North Korea probes ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­solve

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s new ad­min­is­tra­tion con­fronts a com­plex tan­gle in East Asia — a tan­gle ex­ac­er­bated by in­ter­linked economies, eco­nomic de­cline and a para­noid tyrant work­ing an ex­tor­tion racket. Sort­ing through the tan­gle will re­quire very smart diplo­macy — diplo­macy that in­cludes pur­su­ing Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion ini­tia­tives and ac­cept­ing the util­ity of mis­sile de­fense.

The tan­gle’s thorni­est clump re­mains North Korea, that starv­ing, Stal­in­ist and heav­ily armed hered­i­tary tyranny run by Kim Jong-Il, the para­noid tyrant and rack­e­teer.

Kim pre­sides over a crim­i­nal state and an eco­nomic dis­as­ter. Ex­port­ing mis­sile tech­nol­ogy to thugoc­ra­cies like Iran earns Kim some hard cash. Ru­mors cir­cu­late that North Korean em­bassies oc­ca­sion­ally sell heroin in or­der to pay their bills. Coun­ter­feit­ing U.S. cur­rency is an­other source of in­come that keeps Kim in caviar.

North Korea’s ma­jor ex­port, how­ever, is the threat of war mag­ni­fied by po­ten­tial nu­clear holo­caust. It’s an in­ter­na­tional ver­sion of an al­ley bully’s ex­tor­tion game. Pay me off, the punk wav­ing the pis­tol says, or I’ll burn down your store. The anal­ogy, how­ever, only goes so far. North Korea’s Kim waves a nu- clear weapon, and if he uses it, he kills him­self.

Linked economies in a global re­ces­sion al­ready vex the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. The de­struc­tion of pro­duc­tive global hubs like Tokyo and Seoul would pro­duce a de­pres­sion. One of the largest em­ploy­ers in the Texas county I call home is head­quar­tered in Seoul. An at­tack on Seoul is thus an at­tack on the Texas econ­omy. Kim’s ex- mixed re­sults.

The North Kore­ans did de­stroy part of a key nu­clear fa­cil­ity. The De­cem­ber 2008 six-na­tion meet­ing, how­ever, broke up when North Korea re­fused to sign a nu­clear ver­i­fi­ca­tion pro­to­col — an act in­ter­preted by many as a de­ci­sion by Kim to wait and see if the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion would drop this es­sen­tial re­quire­ment. The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion al­ways backed

North Korea has ac­tu­ally handed the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion an op­por­tu­nity to stand strong. U.S. and South Korea forces have qui­etly con­tin­ued to con­duct an­nual mil­i­tary ex­er­cises, which send the im­por­tant sig­nal that the United States is pre­pared to back up South Korea in the event of a North Korean at­tack. That’s good.

Ja­pan, how­ever, has ex­hib­ited the most spine. Af­ter North Ja­panese ter­ri­tory, in­clud­ing ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters.

The Ja­panese re­mem­ber the 1998 North Korean mis­sile test that “brack­eted” their coun­try. They are tired of the ex­tor­tion racket, which is why they have in­vested in mis­sile de­fense. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion should ap­plaud Ja­pan’s de­ci­sion to demon­strate its de­fen­sive ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Of course, this amounts to an ac­knowl­edge­ment by Mr. Obama that mis­sile de­fense makes sense diplo­mat­i­cally and mil­i­tar­ily.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion needs to con­tinue the six-na­tion talks. Mr. Bush’s “python” strat­egy re­quired the steady co­op­er­a­tion of China. Bei­jing may be angling for eco­nomic as­sur­ances that eco­nomic pro­tec­tion­ists in the United States will re­sist. China has no in­ter­est in a war on the Korean Penin­sula. South Korea and the United States are two of China’s ma­jor trad­ing part­ners. How­ever, China also wants to make cer­tain the United States doesn’t erect trade bar­ri­ers. Pres­i­dent Obama says, “Buy Amer­i­can.” China says, “Keep shelf space for Chi­nese goods.” Ac­cess to the U.S. mar­ket is vi­tal to China. Chi­nese help in squeez­ing North Korea is vi­tal.

Austin Bay is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.