Time to step up

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Time to step up

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” Tolstoy’s novel “Anna Karenina” begins.

A happy family is bound by love, an unhappy one has various reasons for misery, from lack of love or money to troubles with children. Evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond developed this definition of the Anna Karenina principle: while we look for one factor for success, a successful endeavor is actually one where every possible deficiency has been avoided.

Among many examples of such cases, the North Korean situation proves how true this principle can be. It acts like a troubled younger brother who continues to come up with yet another way of failure no matter how other family members try. The feeble brother dares to fight a muscular neighborhood strongman, gets supported by the older brother, but threatens to ruin the family. Lately, its leader is rumored to have cruelly purged underlings for failing to keep up with his bossy act.

All families have a nuisance. And everyone knows that we need both carrots and sticks to deal with these nuisances. That means we need to consider all possible causes for failures. We should press, appease, threaten and coax constantly, and different means should be taken appropriately. Now is the time for intimidation. North Korea recently succeeded in test-firing a submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBM). The military authorities think North Korea will have SLBMs equipped in submarines in two years. And what they will put on the missile warhead is obvious. For what else is Pyongyang working so hard to experiment and miniaturize nuclear warhead?

When North Korea’s shabby unmanned drone flew over the sky of Seoul, Koreans were appalled. We cannot help feeling a chill down on our spines to think of their 2,000 ton-submarine equipped with a single SLBM. As we are well aware, it is virtually impossible to trace a submarine. We appreciate the Defense Ministry’s plan to expand the kill chain in response to North Korean missile threats to under water, but it doesn’t assure us. South Korea’s naval vessel Cheonan was shot and sunk by a submarine torpedo attack from the North, and it is nearly a daydream to believe that we can detect a submarine and defend against a missile launched underwater.

The Thaad controversy has become meaningless now. When North Korea makes one spear, we need 10 shields. The defense has to be limited. We cannot keep building a new hospital every time a patient is diagnosed.

We should not give up on North Korea and need to make it clear that if Pyongyang uses nuclear weapons, they will be the first one to collapse. And now is the time. Self-defense with nuclear armament is a distant possibility, so a realistic option is the rearrangement of the strategic nuclear presence. We may want to consider having a U.S. nuclear warhead-loaded submarine in the waters of the Korean Peninsula. We need to persuade the Obama administration that the SLBM launch has changed the situation. Persuading China will not be easy either. But it is not impossible since China is partially responsible for the entanglement.

It is a difficult task. But we must not make a folly of missing the timing. When the threat is renewed day by day, we can achieve nothing by advocating “no tolerance for the North Korean nuclear program.” Preemption could discourage the North’s nuclear development ambition. It is far better than doing nothing and isolating North Korea. We can then engage in talks and continue to provide humanitarian aides and make efforts for economic cooperation. The only way for success is to find all causes for failure and respond to each of them.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 16, Page 30

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Lee Hoon-beom

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