Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Using Korean refugees as leverage on China? It's a thought, anyway

The current crisis in North Korea shines a harsh light on all the usual solutions and finds them wanting.

Sanctions? As the world-weary and resigned Allahpundit writes: Symbolic sanctions are a perfect non-solution to an unsolvable problem.

Yes, the UN Security Council acted with surprising alacrity; but no, the sanctions lack the economic pressure that China and South Korea could bring to bear, as well as enforcement measures--for example, it makes searching North Korean ships for banned material discretionary rather than obligatory.

As this editorial in the Australian cogently states: That this pusillanimous policy is seen as a sign that the UN is determined to get tough with North Korea demonstrates how little the world has come to expect from the Security Council.

"The Security Council." One of those names that has become Orwellian, doing the opposite of what it purports. No real security to be found there-.

So what's left? With main player China uncooperative in knocking off Kim Jong-il, and no one wanting to anger the North Koreans or to destablize the region through military action, are we back to the Fifties, as Dennis Byrne writes? Is the MADness of Mutually Assured Destruction our only hope?

And would Kim even be amenable to the arguments of MAD, considering that it's based on leaders having some sort of regard for the continuing existence of the people of their own nations? One wonders just how mad Kim Jong-il is--because, despite its name, MAD is based on the premise that leaders are at least somewhat rational.

John O'Sullivan, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, has a different idea. He finds all the current "solutions" wanting, but suggests a possible way to force the Chinese to "turn the Chinese key in the lock."

Take a look. The short version of his premise is that Korean refugees to China are routinely returned to be worked to death in their land of origin, a Chinese policy that constitutes a violation of UN human rights treaties China itself has signed.

So what, you say, and rightly so. What good do those treaties do anyway? O'Sullivan thinks, however, that there's a chance that something worthwhile can come of them:

There is a large and growing left-right coalition of Korean Americans, traditional human rights groups and evangelical churches. They were the political forces behind the North Korean Human Rights Act passed two years ago by Congress...They will now be raising the issue of North Korean refugees in Washington, on TV, in churches, in rallies and on the Internet.

North Korean refugees will eventually become a bipartisan political issue on the scale of the plight of Soviet Jews in the 1970s. Just as that issue produced the Jackson-Vanik amendment, forcing the Soviets to choose between allowing their emigration or losing access to the U.S. market, so the plight of North Korean refugees will eventually present China with a similar choice. And trade with America is vastly larger and more important to a fast-growing capitalist China than it was to a stagnant and impoverished Soviet Union.

O'Sullivan realizes, of course, that China could retaliate by "selling its U.S. bonds and provoking a fiscal crisis and a trade war simultaneously." But he concludes that China's interests lie in installing a regime in North Korea that isn't so much of a loose cannon as the present one, and this pressure might just help it to realize that. America's interests, of course, lie in that direction as well. It's a scenario in which everybody would win except Kim Jong-il.

O'Sullivan concludes:

...if Beijing were to make a few telephone calls to its favorite generals in Pyongyang, suggesting they would benefit from his overthrow and the gradual liberalization of his regime, it could advance its own interests and seek some reward from Washington, Tokyo and the U.N. for being an international good neighbor.

A consummation devoutly to be wished.

So, how realistic is this option? And how dangerous? Not very, and somewhat. But then, consider those alternatives...

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