Facing Down Pyongyang
What to do about North Korea.


Prompted by reports that North Korea might deploy a long-range nuclear missile, National Review Online called together the following group of experts to weigh in on what we should be thinking and doing about North Korea.

Angelo M. Codevilla
Since the Clinton administration, tiny North Korea has been wagging America like an outsized tail. By building nukes and missiles that it has no intention of using, this dying dictatorship in a starving country has enlisted Americans as partners for its survival. The Bush team, happy playing this role, has decided to play it also with regard to a much more dangerous Iran. Reverse course!

North Korea’s preparations for testing the Taepo Dong II missile, capable of reaching parts of Alaska and Hawaii, are one more step in this Kabuki dance. But the fact that Kim Jung Il is not about to ruin his scam by starting a war does not make this step much less dangerous. George Bush’s response of loud talk and “incentives,” (read, ransom) is teaching the world how easily America can be had. Iran has learned that lesson. But Iranian politics may put the Shahab 4 missile, soon to be armed with nukes, (with North Korea’s help) into the hands of a rising faction that is serious about Armageddon.

The fundamental prescription is: At least stop talking loud and paying ransom. Why help our enemies while insulting them – and calling it negotiations? Second, get serious about missile defense. Few realize that the Bush program is “Clinton lite at twice the price.” Once we stop encouraging our enemies and start defending ourselves, we may begin to think offensively.

 – Angelo M. Codevilla is professor of international relations at Boston University and a fellow at the Claremont Institute. 

Newt Gingrich
The time to replace the State Department’s failed North Korea strategy of “talk forever — act never” has come. The report that Pyongyang has fueled a nuclear capable Taepodong-2 missile that could reach the U.S. west-coast mainland highlights the degree to which the State Department strategy of talk and bluff has failed.

For 13 years the United States has talked loudly about a North Korean nuclear weapons and ballistic-missile threat. For 13 years the North Korean dictatorship has lied and hunkered down and continued to build nuclear-weapons and ballistic missiles. 

The strategy of talking has failed.

We are now at the crossroads where we have to either embrace a strategy of preemption or revert to a strategy of defensive measure. President Bush’s pledge in his 2002 State of the Union “Axis of Evil” speech that “the United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons” led him and his administration to insist over and over that their doctrine was preemption.

Now we are faced with a direct threat of a missile launch. Will the State Department adhere to the Bush doctrine or will it go back to a defensive strategy?

The American public is being reassured that we have a ballistic-missile defense that will work. No serious person believes this. None of the tests have been robust enough or realistic enough to assure us that we could intercept the North Korean ICBM no matter where it was aimed.

In the immediate and present danger, the United States should not wait to attempt to shoot the missile down after it is launched. There is no proven reliable technology and no evidence that we could succeed. Instead, we should destroy the missile on its site before it is launched. Our ability to preempt the launch is nearly certain.

We can’t afford failure.

Imagine the North Korean dictator in a moment of insanity has placed a nuclear weapon atop of the Taepodong-2. Imagine he believes that taking out Seattle is the best way to impress us with how serious he is. Imagine that we allow this missile to be fired because we want to be in State Department language “prudent, cautious, reasonable, and multilateral.” Imagine what the “6/21 Commission to Investigate the Loss of Seattle” would report about 13 years of diplomatic failure and the failure of the United States to implement President Bush’s pledge.

America’s actions must be decisive. We are faced with a brutal, totalitarian dictatorship about which we know little. It is acting in defiance of all of its own international commitments. The time for talk is over. Either they dismantle the missile or we the United States should dismantle it.

From an American viewpoint of saving American lives and American cities certain preemption is much less risky than uncertain defense. That is a simple but painful fact. It is one Washington should act upon.

—Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America.

Henry Sokolski
Here we go again — Pyongyang grabbing attention by brandishing its long-range nuclear-weapons capabilities. This time it’s fueling up a rocket that could reach American territory.  Besides trumpeting the virtues of missile defenses and closer security cooperation with Japan, what should we do?

First, no more bribes. We tried that under Clinton, who promised billions in energy assistance if Pyongyang would relent. All we got was North Korean cheating and a covert uranium enrichment program.

Second, enforce the rules.  This means demanding the U.N. act on the noncompliance report the IAEA filed against Pyongyang three years ago. We also should back country-neutral rules already proposed by our allies to isolate North Korea for repudiating the NPT and to deter Iran (and later others) from following suit.

Finally, start treating Pyongyang as an international outlaw rather than a diplomatic equal to be bargained with. Work with like-minded states to block port calls by DPRK trading ships by demanding they be fully insured and up to safety standards, cut-off illicit trade in slave-mined North Korean gold, and do even more to throttle trade in drugs and counterfeit money.

The last thing we want is to make Pyongyang a nuclear model for others.


– Henry Sokolski is executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Washington, D.C.

Malcolm Wallop
North Korea seems intent on challenging the West’s willingness to confront their threatening behavior. This is the moment in time when that arrogance must be put to rest. True, it is not without risk that we challenge them with more than words, but words are the North’s mud through which they would have us tread while they proceed to advance their nuclear threats and now their long-range missiles.

It is logical to ask what more is available to us beyond the words of diplomacy. First threats without demonstrable intent to carry them out only deepen the mud.

First, we should deploy Aegis ABM Cruisers within range of any missile the North may fire. Second, we should demonstrably arm the Alaska defenses and say so. We should, if we can, try to make it clear that the North Korean missile, if launches, will be destroyed over their territory.

We have not got and therefore should not threaten any immediate physical assault on their nuclear capabilities. That is a threat to be used only when we are prepared to shun world opinion in the name of national survival. And then only when we have demonstrated real willingness to deliver on threats once made.

Meanwhile, serious and effective economic sanctions must be applied immediately following a missile launch. A broader range of actions must be declared and implemented absent any functional North Korean response. Real iron will is necessarily the strongest deterrent.

 – Malcolm Wallop is founder and chairman of Frontiers of Freedom.