ST. MARYS — Many people have described North Korea’s president Kim Jong-un as a crazy madman, but retired Navy Captain Fred Boyles has a different perspective.
“He may be crazy like a fox but he knows exactly what he’s doing,” he said. “He is still firming up his power base.”
Boyles, who served 29 years in the Naval Reserve, was the guest speaker at Monday’s St. Marys Kiwanis Club meeting. His last duty assignment before retiring late last year was as assistant chief of staff for transformation, where he helped relocate naval forces from Seoul to Busan, about a five-hour drive to the south side of the nation.
He explained his concerns about the ongoing and escalating provocations by North Korea.
“There are things that have ratcheted up to a whole new level,” he said.
About 20 percent of the world’s economy is in the region, with the Korean peninsula “in the center of it all,” he said.
When the old Soviet Union propped up the North Korean government, the nation prospered, while South Korea struggled. But Boyles said the nation of 50 million has experienced a “meteoric rise” in its economy, while North Korea now faces many economic challenges.
South Korea builds more ships than any nation in the world and is the most connected nation via the internet.
There has been a major policy change in South Korea, with a new administration that seems more willing to negotiate with their neighbors to the north, he said.
“It’s a huge policy shift,” he said. “There has been a complete shift in South Korean politics.”
While there has been a lot of posturing by both nations, Boyles said war between the two nations is “unimaginable.” Millions of people would die in what he predicted would be a quick war. North Korea has the fourth largest military in the world and the world’s largest artillery, capable of firing 2,400 rounds carrying high explosives or poison gas per hour.
“They can attack quickly but they can’t really maintain an attack,” he said.
North Korea also has submarines capable of launching missiles. If the nation develops ballistic missiles capable of striking the United States, it will pose an even greater concern.
A coalition of 17 nations, including the United States, is working to maintain security in the region.
“We don’t want war. We want peace and stability,” he said. “Their goal has been to always maintain their regime.”