I advocate for the concept of “theoretical modern history,” modern history in which incidents that have actually occurred can be consistently explained. To achieve this, I have long believed we must revise our interpretations of history based on new facts that come to light, rather than being limited by accepted opinions. Some people criticize this stance as “historical revisionism,” but all scholarly fields keep evolving as people reject past theories according to new views. The same should apply to the study of history.
The world is currently anxious about North Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile provocation. In considering how to respond to this, we must look back chronologically at the history of North Korea’s nuclear program. In 1994, the Bill Clinton administration was considering the use of military force against North Korea in a precise strike of nuclear facilities. The year before, in March 1993, North Korea declared that it would withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and in May it went ahead with missile tests on Nodong missiles launched into the Sea of Japan. At a working-level meeting at the inter-Korean summit held in Panmunjom in March 1994, North Korean representative Park Young Soo stated Seoul would be a “sea of fire” if war broke out. Moreover, North Korea announced its immediate withdrawal from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in June 1994 and declared that it would refuse further inspections. Due to these increasingly tense circumstances, Clinton was considering a precise raid on North Korean nuclear facilities, but he ended up abandoning this plan because of fervent opposition from South Korean President Kim Young Sam, who feared a counteroffensive against Seoul.
Instead, Clinton sent former President Jimmy Carter to North Korea on June 16, 1994 as an attempt to defuse the crisis. Carter met with Kim Il Sung, who insisted that North Korea lacked the capabilities to make nuclear weapons and did not need to develop them anyway. North Korea was suffering a severe famine, and Kim Il Sung saw reorganizing agriculture and achieving a stable food supply as the matter of highest priority to maintain his regime. However, Kim Jong Il, his son, was confident that the nuclear development program was the only way to achieve this. Apparently, father and son were in extremely vehement confrontation regarding policy. On July 8, just half a month after the meeting with Carter, Kim Il Sung died of a heart attack on the first day of the third American-North Korean talks in Geneva. Journalist Ryo Hagiwara claims that Kim Jong Il assassinated his father. Hagiwara’s theory, which he described in the January 11 and 18, 2012 issues of SAPIO, is as follows:
The American-North Korean talks halted by the death of Kim Il Sung were resumed on August 5, 1994. As a result, the Agreed Framework between the United States of America and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was signed on October 21. The four main points are as follows:
2. Full normalization of political and economic relations between the U.S. and North Korea (reduction of barriers to trade and investment, opening of liaison offices, etc.)
3. Working for peace and security on a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula (no use of nuclear weapons by the U.S., steps to implement the North-South Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula)
4. Working together to strengthen the international nuclear non-proliferation regime (North Korea remaining a party to the NPT, implementation of the IAEA safeguards agreement, etc.)
Based on this Agreed Framework, North Korea announced on November 18, 1994 that it had taken measures to fully freeze all of its graphite-moderated reactors and related facilities. The IAEA confirmed this on November 28, 1994. However, North Korea was already making strong objections to the acceptance of South Korean LWRs at the American-North Korean expert meeting in Beijing on November 30, 1994.
Despite this Agreed Framework, Kim Jong Il secretly continued the nuclear program because he still felt that nuclear weapons were necessary to maintain his regime. He wanted nuclear arms not to oppose the U.S., but as deterrence against Chinese aggression. China had repeatedly pressured Kim Jong Il to end the nuclear program. He traveled to Beijing in April 2004 to explain his situation and declare that he would continue nuclear development. On his way back a major explosion – with power equivalent to 800 tons of TNT – occurred at Ryongchon Station in North Korea, just beyond the border with China. The accepted explanation from North Korea is that a freight train carrying ammonium nitrate fertilizer and petroleum crashed into a utility pole, which fell over and leaked electricity, setting off a huge explosion, but this is inconsistent with the facts. Photographs posted on the Internet right after the explosion showed a V-shaped scar reaching 15 meters below ground. This hole was clearly made by underground explosives, since aboveground explosions make U-shaped holes. The only possible explanation is that the train was blown up with huge amounts of explosives buried underground to assassinate Kim Jong Il passing through Ryongchon Station from Beijing to Pyongyang. Many photographs of the hole were searchable online directly after the accident, but they were quickly removed one after another and are mostly gone today.
A DailyNK article from September 8, 2011, entitled, “Kim Jong Il’s Deeply Meaningful Reference to the Ryongchon Station Explosion,” read as follows:
However, Kim Jong Il recently referred to the explosion as an assassination attempt on his own person during a meeting with Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyeon Jeong Eun, and there is a good chance that it is true.
If Kim Jong Il spoke the truth, then who tried to kill him? The explosion was not of a level that could be set by a regular citizen – huge amounts of explosives were placed near the station by someone who knew his top-secret travel route and was able to get past the security of the facility guards. Considering the large scale of the explosion, these elaborate preparations must have taken a fair amount of time.
Thinking about motives and opportunity, it seems most likely that Jiang Zemin, chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China, incited some North Korean military personnel to place these explosives with the goal of removing Kim Jong Il, who refused to halt the nuclear program.
Frightened by this assassination attempt, Kim Jong Il felt even more strongly that nuclear weapons were the only way to preserve his regime. He expedited nuclear development, and in October 2006 North Korea conducted its first successful nuclear test, although it was small and imperfect. Before Kim Jong Il died in 2011, he must have told Kim Jong Un, his successor, to be sufficiently wary against China’s movements. Accordingly, in 2013 Kim Jong Un arrested and executed his uncle Jang Song Thaek, who had ties with China. He also killed Kim Jong Nam, his half brother and potential successor in China’s view, in Malaysia. Kim Jong Un has repeatedly conducted missile launches and nuclear tests. In the sixth nuclear test in September 2017, he claims to have detonated a hydrogen bomb equivalent to 240 kilotons of TNT, 10 times greater than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It seems that North Korea has also successfully miniaturized more powerful nuclear warheads to fit on the heads of ballistic missiles, and the situation is growing more serious by the moment.
Kim Young Sam (who strongly opposed Clinton’s precise strike plan on North Korea in 1994) invited me to his home in August 2002 and June 2009, and we have been friendly since. He resisted the American attack on North Korea because he believed that Seoul would be struck in retaliation, leaving around one million people wounded or dead. However, he said this was a mistake. If the North Korean nuclear program had been stopped in 1994, it would not have developed today’s more advanced nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Russia is also a player in the background to North Korea’s obstinate stance of today. So what should be done? When asked by a reporter about the possibility of a military strike on North Korea, President Donald J. Trump replied, “You’ll see.” I think Trump may have judged that North Korea has already crossed his “red line,” and I think he will eventually make an advance announcement before carrying out a limited air strike on that country.
North Korea has maintained its regime up until now because it functioned as a buffer zone for of course the U.S., but also for China and Russia. This is because, if a pro-Chinese government came into power in North Korea, the U.S. Armed Forces would be in direct confrontation with the People’s Liberation Army at the Military Demarcation Line. On the other hand, if Korean reunification was spearheaded by South Korea and the U.S., China would be in contact with the American forces at the North Korean border. We can likely say the same about the border between Russia and North Korea. Regarding the recent hydrogen bomb test and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) that can reach Guam, Kim Jong Un should have said, “We have now completed our atomic bombs and miniaturized ballistic missile heads, and we will start deploying them for combat. We will conduct no further nuclear or ballistic missile launch tests as they are unneeded.” But because he declared that North Korea would rapidly conduct further tests including missiles with multiple warheads, he ended up crossing Trump’s red line. I think Trump has decided to conduct air strikes because he sensed that these statements also changed the attitude of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has previously supported North Korea.
Trump’s announcement of a limited strike should be presupposed on allowing the continuation of the current North Korea government, not on trying to kill Kim Jong Un. If North Korea does not declare its intention to cease ICBM launches and nuclear bomb tests, Trump should make an official announcement that the U.S. will strike roughly 100 important locations at ICMB- and nuclear bomb-related facilities, including how long the strike will last. He should tell people to evacuate from these locations, and also have American and other foreign tourists, American residents, and other persons evacuated from Seoul. Next, the U.S. should destroy North Korea’s underground facilities via an air strike with cruise missiles, B-1 bombers, and bunker-buster bombs. North Korea has 300 to 500 300mm self-propelled, multiple rocket launchers and more than 10,000 long-range guns stationed along the Military Demarcation Line. To prevent retaliation using these weapons, if even one shot is made at Seoul, the U.S. should announce that it will blow up and destroy all aboveground North Korean artillery facilities at the Military Demarcation Line with a daisy cutter on the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), which has the largest destructive capability after a nuclear weapon. Some people may worry about North Korea firing its nuclear weapons, but these actions would definitely not lead to war since North Korea has nuclear weapons for the sole purpose of defending itself and intimidating non-nuclear states. The American nuclear force is over 10,000 times greater than North Korea’s at present, and if North Korea actually used a nuclear weapon it would be certainly answered with a devastating nuclear counterattack. It is improbable that Kim Jong Un, whose main priority is prolonging his own life, would launch nuclear weapons. The possibility of North Korean ground troops using underground tunnels and other means to invade South Korea is also extremely low considering the threat of bombs for destroying underground facilities. It is possible that an incident might occur like the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan on March 26, 2010. This South Korean patrol boat was hit with a torpedo from a submarine, thought to be North Korean, near the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea west of the Korean Peninsula.
I can’t deny the feeling that it seems too late to do anything, but the situation will worsen even further if Trump doesn’t forcibly make an end to the Korean Peninsula crisis with an announcement about a limited air strike now. North Korea has developed ballistic missiles that can reach the American mainland and it is equipping them with nuclear warheads and multiple warheads, which are hard to defend against. It will probably also deploy submarine-launched nuclear missiles. Japan will continually face the North Korean threat going forward, which will render the American nuclear umbrella meaningless. Therefore, Japan must think about nuclear armament. It should probably accomplish this while Trump is in power, since he said he would allow Japan and South Korea to have nuclear weapons (although it was a statement made during his campaign). For Japan to possess nuclear deterrence, the most realistic option is entering into a nuclear sharing arrangement with the U.S. The U.S. is already engaging in nuclear sharing with Germany and Italy – other “former enemy states” in the United Nations Charter. For instance, nuclear submarines equipped with nuclear missiles could be jointly operated by Japan and the U.S., and the authority to launch them would be transferred to Japan in the event of an emergency. To conclude such an arrangement, Japan must first abolish its Three Non-Nuclear Principles.
Some people are of the view that nuclear sharing falls under the individual right to self-defense, so there would be no need to amend the constitution. However, to effectively ensure Japan’s security, the constitution should be reformed to clearly stipulate the Japan Self-Defense Forces and recognize them as a constitutional military force, like Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed in May. Now is an opportunity for constitutional change, given that National Diet members in favor of this occupy two thirds of the seats in both houses. To start, the first and second clauses of Article 9 should be left as-is and a third clause added by 2020. This would rid the citizens of their fear of constitutional change. After, sufficient time could be taken to discuss and revise the entire constitution. Since Abe’s proposal in May, the media (which conspires with forces in favor of protecting the constitution) has bashed Abe, and as a result his approval rating plummeted. Still, more people are taking notice of real threats such as the recent North Korean hydrogen bomb test and ICBM launches over Japan, and Abe’s approval rating has recovered. Abe’s past strategy was to continue increasing his approval rating, submit a constitutional amendment motion by next summer, dissolve the Lower House afterwards, then simultaneously hold a national referendum and general election to achieve constitutional reform and a stable government. However, he has decided that this is the chance for an early-stage dissolution due to the increased potential of a limited American air strike (with advance notice) in response to North Korean provocation, as well as his overhead view of the political circumstances including Seiji Maehara being chosen as the representative of the Democratic Party, the series of people leaving the party, and the fact that Yuriko Koike’s new party has neither a name nor a specific platform. Abe believes that this dissolution would result in a ratio much larger than two thirds in favor of constitutional change. If constitutional reform is not carried out during the Abe administration, neither it nor nuclear sharing can be accomplished over the next 30 or 50 years. Over that time, Japan may be drawn into China’s sphere of influence and become one of its autonomous regions.
Data on the diffusion rate of household fallout shelters indicates a percentage of just 0.02% in Japan; 82% in the U.S.; and 323.2% in Seoul, South Korea. Fallout shelters can also function as air-raid shelters. All of the residents of and tourists in Seoul could likely evacuate to shelters with 20 or 30 minutes of prior notice. Current predictions say it will be difficult to safeguard peace in East Asia, and Japan should work to increase its percentage of fallout shelters and protect the country from nuclear weapons as well as attacks by other countries, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Japan should also transform itself into a country capable of self-defense by taking another look at the Three Non-Nuclear Principles, amending the constitution, and entering into a nuclear sharing arrangement with the U.S. This is our chance, now that the North Korean threat is increasing.
September 16 (Saturday), 4:00 p.m.