Every few months, the Korean Peninsula seems to come back onto everyone's radar, and the press has a field day covering it. Usually, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shoots off a missile, kills a relative, or continues to starve anyone not in the military. Fast forward 24 hours, and the press loses interest and goes back to covering their favorite narrative: the fabled friendship between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Trump.
Well, my view is that the North Korean story really is a huge deal and deserves far more coverage than it gets. After all, a lunatic will very soon have the ability to destroy Seattle, Portland, San Diego, or, in the not-distant future, Washington or New York – or my hometown of Cincinnati.
We cannot let that happen.
North Korea might as well be hell on earth. More than half of the population is starving because food and sustenance only goes to the military. Their military is three times larger than ours.
Yes, you read that right: North Korea has 6.4 million soldiers compared to our 2.3 million.
We've seen a pattern in the past three administrations where the United States gives them food, oil, and other aid, in return for a promise to end their nuclear program. Unsurprisingly, none of that has come to fruition. They take advantage of our rich humanitarian history and cheat their way out.
The Obama administration even had a name for its North Korean policy – "strategic patience." Well, as far as I'm concerned, the time for patience has long been over. It's time for decisive action. No, that doesn't necessarily mean military action – yet.
While I am pleased to see that we are getting serious about cracking down on travel to North Korea, here are several more steps I think should be taken.
First, the regime essentially kidnapped and murdered Cincinnati native Otto Warmbier. A loss to the Warmbier family and the U.S. at the hands of this evil regime cannot go unpunished. I would impose a total and complete ban on Americans traveling to North Korea and would encourage our allies to do the same. Hard currency from travel almost exclusively benefits the regime and the military, not to mention puts Americans at risk. We should stop it immediately.
Next, I would announce that all dependents (spouses, children, etc.) of U.S. military personnel in South Korea be pulled out. This would send an alarming message to the North Koreans and the Chinese that we are finally getting serious. Are we about to take military action? They just won't know for sure. And that's exactly where we want them.
Tightening sanctions on North Korea would be the next step. But, more importantly, I would tightly clamp down on any Chinese banks or other businesses assisting North Korea's nuclear or military programs. The Trump administration recently sanctioned one Chinese bank, the Bank of Dandong, for assisting companies working with North Korea's military. I would go far beyond this and make sure that China understands they have a choice. They can do business with the U.S. or North Korea — not both.
If China makes the wrong choice, could it hurt our economy? Yes, somewhat. But the failure to rein in North Korea is far more dangerous to the U.S.
And finally, as I've suggested for quite some time now, we should enter into talks with South Korea and Japan to consider developing their own nuclear programs.
This would certainly put significant pressure on China to urge North Korea to end its own nuclear program. These two U.S. allies are already within range of North Korea's nuclear missiles, and they have every reason to want to be able to defend themselves. This is the last thing China wants.
It's my belief that discussions about a nuclear South Korea or Japan alone may be sufficient to get China's attention and get them to finally exert the necessary pressure on North Korea. It's well worth a try. And it could possibly avoid the need for us to take military action.
Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, represents Ohio's 1st congressional district. He is chairman of the House Small Business Committee and a senior member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
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