Launch a Policy Change
April 12, 2012 -
Any day now, North Korea will launch a three-stage rocket, advancing its ballistic missile technology. Coupled with its growing nuclear program, the regime of newly empowered Kim Jong-un is a growing menace. So what to do?
The Obama Administration is talking about going to the U.N. – to increasingly isolate the isolated regime. Even though this launch violates a past U.N. Security Council resolution, the idea is to get another. But what's the "appropriate action" the Secretary of State is warning Pyongyang about?
Faced with the Chinese veto, not much. Russia has warned North Korea to cease and desist. But China routinely runs interference for Pyongyang's misdeeds. It killed attempts to get a Security Council resolution with teeth when North Korea sank a South Korean warship in 2010. That killed 46. This launch is just to position a "satellite" for agricultural surveys, North Korea claims. Beijing will buy that.
China is an economic lifeline too, being North Korea's leading trade partner. It's expanding economic ties and supporting joint industrial projects. Plus outright aid.
It's also working to cement Kim Jong-un in power. This rocket is part of that, celebrating the Kim Dynasty on his grandfather's birth centennial.
North Korea's launch isn't cheap. Estimates range in the hundreds of millions, some say more: a hefty tab for a moribund economy that produces little. If China were bothered by it and the nuclear program, it'd stop subsidizing them.
Yet the Obama Administration says it's working with international "partners," including China, to confront North Korea. That is the same, bipartisan rote response that has failed for decades.
A policy tackling North Korea's illicit activities and otherwise weakening the regime is the only way to make the Korean Peninsula secure. Until it was dropped in favor of failed diplomacy in 2006, the Treasury Department went after North Korea’s ill-gotten gains parked in a Macau bank, putting the brakes on North Korea’s counterfeiting of U.S. currency and cutting the flow of hard currency to the regime. That and more could be done now. But it would require energy, creativity and focus. Futile U.N. diplomacy is easier.