He says we want him dead. Do we? What about the Chinese?
North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un says we want to kill him. Of course we do, but we shouldn’t.
We don’t want to knock Kim Jong-Un off because we can’t control who would take power after his death and because his assassination could easily result in a war in which thousands of Americans and South Koreans might die.
But there’s another party to this crisis that has good reason to kill the current Kim. China could — and probably ought to — assassinate Kim Jong-Un.
Last Friday, the North Koreans accused the CIA of plotting to kill Kim with a “biochemical” weapon. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the government-controlled Korean Central News Agency published an accusation by the NK’s Ministry of State Security that said the CIA and the South Koreans paid laborers to detonate a bomb containing “nano poisonous” substances at a military parade like the one North Korea staged several weeks ago.
As I’ve written many times, North Korea is a very serious threat to our national security. Its nuclear weapons development program will soon produce warheads small enough to mount on a ballistic missile. Working in parallel, its missile program will soon be able to manufacture missiles that can reach the U.S. homeland. The North Korean leaders — Kim and others — boast weekly (if not daily) of their intent to use those weapons to attack America.
The Norks are trying to develop submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and sub-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs). When those weapons are developed, nuclear warheads can be mounted on them. The SLBMs and SLCMs — if launched near our coasts — could be at too close a range for our missile defenses to shoot them down and they might thus succeed in delivering a devastating attack.
And there’s the issue of Americans being held hostage by the Kim regime. Four — all formerly teachers at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology — are being held on various phony charges of crimes against the state. (It is very hard to sympathize with any Americans who persist in staying in North Korea. Anyone with two IQ points to rub together to make a small fire would have come home long ago.) Like its partner in the Axis of Evil, Iran, North Korea will hold trials and try to ransom the hostages back to us in exchange for concessions to its demands for aid.
There’s also the Norks’ space program. They have, so far, launched two satellites into orbit. Those satellites are reportedly too light (about 200 pounds) and small to contain nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, whenever their nukes and launch vehicles are developed sufficiently to do so they could launch a nuclear weapon that would explode in an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that could knock out everything from our power grids to telephones to cars, resulting in millions of dead Americans.
We have a lot of reasons to kill Kim Jong-Un and only a few reasons not to. The latter should prevail.
The first is that it’s illegal for us to do so. Various American laws and Executive Order 12333 prohibit our intelligence agencies from assassinating foreign leaders.
The second reason is that it is entirely unclear that it would be in our interest to kill the man who the Senate’s resident curmudgeon, Sen. John McCain, called the “crazy fat kid.” It’s fun to imagine James Bond slipping into North Korea, donning his tuxedo and putting a bullet into Kim’s brain with 007’s silenced Walther PPK. But the fun would end quickly if his CIA equivalent did any such thing.
The generals who run North Korea would be unprepared for the event. Their regime needs a descendant of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-Sung, to be their figurehead. They may be running out of Kims. Kim Jong-Un has had a few of his uncles assassinated and, most recently, his half-brother was murdered on Jong-Un’s orders. Leaving the generals without a convenient Kim to place in the dictator’s chair might result in anything from a war with South Korea — and us — to an internal bloody purge to choose a new leader from among the generals, further destabilizing an already unstable nuclear power.
It’s not at all clear that China has control over Kim’s actions. His erratic behavior and constant belligerence benefits China because it keeps us off balance and takes our attention away from its aggression and expansion into the South China Sea.
But — and this is a major league “but” — President Trump and his cabinet have made it clear that we may act preemptively against North Korea, killing Kim and his regime and totally destabilizing a country on China’s border. North Koreans who aren’t part of Kim’s regime are quite literally starving. His assassination would likely result in a flood of North Koreans going across the border into China seeking food and shelter. Whether China fears this as much as our “experts” insist is questionable, but they certainly don’t want it to happen.
The more Kim Jong-Un threatens war and the more we assert that our patience is ending, the more reason China has to prepare for Kim’s sudden demise. If properly engineered, and China is certainly up to that task, it could cause Kim’s death in any way and at any time it chose. China could then put someone — another descendant of Kim Il-Sung could be found (or someone could be plausibly passed off as one) — in place who would be entirely under China’s control.
There is no Chinese law preventing it from assassinating Kim Jong-Un. All it would need is plausible deniability of its own responsibility which would be eagerly supplied by his successor and the successor’s supporters. If it did so, it would end what China is believed to see as the North Korean threat to it.
By killing Kim and replacing him with a more reliable thug, the Chinese would gain far greater control over North Korea’s actions and rhetoric. China’s actions to date prove either a disinterest in defusing the Kim regime’s nuclear and missile programs or a lack of control over them.
Either way, arranging Kim’s assassination and putting someone more controllable in his place would suit China’s needs. And ours.
Marco Verch/Flickr-Creative Commons