"Chicago Tribune" newspaper:How to squeeze North Korea
Thursday 07/September/2017 - 10:31 AM
By Editorial Board: Over the weekend، North Korea detonated a far more powerful nuclear bomb than its previous test devices. Pyongyang menacingly called the blast a “gift” to the United States. More such unwelcome “gifts” are likely coming، including another North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile test.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s campaign to bully the world into accepting his country as a nuclear power is in full roar. And so is the American response: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley says North Korea is “begging for war.”
But military action is a last resort. There are other actions the U.S. and its allies should take to thwart North Korea’s nuclear program:
The U.S. is wisely pressing North Korea’s main trading partner، China، and other members of the U.N. Security Council to cut off oil and other fuel deliveries. The Kim regime is worried enough that it is reportedly stockpiling oil supplies، in anticipation of a possible embargo. Yes، an embargo could be effective. So far، however، China، which supplies most of Pyongyang’s energy needs، hasn’t done much to turn off the spigot. The Trump administration can tell China that either it does more to stop Kim or America continues to expand missile defense and conventional forces in South Korea. China wants neither of those. The U.S. should crack down harder on Chinese banks and firms that do business with North Korea. The U.S. has already sanctioned a Chinese bank and several Chinese and Russian firms. Ramp up this program. Blockade all foreign banks that have North Korean ties. Either these Chinese and Russian financiers want access to the world banking system or they don’t. The U.S. should also refuse to send significant food aid until the North reverses its nuclear program. Yes، we know that crimping food supplies is typically beyond the pale because it harms innocent people. We also realize that North Korea’s citizens have little hope of driving from power entrenched Kim elites — who enjoy gourmet treats and fine liquor even while millions starve. But if Kim keeps testing nukes and launching ICBMs، he shouldn’t be able to rely on the countries he threatens to supply food for his people. Remember that in March 2016، the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling party warned citizens: "We may have to go on an arduous march، a time when we will again have to eat the roots of grass." No، a regime that warns its citizens they may have to eat grass for the greater good of Kim isn’t likely to be persuaded to stand down just because a couple of million people starve. And let’s make sure that North Korean citizens know who’s to blame for their hunger. China could help spread the truth to North Koreans that they could live far better lives without the kleptocratic Kim and his cronies. What about greenlighting Seoul and Tokyo to develop nuclear weapons? That carries huge risks. But here’s the reasoning: Kim figures his regime’s survival depends on developing nukes. But he probably also expects the U.S. to continue to pressure Japan and South Korea not to pursue nuclear weapons programs but to remain under the American nuclear umbrella. That’s an increasingly uncomfortable position for South Korea and Japan. Why? If Kim wields a nuclear-tipped ICBM that can strike U.S. cities، he might wager that an attack on Seoul would not bring a strong American response، nuclear or otherwise، because this or future American presidents would not risk a nuclear retaliatory attack on، say، San Francisco. Letting Seoul have its own nukes would erase that doubt in Kim’s mind — and also his ability to blackmail the U.S. We’re not in favor of arming Japan and Seoul with nukes yet، but the logic is becoming more compelling. That’s a robust agenda for the Trump administration and its allies. For lack of pressure on North Korea from China، it has to be. The goal here is as much to pressure Beijing as it is to pressure Pyongyang.
Beijing is North Korea’s lifeline. If America persuades China to yank hard، the Kim regime could topple، hopefully to be replaced by something better. What a gift that would be to the world.