FACT & COMMENT // STEVE FORBES
Crackdown on North Korea unavoidable now.
The Terrible death of student Otto Warmbier at the hands of North Korea should be the catalyst for a genuine crackdown on this repugnant regime, for humanitarian and national security reasons. The Trump administration, thankfully, is taking the North Korea situation far more seriously than its predecessors.
When President Trump met with China’s leader, Xi Jinping, in April, he pressed the Chinese president to take meaningful measures to curb North Korea’s aggressiveness. So far, China hasn’t followed through successfully.
That’s why there are several steps the U.S. should take immediately, which would start to inflict serious economic pain on Pyongyang and put pressure on China to make good on its own pledges.
• Bar any travel to North Korea by U.S. citizens that is not explicitly sanctioned by Washington.
While the State Department strongly warns U.S. citizens not to go to that odious country, that’s not the same as an outright prohibition. Remember, every dollar spent in North Korea by an American goes directly into the hands of murderously psychotic dictator Kim Jong-un to finance his nuclear and terrorist activities.
• Put North Korea back on the U.S. list of terrorist states.
In a misbegotten bout of appeasement President George W. Bush removed that designation in 2008, in the hopes that doing so would induce Pyongyang to keep its promises to throttle back its nuclear and missile programs. We’ve seen how successful that Neville Chamberlain-like move has been.
Pyongyang has routinely violated such agreements since Bill Clinton began this abject appeasement process in 1994. North Korea’s nuclear program proceeds apace, and tests of its increasingly potent ballistic missiles—which will soon be able to reach our shores—are now routine.
• Start applying serious sanctions on all banks and companies that do business with North Korea.
We began doing this in the early 2000s, and the sanctions were starting to be effective, which is why Pyongyang signaled the Bush administration that, if we let up, it was ready to make a deal. We backed off the sanctions, but the North didn’t change its behavior.
Any financial or commercial entity found not to be in compliance would be barred from doing any business with the U.S. That ban would cover noncomplying companies everywhere—including those in Europe and in China. Banks in violation would be kicked out of the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) network, which is the world’s largest payment-messaging system. This would effectively prevent such banks from conducting any international transactions. Three North Korean banks were recently ousted from SWIFT, but this measure would also apply to financial institutions that deal with companies doing business with the North.
• Announce that the U.S. Navy would be free to interdict ships suspected of transporting North Korean military products, including nuclear parts, or of transporting military items or nuclear parts to Pyongyang.
This would forcefully let the world know that we are finally dead serious about decisively dealing with this rogue regime.
• Step up our antiballistic missile efforts, with the stated goal of shooting down any future missiles fired by North Korea.
Such efforts would reassure South Korea, Japan and other Asian nations that we are not abandoning our post-wwii policy of protecting them and keeping the peace in the region.
Powerful stuff, this. But kicking the North Korea can down the road, as we have done for more than 20 years, is no longer a viable option.