(Guest post by Leonard Adreon) In 1951 and 1952 I was a corpsman with the First Marine Division fighting the Chinese and North Koreans on the blood-soaked hillsides at the 38th Parallel in Korea.
Despite all the negative rhetoric about President Trump and Kim Jong-Un, and the visuals of the flags or the imprecise language of the letter of intent, I believe the recent summit has the potential to be the beginning of a drastic and much-needed change in the Korean dilemma.
Kim Jong-Un should be motivated to trade his nuclear program for believable guarantees that he will be secure against foreign attack, together with sanction removal and possible economic aid to allow his impoverished nation of about 25 million people to move towards a stabilized successful economy. Also, out of the extended negotiations could evolve a peace treaty between North and South Korea that is 65 years overdue.
Kim should also realize that failure to denuclearize threatens his survival. The world, particularly Japan and the United States, cannot live under the threat that North Korea could launch multiple nuclear intercontinental missiles against our respective nations. Therefore, the ultimate alternative to a deal will be either regime change, fostered covertly or otherwise, or a massive air strike designed to destroy Kim’s military and his government. This final alternative is dangerous because of the potential for retaliation and the massive death and destruction it can cause.
Another dictator, Sadam Hussein, threatened that he would use “weapons of mass destruction” which, it turned out he didn’t have, to attack his enemies. The consequence of his threats was the destruction of his nation and his death. Kim Jong-Un should think about that somewhat parallel situation.
South Korea, a relatively prosperous nation of more than 49 million, should be told by our President to mobilize its armed forces so that it is capable of defending itself against the North. We can and should provide military aid in the form of planes, tanks, missiles and the like as needed but we should not provide boots on the ground. The 32,000 servicemen, now stationed in Korea, should come home as soon as South Korea can defend itself. I am disturbed that the 32,000 are there as a sacrificial deterrent on the theory the Kim will not attack because killing those Americans will surely cause a massive retaliation against him. That deterrent force cannot have a substantial impact in a war against North Korea’s active duty army of more than 1.2 million.
On the hillsides of Korea, I saw the blood as we lost 36,000 service personnel and 103,000 who came home without an arm or an eye or a leg. We left 7,799 there who are still missing in action. We must not fight another ground war to save the South again.
For any agreement to succeed there must be mutual motivation and a level of trust. I believe the motivation is there and it is strong. The trust from both sides is suspect. North Korea will be skeptical that after it gives up his nuclear program the United States may withdraw support and re-impose sanctions. The US will need a method of verification that the missiles and the nuclear warheads are gone and not being recreated.
My hope is that the compelling need for a workable agreement will overcome all obstacles.
Leonard Adreon is the author of a recently published book called “Hilltop Doc, A Marine Corpsman Fighting Through the Mud and Blood of the Korean War. For more inforamtion, visit www.hilltopdoc.com or visit him on Facebook.