- - Tuesday, July 11, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Kim Jong-un considered his July Fourth intercontinental ballistic missile test just one of many promised “big and small ‘gift packages’ to the Yankees,” words that ring beyond the “handsome” Hwasong-14 missile.

And if we’re going to truly rein in Pyongyang, we’ve got to unwrap every package.

That means pinpointing every buyer of illegal weapons from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) — a litany of bad hombres — and every under-the-table player who could benefit from any of Mr. Kim’s liquidation sales. Because as much as the people of North Korea live in an isolated bubble of misery, the regime has eagerly globalized its nefarious activities.

Stopping North Korea’s regime from unleashing deadly force isn’t just about putting a lid on their ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads, as apocalyptic as even one of those can be in the hands of a madman. Consider that North Korean assassins were walking around Kuala Lumpur’s busy international airport in February with the deadly nerve agent VX to take down the dictator’s half-brother, Kim Jong-nam. That was North Korea on offense: an attack conducted on foreign soil with a one-victim amount of a weapon of mass destruction.

North Korea is believed to have up to 5,000 tons of chemical weapons, according to South Korea’s defense ministry, including sarin. Their bioweapons production is believed to be capable of churning out large quantities of anthrax, and reports have indicated bubonic plague, cholera and smallpox are also on the menu.

It gets worse — and much more global — with a network of known and unknown customers.

Last August, Egypt intercepted the Jie Shun heading north into the Suez Canal and bearing, according to a U.N. document obtained by Japan’s Kyodo News Agency in February, “the largest seizure of ammunition in DPRK sanctions history” including some 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades packed into crates claiming the contents were innocuous machinery. A maritime history for the vessel shows port calls four months prior in Bayuquan and Yingkou, Chinese harbors on the peninsula abutting the North Korean border. Kyodo reported that the ship, sailing under a Cambodian flag, had a final destination other than Egypt.

Who are North Korea’s friends? Who benefits from Mr. Kim’s Mafia-style profiteering, and contacts the regime’s entrenched network of operatives to tap into illicit cash, sanctioned goods, including valuable minerals, and humans forced into hard labor or sexual slavery? Russia has been building at least one World Cup venue with North Korean slave labor, as an investigation by Norwegian soccer magazine Josimar revealed.

Who is receiving Mr. Kim’s illicit weapons — and who might share in his stockpiles in the future?

Bruce Bechtol, a professor at Angelo State University in Texas and former Defense Intelligence Agency officer, studied Pyongyang’s weapons deals with Bashar Assad for a 2015 report in the Korean Journal of Defense Analysis. That includes rocket launchers, tanks, technical support and chemical weapons as well as delivery systems. Mr. Bechtol reported that DPRK-manufactured machine guns have been spotted in Syria and beyond, with Mr. Kim’s allies in Iran, Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Pyongyang and Tehran have enjoyed tight ties since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, a friendship forged through oil, ballistic missile development and possible cooperation on their respective nuclear programs. North Korea’s arms deals with Hamas have not only included missiles and equipment, but Israeli officials have indicated the DPRK likely helped improve Gaza smuggling and fighting tunnels.

Cuba and North Korea have enjoyed a blossoming trade relationship that nominally includes sugar and the like, including the 2013 Panamanian seizure of the Havana-bound DPRK ship Chong Chon Gang — carrying weapons hidden under sugar.

Of its several sanctions-skirting relationships with African nations, state sponsor of terrorism Sudan has inked deals worth millions with North Korea to modernize Omar Bashir’s arsenal, according to the U.N. Eritrea, fittingly called the North Korea of Africa and under U.N. sanctions for aiding al-Shabab, was supposed to be the destination for a ship intercepted last summer carrying military communications equipment from Pyongyang, by way of China.

The U.S. temptation is to fall back on China — a regime that, like ally North Korea, brutalizes its people and holds Americans hostage — to be the demilitarizing force in the equation. These entreaties must proceed with the utmost caution, ready for a backstabbing at any moment, as China can rely on Russia to flex veto power at the U.N. Security Council while China maintains pleasantries with Washington yet continues to prop up Mr. Kim.

North Korea should be redesignated as a state sponsor of terrorism, given the ample evidence. But we should also plan our strategy to stop Mr. Kim cognizant of where North Korea’s wares could land next, including in the hands of terror groups eager to expand upon their own chemical, biological and nuclear weapons efforts.

As long as Mr. Kim is on his current trajectory, the “gifts” will keep coming — and some will be better wrapped than others.

• Bridget Johnson is a senior fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide