|Keeping the Peace: America in Korea, 1950-2010
In the 57 years since the armistice, North Korea has time and again shown its willingness to take considerable risks to turn the strategic environment in its favor. The sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean naval ship, in March of this year, and the bombing of a South Korean island on November 23, are but the latest in a long history of deadly attacks. But today the North Korean regime faces its most serious internal political challenges in nearly 20 years: severe economic stresses, the increasing infiltration of information, higher numbers of its citizens attempting to defect to the South, and the challenge of handing over dynastic power from a long-ruling father to an unproven son in his twenties.
This uncertain situation presents a rare opportunity for policymakers in Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo to bring about changes in the North Korean regime and ensure peace and stability in the region. Engaging the North Korean people—rather than the regime—by means of information operations and facilitating defections, while simultaneously constricting Pyongyang’s cash flow, is the best means to that end. It’s also important for Washington to hold quiet consultations with Beijing to prepare jointly for a unified Korea under Seoul’s direction, a new polity that will be free, peaceful, capitalist, pro-U.S. and pro-China.
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