Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Taboo talk about North Korea

It seems Hillary Clinton broke an informal taboo Thursday by mentioning to reporters the possibility that Kim Jong Il, tyrant-supreme of North Korea, might not last forever. Gasp! Shock! Horror! — apparently, according to theNew York Times, the usual experts agree that this kind of talk might discomfit the Chinese, or cause the North Korean government to lose face — and then who knows what they might do??!!

(Sell missiles to the Middle East? Test a nuclear bomb? Stockpile plutonium? Help the Syrians build a secret nuclear reactor? Test a ballistic missile? Threaten to drown South Korea in a sea of fire? Divert food aid to the military? Counterfeit U.S currency? Send hundreds of thousands of North Koreans to Kim’s gulag? Cheat on their deals, miss their deadlines and demand fresh nuclear payoffs? …Oh, wait, they’ve been doing all that already).

Actually, a lot less focus on satisfying the whims of Kim, and a lot more focus on benefits of life without him, is exactly what’s needed for North Korea — as I’ve argued in my column this week for, Try Real “Change” Toward North Korea.” North Korea’s nuclear rackets are a symptom of the core problem, which is Kim’s regime. Diplomatic engagement over most of the past 15 years has actually helped sustain the regime, with the result that the nuclear rackets have gotten much worse. Kim not only has plutonium, a suspected uranium enrichment program and proliferation networks that almost succeeded in producing an operational copy of North Korea’s Yongbyon reactor in Syria (shut down not through diplomacy, but by an Israeli air strike in 2007). He also has a basketball signed by Michael Jordan and hand-carried to him in 2000 in an act of tribute by America’s then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and an army that has supped for years off American-donated, North Korean-diverted food aid.

The only real answer — brace yourself, I am going to use a taboo phrase — is regime change.

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