Con­sen­sus on N. Korea: a hope ‘cooler heads’ pre­vail

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - METRO RTD - BY SEAN GOR­MAN

Hours be­fore North Korea re­port­edly fired another mis­sile over a Ja­panese is­land, speak­ers with con­nec­tions to the Korean Penin­sula at a fo­rum hosted by the Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch of­fered dif­fer­ing strate­gies for deal­ing with North Korea amid height­ened ten­sions with its reclu­sive nu­clear-armed regime.

The con­sen­sus in the room was that war would be dev­as­tat­ing be­yond the Korean Penin­sula. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has threat­ened to fire nu­clear weapons at the U.S. and Ja­pan while in re­cent months con­duct­ing more ad­vanced nu­clear weapons tests.

“Hope­fully in the end, cooler heads will pre­vail and we can

avoid what­ever ter­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion that could hap­pen,” said John Kim, the pres­i­dent of the Kore­anAmer­i­can So­ci­ety of Greater Rich­mond, speak­ing at the news­pa­per’s 72nd Pub­lic Square.

Kim said the U.S. should with­draw its troops sta­tioned in South Korea and let that coun­try deal with its north­ern neigh­bor. Kim

sug­gested the U.S. could still pro­vide Seoul with the mil­i­tary as­sis­tance to help it deal with North Korea.

That view was sec­onded by John Shin­holser, a Me­chan­icsville res­i­dent who at­tended the fo­rum.

“We’ve got no busi­ness be­ing there de­fend­ing a coun­try that ought to de­fend them­selves,” Shin­holser said.

But James Chase, who served in the Army dur­ing the Korean War, was skep­ti­cal about pulling out U.S. troops.

“Are we go­ing to leave Korea af­ter we lost all those men over there?” asked Chase, who leads the Rich­mond chap­ter for the Korean War Vet­er­ans As­so­ci­a­tion. “We are go­ing

to walk away and let North Korea just take it over?”

Clay Mount­cas­tle, the di­rec­tor of the Vir­ginia War Memo­rial and an Army of­fi­cer who served in Korea in 2008-2009, said that in the De­mil­i­ta­rized Zone be­tween North and South Korea, “the Cold War still ex­ists.”

Mount­cas­tle also served

in Ger­many in the mid1990s fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the Soviet Union. Mount­cas­tle said that while he was in Europe, he felt the U.S. was still deal­ing with “ra­tio­nal ac­tors” in the for­mer U.S.S.R. who didn’t want to start World War III.

But while he was in Korea, Mount­cas­tle said he never had the feel-

ing that “we were deal­ing with ra­tio­nal ac­tors on the other side of the (De­mil­i­ta­rized Zone).”

Monti Datta, a po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Rich­mond, said he thinks the North Korean regime is in­deed ra­tio­nal, us­ing its nu­clear weapons pro­gram as a bar­gain­ing chip to so­licit eco­nomic con­ces­sions from the rest of the world.

“The regime of North Korea has been very strate­gic over the decades in ba­si­cally play­ing what you might call nu­clear black­mail,” Datta said.

The Univer­sity of Rich­mond pro­fes­sor sug­gested that one diplo­matic ap­proach that could be help­ful in deal­ing with North Korea would be for the US. to have face-to-face bi­lat­eral ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween of­fi­cials in Wash­ing­ton and Py­ongyang.

“I think that is some­thing that North Korea has al­ways wanted but has never got­ten,” Datta said. “That wouldn’t hurt,and is worth a try.”

Kim said Trump’s bel­li­cose rhetoric to­ward North Korea on Twit­ter has not been help­ful. “You don’t have to get in a spit­ting match with a Third World despot,” Kim said.

Chase de­fended the pres­i­dent’s ap­proach in con­fronting the North Korean leader.

“Pres­i­dent Trump has tried very hard to bring this thing to a head and cool this guy down,” Chase said. “We’ve had eight years of (Pres­i­dent Barack) Obama, who did noth­ing.”

Datta said he be­lieves that cooler heads will in­deed pre­vail, and that ul­ti­mately the U.S. and North Korea will com­mu­ni­cate through back chan­nels to find a res­o­lu­tion to the present stand­off. “Some sort of agree­ment will be bro­kered that will be just a Band-Aid on a longer prob­lem of how can North Korea re­ally be treated, es­pe­cially as a regime that’s al­ways on the brink of col­lapse and mass star­va­tion,” Datta said.

MARK GORMUS/ TIMES- DIS­PATCH

Lance Song spoke dur­ing the Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch Pub­lic Square on Korea on Thurs­day.

MARK GORMUS/ TIMES- DIS­PATCH

Speak­ers at Thurs­day’s Pub­lic Square of­fered strate­gies on deal­ing­with North Korea.

Chase

Datta

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