Ask­ing China to 'Fix' North Korea Is a Waste of Time

The Jewish Voice - - ISRAEL - By: John R. Bolton

Amer­i­can and South Korean of­fi­cials have said for over a year that North Korea would be able, within a very short time, to minia­tur­ize a nu­clear de­vice, mount it on an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile and hit the con­ti­nen­tal United States. The coun­try's test launch last Tues­day didn't con­clu­sively demon­strate that Py­ongyang has reached this point, but Alaska and Hawaii might al­ready be within range — and US forces in South Korea and Ja­pan cer­tainly are.

This isn't the first time the North has marked the Fourth with fire­works. On July 4, 2006, a North Korean short­range mis­sile bar­rage broke a seven-year mora­to­rium, stem­ming from a 1998 Taepo-Dong mis­sile launch that landed in the Pa­cific east of Ja­pan. Tokyo re­sponded an­grily, lead­ing Py­ongyang to de­clare the mora­to­rium (though it con­tin­ued static-rocket test­ing), iron­i­cally gain­ing a pro­pa­ganda vic­tory.

In ad­di­tion, the North sub­stan­tially in­creased bal­lis­tic-co­op­er­a­tion with Iran, be­gun ear­lier in the decade, a log­i­cal choice since both coun­tries were re­ly­ing upon the same Soviet-era Scud mis­sile tech­nol­ogy, and be­cause their mis­sile ob­jec­tives were the same: ac­quir­ing delivery ca­pa­bil­i­ties for nu­clear war­heads.

This long­stand­ing co­op­er­a­tion on delivery sys­tems, al­most cer­tainly mir­rored in com­pa­ra­ble co­op­er­a­tion on nu­clear weapons, is one rea­son North Korea threat­ens not only the United States and East Asia, but the en­tire world. In strate­gic terms, this threat is al­ready here. Un­for­tu­nately, we should have re­al­ized its se­ri­ous­ness decades ago to pre­vent it from ma­tur­ing.

It's clear that nearly 25 years of diplo­matic ef­forts, even when ac­com­pa­nied by eco­nomic sanc­tions, have failed. Pres­i­dent Trump seemed to con­tinue the "car­rots and sticks" ap­proach, first with Chi­nese leader Xi Jin­ping, and more re­cently dur­ing South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in's Wash­ing­ton visit.

As he has said sub­se­quently, how­ever, we must shift to a more pro­duc­tive ap­proach. China has been play­ing the United States while do­ing next to noth­ing to re­verse the North's nu­clear and bal­lis­tic-mis­sile pro­grams. In­deed, there's ev­ery rea­son to be­lieve Bei­jing has at best turned a blind eye to will­ful vi­o­la­tions of in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions and its own com­mit­ments, al­low­ing Chi­nese en­ter­prises and in­di­vid­u­als to en­able Py­ongyang.

In re­sponse, many con­tend we should im­pose eco­nomic sanc­tions against China, pres­sur­ing it to pres­sure North Korea. While su­per­fi­cially at­trac­tive, this pol­icy will in­evitably fail.

Be­cause, how­ever, the fail­ure will take time to be­come ev­i­dent, sanc­tion­ing China will sim­ply buy still more time for Py­ongyang to ad­vance its pro­grams.

China's econ­omy is so large that tar­geted sanc­tions against named in­di­vid­u­als and in­sti­tu­tions can have only min­i­mal con­se­quences. They will also suf­fer the com­mon fate of such sanc­tions, be­ing very eas­ily evaded by es­tab­lish­ing "cut outs" car­ry­ing on pre­cisely the same ac­tiv­i­ties un­der new names.

Plus, China's decades of mixed sig­nals about the DPRK re­flect its un­cer­tainty about ex­actly what to do with the North. Sanc­tion­ing China might only strengthen the hand of Bei­jing's pro-Py­ongyang fac­tion, ob­vi­ously the op­po­site of the re­sult we seek.

In­stead, Wash­ing­ton should keep its fo­cus on the real prob­lem: North Korea. China must be made to un­der­stand that, un­less the threat is elim­i­nated by re­uni­fy­ing the Penin­sula, the US will do what­ever is nec­es­sary to pro­tect in­no­cent Amer­i­can civil­ians from the threat of nu­clear black­mail.

In the end, this un­ques­tion­ably im­plies the use of mil­i­tary force, de­spite the risks of broader con­flict on the Korean Penin­sula, enor­mous dan­gers to civil­ians there and the threat of mas­sive refugee flows from the North into China and South Korea. They can work with us or face the in­evitable con­se­quences, which will be far more dam­ag­ing to China than pin­prick sanc­tions.

These are very un­happy al­ter­na­tives. But the les­son of the past 25 years is that pur­su­ing diplo­macy in the face of over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence that diplo­macy could not suc­ceed has brought us to this point. We can either ac­cept that re­al­ity now, or be forced to ac­cept it later, with po­ten­tially much more painful re­sults.

China's econ­omy is so large that tar­geted sanc­tions against named in­di­vid­u­als and in­sti­tu­tions can have only min­i­mal con­se­quences

John R. Bolton, for­mer U.S. Am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, is Chair­man of Gatestone In­sti­tute, a se­nior fel­low at the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute, and au­thor of "Sur­ren­der Is Not an Op­tion: De­fend­ing Amer­ica at the United Na­tions and Abroad".

This ar­ti­cle first ap­peared in the New York Post and is reprinted here with the kind per­mis­sion of the au­thor.

A South Korean navy ship fires a mis­sile dur­ing a drill aimed to counter North Korea's in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile test, on July 6, 2017 in East Sea, South Korea. (Photo by South Korean De­fense Min­istry via Getty Im­ages)

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump meets with South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in in the Oval Of­fice of the White House in Wash­ing­ton .

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