Open Sources, February 15, 2013

UPDATE/BREAKING:  More nuke tests coming soon?

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ALL OF YOU WHO BET that Park Geun Hye would tilt toward engagement — you know who you are — pay up:

“No matter how many nuclear tests North Korea conducts to bolster its nuclear capabilities, it will eventually bring itself self-destruction by wasting its resources,” Ms. Park was quoted as saying by her office during a meeting with her national security and foreign affairs advisers on Wednesday. “Nuclear weapons did not prevent the old Soviet Union from collapsing.”

I told you so.  And in two years, left-of-center polemicists will be accusing her of having a “hard-line” policy simply for reacting sensibly to the North’s conduct.  Ironically, I think Park probably did want to tilt toward engagement, while North Korea seems determined to prevent that.

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IF WE CAN’T PERSUADE CHINA to work with us on North Korea, then perhaps we should give careful thought to what China fears.  I know that my Meth Belt ways of thinking must evoke gasps on Embassy Row, but Al Capone was right — you can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.  This isn’t Denmark we’re dealing with here.

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IT’S GOTTEN TO THE POINT THAT I celebrate every time a reporter asks whether there’s anything left to sanction in North Korea and doesn’t immediately and sloppily answer his own question in the negative and move on.  I’m glad that Colum Lynch didn’t do that, although Lynch’s set of Plan B options implies the need for UNSCR action, which (1) won’t happen, and (2) would never be enforced even if it did.

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MUST READ:  Stephan Haggard makes a surprisingly compelling case that the U.N. is about to do something effective on North Korean human rights.  I hope he’s right.  Skeptics ought to read it before they dismiss it.

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THE ECONOMIST WRITES its own capitalist manifesto for North Korea.  Also well worth reading.

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JOHN BOLTON, NICHOLAS EBERSTADT, and other leading lights discuss what a conservative North Korea policy would look like.  If only conservatives had had a chance to implement a conservative North Korea policy (oh, wait).  Ironically, Bolton’s brief yet highly effective tenure at the U.N. gave us the tools that President Obama stil relies on — UNSCR 1718 and the Proliferation Security Initiative.

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NORTH KOREA PERESTROIKA WATCH:  So, can we stick a fork in this idea that Kim Jong Un is a reformer yet?  I see Alexandre Mansourov is still riding this dead horse, with characteristically impeccable timing.

Afterthought:  I may have judged Mansourov too hastily this time.  If anything, he’s really saying that Kim Jong Un is more belligerent than his father, albeit in a tone that doesn’t necessarily disapprove.

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IT MAY BE A VALID CRITICISM that the Obama Administration needs more people who understand North Korea better and speak some Korean, although I incline to the view that past administrations with more Korea experts didn’t achieve particularly good results in their dealings with North Korea, either.  The analyst must understand the subject matter, but she must also have enough good judgment and common sense to apply that understanding usefully.  If you forced me to choose between those qualities, I’ll pick judgment every time.

Critics, most of them from the Left, have a point when they say that this Administration hasn’t seemed interested in North Korea.  The fact is, however, that no past or present administration has had any luck getting North Korea to negotiate in good faith.  At least the Obama Administration’s “strategic patience” has the advantage of not funding or prolonging the regime.  The validity of the criticism doesn’t necessarily mean that the critics have a better answer.

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Saw Melanie Kirpatrick at this event the other day.  What a powerful speaker she is, not in the boorish trial lawyer sense, but the opposite — humble, precise, clear, and authoritative.  There is nothing evangelical in her manner; she lets her facts do the persuasion for her.  Here’s one from her book that I’ll share:

The Jos were originally a family of eight. The mother, Han Song-hwa, and her two daughters are the only three who survived. Another daughter disappeared one day when she was walking to the market in their hometown in North Korea; the family fears she was kidnapped and sold as a bride in China. The father died in a prison camp, where he was interned after being arrested in China and repa- triated to North Korea. Mrs. Han’s mother, who lived with the family, died of starvation. So did the Jo family’s two small sons. One boy was five years old at the time of his death; the other was two months old. The baby died in the arms of his sister Grace, who was eight years old at the time. After the baby’s death, Mrs. Han took her sur- viving daughters and fled to China, where they lived for ten years. In China, they were arrested and repatriated twice. In both cases, they survived prison terms in North Korea and then returned to China. An American pastor helped them reach the United States.

I also learned why Rep. Ed Royce has such an interest in the North Korean human rights issue. I’ll let you find that out on your own.  Read the book.



  1. The most effective sanction would be a UN vote authorizing a UN maritime interception force to stop and inspect every vessel bound to and from any North Korean port, and to deliver to South Korea any materials that are found to violate any prior UN sanction order.

    This would not be a blockade (which is an act of war) but an inspection regime…which exists elsewhere.

    it would require some form of accommodation by China, which shares a common sea border. but it would certainly inhibit North Korea’s serious misbehavior, like the export of its larger missiles, and its import of high quality metals for its nuclear program.

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