Scrapping the Administration’s failed “strategic patience” with North Korea

Feb 10, 2016

Later today the U.S. Senate will vote on Chairman Royce’s North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 (H.R. 757).  This legislation, passed overwhelmingly by the House last month, will use targeted sanctions to isolate Kim Jong Un and his top officials from the assets they maintain in foreign banks, and from the cash that sustains their weapons programs, their army, and their luxurious lifestyle. 

It’s an important response to North Korea’s recent nuclear test and missile launch, and it’s a break from President Obama’s approach of “strategic patience” that even the administration knows isn’t working.  Here’s more:

  • “North Korea Nuclear Effort Seen as a Top Threat to the U.S.”  “The national intelligence director, James R. Clapper, warned Tuesday that North Korea had expanded its production of weapons-grade nuclear fuel…  ‘Pyongyang continues to produce fissile material and develop a submarine-launched ballistic missile,’ Mr. Clapper said. ‘It is also committed to developing a long-range nuclear-armed missile that’s capable of posing a direct threat to the United States…’” (New York Times, 2/10/16)
  • “The Obama administration’s policy of ‘strategic patience’ toward the Kim regime — which in practice amounts to doing little other than weakly prodding China to act — is failing.” “The Obama administration needs a strategy for responding to North Korea that does not depend on China’s cooperation. It also needs to find ways to raise the cost for the Xi regime of its stubborn commitment to its neighbor’s ‘stability.’” (Washington Post editorial, 1/29/16)
  • “We just can’t go on like this.”  “’There’s a decent consensus out there that we have no strategy.  It’s very hard to find anyone to defend strategic patience,’ said John Delury, an international relations professor at Yonsei University in Seoul.” (Washington Post, 2/9/16)
  • North Korea’s defiance “Throws down the gauntlet.” “North Korea’s fourth [nuclear] test throws down the gauntlet to the international community to go beyond paper resolutions and find a way to impose real costs on North Korea for pursuing this course of action,’ said Scott Snyder, a Korea expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.” (Chicago Tribune, 1/5/16)
  • “Though President Obama calls North Korea ‘the most sanctioned’ nation on Earth, he’s wrong.” The U.S. lists Iran and Burma as countries of primary money-laundering concern, a designation it doesn’t apply to Pyongyang despite its counterfeit-currency racket. The U.S. has applied harsher human-rights sanctions against Congo and Zimbabwe, never mind the tens of thousands of political prisoners in Pyongyang’s labor camps.” (Wall Street Journal editorial, 2/8/16)
  • “What is needed is a return to the only non-military strategy that brought results: sanctions that strike at the regime’s inner circle.”  “Pending U.S. sanctions, already passed by the House and Scheduled for a Senate floor vote this week, would mandate these steps… It should pass, and Mr. Obama should sign it.” (Washington Post editorial, 2/9/16)

We cannot stand by and allow North Korea to threaten the United States and our allies – including Japan and South Korea – with an increasingly advanced nuclear arsenal.  That’s why Chairman Royce has long been focused on ratcheting up financial pressure on North Korea’s “gangster regime.”  “This bipartisan bill… will help sever a key subsidy for North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction program,” said Chairman Royce, on the House floor last month.  “For only when the North Korean leadership realizes that its criminal activities are untenable, do prospects for peace and security in Northeast Asia improve.”