After his father's death in 1994, Kim Jong-Il threatened violence during the various 1990s nuclear negotiations. This decade, Kim fired ballistic missiles and detonated a nuke. South Korea and its allies rewarded the regime's armed tantrums with food and economic aid. Liberal South Korean presidents dubbed it The Sunshine Policy -- an outreach to North Korea's suffering people. The policy sought to demonstrate to Kim the benefits of economic cooperation. Critics like current South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, however, argued gifts met with insistent belligerence was stupid diplomacy.
The North Korean police state's midnight torpedo knock completely kills the Sunshine Policy.
Why the torpedo? In a column written three weeks ago, I suggested that the attack might be a macabre 60th anniversary commemoration of North Korea's attack on South Korea, one appealing to the malign psyche of North Korea's dictator, Kim Jong-Il. After all, Kim gets his sexed-up jollies by sending commandos south to kidnap movie starlets whom he then enslaves as concubines. He's a sociopath who uses violence to get what he wants.
Kim can't handle real sunshine -- the truth. In the 60 years since the Korean War began, South Korea has decisively defeated North Korea in the social and economic spheres. Only in military terms, in the base destructive power of Pyongyang's large armies and nascent nuclear weapons program, does the North challenge the South. War is all Kim has. Violence is how he controls his own people -- assassination and threats of nuclear immolation are how he relates to the rest of the world.
As we enter the summer of 2010, the risk of all-out war on the Korean Peninsula is quite high, and possibly the highest it has been since the armistice was signed in 1953. The armistice suspended major combat -- it is not a peace treaty. The situation is quite serious. It's time to end the Korean War, and that means ending the Kim regime, not placating it. That's the message to send Pyongyang. Until South Korea and the Obama administration face that fact, the wicked joke is on us.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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