North Korea – Something Has To Give

By now, most Americans are aware of the unbelievably tense situation regarding North Korea and their leader Kim Jong-un. They are rightfully described by most media as being a rogue nation, and have managed to escalate tensions both in that region of the world and also in the US.

Victor Davis Hanson of the National Review writes:

Acting crazy has worked for rogue regimes, but Western appeasement is not a long-term solution. How can an otherwise failed dictatorship best suppress internal dissent while winning international attention, influence — and money? Apparently, it must openly seek nuclear weapons. Second, the nut state should sound so crazy and unpredictable that it might just use them, regardless of civilization’s deterrent forces arrayed against it. Third, it must welcome being “reluctantly” pulled into nonproliferation talks to prolong the farce and allow its deep-pocket enemies to brag of their diplomatic “strategic patience” and sophistication.

Kim Jong-un is the third of his family to lead North Korea, and is following what has previously been a successful path of monetizing crazy:

But no one has played the game better than the two Kim Jongs of North Korea. The result is that Pyongyang has gained billions in bribe money, international attention and concern, and free publicity, despite starving its own people and becoming the hated pariah of Asia. Certainly, comparably sized Asian countries such as Sri Lanka or Malaysia do not warrant the world’s focus or largesse by quietly tending to their own business. Under the rules of nuttiness and nuclearized blackmail, quiet non-nuclear states who play by the rules are ignored, and rogues who don’t are courted and bribed. Outlaw leaders see such brinkmanship as the pathway to family enrichment and prolonged tenure.

But there is a new sheriff in town, and times have changed. It appears North Korea has both overestimated their ability to intimidate, and underestimated the world’s concern over their nuclear capability.

President Trump and Sec. of State Tillerson have changed the dynamic of how we approach North Korea, and the days of appeasement are over. Kim Jong-un is just too close to achieving the capability of reaching mainland America with an ICBM nuke for comfort.

Obviously, the status quo cannot be maintained. We cannot keep such a large portion of our navy there indefinitely, and China must be very nervous about the amount of nuclear weapons we’ve brought with us. Countries on that region cannot long be on such a heightened military alert. This level of tension and stress simply cannot and will not continue unabated. How to deescalate this tension is the question that has to be answered.

The current unknown is the President’s endgame. North Korea has between 15 to 20 nuclear bombs currently. They do have the capability of reaching into South Korea and Japan, but most do not believe their missile technology has the ability to reach either Australia or the US. Given those facts, what must Kim Jong-un do to bring calm to the situation? What will satisfy President Trump?

Will the US be satisfied with if North Korea announces it will no longer test their missile capability, thus securing our safety for the time being?  Does Kim Jong-un have to announce he is ending nuclear testing?  Or will only North Korea’s announced and certified denuclearization satisfy?

To his credit, President Trump has China engaged, and they hold the key to a long-term successful solution. North Korea obtains most of their oil from China, they are also the primary purchaser of North Korean coal. While it appears they have are now sending North Korea coal back, and have begun purchasing US coal, there is no indication they have stopped oil sales.

To be sure, cutting off their oil would put that entire nation in dire straits and Kim Jong-un’s back against the wall, creating the leverage necessary to bring this crisis to a satisfactory conclusion.

But, China hasn’t pulled that trigger yet. Perhaps they are waiting to see if the US and the UN blink and offer cash for appeasement. But there is an option the US can choose which will put China in a corner and force them to make a choice. That is the installation of nuclear weapons in South Korea.

Have no doubt, this decision would go way past the “red line” for China. They cannot abide a nuclear South Korea or Japan, any more than we could allow the Russians to install nukes in Cuba. National Review explains:

As a last resort, of course, the U.S. can always tell China that it broke the unspoken rule of not letting a client go nuclear. It will remind Beijing that if Taiwan, Japan, or South Korea chooses to go nuclear as did North Korea, its nukes would work like Hondas and Kias and not implode on the launching pad. Public opinion in all these countries, of course, understandably opposes nuclearization, but public opinion is fickle when North Korea sends missiles into one’s air space. Nuclearized India, Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea on the borders of Russia and China are unstable enough for these patrons — without adding a nearby nuclear Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea as well.

While it might be considered a last resort, given China’s penchant for propping up it’s puppet state, it just might be the only viable path forward. It is the option that seems to have the quickest and surest chances for success.

It is a fact of life humans cannot long maintain high tension and stress without something negative happening. If this level of stress goes on too long, minor issues become major, mistakes appear deliberate acts, and tempers fray to the point of unpredictability. The President and his Cabinet seem to have a good handle on this situation, here’s hoping they know how to close the deal.


About the author

Wm. P. Fitzhenry

5th generation Texan, 2nd generation reformed Presbyterian, a twin and a serial entrepreneur.

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