Statement of support a good start, more is needed

As conservatives we generally oppose the President, but we must remember to give praise where it is due. One has to give Mr. Obama some credit on this one: The White House issued a statement saying that the President “fully supports” the South Korean government after North Korea torpedoed and sank a South Korean warship, the corvette Cheonan.

The administration said it endorsed President Lee Myung-bak’s demand that “North Korea immediately apologize and punish those responsible for the attack, and, most importantly, stop its belligerent and threatening behavior.”

Seoul can continue to count on the full backing of the United States, the White House said.

“U.S. support for South Korea’s defense is unequivocal, and the president has directed his military commanders to coordinate closely with their Republic of Korea counterparts to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression,” the White House said.

While a good start, a statement doesn’t carry the same weight as a Presidential Address or a press conference.  President Obama needs to show his face and publicly state America’s support for the Republic of Korea so that Kim Jong Il has no questions about our intent.

North Korea (officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK) has a long history of violating South Korea’s sovereignty, with attacks inside and across the Demilitarized Zone (a buffer established after the Korean War), including attacks on the Republic of Korea’s military and civilian infrastructure. One attack on South Korea’s president failed to kill the him but did assassinate his entire cabinet. This torpedo attack is one of the most aggressive attacks and by far the most destructive since the Korean War cease-fire in 1953.

South Korea, for its part, is cutting off more ties with the North, including trade. South Korea is the DRPK’s second-largest trading partner, behind China. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is lobbying for support from China, North Korea’s most influential supporter and backer.

American policy toward the DRPK has been inconsistent since the fall of the Soviet Union. Both the Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations used a “Carrot and Stick” approach that seemed heavy on the carrot and light on the stick. However, while North Korea pushed for unilateral talks with the United States, the Bush Administration stuck to its guns on multi-lateral diplomacy, forcing North Korea to deal with its neighbors Japan, China and South Korea as well as the United States.

North Korea is functionally destitute. The nation would exist in general starvation without American and South Korean food aid. Its centrally-planned economy is geared toward the production of weapons and it has exported many of them to nations like Iraq (prior to the US-led invasion), Iran and others. Published estimates list the nation as having two million soldiers and sailors in uniform, a little more than one in twelve people. While its military appears vast, it is unknown if the DRPK can actually supply and feed such a force in battle, especially in a protracted campaign.

Hopefully, the Obama Administration will not waver in its support of the Republic of Korea. North Korea has shown a propensity for pushing the envelope, but not breaking it. Any hedging could be perceived by the North as a sign of weakness; one they could exploit in dealing with the South that might be a prelude to war.