If You Want to Disarm North Korea, Mr. President, Sanction China

Kim Jong-un's regime doesn't have the material or expertise to make missiles: It relies on its neighbor to the north for both

by Steve Mosher | Updated 02 Dec 2017 at 9:05 PM

The whole world now knows that Kim Jong-un has an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States.

Tuesday’s night launch was a hi-tech feat aimed not at terrorizing North Korea’s near neighbors, but at sending shock waves of fear all the way across the Pacific to the United States.

And it succeeded.

President Trump immediately vowed that "additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea." The President's goal, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders emphasized, was "to continue putting maximum pressure" on the rogue state.

But it is difficult to imagine, as a practical matter, just how that pressure is going to be applied.

Kim Jong-un's isolated and impoverished country is already subject to the most comprehensive sanctions regime in the world. And its people are suffering the consequences.

North Korea has already been reduced to such a state that it can't even properly feed its soldiers. A few days before Little Rocket Man launched his latest missile, a desperate defector managed to flee across the DMZ to freedom.

The doctors treating the soldier's wounds were surprised to discover that he was not only suffering from hepatitis B, but was infected by parasites. When they sought to repair the gunshot wound to his abdomen, they found his intestines were crawling with parasitic worms, some as long as 12 inches.

How do we reconcile the abysmal physical condition of one of Kim's prize soldiers with the image of a frightening war machine that he seeks to project?

Even more to the point, how did a dirt-poor country that can barely manage to feed its people acquire the sophisticated technical and manufacturing know-how necessary to build nuclear weapons and deploy ballistic missiles?

The answer is that it didn't. Instead, it relied upon its only ally, China — the one country to which it is bound by a mutual defense treaty — to provide these things.

This is not mere speculation on my part, but rather is based on solid evidence.

For some time, the Japanese navy has been working to recover North Korean missiles that have splashed down in the Sea of Japan.

To prevent this from happening, North Korean missiles are often honeycombed with explosives. These are detonated while the missile is still in flight, shattering it into dozens of pieces.

This self-destruct mechanism is designed to prevent them from falling into Japanese and American hands. Still, we and our allies have been able to recover and analyze a great many of the pieces.

What secrets were the North Koreans so eager to hide?

Related: It's Time to Consider a Military Option on the Korean Peninsula

It turns out that, as we have long suspected, virtually every part that has been recovered, from the sensors and the electronic circuits to the skin of the missile itself, is made in China.

Some observers were puzzled by the fact that North Korea's missile launch on Tuesday for the first time took place at night.

I suspect that the reason it was launched under cover of darkness was to make the recovery of additional incriminating Chinese-made parts and pieces even more difficult.

There is little doubt that poverty-stricken North Korea would have neither ballistic missiles nor nuclear weapons without the constant flow of electronic and structural components, as well as technical expertise, from across the border.

To say that Little Rocket Man's missiles are "Made in China" is perhaps a bit of a stretch.

It would be more accurate to stencil on their sides the following label: "Assembled in North Korea from Chinese Components."

Don't bother with further sanctions against already isolated North Korea, Mr. President.

If you want to disarm and denuclearize North Korea, sanction China.

Steven W. Mosher is the author of the newly published "Bully of Asia: Why China's Dream is a Threat to the World Order"

(photo credit, homepage images: North Korea..., CC BY 2.0, by Stefan Krasowski; photo credit, article images: North Korea..., CC BY 2.0, by Stefan Krasowski)

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