Understanding the conflict with North Korea

The Means Report - Understanding The Conflict With North Korea graphic
The Means Report - Understanding The Conflict With North Korea graphic
The Means Report - Understanding The Conflict With North Korea graphic
The Means Report – Understanding The Conflict With North Korea graphic

Augusta, Ga. (WJBF) — We hear a lot about it on the evening news – the conflict with North Korea, but many do not understand why North Korea and the United States are at odds. To form a better understanding, Dr. Andrew Goss from Augusta University sat down with Brad Means to help give a better understanding to this topic.


Brad Means: Let’s talk North Korea with Dr. Andrew Goss, Dr. Goss is the chair of the department of history, anthropology, and philosophy at AU. Dr. Goss, thanks so much for taking time to be with us today, I know you’re busy and I appreciate it.

Dr. Andrew Goss: Well, you’re very welcome. It’s my pleasure to be here, Brad.

Brad Means: My first question is a simple one, I guess, for you, a complicated one for a lot of us. Why do North Korea and the United States not like one another?

Dr. Andrew Goss: Well, a lot of this goes back to a conflict at the very beginning of the cold war, and it’s sort of an outgrowth of the end of WWII, in which the Korean peninsula was split in two. And that split, while it had initially been intended to be temporary, ended up becoming permanent. This led to the Korean war, which not only pitted North and South Korea against each other, but also U.S. forces under the umbrella of the U.N., fighting against the North Koreans, who had assistance from both the Soviets and the Chinese. And although that war ended in 1953, and that conflict is often forgotten here in the United States, it is certainly not forgotten in Korea and in North Korea in particular. There was never a peace treaty that ended that war between North Korea and the United States, only a ceasefire. And as far as the North Koreans are concerned, that conflict has never, has never gone away. And that they still perceive in North Korea, that Americans are the belligerents, that the South Korean regime is a puppet of the United States, and that they have been given, unfairly, a raw deal. That is not legitimate and not appropriate.

Brad Means: And so we see, them allegedly developing nuclear capabilities. We see these parades, we see these tests of launch… Equipment, and so we are led to believe that they are developing this nuclear arsenal. And so the question to you is: do they have the clear capabilities as we talk today, and could their nuclear weapons ever hope to reach the U.S.?

Dr. Andrew Goss: Well, the North Koreans certainly have nuclear capabilities. They have developed, they have developed a nuclear bomb, we don’t have a lot of details, but they have had five successful tests, and the last two were substantial enough to suggest that they are weapons-grade and they could certainly be used in some weapon form.

Brad Means: Do they wanna shoot ’em at us, or do they just want us to know that we have them, as some sort of deterrent?

Dr. Andrew Goss: I think that it’s more a deterrent, I think the North Koreans are certainly, they believe they’ve watched the world like the rest of us, and they know that the people who have the most power in the world, have nuclear weapons. And this is a way for them to flex their muscle, to gain some greater leverage over not just the United States, but over South Korea, and more indirectly over Japan, Russia and China as well.

Brad Means: What do they hope to gain from this leverage? Greater trade relations with other nations? They don’t have many friends. What’s their end game?

Dr. Andrew Goss: The truth is that we don’t really know. There’s a lot of educated guesses that scholars and North Korea watchers have made, and that we can make. To me it seems clear that they would like a different and better economic and political deal that is negotiated with the large powers of the world. And they would like to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with China, with Japan, with the United States, and be counted as an equal. And that, they believe, would give them the possibility of having greater economic growth potential, and other kinds of advancement.

Brad Means: So you have Northern… North Korea, located on the southern border of China. Why doesn’t China ever step in and say, “Settle down, North Korea, start behaving.”

Dr. Andrew Goss: Well, China has repeatedly done that. They’ve even done it publicly. And it’s very likely they’ve done it privately as well.

Brad Means: Do you think they mean it?

Dr. Andrew Goss: Well, I think they do, actually. China’s relationship to North Korea is obviously very different from other neighbors. And China has certainly helped North Korea, and continues to help them, but they have in fact implemented some of the sanctions, some of the U.N. sanctions, China has abided by those sanctions. What China would like, is stability on the Korean peninsula. They do not want to see the North Korean regime collapse, the Regime of Kim Jong-Un. Because they know that would lead to a civil war, or worse. And the Chinese absolutely do not want that. But the Chinese also don’t want what they have now, they don’t want nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula, and they want as little trouble as possible. And they haven’t gotten that.

Brad Means: What do you see in the immediate future as far as potential escalation of the tensions between the U.S. and North Korea? We recently saw one of our aircraft carriers, the USS Carl Vinson, inch closer to North Korea, we then heard from North Korean leaders that they could sink that ship with one shot. Is this just the rattling of the saber, or could something like this happen, and then what would the United States response be? It seems like with a country that small we could just immediately end this.

Dr. Andrew Goss: There is a lot of saber rattling. The North Koreans are very good at it, and I don’t think that that, that’s easy, it’s easy to underestimate them. One of the things the North Koreans would like to do is to rattle new sabers every now and then. Many of the sabers that they have rattled in the past are no longer as effective. And to some degree the South Koreans and the Americans are doing something similar. There is a lot of posturing. Now, these posture… This is a very serious game, and it is of course possible that it would devolve into war. Or into some kind of armed conflict. I do think that remains very unlikely.

Brad Means: If it did, would it be the United States versus North Korea, China and Russia? Or would it, would the world allow it, just to be between the giant U.S. and the tiny North Korea?

Dr. Andrew Goss: I don’t think the world would allow it to be a war that only the United States was party to. It’s very unlikely that a war would start with, with, the, you know, these, there’s probably 10,000 missile systems pointed at Seoul, Korea, Seoul, South Korea, right now. Many of ’em are hidden in the mountains, and they would take minutes, if not tens of minutes to eliminate. And the, sort of the firestorm that would engulf Seoul, is, I mean, just, it’s hard to fathom. The North Koreans, should they do that, that would probably be the very last thing they ever got to do. The world would step in and stop them. And so they’ve had that capability, they’ve had that threat for decades, now. And it’s not done them very much good. So instead they are building, or developing, nuclear weapons, they are building missiles that can reach Japan and possibly all the way to the continental North America, because it is a way to, to sort of force the issue. And I think that the North Koreans would like to negotiate, and they think that they can negotiate more effectively from a position of strength.

Brad Means: Well, you’re right about Japan. Bomb shelters and air purifiers in Japan have been selling like hot cakes as of late. Let’s just say the U.S. says it’s just talk, we’re not gonna get into a panic just yet. So moving beyond the nuclear threat of North Korea, what do you see as far as any sort of disagreements or carrying out of threats going forward? Is it going to be of the cyber nature? North Korea recently getting the blame for infiltrating cyber systems all over the world. Is it gonna be kind of an online war do you think, going forward?

Dr. Andrew Goss: It looks like that is now permanently a part of the North Korean playbook. And the Kim regime, and Pyongyang, has clearly been working this angle for some years, and it’s gotten better at it, including not only the most recent WannaCry attack, the ransomware, which I think there’s a consensus now, is that was North Korean, but they’ve also managed to steal from some, from south, and southeast Asian banks, large sums of money, from sort of, manipulating the wire transfers. And that is, that is just, that’s, they’re not gonna let that go.

Brad Means: That’s not going away.

Dr. Andrew Goss: No.

Brad Means: Listen, I knew the minute you sat down, that we should have dedicated the entire 27 minutes to this interview, because I’ve learned a ton, but I know there’s still so much more. Dr. Goss, we do thank you for shining the light on North Korea and giving us this understanding and I hope you’ll come back, ’cause we do need to keep talking about it.

Dr. Andrew Goss: Well, you’re very welcome. It was my pleasure. I enjoyed our bit together, and I do hope to return.

Brad Means: Absolutely, you’re always welcome here. Again, thanks for putting it in terms we can all understand. Dr. Andrew Goss of Augusta University.

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