On Thursday, when an explosion took place at a railroad station in North Korea, undoubtedly our spy satellites picked it up and within moments disseminated the information to our intelligence agencies. The White House would have received the intelligence analysis of the explosion within minutes.
Following its tradition, North Korea chose not to speak. When it finally admitted the accident, North Korea surprised us by asking for assistance. This is the same country that boldly challenged us as recently as only a few weeks ago. This also is the same country that's been a thorn in our side ever since the Korean War.
Despite a poor economy and a weak military, North Korea has developed and possesses two, and maybe as many as four or more, real live atomic bombs with viable delivery systems. Many times over the years, North Korea has tested our resolve to stand by our South Korean allies by sending saboteurs and spies into South Korea. Having interrogated and studied many of these people (including defectors), I came to understand the North Koreans very well.
It is true that North Korea, under 50 years of strict, absolute Communism, has degenerated to the point where we are not even able to communicate with it. However, North Koreans, underneath all that, are a proud and hearty people. For centuries, they were conquered, raped and pushed around by the Japanese, Chinese and the Mongols. I see North Koreans' belligerent, arrogant attitude as a manifestation of their self-reliance and their pride. They must continue to believe that they are better than anyone else, in spite of never-ending hardshipsIt is essential to their survival. Their pride will never admit to chaotic situations in their country. They don't know how to act any differently.
North Korea has asked for help. Let's not lose this opportunity. Showing genuine, sincere, humane interest, demonstrating that we care and we are willing to embrace them as fellow human beings and help them without strings attached, will go a long way in gaining their confidence and will ease any future dealings with North Koreans.
But North Korea must not be underestimated. It would be a big mistake to think it will never carry out its threat. What it may or could do will have more far-reaching consequences than anyone can realize.
Henry Chai of North College Hill owns and operates an insurance agency. He is a former police officer and a veteran of U.S. Air Force intelligence.
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