Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Ya Gotta Move Fast These Days

Late last night, just before logging off for the day, I ran across this story from the Korea Times website, via It details a report given to the Korean Assembly:
The warhead of a long-range missile test-fired by North Korea was found in the U.S. state of Alaska, a report to the National Assembly revealed yesterday.

``According to a U.S. document, the last piece of a missile warhead fired by North Korea was found in Alaska,’’ former Japanese foreign minister Taro Nakayama was quoted as saying in the report. ``Washington, as well as Tokyo, has so far underrated Pyongyang’s missile capabilities.’’

The report was the culmination of monthlong activities of the Assembly’s overseas delegation to five countries over the North Korean nuclear crisis. The Assembly dispatched groups of lawmakers to the United States, Japan, China, Russia and European Union last month to collect information and opinions on the international issue.
It's a block-buster of a story, if true. I scanned around Google, but only came up with this indirect reference from a story:
Of course, Mr. Begala simply forgot that Clinton's military chief of staff testified in 1998 that North Korea did not have an active ballistic missile program. One week later the North Koreans launched a missile over Japan that landed off the Alaska coast.
Hardly corroborating evidence, so I figured I'd wait until the next day to see if anything showed up elsewhere on the Net.

BZZZZT! Big mistake. When I logged on today, and did my usual blog rounds, I found that Donald Sensing, a fine member of the Rocky Top Brigade, had jumped all over this puppy. He had found a UPI story that contained all kinds of amazed denials from elected officials in Alaska and Washington. [BTW, Don's blog is a wide-ranging and thoughtful daily read. As a Methodist minister, he brings welcome perspectives to the blog discussion. Well recommended.]

It just goes to show that you can't wait on stories. You have to jump and jump right now. Otherwise, you get scooped.

This story, if true, is also cause for concern. If the North Koreans really do have a missile that, five years ago, could reach Alaska like that, then it does add a certain extra weight to the problems they've been stirring up lately.

Now, having said that, I don't think Korea is the crisis that some in the Democratic Party and the media are trying to create. Nor do I believe that immediate, unilateral action by the USA is called for. This is a situation that is perfect for a multilateral approach from the US, China, Russian, South Korea and Japan. All have a stake in this and all have the economic and military heft to lean on North Korea.

The usual pattern for the North Koreans is to do this kind of scary saber rattling until we cough up the cash. I believe that this is, to some large extent, what they are doing now, while we are occupied with Iraq.

Don't forget that they have Russia and China right on their borders. Neither country is eager to see North Korea destabilise the area that badly. China has plans for Taiwan and North Korea's announced actions would disturb them. And Japan announced last week that they would seriously consider pre-emptive strikes on targets in North Korea if they thought that Kim Jung Il was serious about striking.

While North Korea has a large army that would overwhelm any defenses on the DMZ, and a sudden strike would destroy Seoul, South Korea, that would be their whole shot right there. They cannot sustain any attack and cannot defend against any counter-strikes.

Simply put, there's no profit in a real attack, but lots in just announcing one. But the idea of the North Koreans really having this kind of missile reach is sobering.

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