Pressure N. Korea financially to reduce nuclear threat
The Kansas City Star
The latest North Korean nuclear test is more worrisome than those that went before. Seismographic evidence suggests the recent underground blast was much more powerful, and Pyongyang claims the bomb was “smaller and light” — composed of “diverse” materials.
The latter reference was apparently a claim by the regime that it can now build uranium bombs — important because it has at least one operating enrichment plant. Earlier devices used plutonium, to which the North’s access is far more limited.
Couple this with December’s test of a long-range rocket — in defiance of three United Nations resolutions — and the rogue regime could soon pose a credible intercontinental nuclear threat.
For 15 years, the U.S. has been locked in a fruitless cycle in which North Korea engages in provocations and threats, agrees to stand down in exchange for promises of aid, and then ignores the agreements.
Washington should not repeat the cycle. Instead, it ought to increase pressure on China to control its ally, speed up work on U.S. missile defense and choke off North Korea’s access to the global financial system.
The latter approach, pursued for a time by the Bush administration, got the attention of Pyongyang, which depends on shadowy relationships with various banks to finance the “palace economy” by which the elite lives in luxury.
Pressuring Pyongyang financially has been shown to be effective. In light of the recent North Korean bomb test, the Obama administration should put it to use, while pushing other countries to pressure their own banks not to do business with North Korea.