Arrias on Politics: North Korea is a real problem; maybe China can help?

On July 4th Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s autocrat, watched his engineers launch a missile into the Sea of Japan. Shot in a ‘high loft trajectory,” the rocket flew about 600 down range but rose more than 1700 miles. This trajectory, if flattened out (like a baseball player hitting a “pop-up” versus hitting a shallower fly ball) would allow a re-entry vehicle – a warhead – to reach Hawaii and Alaska.

In short, Kim has an intercontinental ballistic missile. Does he have a nuclear warhead that fits atop this missile? If not now, soon.

So, what now?

As Charles Krauthammer pointed out, “our nuclear non-proliferation strategy” has failed. North Korea has nuclear weapons; others will follow. Ukraine had nuclear weapons, surrendered them on a promise from President Clinton, and is slowly being reduced by Russia. Libya had WMD, surrendered them, then was virtually destroyed by Obama, Clinton et al. North Korea paid attention; it’ll never voluntarily surrender its nuclear weapons.

(Did Iran pay attention? We’ll see in a few years…)

So, who helped North Korea?

What country provides 90% of North Korea’s trade? Keeps them alive when times get tough? Has defended them against UN Sanctions? Who even sold them the truck that carried the missile fired last week?

The answer: China. (As Damon Runyon observed: “the race isn’t always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.”)

China also helped Pakistan with their nuclear weapon program (search “AQ Khan” on the internet), probably helped Iran, and probably was helping Libya and Syria, both of whom had nascent WMD programs. Expecting China to help disarm North Korea is expecting the leopard to change its spots.

So, while President Trump tried to “play nice” with China, China is part of the problem; to contain North Korea means containing China. China helped create this problem; China likes this mess, likes that it’s consuming US attention, as China pursues its strategy. China wants to make it too hard, too expensive, for the US to sustain its presence in the Western Pacific; China wants South Korea, Japan and others to recognize China’s hegemony, pushing the US out. North Korea is their proxy, a tool to use against the US. Any solution to contain North Korea must begin with recognizing that fact.

Further, we must recognize that our actions will have strategic implications for decades as other countries consider whether to acquire a nuclear arsenal. The old strategy failed because we – the West, the US, UK, and France failed to stop various nuclear weapons programs before they came to fruition. We must learn from that failure.

So, what to do?

Begin with a broader strategy, one encompassing all of East Asia, a comprehensive containment of both China and North Korea, while working to eliminate the Kim regime, and unifying the Korea peninsula under Seoul.

– Offer allies and friends (South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia) deals on weapons, training, aircraft and ships

– Negotiate stationing additional reconnaissance and attack aircraft in these countries

– Deploy additional military assets to Korea, Japan and Guam

– Condemn China’s efforts to strong-arm East Asia, insisting on the rule of law – Last year an international court ruled China’s claims to certain SCS islands were without standing; China responded by threatening the Philippines

– Announce a third party embargo; anyone — including China — trading with North Korea cannot trade with the US

– Close international banking loopholes that allow North Korea to move money through other countries

– Cancel Chinese participation in any US military exercise

– Review Chinese acquisition of any US corporations

– Aggressively expand US Missile Defense testing and training

– Work with India, Saudi Arabia, et al to apply pressure on Chinese movements into SW Asia and the Indian Ocean

– Fund development of a new generation of nuclear weapons

Finally, change the “tone” of the dialogue; deterrence only exists when the “other guy” believes you have the will to inflict real punishment. So:

Conduct a nuclear weapons test, sending the world a clear signal of US seriousness. Then, announce plans to begin discussions to move nuclear weapons back into the western Pacific.

The old strategy has failed. For our own future security, the US needs to demonstrate a new strategy and a new level of will. The time to do that is now.

Copyright 2017 Arrias

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