President Trump announced today that he has signed a new Executive Order which levies additional sanctions against North Korea to further persuade it to end its nuclear program. It’s notable in that it targets “individuals and entities that engage in trade with North Korea as well as the financial institutions” that continue to trade with it.
China has already directed its banks to cease trade with North Korea, so I’m not sure which financial institutions would be targeted by this. That a bank’s CEO could see his personal assets within the US frozen for doing business with the Kim regime is going to leave a mark though. North Korea doesn’t have any major exports like oil. It can’t sustain itself quite like Iran or Iraq or Russia. It’s extremely poor and can’t possibly take much hit to its already-limited economy.
Trump, for better or for worse, has broken the wheel of North Korean behavior modification. It always relied on them raising tensions and obtaining trade and cash deals in exchange for (temporarily) backing off of its weapons program. It has effectively been tribute that the great powers have paid to shut the Kim family up. But all it has done is kick the can further and further down the road. Now they can hit us with missiles. One day, they will have hundreds. Maybe thousands. It seems that the time has come to ensure that it doesn’t happen.
Kim Jong Un is caught in his own trap. He has played the traditional part by escalating tensions with his nuclear and missile tests, but no deal is coming. So what is a pudgy dictator to do?
North Korea’s nuclear weapons capability is its only national accomplishment. They’re not good at anything else and have no other noteworthy deeds or competencies. It seems unlikely to me that Kim will give it up. Should he suffer a loss of face from backing down, I imagine it would be interpreted as weakness by the military and put him at risk of a coup.
I guess he could decide to wait out the sanctions (and Trump) and keep building nukes. However, as economic conditions worsen the coup thing could be a real possibility again. I’ll just go ahead and rule out a popular revolt.
That leaves Kim with the option of war. I actually don’t think spurring a 2nd Korean War is the worst option from our point of view. Think about it. North Korea doesn’t have that many warheads and the ones they do have aren’t that reliable. If it is going to happen and can’t be prevented, let it happen now while they can’t blast every single major American city. Of course, Kim knows that he will quickly lose a war and that will be the end of him.
It seems to me that Kim’s options are to either be overthrown by a coup or hang like Saddam (there’s also the possibility of a Ghaddafi ass-stab). Trump has pushed the ornery little punk into a corner and it isn’t clear whether he’ll curl up in a ball or strike back with everything he has.
The other option is that if the heat is too much for him to bear, Kim could abdicate and live out a comfortable exile in China. Does anyone think he would do that?
I certainly don’t want a war with North Korea. It will be horrible. However, we can’t tolerate a country threatening us or nations we are pledged to defend with nuclear attack. But whether we want war or not, all signs are pointing to it without some sort of divine intervention.
The most disturbing item in Trump’s Executive Order was this line:
The E.O. directly targets North Korea’s shipping and trade networks and issues a 180-day ban on vessels and aircraft that have visited North Korea from visiting the United States. This ban also targets vessels that have engaged in a ship-to-ship transfer with a vessel that has visited North Korea within 180 days. North Korea is dependent on its shipping networks to facilitate international trade.
Sure. “International trade”. The real concern is that Kim will simply load nuclear devices into watercraft and sail. them up to our ports or some other strategic targets. Nobody needs ICBM’s for that sort of attack and the threat from watercraft combined with nuclear weapons has been a huge headache for DHS since its inception. I think the Trump Administration is getting ready for the worst. We all should.
Anybody want to tell me that I’m being paranoid and that there’s still a chance that someone is going to pretend to be rational for the sake of peace at any price? Should I contact Amazon and cancel that order of potassium iodide tablets?
With the end of the world now expected on September 23rd, this is probably the best time to discuss it.