It's not a question of if North Korea will collapse, but when

Evidence is mounting that the North Korean's boast of testing a hydrogen bomb is an empty one.  Radiation monitors in Japan, China, and South Korea have all come up empty when looking for a radiation signature at the blast site.  This may be due to the test being conducted deeper underground than previous tests.

But the seismic activity generated by the test comes nowhere near what it would be if a thermonuclear device had been detonated.  At 5.1 on the Richter Scale, experts say the bomb was even smaller than the fission device we used on Hiroshima.

Claudia Rosett on some of the consequences of the test – H-bomb or not:

Perhaps it’s tempting by now to hope, or even try to rationalize, that because no North Korean nuclear bombs have yet gone off outside of North Korean test tunnels, they never will. That is an increasingly risky calculus. Way back in the early 1990s, when the U.S. had just won the Cold War and occupied a position far more secure in the world, Bill Clinton considered it a major crisis that North Korea might be producing even one functional nuclear weapon.

Today, North Korea openly makes nuclear bomb fuel, amasses an arsenal, parades its long-range missiles and brags up its nuclear tests. In the news right now — think about this for a moment — the big question is whether the Jan. 6 detonation was really a test of a North Korean hydrogen bomb, or a test of what has become the usual North Korean atomic bomb.

There is also the alarming likelihood that North Korea, which has long made a practice of selling every lethal creation it comes up with — from guns to missiles to nuclear technology — will share the fruits of this latest test with its longtime customer, ballistic-missile-testing Iran. Or perhaps North Korea will peddle its wares for mass murder elsewhere in the terror vats of the Middle East.

Obama has waited-and-talked himself into a very tight corner with North Korea. It’s quite possible that this latest test was in part an opening gambit by Kim Jong Un for a North Korean return to the nuclear bargaining table. A hydrogen bomb, whether real or an imaginary embellishment on the usual atomic bombs, would be a nice bargaining chip for Pyongyang.

Blame Obama for inaction on the North Korean threat, but the entire Western world has had its head in the sand when it comes to the very survival of the North Korean regime.  Experts have been predicting its collapse for years, but some analysts are saying that this particular test reveals a desperation in the regime that goes beyond a shattered economy and starving population.

The Week:

The regime cannot go on indefinitely. It is astonishingly corrupt and criminal. Even if it wanted to, it probably couldn't manage a China-style policy of opening up its economy to raise people's standards of living while maintaining an authoritarian government to prevent societal collapse. The technocratic know-how simply isn't there. And the only thing holding the regime together is absolute fear, and the total brain-washing of the population — brainwashing which is slowly dissolving as, inevitably,mobile phones and media, including Bibles, seep into the country.

When it does eventually collapse, it will be a humanitarian disaster on a scale perhaps not seen since World War II. North Korea's people are famished. To say that alcoholism is rampant is an understatement.

Millions of refugees will stream over the borders. On one side, there's China and Russia, who aren't exactly global models of efficiency and humanitarianism. South Korea is a highly-advanced economy — indeed, in some areas, more advanced than the U.S. — but it's still a small nation ill-prepared to cope with the collapse of its similar-sized neighbor.

 

The fall will be a humanitarian disaster, but it will also be a security nightmare. North Korea's military arsenal, though aged, and probably mostly out of repair, is still enormous, and we should expect warlords to emerge. But this is nothing compared, of course, to the risk related to North Korea's nuclear arsenal, which is still a huge mystery. Do you think ISIS would like to buy a nuclear weapon? Do you think nobody in North Korea would sell it to them?

These are just a few of the most pressing realities concerning North Korea. But it seems to me that the vast majority of policymakers ignore them in the interest of maintaining the status quo for as long as possible — a situation that will only worsen the inevitable. But why should policymakers do otherwise? Much better to keep a lid on the problem until their term is over.

Both China and Russia see it in their interest to prop up Kim's odious regime by shipping food, fuel, medicine, and other necessities to North Korea.  The reason is obvious.  A collapse would see millions of desperate, starving North Koreans streaming over their borders.  Both nations figure it's cheaper to buy off Kim than the alternative.

Eventually, even these measures will fail, and the regime will collapse.  Before that happens, is there anything that can be done to stave off the catastrophe?

I've argued previously that the responsible solution is a military-humanitarian intervention that would secure North Korea's military arsenal and create the conditions for a better future for North Koreans — an administration that would transition the economy towards a freer system and, ultimately, reunite North Korea with South Korea. I think China could be brought on board if America demilitarized Korean Peninsula in exchange.

There's a lot to say about this plan — there are many things that could go wrong with it, and it would be very hard to pull off. But at least it's a plan.

It may be a plan, but it's a terrible idea and would probably result in the incineration of South Korea.  Even if Kim is overthrown by the military, there is no way any such plan would succeed without unimaginable destruction on the Korean peninsula. 

So maybe "wait and see" is a viable alternative anyway.  American administrations from Clinton through Bush to Obama have failed utterly in treating this threat seriously.  We failed to take out their nuclear program while it was still possible to do so.  And now, the world will reap the whirlwind after having sown such a bitter harvest.

Evidence is mounting that the North Korean's boast of testing a hydrogen bomb is an empty one.  Radiation monitors in Japan, China, and South Korea have all come up empty when looking for a radiation signature at the blast site.  This may be due to the test being conducted deeper underground than previous tests.

But the seismic activity generated by the test comes nowhere near what it would be if a thermonuclear device had been detonated.  At 5.1 on the Richter Scale, experts say the bomb was even smaller than the fission device we used on Hiroshima.

Claudia Rosett on some of the consequences of the test – H-bomb or not:

Perhaps it’s tempting by now to hope, or even try to rationalize, that because no North Korean nuclear bombs have yet gone off outside of North Korean test tunnels, they never will. That is an increasingly risky calculus. Way back in the early 1990s, when the U.S. had just won the Cold War and occupied a position far more secure in the world, Bill Clinton considered it a major crisis that North Korea might be producing even one functional nuclear weapon.

Today, North Korea openly makes nuclear bomb fuel, amasses an arsenal, parades its long-range missiles and brags up its nuclear tests. In the news right now — think about this for a moment — the big question is whether the Jan. 6 detonation was really a test of a North Korean hydrogen bomb, or a test of what has become the usual North Korean atomic bomb.

There is also the alarming likelihood that North Korea, which has long made a practice of selling every lethal creation it comes up with — from guns to missiles to nuclear technology — will share the fruits of this latest test with its longtime customer, ballistic-missile-testing Iran. Or perhaps North Korea will peddle its wares for mass murder elsewhere in the terror vats of the Middle East.

Obama has waited-and-talked himself into a very tight corner with North Korea. It’s quite possible that this latest test was in part an opening gambit by Kim Jong Un for a North Korean return to the nuclear bargaining table. A hydrogen bomb, whether real or an imaginary embellishment on the usual atomic bombs, would be a nice bargaining chip for Pyongyang.

Blame Obama for inaction on the North Korean threat, but the entire Western world has had its head in the sand when it comes to the very survival of the North Korean regime.  Experts have been predicting its collapse for years, but some analysts are saying that this particular test reveals a desperation in the regime that goes beyond a shattered economy and starving population.

The Week:

The regime cannot go on indefinitely. It is astonishingly corrupt and criminal. Even if it wanted to, it probably couldn't manage a China-style policy of opening up its economy to raise people's standards of living while maintaining an authoritarian government to prevent societal collapse. The technocratic know-how simply isn't there. And the only thing holding the regime together is absolute fear, and the total brain-washing of the population — brainwashing which is slowly dissolving as, inevitably,mobile phones and media, including Bibles, seep into the country.

When it does eventually collapse, it will be a humanitarian disaster on a scale perhaps not seen since World War II. North Korea's people are famished. To say that alcoholism is rampant is an understatement.

Millions of refugees will stream over the borders. On one side, there's China and Russia, who aren't exactly global models of efficiency and humanitarianism. South Korea is a highly-advanced economy — indeed, in some areas, more advanced than the U.S. — but it's still a small nation ill-prepared to cope with the collapse of its similar-sized neighbor.

 

The fall will be a humanitarian disaster, but it will also be a security nightmare. North Korea's military arsenal, though aged, and probably mostly out of repair, is still enormous, and we should expect warlords to emerge. But this is nothing compared, of course, to the risk related to North Korea's nuclear arsenal, which is still a huge mystery. Do you think ISIS would like to buy a nuclear weapon? Do you think nobody in North Korea would sell it to them?

These are just a few of the most pressing realities concerning North Korea. But it seems to me that the vast majority of policymakers ignore them in the interest of maintaining the status quo for as long as possible — a situation that will only worsen the inevitable. But why should policymakers do otherwise? Much better to keep a lid on the problem until their term is over.

Both China and Russia see it in their interest to prop up Kim's odious regime by shipping food, fuel, medicine, and other necessities to North Korea.  The reason is obvious.  A collapse would see millions of desperate, starving North Koreans streaming over their borders.  Both nations figure it's cheaper to buy off Kim than the alternative.

Eventually, even these measures will fail, and the regime will collapse.  Before that happens, is there anything that can be done to stave off the catastrophe?

I've argued previously that the responsible solution is a military-humanitarian intervention that would secure North Korea's military arsenal and create the conditions for a better future for North Koreans — an administration that would transition the economy towards a freer system and, ultimately, reunite North Korea with South Korea. I think China could be brought on board if America demilitarized Korean Peninsula in exchange.

There's a lot to say about this plan — there are many things that could go wrong with it, and it would be very hard to pull off. But at least it's a plan.

It may be a plan, but it's a terrible idea and would probably result in the incineration of South Korea.  Even if Kim is overthrown by the military, there is no way any such plan would succeed without unimaginable destruction on the Korean peninsula. 

So maybe "wait and see" is a viable alternative anyway.  American administrations from Clinton through Bush to Obama have failed utterly in treating this threat seriously.  We failed to take out their nuclear program while it was still possible to do so.  And now, the world will reap the whirlwind after having sown such a bitter harvest.