Fewer choices now

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

NORTH Korea re­cently launched a mis­sile that ap­pears to be ca­pa­ble of hit­ting tar­gets on the U.S. main­land. Py­ongyang says that Wash­ing­ton should re­gard the launch as a “grave warn­ing.”

No ar­gu­ment there.

This sober­ing de­vel­op­ment comes years ear­lier than many ex­perts had pre­dicted. The up­shot: The U.S. pol­icy of “strate­gic pa­tience”—wait­ing for North Korean dic­ta­tor Kim Jong Un to come to his senses and the bar­gain­ing ta­ble—is of­fi­cially over.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump needs a far more mus­cu­lar pol­icy than his pre­de­ces­sor’s, pronto. What will that be?

So far, there’s been talk of shoot­ing down North Korean test mis­siles as a warn­ing. But that could pro­voke Py­ongyang to rain mas­sive con­ven­tional re­tal­i­a­tion on Seoul. Bad se­quence.

There’s been smarter talk of amp­ing up the U.S. cy­ber cam­paign to send the North Korean mis­sile pro­gram into a tail­spin, much as the U.S. did against Iran’s nascent nu­clear pro­gram. But we hope that ef­fort is al­ready hap­pen­ing.

And the U.S. also is mov­ing to im­pose eco­nomic sanc­tions against Chi­nese banks and busi­nesses for trad­ing with North Korea. Let’s hope there is much more of that to come.

What hasn’t worked yet: ha­rangu­ing China, Py­ongyang’s ma­jor trad­ing part­ner and ally, to do more to rein in the out­law Kim regime. As Pres­i­dent Trump rightly tweeted about China, “they do NOTH­ING for us with North Korea, just talk.”

The last thing China wants is Ja­pan and South Korea se­ri­ously mulling whether they should go nu­clear to de­fend them­selves. Both coun­tries are be­lieved to be ca­pa­ble of jump-start­ing a nu­clear pro­gram on short no­tice. At the mo­ment, how­ever, both coun­tries rely on U.S. nu­clear de­ter­rence for their se­cu­rity. The big ques­tion: Can North Korea be de­terred, just as the Soviet Union and China were? In other words, do the North Kore­ans believe that the U.S. will re­tal­i­ate, pos­si­bly with nukes, if North Korea at­tacks Ja­pan or Seoul? The greater the doubt, the greater the risk that North Korea will make a first strike.

All of this is un­set­tling and hap­pen­ing in China’s neigh­bor­hood. And as any busi­ness­man will tell you, ris­ing ten­sions and threats of war aren’t good for busi­ness.

China has a choice. It can help defuse the sit­u­a­tion by chok­ing off its en­ergy trade with North Korea. It can make Kim Jong Un and his elites go with­out their fa­vorite cognac and fancy cars. China can yank hard on the North’s eco­nomic life­line and help in­form av­er­age North Korean cit­i­zens that they could live far bet­ter lives with­out the Kim regime and its brand of leader-take-all com­mu­nism. Just look south.

Bei­jing, the choice is yours. Ev­ery North Korean mis­sile launch brings con­fronta­tion closer.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.