Over the Hill

President Trump called diplomacy with North Korea a waste of time. Here’s why he’s wrong

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

I usually don’t comment on President Trump’s remarks, but he said something Sunday that hit close to home. The Associated Press reported Trump said, “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was ‘wasting his time’ trying to negotiate with North Korea about its nuclear and missile programs.”

That statement made me think of Camp Roberts, which is 10 miles north of my hometown, Paso Robles. I spent 1½ years at Camp Roberts in 1952 and ’53 during the Korean War. I played a very small part in preparinig some of the 300,000 recruits who were trained there for that war.

That big camp opened in March of 1941 and trained 436,000 soldiers for World War II. They helped defeat Germany, Italy and Japan. That war ended in 1945, and the camp went to caretaker status July 1, 1946.

But then on June 25, 1950 North Korean soldiers and tanks invaded South Korea. At that time North Korea was administered by the Soviet Union, and South Korea by the United States. The Soviet Union and America had played those roles since the end of World War II, when they’d been allies. They both had gradually withdrawn most of their troops.

After North Korea launched its invasion of South Korea, the United States immediately started rushing troops, munitions, and supplies to South Korea. And the United Nations Security Council recommended that its member nations help South Korea. Several sent military units. The war became the United Nations, led by the United States, versus North Korea.

Camp Roberts reopened in August of 1950 to train troops for that war. In the following March, I was drafted into the Army. After being trained for a year, I was assigned to Camp Roberts.

Korea had been an independent kingdom for more than 1,000 years until Japan annexed it in 1910. After Japan was defeated in World War II, Korea was divided. Its northern half was communistic, and its southern half was democratic and capitalistic.

But then in 1950, the North Korean invasion of South Korea came along. The United Nations stopped the invaders and chased them back into North Korea. That was when China butted in with 450,000 soldiers to help the North. The fighting continued for another two years, but the original boundary was little changed. On July 27, 1953, an armistice was signed. It stopped the shooting but settled nothing.

That was 64 years ago, and real peace is no closer today. North Korea is now ruled by the grandson of its 1946 dictator. It is also now developing intercontinental nuclear weapons. But talking to North Korean officials can’t make our relations with them any worse than they already are and might improve them.

President Trump should remember what was said by that great British war leader, Winston Churchill: “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.”

Our first Korean War killed 36,407 American service members. We shouldn’t have another.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every other week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.