Frankly Speaking

In his op-ed at the Washington Post advocating additional sanctions against North Korea, Josh Rogin says there’s still pressure to be applied on North Korea:

Once the Trump administration acknowledges that China and Russia have done all they intend to, the United States can go much further unilaterally, or with allies, to finally test whether drastic sanctions, combined with tough diplomacy, can move Kim from his defiant position.

“The amount of pressure North Korea has been put under economically is still far short of what we applied to Iran or even Iraq,” a senior administration official said. “There is a long way to go before North Korea is going to feel the pressure they would need to feel to change their calculus.”

but what he means is that we need to start pressuring China:

The Trump administration has dabbled in imposing sanctions on Chinese entities that help enable the Kim regime’s illicit activities, but it has yet to cross the line into any area that might put delicate U.S.-China coordination at risk. Royce urged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to put such measures into action during a briefing last week.

His committee also wrote a letter to the administration listing large Chinese entities ripe for sanctions, including the Chinese Agricultural Bank and the China Merchant Bank.

“We have not had the resolve to put these sanctions on those major institutions,” said Royce. “It’s time to go to maximum pressure.”

There are risks in confronting large Chinese banks, which are essentially arms of the Chinese government. Former top Treasury Department official Adam Szubin testified to the Senate Banking Committee last week that imposing sanctions on the banks could harm the Chinese economy and have unintended consequences for the U.S. economy.

In the op-ed he doesn’t mention a single additional sanction against North Korea that doesn’t involve China. That’s not saying that it couldn’t or shouldn’t be done. It is saying that it won’t be done.

You can hear the arguments already. We don’t want to start a trade war. My company will lose money. It will cost jobs. The Chinese won’t risk millions of North Koreans streaming across their borders should the Kim regime fall. And so on.

Part of the art of accomplishing objectives is establishing priorities and subpriorities. If everything is equally important, nothing is important. If, as I expect, once North Korea has the ability to use nuclear weapons against us, our allies, or our interests, it will or, worse, it will sell their technology to others who will, avoiding nuclear war would seem to me to be a higher priority than keeping Apple’s stock price high.

2 comments… add one
  • TastyBits

    I intended to note that the measures to force China to do something about N. Korea would impact trade, and many free-traders have no problem starting a trade war over N. Korea.

    We hear about all the people free-trade care about, but apparently, caring has limits.

    I do not live in a shitty area, but N. Korea is not going to be sending a nuke my way anytime soon. Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS, and any other Islamic terrorist group will not be visiting my neighborhood anytime soon, either.

  • Guarneri

    “If everything is equally important, nothing is important.”

    It seems every hand-wringer and special interest advocate has a seat at the table these days. They get prioritized only by campaign contribution level and how effectively a shaming campaign can be organized.

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