Steve's Blog

What are we Going to Do About North Korea?

Every few months Korea is a big deal. A REALLY big deal. The press covers it intensely for a couple days. Typically, Kim Jong Un has shot off a missile, or killed a relative, or continued to starve to death anyone not in the military. Then the press loses interest, and goes back to covering what they really want to cover – the latest gotcha news about Donald Trump. Their favorite is anything that fans the flames of the “Russia stole the election for Donald Trump” story.

Well my view is the North Korean story really IS a big deal, and deserves far more coverage than it gets. After all, a lunatic will very soon have the ability to destroy Seattle or Portland or San Diego, or in the not distant future, Washington or New York – or Cincinnati. We cannot let that happen.

Let’s first take a look at North Korea. More than half of the population is starving, because food and other necessities of life go only to the military. And even though North Korea has less than 10% the population of the United States, its military (including active duty and reserves) is nearly three times larger than ours (6.4 million for North Korea, and 2.3 million for the U.S.)

The pattern the three previous American administrations (Clinton, Bush, and Obama) have had with North Korea was to give them food, oil, and other aid, in return for a promise to end their nuclear program. North Korea takes the goodies, and then cheats.

The Obama Administration even had a name for its North Korean policy – “strategic patience.” Well as far as I’m concerned, the time for patience is over. It’s time for action. That doesn’t necessarily mean military action – yet. Here are the things I would recommend President Trump do to finally rein in North Korea/Kim Jong Un.

First, they essentially kidnapped, then murdered, an American citizen, Otto Warmbier. I would impose a total and complete ban on Americans traveling to North Korea, and I would encourage our allies to do the same. Hard currency from such travel benefits almost exclusively the regime and the military, and puts Americans at risk. We should stop it immediately.

Next I would announce that all dependents (spouses, children, etc.) of U.S. military personnel in South Korea are being pulled out. This would send an unsettling message to the North Koreans and the Chinese, that the Americans are finally getting serious. Are we about to take military action? They just won’t know for sure. And that’s just where we want them.

Next, to the extent we can tighten sanctions on North Korea further, I would do it. But more importantly, I would clamp down tightly on any Chinese banks or other businesses assisting North Korea’s nuclear or military programs in any way. The Trump Administration recently sanctioned one Chinese bank (The Bank of Dandong) for assisting companies working with North Korea’s military. I would go far beyond this, and make sure that China understands they have a choice – they can do business with the United States, or North Korea, but not both.

If China makes the wrong choice, could it hurt our economy? Yes, somewhat. But the failure to rein in North Korea, is far more dangerous to the United States.

And finally, as I’ve suggested for quite some time now, there is one thing which would almost certainly put sufficient pressure on China, to get them to put sufficient pressure on North Korea, to back off its nuclear program. And that’s if we would enter into talks with South Korea and Japan, to CONSIDER developing nuclear programs of their own. These two U.S. allies are already within range of North Korea’s nuclear missiles, and they have every reason to want to be able to defend themselves. China does not want this, so it’s leverage we could use, but thus far have not. It’s my belief that discussions alone may well be sufficient to get China’s attention, and get them to finally exert the pressure on North Korea to back off. It’s well worth a try. And it could possibly avoid the need for us to take military action.

Anyway, that’s how I see things. Let me know what you think.

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