.
If there is another aggressive action by the NK, the already strained peace at the border between China and NK would dissolve resulting in a battle between China and NK military forces. The outcome of this clash could be MILITARY control by Chinese forces of BOTH China and NK - an outcome that would greatly trouble all parties to the Six Party Talks, especially the current Chinese government. Until then, the United States has very few military options. Even after such a clash, the capacity of the US military to engage appears to be an open question. Despite assertions by US government leaders to the contrary, being able to intermediate militarily - in a conventional (non-nuclear fashion) ? would seem to truly strain US forces given the USfs current military commitments around the world.
So, if the current Chinese government does not want to lose power, there is no option for it but to support the current regime of Kim Jong Ill.
In any event, the existence of NK has had a significant impact on important matters between the US and Japan. What matters more, however, is not whether the US and Japan understand NK, but whether NK understands the US and Japan.
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Written by Toshio Masuda