No time to 'engage' North Korea
Former United Nations ambassador and potential 2012 presidential contender John Bolton writes in the Wall Street Journal:
President Obama's North Korea policy has come to an entirely predictable dead end. Having for two years correctly resisted resuming the six party talks on the North's nuclear-weapons program, Mr. Obama is now pressuring South Korea to do just that. This is a significant mistake. It would have been bad enough had Mr. Obama simply picked up where the Bush administration left off in January 2009, but restarting the talks now will signal weakness and indecisiveness.
Rather than resume six-party talks, Bolton advises:
We should thoroughly isolate North Korea by denying it access to international financial markets, ramping up efforts to prevent trade in weapons- related materials and pressuring China to adhere to existing U.N. sanctions resolutions. Opening North Korea to foreign commerce to benefit its near-starving population, as some advocate, is utterly fanciful. If the regime had ever cared about its people, they wouldn't be in such dire straits.
We should also dramatically expand preparations for Kim [Jong Ill]'s inevitable demise
It is time, he posits, to make Korean unification our goal.
Christian Whiton, a Far East expert who served in the State Department from 2003 to 2009, agrees with Bolton's admonition that we should cease strong-arming South Korea. Whiton e-mails:
Pyongyang no doubt senses and is encouraged by a split between Seoul and Washington -- something it appears poised to exploit. America trying another kick at Lucy's football, as six party talks might be characterized, would also be a gift for the Chinese government, whose unelected boss is being given the honor of a state visit this month by the Obama White House. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak now gets to figure out how to handle the nuclear-armed regime that twice attacked his country last year -- without help from his treaty ally.
Rather than pushing around our ally, Whiton urges that, in addition to the measures Bolton suggests, we take a number of steps to counter North Korean aggression.
First, he urges that we should be "dramatically increasing defector-led radio broadcasting from outside North Korea. The truth is Kim Jong Il's greatest foe, and dissent movements thrive on factual information that undermine the dictators' propaganda." It is a truism that, as we pump more information in, thereby bolstering oppostion forces, our ability to extract intelligence from a despotic regime increases.
Second, he recommends that we halt "remaining UN aid and other funds flowing to North Korea, which the regime uses to survive." As we have done with Iran, Whiton argues that we "should also deny any financial organization that deals with North Korea the ability to clear transactions in U.S. dollars -- essentially a threatened death penalty for banks that would end the regime's ability to move funds and reward those who keep it in power." He also argues in favor of stopping trade and seaborne proliferation, if necessary by impounding "ships going to or from North Korea." And finally he argues that we need to change the military balance in the region:
We should consult with South Korea and Japan about increasing the forces of our three nations available for a rapid move on Pyongyang should one ever become necessary. More importantly, we should talk openly about placing U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in the 5-150 kiloton range in the region to counter the growing nuclear threat from North Korea. For the first time, this would make China realize supporting North Korea is harming Beijing's own security, which just might make it less willing to aid Pyongyang. Kim's generals would also see they are worse off for following him.
Yes, these are strong measures, but the alternative is to accept an increasingly belligerent North Korean regime and to signal to China that we are ill-prepared to defend our national interests. As a bonus, moreover, a robust U.S. stance toward North Korea would serve as a sharp reminder to Iran that, if need be, we will act to destabilize rogue regimes. But of course, continuing on our present course would send the opposite signal to the Iranians, and make a mockery of Obama's goal of a nuclear-free world. Unfortunately, we have yet to see any effort to "reset" our stance toward North Korea and/or our relationship with China. The Iranian regime is taking note.
| January 4, 2011; 12:26 PM ET
Categories: foreign policy
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