There is no such thing as a temporary or delayed solution to grave nuclear dangers posed by North Korea to America and our allies throughout the world. A history of failed policies over the past three decades demonstrates that economic concessions have gifted them with a treasure even more valuable than money — precious time to develop and stockpile fearsome weapons of intimidation that they were specifically intended to preempt.
The U.N. Security Council has passed eight rounds of ineffective sanctions since 2006 when North Korea conducted its first nuclear test. We should not expect any different results as matters now currently stand from the latest round.
Any hope for real change will demand much stronger economic leveraging actions by China. Trade between the two border partners accounts for about 90 percent of the rogue regime’s military-dependent and domestically-starved revenues.
Kim Jong Un, his father, and his grandfather before him, have trumpeted the existence of a U.S. threat to justify a disproportionate and unsustainable allocation of its scant national resources to military and nuclear weapons programs. These expenditures represent about 22 percent of North Korea’s total gross domestic product (GDP).
Encouragingly, China has now agreed to participate in a bundle of trade restrictions which will slash about $1 billion in annual North Korean revenues. In doing so, they have committed to suspend coal imports for the rest of the year, Pyongyang’s largest source of funding. Other vital pressure points will be for China to cut off North Korea’s vital crude oil supply and to terminate textile imports.
China clearly has no desire to economically destabilize North Korea to the point that drives hordes of those impoverished subjects across its borders. As Duyeon Kim, a visiting senior fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum in Seoul told The Wall Street Journal, "Beijing’s reluctance to implement U.N. sanctions is further enabling Pyongyang to sprint down the weapons path — China knows it can squeeze the North enough without the collapse it fears, but Beijing chooses not to because of its own strategic interests."
The Trump administration, in turn, recognizes that it must squeeze China even harder. This will necessarily involve a combination of ratcheted up penalties upon Chinese manufacturing companies and financial institutions doing business with North Korea, along with enactment of more stringent regulatory restrictions upon Chinese trade with the U.S. in general.
In characteristically un-nuanced language, Trump pointed out that the U.S. loses billions of dollars a year on trade with China, warning that, "It’s not going to continue like that. But if China helps us, I feel a lot differently toward trade, a lot differently toward trade."
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger emphasized in an Aug. 12 Wall Street Journal op-edpiece that that the international community, including China, must demand full North Korea nuclear disarmament. He also cautioned that "Pyongyang must not be left with the impression that it can trade time for procedure and envelop purpose in tactics as a way to stall and thus fulfill its long-held aspirations."
Kissinger warned that any expectation that a freeze on weapons testing as an interim solution would lead to eventual denuclearization would only repeat the mistake of the Iran agreement. In seeking to solve a geostrategic problem by constraining the technical side alone, it would provide infinite pretexts for procrastination while the meaning of "freeze" is defined and inspection mechanisms are developed.
Ironically, that feckless Iran deal has thawed out lots of frozen assets that Tehran can now spend to purchase more nuclear weapons and intercontinental delivery systems from their long-term North Korea ally. As I have elaborated in previous columns, Iran and North Korea are known to have worked together on nuclear and missile technology since at least 1993.
Those programs have been advancing far more rapidly and ominously than predicted by most U.S. strategic defense experts. North Korea has conducted five nuclear weapons tests since 2006. In July they demonstrated two ICBM tests capable of targeting America, and we now know that they have developed a miniaturized nuclear warhead to go with them.
Putting these capabilities together, it means that North Korea is very close to being able to detonate atomic electromagnetic pulse (EMP) devices over the American mainland which can potentially black-out vast regions of our critical civilian and military electronics infrastructure for months or even years.
According to an unclassified 2008 Congressional EMP Commission report, a year-long power blackout would cause 90 percent of the population — tens of millions of Americans — to perish from starvation and societal chaos.
Some will argue that potential costs and other consequences of a trade war with China aimed at ending the Kim Jong Un’s reign of intimidation will be unacceptably high. Others will believe that America can learn to learn to live with an eternal North Korea nuclear threat.
Both positions are disastrously wrong.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015) and "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax" (2012). Read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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