Options for Dealing with the North Korea Crisis

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Editors note: One of the managing editors of this blog sent over a piece from our guest writer, John Brinkley, on the options this country has in dealing with the increasingly dangerous stand off with North Korea.

In the coming weeks, the managing editors of this blog will be publishing articles from guest writers periodically. We will also be discussing what direction the blog will be heading in down the road. Maryland Scramble was a crucial resource for local news and political coverage and it will continue to be. This blog is one, of the many, lasting marks Jon left on all of us before he passed away and we will make sure it carries on in his memory. Rest assured he would be furious if it didn’t. 

So without further ado, here is Mr. Brinkley’s article:

There is no diplomatic or military solution to the North Korea problem, at least none that the United States could employ successfully. Stooping to the North Koreans’ level with threats of violence and war is childish and will do no good. Accusing China and previous U.S. Presidents of failing to bring North Korea to heel will do no good, either.

What North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wants is recognition and respect. Like his father, Kim Jong-il, he wants to sit down with the President of the United States, have his picture taken with him, and hear the President say that North Korea is a valued member of the international community, a co-equal with Western democracies.

Donald Trump said during his 2016 presidential campaign that he would be willing to meet with Kim, but he hasn’t mentioned that since becoming President. Instead, he has threatened the North Koreans with “fire and fury,” and banned Americans from traveling there. An effect of the travel ban is that American NGOs that provide badly needed medical, food and humanitarian aid can’t go there anymore.

Kim is not likely to fire a nuclear weapon at the United States or Guam. He may be irrational, but he knows what the consequence of that would be: annihilation of his country. He uses the threat of a nuclear strike to scare Trump into meeting with him and striking some sort of diplomatic deal – a deal he would surely cheat on, just as his father did with the 1994 Agreed Framework with the United States. That was supposed to have ended North Korea’s efforts at acquiring nuclear weapons, but the North Koreans were found to have a uranium enrichment facility and that violated the agreement.

The next effort at getting the North Koreans out of the nuclear weapons business was the Six- Party Talks. The six parties were the United States, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and North Korea. The talks started in 2003 and ended in 2009. Some progress was made, but it all fell apart when North Korea test-fired a rocket in April 2009. The UN Security Council condemned the launch as a violation of Resolution 1718 and imposed more economic sanctions. The North Koreans withdrew from the Six-Party Talks and said they would not be bound by anything they had agreed to during the previous six years of talks.

Then in 2012, the Obama administration offered the North Koreans 240,000 tons of food in exchange for a cessation of their nuclear weapons program. Kim reneged on that deal in less than a month by launching a satellite with ballistic missile technology.

Every inducement, every diplomatic effort, every economic sanction aimed at getting the Kim regime to stop building nuclear weapons has failed. They have failed largely because the regime can’t be trusted to keep its word.

So, where does that leave us? Should President Trump meet with Kim and open diplomatic relations with North Korea? Absolutely not. That would have no beneficial effect. Should he end the 1953 Korean War cease-fire and invade the North? Not unless he’s willing to take responsibility for millions of deaths, the destruction of Seoul, and the post-war reconstruction of North Korea, which would take at least a generation and cost trillions of dollars. Not only that, if Kim sees he’s defeated and destined to be tried for crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court, he might feel he has nothing to lose in firing a nuclear weapon at Los Angeles.

We had hoped that Kim Jong-un would prove more reasonable than his father, but he has proven to be the opposite. We have tried diplomacy to no avail. The United States and the UN have imposed economic sanctions to no avail. Kim doesn’t seem to care if his people die of disease and starvation, so long as he and his family, friends, and army are well-fed and cared-for. And he has billions of dollars in off-shore accounts to pay for all that. We can’t expect the Chinese to abandon Kim, because they don’t want an exodus of North Korean refugees coming across their border. Also, with the Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen Square in their recent history, it seems the Chinese aren’t as horrified by North Korea’s cruelty toward its citizens as we are. They don’t want to see reunification of the Korean peninsula under a democratic government, either, because that would put a close American ally right on their border.

It may be that our best hope is that the North Korean regime will collapse under the weight of its own house-of-cards economy. North Korea is heavily dependent on the mining and exportation of coal. China has long been its biggest customer, but China is committed to reducing its dependence on fossil fuels and ramping up its use of renewable energy. It committed to do this when it signed the Paris Climate Change Agreement last year. Its imports of North Korean coal fell by 75 percent during the first half of 2017.

There’s also the prospect of a looming drought that could lead to food shortages and more widespread starvation. The UN predicts that the country is on the verge of its worst drought since 2001.

North Korea has for decades been threatening the United States with all manner of violence and carnage. It has not made good on any of those threats. As difficult as it is to say, there may be nothing we can do but wait for the implosion of the only remaining rigidly communist country left on Earth. It is almost certain to happen, and it could be soon.

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