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Identifying the true North Korean threat
By Trevor Bothwell
While mainstream media bed-wetters have been hyperventilating in their mission to compare the war in Iraq to Vietnam or to press President George W. Bush to apologize for terrorist attacks he couldn't prevent, Vice President Dick Cheney has been trying to make headway along another critical path in the war on terror. He embarked recently on a weeklong trip to Asia, where his travels included a stop in Beijing to urge China to encourage Kim Jung Il's communist North Korean regime to give up its nuclear ambitions.
Ever since Pyongyang's haughty admission in October 2002 to flouting its pledge to the Clinton administration that it would terminate its nuclear weapons program, the United States has been forced to ratchet up diplomatic relations with North Korea's neighbors.
The question many analysts have struggled to answer isn't how the Kim regime could undermine Clinton administration policies and secretly plan to build nuclear weapons, but how it could be so arrogant in admitting it! (According to William C. Triplett, when confronted about the existence of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program, North Korean diplomat Kang Sok-ju exclaimed "Not only YES, but HELL YES, and you tell that to your president!")
The answer to this very important question is found in Mr. Triplett's new book, Rogue State: How a Nuclear North Korea Threatens America.
The world has been well aware of the Kim regime's human rights abuses, weapons proliferation and threats of regional aggression for decades, but only now may we have found true insight into how North Korea has been able to terrorize its own people and enemies for so long: It has long been subsidized economically, defended diplomatically, and sponsored militarily by communist China.
Triplett argues persuasively "[t]here is no simple military solution to the North Korean problem," unless Pyongyang was noticeably inclined to launch an initial nuclear strike against the U.S. In short, this would be the only case "in which [an] obliterating American first strike would be justified." One might also add "tolerated," since the author's point seems to be confirmed by the current controversy surrounding President Bush's preemptive removal of Saddam Hussein.
While Mr. Triplett maintains that "[m]any countries have extensive [diplomatic] influence with Beijing," he argues it isn't feasible that we'll alleviate the North Korean threat effectively "so long as the issue is defined as ‘North Korea' and not ‘communist China and North Korea.'"
Rogue State outlines in breathtaking fashion the early alliance between Stalin, Mao, Kim Il Sung, and Ho Chi-Minh. It describes in detail how Pyongyang's intimate affiliation with communist China reaches all the way back to the Korean War, where virtually all of the high command of the North Korean Army was comprised of veterans who had fought in China. And it explains how communist China acts as a smuggling port for weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles between Pakistan and North Korea.
Triplett's book highlights in horrific detail the divide that persists in Kim Jung Il's North Korea between the senior military and its elite and the rest of the citizenry, where Kim's gulag system -- estimated currently to contain roughly 200,000 prisoners -- enslaves entire families in camps, forces children to undertake heavy labor, uses prisoners as guinea pigs to test chemical warfare technology, and enlists female victims as sex slaves.
But for all the gruesome pictures that are painted in Rogue State, it is indisputable that Mr. Triplett's primary intention is to communicate the unequivocal alliance between China and North Korea. Communist China may not necessarily play puppet master to North Korea's puppet -- the Kim regime is capable of engineering on its own a regime of tyranny, oppression, and terror -- but it is clear that Pyongyang could not survive without the carefully manufactured support of Beijing.
Triplett concludes by offering recommendations to the U.S., South Korea, Japan, and Russia for effectively curbing the North Korean threat. These range from enforcing RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) standards regarding North Korea's drug and arms trafficking to enacting sanctions legislation against North Korea and its enablers.
Most importantly, Triplett reiterates the importance of being able to convince Beijing that it is in its own interests to pressure North Korea into compliance. And if the book is deficient anywhere with regard to specificity, it is here. However, the author can be forgiven; it is irrefutable that accomplishing this end will prove to be the most difficult aspect of disarming North Korea before it's too late. All diplomatic relations involve trade-offs, and it may prove taxing to balance what the U.S. and its allies will demand, and what communist China -- not to mention the American public -- will accept.
Upon Mr. Cheney's latest arrival in Beijing, the vice president praised China for its efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear aspirations. For the sake of America, its allies and the oppressed citizenry living beneath the hammer of tyranny, let us hope this was the beginning of effective diplomatic intercourse between the two countries, and not the exercise in naiveté to which we've grown accustomed in years past.
Trevor Bothwell is editor of The Right Report and a Townhall.com book reviewer. He is also Press Secretary for Republican Brad Jewitt's (Md.-Dist. 5) campaign for U.S. Congress against Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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