The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Korean Goal Posts

Rich Galen

Monday June 4, 2018

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  • If you're like me, almost everything you ever knew about Korea is from watching M*A*S*H for 11 years from 1972 to 1983.

  • That's a little like gaining a total understanding of World War II from watching reruns of "Hogan's Heros."

  • Putting that aside, I am too young to remember the Korean war. America's involvement ran from 1950 to 1953. The war (which was justified as a U.N. directed not solely a U.S. directed "police action") never really ended. An armistice was signed by North and South Korea as well as China and the U.S.

  • The current leaders of the two Koreas: the North's Kim Jong-un and the South's Moon Jae-in, have met several times and, according to the U.K. Independent newspaper "agreed they would work towards peace on the peninsula with a formal end to the conflict set to be announced later this year."

  • Who knows what that will lead to other than the ability of North Korea to reduce the size of its army which is reported to be 6.5 million active and reserve forces. North Korea's population is about 25 million. South Korea's forces are listed as about 3.5 million with a population of about 51 million.

  • As a comparison, if the U.S. forces were the same proportion of the total population as North Korea's we would have nearly 82 million Americans under arms. We have about two million active and reserve forces.

  • So, an end to a state of war would save both North and South Korea a ton of won as they draw down these forces. It might also save the U.S. a bunch of money if we could reduce our forces (about 25,000) in South Korea.

  • That number will not likely go to zero. According to the Japan Times newspaper, the South Koreans said the "U.S. Forces [in] Korea is a matter for the South Korea-U.S. alliance," the president said according to spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom, the South's Yonhap news agency reported. "It has nothing to do with signing a peace treaty."

  • Getting to the upcoming summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, the goalposts have just been moved by the U.S. President, they've been taken down and stored under the grandstand.

  • The New York Times reported in a May 22 article:
    "President Trump [has] opened the door to a phased dismantling of North Korea's nuclear weapons program, backing away from his demand that the North's leader, Kim Jong-un, completely abandon his arsenal without any reciprocal American concessions."

  • But, as an example of what the North Koreans are walking into when negotiating with the Trump administration, over this past weekend U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said according to "North Korea will not get any sanctions relief until it has demonstrated 'verifiable and irreversible' steps to denuclearization."

  • I know we put those goalposts in here somewhere.

  • If I had to bet, it would be that a peace treaty - or at least the agreement to hammer out a peace treaty - is signed at the June 12 summit in Singapore, that Donald Trump will declare victory and take credit for it.

  • After the Singapore summit, the action will shift to the diplomats of the three nations, not the Oval Office. Issues like: How the border will be treated, how the two countries will deal with cross border industrialization and trade, currency issues, and all the other topics that next-door-neighbors would want to discuss.

  • A one-on-one meeting with the U.S. President - any U.S. President - is something that no North Korean leader has been able to pull off in 65 years. Trump has (as of today) agreed to meet with few pre-conditions. Secretary Mattis' statement notwithstanding, denuclearization does not appear to be a pre-condition.

  • There is a case to be made that Trump really has moved the ball - with or without the goalposts in view - just getting the two Koreas in the same room at the same time and help end the war between them.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to M*A*S*H, to the number of U.S. troops stationed overseas, and to the Mattis article.

    The Mullfoto is another in our running license plate series. This one that shows true dedication to an objective.

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