Thinking Outside the Box on North Korea
Doug Bandow – The Korea Times
Monarchical Communism thrives in North Korea. Kim Jong-un has passed his fifth anniversary in power. Unfortunately, the “Cute Leader,” as the plump 30-something is informally known, is busy staging missile and nuclear tests. By some estimates he could have 100 nukes within four years, making the so-called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea a mid-level nuclear power.
Donald Trump will be the fifth president to confront the prospect of a nuclear North Korea. Few people have any good ideas on how to turn back the North’s nuclear ambitions.
President Bill Clinton once prepared to bomb the North. South Koreans, who would have suffered tens or hundreds of thousands of casualties, depending on Pyongyang’s response, were less enthused about the idea. The possibility of triggering the Second Korean War is even less attractive today.
Everyone loves sanctions, but so far they haven’t worked. The People’s Republic of China remains unwilling to risk destabilizing its small, unpredictable neighbor. Nor would the Cute Leader necessarily give in even if his country had to pay a much higher price.
Negotiations are great, but only the Easter Bunny and Great Pumpkin imagine that Kim is prepared to give up his nuclear ambitions. Without its nuclear arsenal the DPRK could not deter the U.S., extort money and other assistance from neighbors, and dominate the news around the world. Giving the military big toys also helps Kim build domestic political support, an important objective for a dynasty, now on its third generation, which has wrecked an entire nation.
Finally, virtually everyone, including the president-elect, believes Beijing should simply tell the North to stop. It’s a great idea, except Pyongyang almost certainly wouldn’t listen. And equally likely, the PRC won’t even try.
After all, Chinese officials aren’t in the habit of imposing regime change on their allies for Washington’s benefit. Along the way there could be Chinese economic investments going up in flames, millions of refugees flooding into China, military factions fighting it out at the PRC’s doorstop, and loose nukes going who knows where.
It’s time to try some new tactics, 21st Century warfare, so to speak. For instance, a Chinese Kim impersonator by the name of Jia Yongtang has been working since 2012.
Washington could hire Jia and drop him in North Korea, perhaps on a military base outside of Pyongyang, to order a march on the nation’s capital to depose the “fake” KJU who was desecrating the legacy of the nation’s founder, Great Leader Kim Il-sung.
Another possibility would be to find a new, and reliable, missus for the Cute Leader. His wife hasn’t been seen in public for months. She might be having “irreconcilable differences” with the great man.
The latter wouldn’t be good for her health—barely two years after taking power he executed his uncle, calling him a traitor and various other nasty names. The U.S. could look for attractive ladies who might serve as potential replacements and drop them into the North where he might meet them on his various inspection tours. Just the right pillow talk and Kim might be ready to surrender to the West, or at least offer Donald Trump the opportunity to build a new golf course.
The defector group Fighters for Free North Korea claims to be testing drones to blow up North Korean statues of previous dynastic leaders. That might help the regime. Instead, drones should be programed to drop bird poop on statues of Kim’s dad and granddad. That would visibly and dramatically embarrass Pyongyang.
South Korean organizations use balloons to send propaganda into the North. That causes a near hysterical reaction from Pyongyang, though it’s not clear that many people read, let alone are convinced by, such material. Instead, the U.S. should orchestrate a campaign to send the tools of teenage rebellion into North Korea. Cell phones, iPhones, baggy low-hanging pants, baseball caps with instructions to wear them backwards, skateboards, and plenty of MTV DVDs. Chaos would spread across the North and when Kim’s two daughters reach their teens the result would be to end communism as we know it.
North Korea is a genuine tragedy. Unfortunately, the old policies aren’t working. Instead of doing more of the same and expecting a different result, policymakers should consider adopting the new and the different. After all, the consequences couldn’t be worse than the impact of past attempts.
Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He is the author of “Tripwire: Korea and U.S. Foreign Policy in a Changed World” and co-author of “The Korean Conundrum: America’s Troubled Relations with North and South Korea.”