If we leave now, however, Seoul will take it as a signal that we are abandoning her to face a nuclear-armed North.
South Korea will have little choice but to begin a crash program to build her own nuclear arsenal.
Yet, as the United States cannot be forever committed to fight a nuclear-armed North Korea to defend South Korea, a nuclear-armed South is probably in the cards. Pyongyang's explosion of Monday is probably already forcing second thoughts in Seoul about the necessity of developing its own deterrent.
China is said to be enraged that North Korea has defied it by detonating a nuclear device. Beijing should be. For the Chinese-Russian monopoly on nuclear weapons in North Asia has been broken. And the democracies there are unlikely to endure a situation where they can be subjected to missile and nuclear blackmail by a backward, bellicose little dictator like Kim Jong-Il.
Japan, a nation of 125 million, with the second-largest economy on earth and the technological equal of any nation, will not allow itself to be blackmailed by this former colony of 20 million impoverished Koreans.
In securing her against any threat from Russia or China in the Cold War, Japan relied on the U.S. nuclear umbrella. But will Japan be willing to rely on America, and forego her own nuclear deterrent, if she is threatened by a rogue state like Kim Jong-Il's?
If all three of Japan's closest neighbors -- Russia, China and North Korea -- have nuclear weapons, and U.S. power is receding in Asia, and American will is being severely tested in Afghanistan and Iraq, Tokyo will surely have to reconsider the nuclear option.
Beijing refused to use its enormous economic leverage to coerce North Korea into giving up its nuclear program. Now, China may find herself with a nuclear-armed South Korea, Japan and perhaps Taiwan.
As for the United States, the nuclearization of Asia means it is time to move U.S. forces back to Guam and, as LBJ said, let Asian boys do the fighting that Asian boys should be doing for themselves.
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