Bravo to Nikki Haley, America’s ambassador to the United Nations, who put out a statement on Sunday saying that contrary to some reports, the U.S. will not seek an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in response to North Korea’s second launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
That’s a smart break from the longstanding U.S. pattern. Sidelining the UN Security Council may be small potatoes in the face of the daunting problem of ending the threat of North Korea, but it is at least a move in the right direction.
In the past, these crash meetings of the Security Council have served among other things to paper over the failures of U.S. policies meant to stop North Korea. U.S. officials are seen to be doing something — an emergency meeting of the Security Council! And on paper, they are. Another toothless UN statement is released, or eventually another UN sanctions resolution is approved. But North Korea carries on.
As a rule, American diplomats in response to North Korea’s rogue missile and nuclear tests have cultivated a routine of bluster, posturing and portentous UN huddles, all so ritually hollow and predictable that, as I wrote on PJMedia on Saturday, it quite likely serves by now to reassure Pyongyang that no serious response is in the offing. They’ve heard and seen it all before.
This past Saturday, the day after North Korea’s Friday ICBM launch, it looked as if the diplomatic response from the usual quarters was following the same old script — and on most fronts, it was. The White House condemned North Korea’s ICBM test, the State Department “strongly” condemned it, the UN and European Union condemned and called for North Korea to mind its manners. And, right on cue, CBS News reported that the U.S. was seeking an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
In my commentary, on Saturday, I linked to that CBS dispatch, which was headlined: “U.S. wants emergency Security Council meeting over second North Korean ICBM test.” I warned that the UN Security Council’s record on North Korea has been one of abject failure, stretching back to 2006 (that’s when the UN Security Council, with Resolution 1718, set up a North Korea sanctions committee, and kicked off an 11-year run of demanding that North Korea abandon its ballistic missile and nuclear programs).
The day after CBS reported that the U.S. was seeking an emergency meeting of the Security Council, Haley released a statement saying:
Following North Korea’s second ICBM launch on Friday, many have asked whether the United States will seek an emergency Security Council session on Monday. Some have even misreported that we are seeking such a session. That is mistaken.
Rarely has it been such a pleasure to learn that I must offer a correction. But I offer it here, along with an apology to Haley, for taking at face value the CBS report, which cited as its source unnamed “U.N. diplomats familiar with ongoing negotiations.”
The rest of Haley’s statement spelled out precisely why the U.S. was not seeking an emergency Security Council meeting on North Korea. It’s worth quoting in full (boldface mine):
There is no point in having an emergency session if it produces nothing of consequence. North Korea is already subject to numerous Security Council resolutions that they violate with impunity and that are not complied with by all UN Member States. An additional Security Council resolution that does not significantly increase the international pressure on North Korea is of no value. In fact, it is worse than nothing, because it sends the message to the North Korean dictator that the international community is unwilling to seriously challenge him. China must decide whether it is finally willing to take this vital step. The time for talk is over. The danger the North Korean regime poses to international peace is now clear to all.
What Haley nails here is the need to send a message to Kim Jong Un that the U.S. is no longer interested in the usual diplomatic kabuki — which in the past helped one U.S. administration after another kick the growing North Korea threat down the road, and left Pyongyang room to continue equipping itself with weapons for mass murder. The usual formula no longer applies, says Haley: “The time for talk is over.”
The big question, of course, is whether Haley’s statement is an outlier — honest and wise, but peripheral — or a leading indicator of a genuine strategy that President Trump is putting together to deal with North Korea. When Trump says we’ll handle the problem, when Secretary of State Tillerson says the era of “strategic patience” is over, but also says the U.S. is not seeking regime change in Pyongyang, what do they have in mind?
On that score, a word or two to clarify my own view of what must be done.
The only solution to the growing danger posed by North Korea is an end to the Kim regime. Kim presides over a totalitarian system that has no place in the modern world, a monstrous and utterly immoral machinery of repression and terror. North Korea’s regime survives on the strength of its lies, its brutality and its weapons. The existence of North Korea’s regime, and the example it sets with its nuclear playbook, is deeply corrosive to any civilized world order.
The goal of U.S. policy should not be to dignify North Korea by haggling with it, or to feed the diplomatic delusion that North Korea can be reformed, or sanctioned into better behavior, or “managed,” like some sort of benign, if unpleasant, disease. The goal must be to put an end to the horror that is North Korea’s regime.
The monstrosity that has become the Kim dynasty was installed just after World War II by Stalin’s Soviet Union; it then invaded the South in 1950, and after three years of the horrific carnage that was the Korean War, has survived, with the backing of Moscow and Beijing, for an additional 64 years, by enslaving its own people and terrorizing others. Now the regime is making nuclear weapons and the ICBMs to target the United States — to ruinous effect, whether for purposes of extortion or direct attack. Factor in the example North Korea is now providing to other despotic regimes, hostile to the Free World and ambitious for influence and territory, and add to that North Korea’s proclivity for selling its weapons and technology.
The Kim regime has to go. That should be the mission, the guiding imperative. The question then becomes how best to achieve that goal.
It’s a daunting question. To come up with the most reliable calculations of risk, odds of success, and plan of action is probably a job that requires access to information about both North Korea and U.S. capabilities that is not entirely available to the public — though I hope it is available to the top American officials now wrestling with this matter.
America, for all the firepower and aircraft carrier groups now deploying near North Korea, does not want to fight a hot war. North Korea would lose, but potentially at the cost of many Korean and American lives. Yet something must be done, and very soon. The record does not suggest that China will help; on the contrary, the record — including the history of sanctions busting and diplomatic maneuvering at the UN — suggests that both China and Russia are pleased to see North Korea threatening and thwarting the interests and security of the mighty United States and its allies.
Could North Korea’s regime be brought down from within? I don’t know. But if there’s any chance of that, it seems a good bet that America could help by making it clear that there will be no bargain on offer to Kim Jong Un; that the U.S. will not make the mistake again of dignifying and effectively legitimizing a North Korean tyrant by cutting any deals with his regime. The U.S. can send the message (not so much for the benefit of Kim, as for those in Pyongyang who might also wish to be rid of his murderous regime) that the diplomatic charades, which have served Pyongyang’s Kim dynasty so well, are over.
Ambassador Haley’s Sunday statement, and decision not to bother with the go-to response of a Security Council emergency meeting, is a small but good sign. It’s a deviation from the same old script, a small indicator that maybe, just maybe, the Trump administration, having inherited this North Korean problem from hell, might be genuinely moving toward solving it in the only way that will work: by moving pieces into place to get rid of the Kim regime.