In policy circles Victor Cha is well known. And why shouldn’t he be? Didn’t he advise Bush junior on North Korea? Today, he teaches at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and is a senior advisor at the Centre for Stratgic and International Studies.
So when Cha speaks on North Korea, he is heard. In Friday’s 30 October edition of ‘the Financial Times of London’, his thinking on North Korea found its way in the opinion page: “Kim Jong-il must see the dark path that follows failed talks”.
Advisor Victor Cha brings nothing new to the table. The Achilles heel in his opinion piece is that the Obama administration’s policy towards North Korea is tightly yoked to South Korea’s president Lee Myung bak’s hard line standpoint towards Kim Jong il’s regime. Consequently, the US has its hands tied in moves to restart the suspended Six Party talks in Beijing. And I suggest the Obama administration is comfortable with that arrangement.
This US-South Korea axis seen from Pyongyang sets off alarm bells as the US and ROK are strengthening South Korea abilities to go toe to toe with North Korea in a “balance of terror” scenario in the divided Korean peninsula. Consider the following: the placement of Israeli supplied missiles on the DMZ; the sale of hight-altitude drones known as “RQ-Global Hawks” which will allow South Korea to spy more closely on what is happening on the ground in the DPRK; the construction of the Gangjung naval facility on Jeju Island which will accomadate 20 warships (mainly American) and house US state of the art Aegis missiles. The South Korea armed force as of 2010 had the reported strength of 3,853,00 (653,000 active and 3,200,000 reserve forces). The US supplements South Korea military with 28,000 military stationed in South Korea, and in the Yellow and East (Japan) Seas, the “USS George Washington”, an American nuclear powered super carrier, is not only moored in Busan but also patrols Korean waters, especially along the Northern Limit Line in close proximity to North Korea’s offshore boundaries.
If as Cha posits that North Korea’s nuclear and rocket programs raise great fears, the same criticisms can be applied to US-ROK’s race to turn South Korea into military bulwark that raise the specter of war.
Since the test for Washington and Seoul is North Korea’s expression of “sincerity” (whatever that means), the two allies are doing their worst to give the DPRK any reasonable opportunity for returning to the negotiating table in Beijing.