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Expert: North Korea’s saber-rattling intended as distraction to nation’s real problems

by Apr. 2, 2013, 2:45 PM

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is either leading his country’s military or being led by that military into a rhetorical battle with the United States, South Korea and Japan that he and his generals cannot win, according to James Auer, director of Vanderbilt’s Center for U.S.-Japan Studies and Cooperation.

James Auer
James Auer

Auer, a retired naval commander who spent his entire career in Japan and the Western Pacific and was special assistant on Japan with the office of Secretary of Defense, says North Korea’s current saber-rattling is simply attention seeking.

“The victim in this whole thing is not South Korea or Japan or the United States. It is the people of North Korea,” Auer says. “Their own people are suffering greatly from malnutrition, from prison camps and labor camps. This is an attempt to distract attention from their failures.

If North Korea were to fire a conventional weapon at Seoul or at U.S. bases in Japan, the United States would immediately become involved and the North Koreans would suffer tremendous damage. Unless they really are insane, they are not going to attack any of the three.”

Auer has written numerous articles and made presentations addressing East Asian security and defense policies. He travels to Japan regularly and is co-author of “Japan: America’s New South Korea?” published in the journal Current History.

Media Note: To arrange an interview with Auer, contact Jennifer Johnston at (615) 322-2706 or Vanderbilt has a 24/7 TV and radio studio with a dedicated fiber optic line and ISDN line. Use of the TV studio with Vanderbilt experts is free, except for reserving fiber time. Read more about Vanderbilt’s studio.