Monday, 4 September 2017

Is It Time to Nuke Kim's Economy?

Yalu river border between China (L) and North Korea
Gordon Chang again!  In the Daily Beast.

This time calling for severe American actions against China and Russia if they don't hit DPRK hard.

I didn't much like Chang's unfalsifiable "The Coming Collapse of China". He published that in 2001.  Sixteen years and counting.  When is it no longer "coming"?

This time I'm inclined to agree with him and his hawkish proposals.

The US says it "cannot accept" a North Korean capacity to launch a nuke-tipped ICBM at the US mainland.  Of course not! 

Well, North Korea is almost there. Talk is has done and is doing nothing. Neither have sanctions.  So what now?

Chang proposes a super hard line (see extract below).  What he doesn't do, at least in this article, is to address Chinese concerns, which are totally understandable: if the Kim regime falls China has two serious potential problems:
  1. a refugee influx, and 
  2. South Korean and US-backed forces right on its border, in a (presumably) unified Korea. That's unacceptable to Beijing and understandably so.
In my view, I'd guess point (1), the refugee issue is somewhat overblown.  The border is a river (I've been there!), easily defended. In any case, there's plenty of space up around Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang (I've been there too!).

As for point (2), that would depend on the outcome of a fall of the Kim regime.  It would not necessarily mean South Korea takes over and the US is on the border.  That's something the three parties can talk about behind closed doors, with the US holding the whip hand in that discussion (arguably).  The US would need to be sensitive to that valid concern.

So, here's the nub of Chang's aggressive line:
What the administration should do is demand that Beijing and Moscow accept a complete embargo on North Korea. If they do not comply, the administration should threaten to impose severe costs on them. For instance, Trump could hand down what are essentially death sentences on the largest Chinese banks, like Bank of China, for laundering money for the Kim regime. The president can do that by designating them "primary money laundering concerns" under Section 311 of the Patriot Act. Such designations would deny these institutions the ability to transact in dollars.
Sanctioning the largest Chinese banks in such a manner could throw the Chinese financial and political systems into turmoil, and Beijing knows it. Therefore, the White House has the means to persuade China's leaders to disarm the Kim regime.
Fortunately, Xi Jinping, the Chinese ruler, is particularly vulnerable at this moment. The 19th Communist Party Congress, which begins on October 18, is when Xi must consolidate his power if he is to continue strongman rule. He will be blamed by his many adversaries if relations with the U.S. are disrupted before the meeting.