US Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris, testifying Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee, accused North Korea of making its recent military advances exclusively with an eye toward forcibly unifying the Korean Peninsula “under a single communist system.”
Admiral Harris scorned the idea that North Korea had gotten nuclear arms to try to protect North Korea from a US-imposed regime change, saying he believes Kim’s ambitions are to “blackmail the South and other countries in the region, and us.”
He was led into this answer by Committee chair Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), who said the only reason anyone believes Kim is getting the weapons for deterrence is because “alternatives are too terrible to contemplate.”
But Admiral Harris seemed fine echoing this view, despite North Korea being very public about deterrence being a top priority, and despite North Korea’s recent diplomatic overtures making no sense at all if Kim’s exclusive goal is to conquer South Korea.
Rather, the administration and other US hawks have wanted to position North Korea is a totally irrational actor with whom diplomacy cannot work, and whose sole reason for existing is to threaten its neighbors, and the United States.
This narrative is very important to them because it justifies years of the US spurning opportunities to talk with North Korea, and is intended to steer the audience toward the conclusion that preemptive war is the only option.
Other officials have pointed out the problem with this thinking, however, mostly recently Victor Cha, who was dropped as presumptive candidate for Ambassador to South Korea for noting that, if indeed North Korea was totally irrational, preemptive attacks were no more likely to sell them on capitulation than anything else that might be done.