Last night, North Korea moved a missile launcher under the cover of darkness to its shoreline.
Our government has known for some time about “North Korea, Inc.” and how it evades sanctions by operating within China.
In July of 2016, academic research was published by a two-man team, Harvard’s John Park and MIT’s Jim Walsh.
Here is John Park, in testimony before a subcommittee of the U.S. House in mid-July of this year:
My MIT colleague, Dr. Jim Walsh, and I recently completed a three-year study assessing the application of targeted sanctions to halt the North Korean regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Based on interviews with former managers of “North Korea, Inc.” – the web of state trading companies (STCs) that the regime operates to procure licit and illicit items – we were able to map North Korea, Inc.’s practices, partners, and pathways.
We found that STC managers were able to significantly increase the effectiveness of their procurement activities by 1) hiring more capable Chinese middlemen who can more effectively handle financing, logistics, and doing business with private Chinese firms and foreign firms operating in China, 2) taking up residence and embedding themselves on the mainland, which increases their effectiveness, 3) expanding the use of Hong Kong and Southeast Asian regional commercial and banking hubs, and 4) increasing the use of embassies as a vehicle for procurement.
It is likely that American intelligence agencies have known that “North Korea, Inc.” moved its operations to China since long before that three-year study by Harvard and MIT began in 2013.
Remember the scene in the first Indiana Jones movie when the character played by Harrison Ford is visited by two CIA agents regarding intelligence that Adolf Hitler was financing archeological digs in Egypt?
Imagine that a similar scene, in real life, took place in Boston during President Obama’s second term.
Did Kim Jong-un ask permission to move North Korea, Inc. into China?
Two days ago, the 45th president tweeted:
Would the United States stop all imports from China? How does that tweet work if the Chinese don’t believe our president would carry it through?
Would it be more effective, or less effective, if our president let the world know that we know that China has allowed the North Koreans to use Chinese citizens and facilities to finance its nuclear weapons?
Why continue the dangerous fiction that Kim Jong-un is in complete control?
Readers of my columns know that I am not a fan of Donald J. Trump, but we have only one president at a time. I do not know what our president knows or does not know. Neither does the world, including the Chinese leadership.
Trying to both be generous to our president and hopeful, let’s read his blustery remarks and tweets as purposeful chatter. Underneath, closer to the ground, our Secretary of Defense is on duty. Moreover, Secretary James Mattis is not alone.
President Trump has been criticized for not appointing his own team at the posts handing North Korean affairs within the departments of State and Defense. To its credit, CNN, acknowledges that:
These important spots are not replaced by a vacuum: They are currently being filled by David Helvey and Susan Thornton, respectively, each of whom have decades of experience as civil servants in their areas of expertise.
This is real life. We can skip the thrilling ending. We just need an ending.