At the conclusion of their third war with Carthage, the Romans annihilated the city’s inhabitants and sowed their fields with salt; if they were in charge of handling North Korea, they would be taking selfies in Pyongyang’s radiated ruins. However, it is the United States that must handle yet another foreign cesspool in a kinder and gentler manner than the objects of our disaffection deserve.
Any attack on North Korea must assume that total war will rapidly ensue. Forget nukes, the North Koreans have enough chemical weapons mounted to artillery pieces to saturate Seoul (population 25 million) in a miasma of choking death. The only effective defense against this threat would be a first strike employing dozens of tactical nuclear weapons along the DMZ. The North Koreans know this and so would be sorely tempted to use their weapons before they were destroyed, making the U.S. even more likely to hit them quickly.
Once the nuclear threshold is crossed, the temptation will be to use more bombs on the troop concentrations of North Korea’s two million man army. Since no one seems eager to achieve the “final solution” of the North Korea question, President Trump’s current tough talk is simply rhetoric.
Tweeting that Kim Jong Un’s government is a “problem” that will be “taken care of” must further convince North Korea that their only security guarantee lies in achieving a credible nuclear deterrent against the United States. Threats have not stopped North Korea from testing more missiles, and will not stop them from detonating more bombs. For Trump there is an obvious danger in boasting he will “solve the problem”, when there is no solution without the full cooperation of North Korea’s number one trading partner: China.
China accounts for 90% of North Korea’s trade. Despite China’s well-publicized ban on North Korean coal, their imports from North Korea are up 18% in the first quarter of 2017 from a year ago, and their exports are up a whopping 54%. The Chinese have indicated they may suspend oil exports, but temporary curbs and lax enforcement follow a familiar pattern set by China when dealing with aggravated Americans.
When the United States periodically makes a fuss about intellectual property rights, the Chinese make a big show of confiscating counterfeit DVDs and squashing them with a steamroller. The Chinese still steal – primarily through hacking – upwards of three hundred billion dollars of American property each year. Given America’s poor track record for holding them accountable, the Chinese don’t take the United States seriously, and won’t until the U.S. actually punishes their behavior.
Candidate Trump campaigned on getting tough with China, but once in office has repeatedly rolled over on his promises, going out of his way to praise the Chinese. Despite early signs to the contrary, Trump re-affirmed the “One China” policy that brands the sovereign state of Taiwan as a kind of child bride, pledged to an odious union with a sadistic uncle in what most assume will be a violent consummation.
President Trump has declined to label China as a currency manipulator, despite his pledge to do so on day one. Trump explained to the President of China, “that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem”, but China is getting everything it wants now, so why should they undermine their ally in Pyongyang?
Solving the North Korean problem can only be done via the elimination of the Pyongyang regime, and eventually reunification with the South, but China has repeatedly objected to these goals. They don’t want millions of starving zeks streaming across their border, and they certainly don’t want a unified Korea allied to the United States. The Chinese killed, or helped to kill, thirty-three thousand Americans in the 1950s to save Lil’ Kim’s satanic theme park, so why is Trump so sanguine about Beijing’s assistance now?
In February of last year, pieces of a North Korean rocket fell into the sea and were recovered by the South Korean navy. Inspections revealed that virtually all of the rocket’s sophisticated equipment originated outside North Korea, and was either manufactured in, or transited, China. It makes little difference whether the Chinese government is knowingly supplying North Korea with technical equipment, or simply allowing it to happen; the effect is the same, and there is little reason to believe it will stop.
The only real possibility of affecting the collapse of the North Korean state would be if China were to cut off trade with North Korea entirely. Chinese trade with North Korea amounts to some $5 billion annually. Their trade with the United States, on the other hand, amounts to close to $600 billion. If the U.S. wants to win a war in North Korea without fighting – the ne plus ultra of Sun Tzu strategery – America is going to have wage a trade war with China that forces them to cut off North Korea.
The United States should pledge to make a unified Korea neutral, or at least, not to move American forces beyond the 38th Parallel. We should agree to give the Chinese wide latitude to prevent massive refuge flows across their border, and work with the international community to develop a plan to handle the refugee crisis, as well as the post-communist government.
Granting a general amnesty for all but the Kim family, and offering generous pensions to senior North Korean leadership – however grotesque – in return for overthrowing the regime, would be far cheaper than nuclear war. North Korea officials are tired of living with the fear that the psychotic fat kid running the country will kill them and their extended family with an anti-aircraft gun – so we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.
The author is a former Republican campaign operative. His work has appeared in USA Today, Real Clear Politics, The Federalist, and The Daily Caller. He has also appeared on Dan Caplis show on KNUS710. He currently resides in the Washington, D.C. area. Follow him on Twitter @PHGuthrie