Kim Jong-un rightly assumes that wealthy Western nations would prefer to pay bribe money than suffer the loss of a city — and that they have plenty of cash for such concessions. He is right that the medicine of taking out Kim’s missiles is considered by Western strategists to be even worse than the disease of living with a lunatic regime that has nukes.
.. Apparently, Beijing found a rabid North Korean government useful in bothering rivals such as the Japanese and South Koreans while keeping the U.S. off balance in Asia and the Pacific. The dynamic economies and pacifism of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan were taken for granted by China as easy targets for coercion and blackmail.
.. A preemptory strike might not get all of North Korea’s nuclear missiles and could prompt a conventional response that would wreck nearby Seoul — a scenario about which North Korea openly brags.
.. It may be tragic that a captive population suffers for the lunacy of its leader, but such misery is still preferable to an all-out war.
.. Nor should China be exempt from accompanying stiff trade restrictions. Almost every weapon component in the hands of North Korea either came directly from China or was purchased by cash earned through Chinese trade and remittances.
.. Australia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the U.S. need to coordinate a massive missile-defense project aimed at ending North Korean assumptions that even one of its missiles has a chance to reach its intended target.
.. Such a Marshall Plan–like investment would also send a message to China that its own nuclear deterrent could be compromised and nullified by the defensive efforts of its immediate neighbors. China has made life difficult for the U.S. and its Asian allies, and it should learn that the allies could make things even more problematic for China.
.. Iran, a beneficiary of North Korean nuclear assistance, is watching how far Kim can go. It will certainly make the necessary strategic adjustments if he succeeds in shaking down the Western world.
.. We are nearing an existential showdown, as failed efforts at bribery and appeasement have run their course. Only a tough, messy confrontation now can prevent a disastrous war later on.