The Blog

Kim Jong Honecker?

Our strategy for dislodging the North Korean tyrant should recall East Germany.

11:00 PM, Feb 20, 2005 • By DUNCAN CURRIE
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Is the analogy to China/North Korea perfect? Of course not. But so what? If shown the green light, North Koreans will vote with their feet just as robustly as East Germans did in 1989. Does anyone really doubt that? Skeptics might also contend we have minimal leverage over Beijing. True. But if China joins the G-8, America will have a new forum in which to exert pressure. Washington could always play the Taiwan card: warn China that a nuclear Pyongyang means a nuclear Taipei. The Chinese may not want Kim to have nukes, but they certainly don't want Taiwan to get the bomb. The Taiwan card, moreover, trumps the "Japan card" suggested by Charles Krauthammer and others. Anti-nuclear sentiments run deep in Japanese politics--so deep, in fact, that it's hard to fathom Tokyo's seeking atomic weapons. (Even still, flashing the Japan card wouldn't hurt.)

In return for China's opening the border, America could offer to help the Chinese sort out the massive influx of defectors. The financial burden would surely be great. But the new U.S. law authorizes $20 million per year for North Korean refugee assistance. America would need to spearhead international refugee camps, and maybe absorb thousands of Koreans itself. This is now possible, again thanks to the new law, which modified a Catch-22 in U.S. immigration policy that had previously shut American doors to Korean refugees.

None of this would be simple. It would demand deft diplomacy, hard bargaining, and, above all, a willingness to talk tough with China. Chiefly, Washington must convince Beijing of two realities. First, China has as much to lose from a nuclear North Korea as America does. Second, Kim's regime will inevitably fall; better that it happens on Sino-American terms than on Kim's. As Adam Garfinkle has put it, "The more time the North Korean regime has both to fail and to build nuclear weapons, the more likely its eventual collapse will be maximally calamitous."

Duncan Currie is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.