My critics have been extra vocal lately in saying I should stop writing about North Korea because I have no expertise in that area. So I decided to talk about North Korea some more. Today I’ll tell you how to end North Korea’s nuclear ambitions at a reasonable cost.
The entire GDP for North Korea is under $13 billion. China’s trade with North Korea is valued at under $3 billion per year. An article in Newsweek recently said most of that trade involves only ten Chinese companies. South Korea pays close to $1 billion per year to support U.S. troops there. I think we pay at least that much too. And that’s not counting navy assets in the area, I assume.
The South Korean military budget hovers around $40 billion. The U.S. military budget is over $600 billion per year. And North Korea is our biggest threat to the homeland. We could make all ten Chinese companies financially whole by allocating .005 of the military budget to paying them to find new suppliers and new markets. We might even become those new suppliers and markets in some cases.
As I often say in this blog, the key to deal-making is that the parties need to want different things. The Chinese companies trading with North Korea want profits, and the United States wants security. That’s the perfect set-up for a deal. The deal looks like this: “Take our money for ten years (only), stop trading with North Korea, and find new suppliers and customers, or we’ll turn out your lights with cyberattacks that look like they came from Russia.”
That’s the first-draft version. We can probably tighten that up a bit with lawyers and stuff.
Obviously this plan doesn’t work if the real problem is that the Chinese government wants to keep the North Korean nuclear threat the way it is. But that line of thinking never sounded credible to me. I’m also a bit skeptical that the Chinese fear mass immigration if North Korea falls apart. That seems like a smaller problem than nuclear war on the peninsula. But I could be wrong about that.
I could also be wrong about everything else in this post. I’m not an expert on North Korea. But as an American citizen, I have the right to wonder aloud why my government is skipping the cheap, non-military option for pressuring North Korea. If the government wants public support for whatever option they end up taking, it would help to keep citizens better informed than we are now, including me.
You might enjoy reading my book because I am not an expert on North Korea.
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