American military presence problem for North Korea

amayfield@vagazette.com

North Korea is developing nuclear weapons, and American military presence is to blame, according to retired Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson.

Wilkerson, who had a 31-year Army career and served as chief of staff to General Colin Powell between 2002 and 2005, spoke March 15 about the reunifying North and South Korea as part of the League of Women Voters' Great Decisions Series.

North and South Korea split in 1945 after the Allied victory of World War II ended Japan's 35-year Korean occupation, according to the New World Encyclopedia.

The United States is South Korea's ally and has maintained a presence there and in Japan, creating a North Korean fear of destruction, Wilkerson said.

North Korea made international headlines after testing nuclear bombs in 2006, 2009 and 2013, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative website.

Kim Jong-un, the North Korea's third dictator since the nation's creation, announced more nuclear testing in January 2016.

These nuclear weapons may include hydrogen bombs, which are thousands of times more powerful and destructive than atomic bombs, Wilkerson said.

"If it was not for the United States troop presence, the unification of the two Koreas would be much further along," Wilkerson said during the lecture.

"Where the two Koreas will wind up it difficult to predict, but you must start with this fundamental reality ... North Korea is doing what it's doing because of the United States troop presence on the Peninsula."

Wilkerson believes that South Korea wants to reunite. Jong-un, however, feels backed into a corner by United States military presence, as well as a powerful South Korean army that could destroy its northern counterpart without much outside help.

"I would be scared to death if I were Kim. Think about the moments when he's alone, and he considers what he's looking at," Wilkerson said, adding that a violent confrontation between the two Koreas would result in at least 100,000 causalities in the first 30 days of war. Wilkerson believes many of these causalities would be Americans.

North Korea has a long history of criminal activity, including successfully counterfeiting American money and products. When America takes steps to protect its products, like counter measures on money, North Korea is able to imitate those steps quickly, Lawrence said.

Wilkerson believes the United States should stop making North Korea feel threatened despite its criminal history. He believes America should engage in diplomatic conversation directly with North Korea instead of going through its ally, China.

He also believes that lessening military presence in places like North Korea and Iran, and focusing on military technologies, like drones that can be used from American soil, will make the country's military stronger.

"(Wilkerson's) concept of the presence of United States troops being a signification element in the problem is something worth thinking about," said Great Decisions Series listener Alex Andrews. "The results have to be evaluated. There are ramifications."

Wilkerson wrote an opinion piece about the reunification of the two Koreas that was published on vagazette.com on Monday.

Next up

The eight-week Great Decisions lecture series brings experts to Williamsburg to talk about global topics suggested by the Foreign Policy Association. The series is hosted by the League of Women Voters in the Williamsburg Area in partnership with the Williamsburg Library.

Upcoming 2016 lectures:

March 22: "Cuba and the U.S.," presented by Robert H. Holden, professor of Latin American History at Old Dominion University.

Want to go?

Stand-by tickets are available on lecture days on a space-available basis and will cost $10.

The lectures are held at the Williamsburg Library on Scotland Street. Each lecture begins at 10 a.m. and will last until about noon.

To request tickets, contact Doris Margulies at grandemargulies@coxt.net or visit the league's website, lwvwilliamsburg.org.

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