USA Today

Kuhner's Corner: Stay out of North Korea

A U.S. military attack risks consuming Trump's presidency

Jeff Kuhner
August 09, 2017 - 11:03 am

North Korea appears to have crossed President Trump’s red line.
U.S. intelligence officials claim Pyongyang has developed a miniaturized nuclear warhead capable of being put on Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). If this is true, then Stalinist dictator Kim Jong-Un has put North Korea on the path toward becoming a full-fledged nuclear power. He can potentially nuke Seoul, Tokyo, Hawaii and maybe even Seattle.
Trump has repeatedly warned that he -- and the West -- cannot live with a nuclear-armed North Korea. He responded to the news with saber-rattling, warning Kim that any threats “will be met with fire and fury” the likes of which “this world has never seen before.” In other words, Trump is ready to launch a devastating war to smash the North Korean hermit state.
This would be a catastrophic mistake. Any attack on Pyongyang risks a larger conflagration that could lead to millions dead, a bloodbath on the Korean peninsula and a direct military confrontation with Red China. Just like World War I began in some far-off corner of the globe (the Balkans), North Korea could trigger World War III.
A U.S.-led military intervention to overthrow Kim’s murderous regime would lead to terrible consequences. In response, North Korean forces would pound Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. It is one of the most densely populated cities on Earth, with nearly 28 million inhabitants. Millions would be slaughtered by North Korean artillery shells. And if Kim deployed one of his mini-nukes, Seoul would be reduced to ashes -- making Hiroshima and Nagasaki pale in comparison.
Moreover, North Korea borders China. A U.S. attack on Pyongyang would likely lead to millions of North Korean refugees pouring across the Chinese frontier. This would not only destabilize North Korea, but China. For over 60 years, Beijing has propped up the Kim dynasty. The communist Chinese view Pyongyang as a strategic buffer against America and South Korea. Chinese President Xi Jinping will not allow the Korean Peninsula to be reunified under a pro-American, democratic government. A free and united Korea would pose a mortal threat to China’s one-party, authoritarian rule.
Hence, a U.S.-led war to topple Kim’s regime would almost certainly drag in China, which is exactly what happened during the first Korean war, 1950-1953, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s forces swept into North Korean territory. China is more than simply a great power. It has the largest land army in the world, and a vast nuclear arsenal. If American and South Korean troops are engaged in a conflict with North Korea, Beijing may have no choice but to intervene on Kim’s behalf. Already, massive Chinese military forces have amassed on the North Korean border.
During the Cold War, successive presidents -- Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan -- warned against the United States fighting a major land war in Asia, especially China. The reason is obvious: Even if America were to prevail, the cost in blood and treasure would be so high as to make victory meaningless. It would destroy the United States as a superpower.
Which begs the question: Why are we still in South Korea? Any U.S. attack on Pyongyang would result in North Korea bombing and killing thousands of American troops stationed along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Those 29,000 U.S. troops are now sitting ducks, and would be slaughtered in a war. It is time for the United States to dissolve its mutual security pact with South Korea and bring our troops home. It is not in America’s national interests to keep protecting a South Korea that has 40 times the economy and twice the population of the North. Let South Koreans defend their own country. Uncle Sam needs to stop being Uncle Sucker.
It’s time to put America first.
Trump campaigned on keeping the U.S. out of endless wars. The American people are tired of perpetual military adventurism. Instead of threatening military conflict, Trump should tell Seoul they have the right to acquire nuclear weapons to act as a deterrent against Kim’s bellicose behavior. Furthermore, Washington must develop a defense shield capable of shooting down any potential North Korean missile. And finally, Trump needs to make something absolutely clear to North Korea: A nuclear strike on Hawaii, Alaska or Los Angeles would trigger an overwhelming, decisive nuclear response; America will wipe Pyongyang off the map.
Kim’s odious regime is many things -- sadistic, volatile and reckless. But it is not suicidal. America can live with a nuclear-armed North Korea. We cannot, however, live with a potentially catastrophic war in Asia.                          
-Jeffrey T. Kuhner is host of “The Kuhner Report” on WRKO AM 680 in Boston.

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