The Blog

Pressuring Pyongyang

The need for a realistic North Korea policy.

12:00 AM, May 1, 2009 • By CAROLYN LEDDY, CHRISTIAN WHITON and JAMIE FLY
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First among those sanctioned should be the North Korean individuals and entities who were involved in the construction of Syria's plutonium reactor, destroyed by the Israeli Air Force in September 2007, which was the first step toward making a state sponsor of terrorism a nuclear power. It is unfathomable that the U.S. has yet to designate a single North Korean nuclear entity. Moreover, the U.S. should undertake efforts to expose, target, and sanction Kim's personal cash reserves and assets scattered around the globe. Missile defense is key. Secretary Gates should reverse his plans to cancel installation of additional interceptors in Alaska. In a future missile launch scenario, he should approve his commanders' request to deploy the military's powerful SBX radar to the region and attempt to shoot down North Korean missiles--ideally before they provide useful telemetry to Pyongyang's engineers. Critically, Congress should ignore the $1.4 billion of requested cuts to missile defense sought by the administration.

Finally, U.S. policy should seek to change the nature of the North Korean regime over the long-term. This means getting more information into North Korea, which in repressive systems expedites regime decay. Limited resources provided by the last administration for independent Korean-speaking broadcasters should be increased considerably. The U.S. should fund an airborne broadcast platform similar to the one we use on Cuba--and provide more resources to the broadcasters themselves. Ending U.S. support for food aid that is routinely diverted from intended recipients to the military is key.

An honest and pragmatic North Korea policy that acknowledges the true nature of the North Korean regime, its proliferation of the world's most dangerous weapons, and the brutal treatment of its people will make America safer and will ensure that U.S. policy reflects our core ideals. North Korea has been conditioned to expect foreign assistance and legitimacy in return for its bad behavior--a lesson reinforced by the past several U.S. administrations. Until this cycle is terminated and replaced by a policy based in reality, the North Korean threat will persist and grow.

Jamie Fly served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on the National Security Council Staff from 2005-2009. He is Policy Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative. Carolyn Leddy served at the State Department and on the National Security Council Staff from 2003-2007. She was a member of an official U.S. delegation that visited the Yongbyon nuclear facility in North Korea in 2007. Christian Whiton was a State Department official from 2003-2009 and served as deputy special envoy for human rights in North Korea. He is a policy adviser to the Foreign Policy Initiative.