investigative journalist and author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Outsourced Intelligence. He grew up, in part, in South Korea and has been writing about U.S.-Korea relations for 35 years. Shorrock also blogs on national security for The Nation magazine.
North Korea is facing international condemnation after launching a long-range rocket over the weekend carrying what it called a satellite. The issue came up during Saturday’s Republican debate. Jeb Bush backed a preemptive strike, while Donald Trump pushed for China to solve the crisis. We speak with investigative journalist Tim Shorrock.
AMY GOODMAN: We continue with excerpts of the last Republican debate before the New Hampshire primary. North Korea is facing international condemnation after launching a long-range rocket over the weekend carrying what it called a satellite. It was North Korea’s first long-range rocket launch since 2012. During the debate in New Hampshire, moderator Martha Raddatz asked the candidates how they would respond to North Korea.
MARTHA RADDATZ: It was reported just moments ago that the North Koreans test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile. North Korea has nuclear weapons and conducted another nuclear test just last month. The missile that was launched is the kind the North Koreans hope could someday carry a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States. How would you respond, if commander-in-chief? Governor Bush?
JEB BUSH: The next president of the United States is going to have to get the United States back in the game. And if a preemptive strike is necessary to keep us safe, then we should do it.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Thank you, Governor Bush. Mr. Trump, do you have a red line with North Korea? Would you consider military action? And how far would you let them go?
DONALD TRUMP: We have tremendous—has been just sucked out of our country by China. China says they don’t have that good a control over North Korea. They have tremendous control. I deal with the Chinese all of the time. I do tremendous—the largest bank in the world is in one of my buildings in Manhattan. I deal with them. They tell me. They have total, absolute control, practically, of North Korea. They are sucking trillions of dollars out of our country. They’re rebuilding China with the money they take out of our country. I would get on with China. Let China solve that problem. They can do it quickly and surgically. That’s what we should do with North Korea.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Senator Rubio, you were mentioned.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Yeah, Donald’s absolutely right. China does have a lot of influence over North Korea, and he should be leveraging our relationship with the Chinese to ensure that North Korea no longer has access to the resources that have allowed them to—a country that has no economy, to develop long-range missiles already capable of reaching the West Coast of the United States potentially.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Florida Senator Marco Rubio speaking at Saturday’s presidential primary debate in New Hampshire.
Joining us now from Washington, D.C., Tim Shorrock, investigative journalist, author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Outsourced Intelligence. He grew up, in part, in South Korea and has been writing about U.S.-Korea relations for 35 years.
Hi, Tim. Talk about the significance of what the Republican candidates were calling for, actually, one after another, talking about a preemptive strike in North Korea.
TIM SHORROCK: Well, first of all, Martha Raddatz’s question was completely irresponsible and shows the militarism that’s endemic in the U.S. media toward North Korea. They did not launch an ICBM. They put a satellite in orbit. And even the Pentagon has confirmed this, that it was a satellite. You can track this satellite going around the world on the Internet right now. They’ve been developing missiles for many years, and they’ve been testing them. They haven’t tested one for about four years. To say this was a ICBM ready to launch a nuclear attack is ridiculous.
The response by the Republicans is scary and frightening, that they would call for a preemptive strike on North Korea when there’s a situation highly—you know, highly volatile situation on the Korean Peninsula, with millions of innocent people within a hundred miles of the DMZ between North and South Korea. To call for a war that could affect—kill hundreds of thousands of people in the first few minutes is ridiculous.
AMY GOODMAN: This is a little more of Florida Senator Marco Rubio on North Korea.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: It is standard procedure of the United States to shoot down those missiles, once launched, if they pose a threat to civilians, land or ships.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Senator Rubio, I’m talking about a preemptive strike—
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Well—
MARTHA RADDATZ: —on the launchpad.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: No, I understand. And not to—but I think it’s important to note that it is—and Senator Cruz, I think, was alluding to this, as well—it is the standard procedure of the United States, if in fact those missiles pose a threat to land, civilians, our allies or any of our assets, to shoot down that missile in mid-flight. I understand your question was about a preemptive strike, but my point is that there is in place now contingencies to avoid any sort of that strike from going errant and destroying any assets of the United States or implicating or hurting any of our allies or any of our assets in the region.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Marco Rubio. Tim Shorrock?
TIM SHORROCK: Actually, what Marco Rubio said there is accurate. The United States does have plans, called Op Plan, to take out the North Korean leadership and to do a preemptive strike, if they’re about to launch a nuclear attack. This is—you can see this; this is in public documents. It’s been written up in the press, particularly the South Korean and Japanese press, and not been paid much attention to by the U.S. press. But, in fact, the U.S. does have these plans. And every year, with South Korea, it practices a, you know, decapitation of the North Korean leadership; it practices regime change—massive military exercises that the North Korean government sees as a strategic threat to its existence as a state.
And North Korea—you know, people see North Korea as kind of like this self-generated malice toward the United States, as if we’re some kind of innocent bystander. You know, the United States has maintained a military presence in Korea since the end of World War II, particularly since the end of the Korean War. We have Japan allied as a military ally. We have South Korea. That’s three of the largest economies, three of the largest militaries of the world, you know, that have forces arraigned against North Korea. And we—the United States and South Korea practice every year for war with the north. Now, they see this as a threat to their existence.
And they have—for some years now, they’ve had a plan called—they have this line where basically nuclear development, missile development and economic development go together, inextricably together, and they want to develop these capabilities to exist as a nation. And so, you have a conflict between the U.S. and North Korea.
AMY GOODMAN: Tim, we don’t—
TIM SHORROCK: China has very little influence on North Korea, actually. They’re close. China does not have troops in North Korea. China does not command troops in North Korea like the U.S. does. If anybody has control in Korea, it’s the United States, which has operational control over the South Korean military in times of war and has almost 30,000 soldiers there. And so, you know, the issue is how to defuse the tension between the U.S. and North Korea and what to do about it. And I’ve been saying this for years, on this program and many other venues, is that the only solution is to have direct negotiations and talk with them about, you know, what they want, which is peace on the Korean Peninsula and an end to the confrontation with the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you see the Iran nuclear deal as a model for what should happen with North Korea?
TIM SHORROCK: Absolutely, that could be a model. I think both Iran and Cuba could be models for how to defuse tensions and, particularly in the case of Iran, how to, step by step, go about, you know, moving away from nuclearization and moving towards demilitarization. But the United States’ policy is, the North Koreans have to completely abandon any—their nuclear weapons, without—you know, before proceeding in any kind of negotiations.
AMY GOODMAN: Well—
TIM SHORROCK: And I think there’s got to be more open negotiations to that.
AMY GOODMAN: Tim Shorrock, I want to thank you for being with us, investigative journalist and author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Outsourced Intelligence, grew up in part in South Korea.