Immigration Weapon Is Key To Winning Against North Korea

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Contrary to what you often hear, there’s a relatively easy solution available to the North Korean nuclear missile problem.

It just requires some flexibility from the Trump administration and Washington Republicans when it comes to their resistance to immigration.

None of the other options being discussed in the press is particularly attractive.

A Wall Street Journal editorial proposes starving the North Korean regime into submission, conceding that “Withholding food aid to bring down a government would normally be unethical, but North Korea is an exceptional case.”

The New York Times, meanwhile, editorialized under the unintentionally apt headline “An Incoherent Strategy on North Korea” that “Many experts also doubt the usefulness of sanctions as a tool to force the North to abandon its nuclear weapons.” On the page opposite the editorial, the Times published an op-ed piece from an expert, Sung Yun-Lee, about the “compelling case to isolate Pyongyang economically.”

The Times op-ed is now accompanied by this correction:  “An earlier version of a picture caption with this article misidentified the country led by Kim Jong-un. It is North Korea, not South Korea.”

A third newspaper editorial voice, the New York Sunadvises, “The only thing the communists understand is military power.” In that vein, the same Wall Street Journal editorial that advocated cutting off food aid also said “deploying tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea would make the threat to retaliate against a nuclear strike more credible.”

What all these analyses are missing, in my view, is the recognition that there is another path. Instead of starving the North Koreans or nuking them, how about rescuing them by letting them escape?

The death blow to the Soviet Union, after all, came not with President Jimmy Carter’s grain embargo or even with NATO’s deployment of Pershing II or Lance missiles in Western Europe, but with the opening of the borders of East Germany in November of 1989. Once the population was allowed to leave, the entire Soviet Communist empire came crashing down.

The traditional objection to this strategy in the case of North Korea is that neither country that borders the hermit kingdom wants to absorb the flow of refugees. Communist China is said to want North Korea to exist as a buffer against free and capitalist South Korea. The South Koreans, for their part, are wary of the costs of unification and of integrating a much poorer neighbor. (A little-known fact is that North Korea and Russia also share a short border; Vladimir Putin doesn’t seem to want the refugees, either.)

That leaves America, traditionally the last resort of the world’s huddled masses. When we’ve absorbed refugees from Communism in the past, it has generally worked out pretty well. Sergey Brin, who came from the Soviet Union, co-founded Google. Alex Kozinski, who came from Romania, wound up as chief judge on the U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Ayn Rand, who also came from the Soviet Union, became a bestselling author. Parents of Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz fled Communist Cuba.

Just because fleeing over land to China or South Korea might be difficult, however, doesn’t mean that escape is impossible. North Korea has long stretches of coastline along both the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan. As the examples of both the Mariel Boatlift and the Vietnamese Boat people show, the sea can be a fine escape route to freedom. There are precedents for this dating all the way back to the biblical Exodus, in which the children of Israel escaped Egypt via the Red Sea.

America is the world’s great naval power. Our ships can be used to pluck North Koreans from the water to safety or to provide cover to them as they leave the coast, just as readily as they can be used to bomb Pyongyang back to the stone age. (I believe it was Claudia Rosett who first planted this idea with me, though I mention this only so that I don’t fail to give her the appropriate credit, not so that she gets any blame for any flaws in my own articulation of it.)

Such a heroic effort would probably topple the North Korean dictatorship. It would certainly bring to America plenty of human talent intimately familiar with the evils of Communism. It would be a great achievement, if only the anti-immigrant crowd in Washington can get over their nativist anxieties long enough to allow it to happen.


Ira Stoll is editor of and author of JFK, Conservative.