Otto Warmbier was released last week, in a coma. North Korea claimed botulism–easily a lie–and Donald Trump thanked…himself. A few days ago, Otto died. HE DID NOTHING WRONG!
Let’s get one thing clear first of all. Here’s a report on botulism in case anyway thinks he actually died from that. My message to Kim Jong Un? Make up a better lie. Idiot.
Take a moment to watch Otto’s highschool graduation speech. Consider doing so a moment of silence before you read on. Do as you do in these situations, but give him that.
So what’s next?
Well, I know many people who have visited North Korea. During one visit to China, the first two people I met had just returned from there. So, many people leave safely. However, it’s clear something needs to change. They kill their own people, and they send a select few overseas to work as de facto slaves in order to gain millions for their military. Hundreds of them are in Western Europe right now. So, something has to change.
Here’s what I think Trump can do. We can’t do nothing. That’s not working. I know enough about this. Whatever pain that comes from doing something is better than being the frog in slowing boiling water, which we are.
We can also fire warning shots into the East Sea, also called the Sea of Japan. I think this is something Trump would like to do. We’d have to give plenty of notification in advance, and no matter what we say, North Korea will think about responding, but our many ships in the region will deter them because A) they may not be able to handle a counterretaliation and B) China will likely tell them it’s not quite time for all-out war. Therefore, it won’t go further than our warning shots. In other words, they shoot missiles into the water, we should missiles into the same water. We shouldn’t shoot missiles within Japan’s maritime border, but we can shoot at other places North Korea has launched missiles in that Sea.
This will strengthen our show of force and let the international community know that we are serious about this and that we ask for their support. This will allow our allies to, for example, disavow our actions BUT do something lighter that, compared to what they do now, is actually in stronger opposition to North Korea but not necessarily stronger support of the United States.
Cleaning Up Slavery
Earlier, I mentioned that there are many North Koreans working around the world. The money gained from this work is being sent directly to Kim Jong Un and his military. Therefore, another way to cut off North Korea is to deport these workers or shut down the operations where they work. Ideally, we should rehabilitate them and give them asylum, but other deals can be made that would still cut off funding to the North Korea’s nuclear program. It would also help unify the international community in a humanitarian effort to assist the victims of the Kim regime.
Sanctions on China
We have tried to sanction China. In fact, we succeeded in doing so without much of a problem, but they found a way around it anyway, sending telecommunications equipment to North Korea via their ZTE operation. China even pled guilty to that. They paid a settlement of $900MILLION.
We can certainly sanction them more. However, I have a better idea.One of the benefits of backing out of the Paris Accord is plausible deniability that the federal government would agree when certain states deciding to block the sale of Chinese products if there are environmental hazards stemming from China along the supply chain. Most countries would be in support of those states standing up for ethical sourcing and would be happy to use that action as a way to bash Trump and the U.S. federal government, while Trump obviously tells China he disagrees with those states. Additionally, rules have changed such that you can even sue another country. That changed when 9/11 victims pushed to sue Saudi Arabia. So, again, the federal government simply has to say that our system of government is such that these lawsuits don’t flow through the White House or the States Department and that both lawsuits and state-level sanctions are a separate issue.
One of the benefits of backing out of the Paris Accord is plausible deniability that the federal government would agree when certain states deciding to block the sale of Chinese products if there are environmental hazards stemming from China along the supply chain. Most countries would be in support of those states standing up for ethical sourcing and would be happy to use that action as a way to bash Trump and the U.S. federal government, while Trump obviously tells China he disagrees with those states. Additionally, rules have changed such that you can even sue another country. That changed when 9/11 victims pushed to sue Saudi Arabia. So, again, the federal government simply has to say that our system of government is such that these lawsuits don’t flow through the White House or the States Department and that both lawsuits and state-level sanctions are a separate issue.
This is an interesting method. It’s one that Trump may go far, but I think he’ll totally misjudge how it’s done. Psychological warfare has been very common in Asia for a very long time. Moreover, it’s been using to enforce rules on its citizens, as well. That often throws us Westerners off because we’re used to seeing physical force. However, there are ways that we can use psychological wafare to slow down North Korea.
For example, Trump has always promised to pay and never delivers. Why not do it again? He can promise humanitarian aid in exchange for a reduction in North Korea’s nuclear program. A reduction seems like a lot less than we’re asking for now so perhaps North Korea would think they are winning by taking this deal. However, we could conduct the transaction to set up accounts, transfer the money, and freeze the account all at the same time. We could also send pallets of cash, as was done with the Iran deal, and but we could insert confetti paper or otherwise nonmonetary items that look like money but are actually small, written notifications that they have one more chance to stop screwing up.
This may seem petty, but psychological warfare is very powerful. They want diplomatic talks. So show them that, no matter what they think, we’re one step ahead of them. If we continue to use conventional military tactics while they use unconventional tactics like influence campaigns and hacks that psychologically manipulating an unsuspecting bystander to click a link they shouldn’t click, then we’re gonna get the same result we’ve always gotten.
Instead, let’s do what they do.
We can attack North Korea. Yes, doing nothing is bad and doing something will hurt us. In fact, China uses engagement and containment, or what I prefer to call a one-step process of entanglement, to ensure that, anything we do will hurt both us and them, if not just us. Given that so much of North Korea is about China, that’s very relevant. So, we attack North Korea, for example, China’s troops on the border of China and North Korea pretending to prevent North Korea immigrants from fleeing to China will defend the North Korean government and do their very best to ensure North Korea is never unified with South Korea unless the peninsula would look the way they want it to look. At the moment, all’s good for China. So they won’t let it change. Therefore, North Korea can do whatever they want because China will publically excoriate them and privately thank them for even attacking Seoul. That said, I think, at the moment, China is a little worried that Kim Jong Un is trying to call the shots, but I don’t think China has much to worry about KJU going so rogue that China can’t threaten him in many, many ways.
However, I do think that anything we do or don’t do will cause a problem in the short-term and long-term, respectively. I think it’s better to forge military partnerships with ASEAN countries and conduct a joint military show of force in the South China Sea. China wouldn’t allow North Korea to respond to that because it would show they are working together, North Korea would fear a weaker China, and China would have to focus more on the South China Sea and less on funding North Korea’s nuclear program.
Finally, there is something more broad that needs to be done and that isn’t mutually exclusive from these other options.
We need to take the focus off Northeast Asia by putting the fight elsewhere. As discussed above, a good place would be the South China Sea. I honestly don’t see why China’s encroachment upon other nations, including the recent use of their own domestic police on foreign soil in Thailand against Thailand’s orders, wouldn’t encourage those Southeast Asian countries to assist us in exchange for TPP and other assurances on the SCS maritime radar. Getting them involved in a joint show of force in the South China Sea might allow us to then encourage their involvement in backing us up in Northeast Asia if necessary.
We essentially distract the region while we work on guaranteeing that we can withstand a counterretaliation, which would then give us more options. At that point, we can go through the same steps we always do. We’ll start with diplomacy, which I’m sure is an option that will be quickly eliminated. Then we’ll again use a show of force on the Korean Peninsula. If they don’t continue their aggression, we know they’ve lost some power in the region, and we’ll continue to monitor any changes to that position. At that time, if we can invade, we should try a very targeted operation, like South Korea’s “decapitation force.” If we can have a peaceful transition not of power but from power, then a consortium of South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia, and China can all monitor the implementation of a new government, ensuring that each can get what they want. It would look like an all-Asia version of the UN Security Council, but frankly, I don’t see a way to influence how this new government operates than by letting Russia and China have some influence, as well. It is their neighbor, and moreover, that would be the right thing to do. While negotiations are occurring, the whole place would look like Iraq or worse, but look at what it is now. Moreover, we can direct our attention to freeing the 120,000 prisoners in the Russian-style gulags in North Korea. This will encourage Russia and China to ask for something they want, which is fine because freeing 120,000 people, some of whom were born in those labor camps, is something we want.
WELL! OKAY THEN! That all sounds plenty scary enough. Let’s stop talking about it. Well, not really, but you know what I mean.
War is no longer fought on an agreed upon battlefield under strict rules and with an agreement to never harm civilians. Compared to now, that almost sounds like a football game.
HOWEVER, here’s what we can do. You can encourage Trump to pass the TPP. You can support businesses that source from countries other than China. Buying from Vietnam and India will have the biggest impact. Check out the Make In India campaign started by their Prime Minister in 2014. Also, Vietnam is aligned very well to replace China in areas of low-wage labor, so much so that China has thought of bringing in Vietnamese workers to China. Also, Vietnam will benefit most from the ASEAN Open Skies Policy, increasing “regional and domestic connectivity.” Moreover, they’ve just been given permission to schedule direct flights from Vietnam that terminate in the United States. All this, along with TPP, allows Vietnam to be a leader in Southeast Asia and United States to help the region grow how they want to rather than being forced into something China wants.
Overall, what you can do is promote responsible supply chains. Everytime you purchase a product along a supply chain, your money goes the other way. Where is it going? Do you want it to go there?
One final note I want to make about traveling to North Korea is this:
Despite being an avid traveler who has spent extensive time in China and endeavors to go anywhere you can’t learn about in a book, I have recently changed my mind about North Korea. The death of Otto Warmbier didn’t do that. I have been studying China, Northeast Asia, and China’s growing influence since 2006. This includes how North Korea benefits, what they can get away with, and how China benefits from North Korea’s actions. In 2014, I changed my mind. I won’t go there.
Otto did break the rules. That’s true. But the rules broke him and the whole North Korean society. By intention.
However, if you want to go, you can go, and I will support your learning and adventurism. Just remember that, at this point, none of our allies can stop their nuclear tests, there are no U.S. embassies in North Korea, and you CANNOT run away from your hotel and find civilization or cross a border and start screaming for help. That WILL NOT work.
I would advise to know the rules before you visit North Korea, and I’d feel more comfortable if you contact me personally before you go so I can impress upon you the militaristic seriousness with which you must discipline yourself in order to not let the freedoms within you jump out and get you in trouble while you’re there. I’ve met Westerners who told me they spontaneously kissed a dirty Chinese sidewalk when they returned from North Korea because, at that moment, even in China, a place with very few freedoms and really dislikes Westerners and especially Americans, after only about a week in North Korea, that they finally had their freedom back. THIS is how bad it is.