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Getting Testy
Pyongyang policy.


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Editor’s note: North Korea claims it has successfully conducted a nuclear test. How significant is this? What should the U.S. do? National Review Online asked some experts.

Dan Blumenthal
Overnight the world is a different place. With a rogue and outlaw state testing a nuclear weapon we are one step closer to a nuclear catastrophe. North Korea is cash strapped and irresponsible, willing to sell anything to anyone for hard cash. What are we to think next time we sees North Korean missiles atop a launching pad? Can we take the risk that those missiles will not be nuclear tipped? With our intelligence on North Korea so uneven, the doctrine of preemption must return to the fore. Any talk of renewed six-party talks must be resisted. We cannot let Kim Jong Il define international deviancy down. Again and again he had defied us and broken his commitments. Our message must be clear: Your defiance has gotten you isolation, relentless pressure to bring down your regime, and a more robust nuclear arsenal pointed at you.  We must remember that Iran is watching and learning.

 – Dan Blumenthal is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Newt Gingrich
Our goal in North Korea should be peaceful regime change. Our model for leadership should be Ronald Reagan.

President Reagan entered office in 1981 with a clear vision of allying with Prime Minister Thatcher of Great Britain and Pope John Paul II to defeat the Soviet Empire. Without firing a shot they worked to strengthen the Solidarity trade union in Poland, to increase the resources available to the Polish people, and to undermine the effectiveness of the Communist dictatorship. Within eleven years of Reagan’s inauguration the Soviet Union disappeared. The Cold War was over. We had won.

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North Korea is a vicious dictatorship in the middle of a famine. Its policies have shrunk the height of the average North Korean by over three inches over the last generation through malnutrition. There are over 200,000 North Koreans imprisoned in concentration camps. It is an evil regime grinding down the lives of its people.

A Reaganite strategy would funnel every penny of help and every bit of food aid through a system of private activity consciously designed to undermine the dictatorship. A Reaganite strategy would isolate the government while helping the people. It would seek every angle to get humanitarian help to the people. Food might be parachuted into the country, delivered from submarines and small boats by clandestine services, shipped in from China and Russia through anti-regime middlemen and delivered in every way possible to divert energy and authority away from the government and toward an alternative organizing system of individuals dedicated to a better more prosperous life. Just as in Eastern Europe, we would rapidly discover a lot of people willing to subvert the regime for better lives for their families and we would find the regime beginning to splinter and fragment in the face of opportunities for food, goods, and prosperity.

And a Reaganite strategy toward North Korea would mean what it says, and say what it means.

Last July, the entire civilized world said it would be “unacceptable” for North Korea to fire missiles. In response North Korea chose our Independence Day to fire seven missiles. They tested the “unacceptable”. It turned out to be acceptable. Is it any wonder that North Korea has now tested a nuclear weapon?

Reagan would have found a variety of steps to make it extremely expensive for the North Koreans to display contempt for the entire civilized world.

For President Reagan “unacceptable” would have meant “unacceptable.”

 – Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the House, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America.

Michael A. Needham
North Korea has raised the stakes in the showdown over its illicit activities. Though North Korea already had conventional armaments capable of causing tremendous destruction in the region and we have long believed it had developed nuclear weapons and already factored them into our assessments, allowing one of the world’s most dangerous regimes to possess and actively flaunt nuclear weapons is intolerable to U.S. interests.

America must first protect our interests in the region through a combination of defensive and offensive military options. Defensively, the United States must commit to funding and implementing a fully functioning, comprehensive ballistic-missile defense system. In the next few years, North Korea will likely have the capability to strike the United States; we must develop a defensive capability to protect ourselves from Pyongyang’s unpredictable behavior. Offensively, America must make it clear the use or sale of nuclear weapons by North Korea will have absolutely devastating consequences to its regime.

The United States and our allies must make it clear that we cannot and do not tolerate North Korean nuclear weapons or nuclear testing and will work to reverse these programs through a policy of active regime intolerance. Specifically, we need to work with the U.N. Security Council to get comprehensive sanctions backed by international community; the U.S. must work with our allies and China to enforce a blockade on all North Korean exports; impose further multilateral economic sanctions, including cutting off all fuel going into North Korea from China and elsewhere; and pressuring the over 70 nations with diplomatic ties to the DPRK to immediately sever those relations. Finally, no country should accept the legitimacy of this regime or its policies. The world and North Koreans would be far better off without Kim Jong Il as a leader. The United States, its partners in the six-party talks, and the international community as a whole should aim to give the North Korean people an alternative.

 – Michael A. Needham is director of the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation.

James S. Robbins
On the diplomatic front, the U.S. should not lean too far forward but help the countries in the region craft a vigorous response. Japan has shown willingness to draft the language for Security Council resolutions, let them continue. The U.S. needs to have everyone in and outside the region understand that this is not our problem, it is everyone’s. We can’t be put in a position where we are expected to provide the solution while other countries sit by and critique what we do. On the covert front, the U.S. should do what it should have been doing all along: put pressure on Kim’s regime in every way possible. Sabotage, espionage, information operations, subversion, deception — the works. A highly paranoid totalitarian regime like Kim’s will be highly susceptible to these methods. This is my continuing mantra about all such regimes (Iran, hello) but I am hoping some day the administration will listen. For those who say that such methods are too destabilizing and will interrupt the diplomatic process, I say: 1) They are supposed to be destabilizing; 2) The diplomatic process has brought us to this point, so why are we so enamored of it?

 – James S. Robbins is senior fellow in national-security affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council, a trustee for the Leaders for Liberty Foundation, and author of Last in Their Class: Custer, Picket and the Goats of West Point. Robbins is also an NRO contributor.

Michael Rubin
The North Korean nuclear test is significant for two reasons. First, it has stripped any plausibility to arguments that engaging dictators works.  Our failure was bipartisan. Clinton’s strategy was ill-conceived, but when push came to shove, the Bush White House drank the same Foggy Bottom Kool-Aid.  Second, we are at a watershed.  We know our opponents’ playbook.  Will we think several steps ahead?  Or embrace short-term illusion?  This crisis is not just about North Korea, but about Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and Cuba as well. 

Bush now has two choices: to respond forcefully and show that defiance has consequence, or affirm that defiance pays and that international will is illusionary. Diplomats crave wiggle room, but it has just run out. Multilateralism is like Diet Coke; it may taste good, but it lacks substance.  Conversations with foreign leaders aren’t enough if they do not produce results.  Nor should consultation or declaration substitute for results. Bush must now choose whether his legacy will be one of inaction or leadership, Chamberlain or Churchill?

 – Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.



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