By Andrew L. Urban.
Trump is stumped, Putin is powerless, Macron and Merkel are as if mute and we, all over the world, are a little concerned about North Korea’s missile rattling and the nuclear gun bulging in its pocket. Kim is more than happy to see his phallic symbol frighten the world. I shall never forget the image of Kim Jung-un laughing wholeheartedly and dancing for joy as if it celebrating the victorious take-over of the White House gun room when the ICBM launch succeeded.
Yet at the G20 meeting in Hamburg (July 7 & 8, 2017), there wasn’t even humbug about the rogue state; it never came up, a nuclear elephant in the room. Nobody knows what to do. Sanctions are sanctimonious but have achieved nothing to date. China is worried about its bad neighbour, but it is not prepared to lose face globally by trying to do what the world wants – namely to tell Kim to stop it or he’ll go bald.
Kim is not likely to stop it just when he has the ICBM ready and the warhead sitting on the workbench, and just because his trade partner China says so, he’s just not that reasonable kind of dictator. The rebuff would humiliate China and for the Chinese, saving face is far more important than saving South Korea, America, Japan or Australia or all of them combined. If they were seen to fail in reigning in the young Kim, it would make them look weak, powerless and insignificant. Not an option.
Military options are limited – to almost zero. But there is one, which I have not heard discussed. It is the application of a ‘no launch’ policy put as a resolution to the UN Security Council. This resolution would warn North Korea that its flagrant disregard for international law in nuclear & missile testing will not be tolerated any longer. Any and all further missiles launched by North Korea will be shot down – as soon after launch as deemed safe to do so – under the auspices of the United Nations.
Now, China may well abstain (or find some other way of dodging the vote), but it is highly unlikely to veto this resolution, which would provide the international legitimacy for specified and limited military action, even if (as most likely) undertaken by a multinational taskforce led by the US.
This strategy has four positive outcomes:
1 It enables immediate military action with minimal risk, given the UN mandate;
2 It automatically protects potential targets;
3 It is effectively permanent;
4 It saves face for China
No, it’s not perfect, but what else is there other than more hand wringing?