Several weeks ago, K-blogs were all aflutter with Robert Kaplan’s article on the prospects for destabilizing chaos when the North Korean regime collapses. I argued in response that the United States should begin planning to fund reconstruction and organize an emergency humanitarian response, and that this ought to be one of the main contingencies around which a U.S.-Korea alliance should be designed. Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has now introduced a bill to address those issues. Here’s the summary; all emphasis mine:
“¢ Authorizes the appropriation of up to $10 billion for a “North Korea Refugee Relief and Reconstruction Fund”.
“¢ Resources made available to the Fund are to be used for three basic purposes:
1. To provide relief to refugees who have escaped from North Korea, to relocate relocate such refugees to South Korea or other countries prepared to accept them, and to assist in the resettlement of such refugees in any country willing to accept their resettlement.
2. To provide reconstruction assistance for the benefit of persons living in North Korea in the event of reunification of North Korea with South Korea.
3. To provide reconstruction assistance for the benefit of persons living in North Korea in the event of the emergence in North Korea of a new national government committed to respect for human rights, nonproliferation, and peaceful relations with the United States and other countries of the region.
“¢ Authorizes the President to draw down up to $1 billion of articles and services from any agency of the United States Government to provide immediate resources to the Fund.
“¢ Urges other governments to make commitments commensurate to those made under this Act to help the people of North Korea gain freedom from political oppression.
The big pink elephant in this room is the question of Frist’s own status, and the fact that his majority will soon dwindle to a 49-seat minority. This issue shouldn’t be partisan, but it probably will be. The Republican base wants fiscal restraint and the Democratic base wants withdrawal from world affairs. This bill proposes to spend plenty of money to support a concept from which much of the Left is reflexively averting its eyes in these times: freedom. This is a good first step that could lead to some more concrete planning for how to use our resources. But how far will it go in this political climate? A better question may be where this bill was hiding when it had a chance of passing.