There Are No Good Options for Dealing With North Korea

With North Korea taking center stage in the foreign policy realm, there are concerns about what the U.S. can do now that the country has developed intercontinental ballistic missiles. William Inboden has some ideas that could work.Inboden is an associate professor for public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also a National Intelligence Council associate and a member of the CIA Director's Historical Review Panel. He previously served as senior director for strategic planning on the National Security Council under President George W. Bush. What difficulties are there in dealing with the North Korean regime?First, it's a criminal syndicate. It maintains its livelihood through counterfeiting, through drug trafficking — through all sorts of illicit activities. This is not a normal economy. That is one of the things that then limits our economic leverage, because a lot of the traditional economic sanctions are measures that you would do against a country that engages in normal trading with the international community. Those aren't as readily available to us.Second, it's a gangster state armed with weapons of mass destruction. Their nuclear arsenal is what gets the most headlines, and that is very worrisome. But they also have one of the world's largest stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.Third, they're a totalitarian personality cult. Among other things, what that means is for the last 70-some years, the entire population of North Korea — three to four generations of people — have been cut off from contact with the outside world. No access to normal information flows. They've only been fed this very steady diet of propaganda about the messianic Kim regime and about the evils of the United States. In practical terms, the challenges that makes for us are one, because it's totalitarian, it's really hard to penetrate with our intelligence community. We just don't have very good sources of information on what's going on inside.The fourth aspect of North Korea that's important to know is it's China's main proxy and ally in the region. Even as we're looking at different ways we're trying to influence or change North Korea's behavior, we realize that the key to what's going on in Pyongyang really does run through Beijing.  Continue reading...

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