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[EXCERPTS] Time to End the Korean War http://www.theatlantic.com/atlantic/issues/97feb/korea/korea.htm
by Bruce Cumings
The Atlantic Monthly FEBRUARY 1997 VOLUME 279, No. 2
Copyright 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company.
All rights reserved.

For more than forty years what little we have known about North Korea has come largely from reporters and policy experts whose views of that country's intentions and capabilities may well be misleading or false. The time has come, one student of Korean affairs argues, to let North and South settle their differences directly, and bring U.S. soldiers home

IN June of 1994 another Korean War nearly occurred.Had it happened, the ignorance on both sides would have been not unlike that of the so-called Forgotten War of the 1950s: Washington and P'yongyang stumbling blindly toward murderous engagement over vague goals, with the peace of the world hanging in the balance.

In 1994 the problem was a nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, a town about sixty miles north of the capital, P'yongyang.

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For the next few years after the Gulf War, "crises" between Washington and P'yongyang occurred regularly -- especially in November, because that was the month usually chosen for high-level talks between Pentagon officials and their Korean counterparts in Seoul.

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The point is not that North Korea is a nice place, or that it is beyond suspicion, or that it has an admirable media policy: quite to the contrary, for half a century it has piled exaggeration upon exaggeration, lie upon lie, even when the truth would be more helpful to its cause. But that is what we expect from communist regimes. What is the excuse for blindly imitative, fundamentally ignorant media coverage in a raucous democracy like the United States?

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.. ... a vast gap exists between what the foreign-policy elite wants to do in Korea (maintain our troops there, essentially forever) and what the American people want (not to have U.S. soldiers returning home in body bags). According to a 1995 public-opinion survey, more than 80 percent of experts think we should defend the South against a Northern attack, but only 39 percent of the public agrees.

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The American people need to ask their leaders what difference the interminable Korean conflict makes to their lives. If North Korea is the worst place in the world, as some think, what difference does that make to Americans?

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Now Korea underpins a Pentagon budget of Cold War proportions. When the Clinton Administration undertook a "bottom-up" review of American armed forces, in 1993, the Pentagon relied on the ever present "North Korean threat" to justify forces large enough to assure the capability to fight two wars at once -- and thus achieved a defense budget of about $265 billion. ... .... ... ... ... poverty-stricken North Korea, supposedly near collapse, has to appear a giant lest the Pentagon budget collapse.