President Reagan once said “If you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.” The time has come to turn up the temperature on North Korea.
With a series of progressively more worrying missile tests over the past months, a tipping point has been reached in the relationship between the world and North Korea – allowing things to progress beyond this point will see the balance only move further and further in North Korean’s favour. Time is of the essence — North Korean’s missile technology has gone from laughable to outright dangerous. Expectations are that the country will have an ICBM capable of striking the US as early as next year. However, it’s not simply the missile tests seen on television that pose a threat — North Korea, on August 1, carried out a successful cold launch ejection test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile, and the regime is known to be developing anti-ship ballistic missiles and has a new range of highly sophisticated coastal defence cruise missiles. North Korean submarines may be old, tired and noisy, making a surprise attack unlikely, but the rapid development of modern complex technology shows North Korea has an ability to develop intricate weapons systems that economic sanctions against the nation are designed to prevent.
It’s often said that sanctions don’t work until they do. Economic efforts are regularly, and unfairly, treated as half-measures, as not a serious option — but they often succeed in bringing nations to the table. This is not the case with North Korea. North Korea’s nuclear programme has continued unabated, whilst the sanctions take their toll on its’ population. The price of thousands of North Korean lives is a price that the regime is willing to pay. The US must continue its sanctions, but they are not enough alone. Trump must take steps to punish North Korea’s allies — he has railed against China, but the truth is that the regime has ample elbow room when dealing in a wide range of places that are not as tough to operate in as America would like. These avenues must be closed in order to ensure the pressure on the regime only grows. China is often quoted as the only ally which can bring the rogue state to heel. If this is true, then China, too must be made accountable for the actions of North Korea — it currently make a huge profit in extracting resources at a fraction of the market rate from North Korea, yet has not played a proper role in attempting to curtail its cousin’s nuclear ambitions.
Another key step is for America to start beefing up its allies. South Korea and Japan are screaming out for more strength and America would be wise to listen. A military solution, if applied quickly enough, would be a war limited to the Korean peninsula — albeit a costly one. A limited strike is not an option. Therefore, America’s forward allies must be strengthened, and a great deal. For South Korea, in particular, this is key. The gains from removing the regime to the North have to be traded off against the large-scale military and civilian casualties Seoul would incur, as the city hardest-hit. An investment in capability, not only offensive but in areas such as missile shields, would reduce South Korean losses and make a military solution more acceptable. Japan, too, has been making move towards a firmer stance against the rogue state — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would be “fully agreed” with further action from America, as he seeks to amend the pacifist nature of the Japanese constitution. These two nations are already highly capable, but they will simply need more in order to address the Kim dynasty’s ambitions in the world and the region.
America is beginning to take steps in a more hard line direction of travel – US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said recently that “the time for talk is over.” Yet with every missile test, North Korea grows stronger in stature — and so too do American’s opponents, as they begin to realise that nuclear proliferation may benefit them, too. In order to prevent others taking advantage or taking a lead from North Korea, America and its allies must stand and make an example out of North Korea.