Apropos of the recent news about Iran cozying up to North Korea, here’s a pop quiz for you on nuclear proliferation.
- Why are there so few acknowledged nuclear powers in the world?
- Why hasn’t Iran, with its vast oil reserves, become one of those nuclear powers?
- Why is Iran now dealing with North Korea?
ANSWERS: 1. Because it’s awesomely expensive to develop reliable nuclear weapons and delivery systems for them. 2. Because of international sanctions imposed at the behest of the United States, most of which were removed by the Obama administration. 3. To gain access to North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs.
If you got the answers wrong, that’s too bad. But even if you got them right—as most government officials and journalists almost surely would—you, like them, would still be missing the most important aspect of all of this. So here’s one more Q & A for you:
- How did North Korea—so impoverished that it has had to shake down Western powers from Bill Clinton’s administration forward just to feed its people—managed to obtain nukes and ballistic missiles anyway?
ANSWER: There is only one obvious source, and that is China. It’s hard to believe that Russia or Pakistan (like Iran, an Islamic State) would have given the goodies to North Korea when neither has delivered them to Iran, which has had so much more to offer in return (even if surreptitiously). That pretty much leaves China as the culprit.
Why would China underwrite North Korea’s nuclear program? There are any number of possible explanations, but the most plausible would have to be its willingness to use North Korea as a stalking horse to test defense responses of South Korea, Japan, and the United States, in preparation for God only knows what (but whatever it is, it can’t be good for us).
Regardless of China’s motive, why in the past few decades have our elected officials turned a blind eye to the Chinese enablement of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions? Perhaps the answer is simply that they felt beholden for PAC funding to the many major American corporations looking to get a piece of the burgeoning Chinese economy. Or perhaps it’s a byproduct of the progressives’ romantic but absurdly naïve fantasies about the higher moral worth of ruthless totalitarian regimes, such as the much-lamented but now-defunct Soviet Union (a theory that does not satisfactorily explain George W. Bush’s inaction). Or maybe it’s just been their fear of being too openly confrontational with China.
No matter the answer, it’s high time that we took aggressive steps to rein in North Korea, before it’s too late. To do so, we must be prepared to play hardball with its abettor, China, by threatening (initially through discreet diplomatic channels) to impose harsh economic sanctions against it for every nuclear or missile test run by North Korea, and for every advanced technology transfer made by North Korea to Iran. Most effective of all would be the vow to remove China from the World Trade Organization unless North Korea openly abandons these aggressions within a prescribed period of time—a chronological “red line” that, unlike Obama’s feckless ploy in Syria, must be hewed.
The powers-that-be running China feign toughness and adherence to the destructive top-down governance that keeps their people impoverished despite the much-ballyhooed economic growth brought about by foreign investment and trade. While that growth has not come close to producing an affluent middle class (and never will), it has enabled many of China’s leaders to become billionaires—a phenomenon which suggests that, contrary to their Maoist teachings, they covet the perks that come with great wealth. The betting here is that the last thing they want is to jeopardize China’s trading position with the well-to-do nations of the world. Being frozen out of international commerce would upset their precarious perch that enables them to enjoy lifestyles on a par with the legitimate billionaires of the West (who got rich by pleasing the rest of us rather than exploiting us).
The Trump administration should use the Chinese potentates’ lust for high living against them. That way, for a change, we won’t be the only ones with something to lose.
Blaine Winship is the author of Moralnomics: The Moral Path to Prosperity (Moralnomics Press), available in hardcover from moralnomics.com and in e-books from amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.