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Editorial: Get Serious About North Korea

Feb. 17, 2013 - 04:13PM   |  
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North Korea’s warning that its recent test of a nuclear warhead — small enough to fit on long-range rockets — was aimed at Washington is convincing some that Pyongyang has morphed from an attention-hungry-paranoid nuisance into a genuine threat.

Truth is, North Korea has long been a rising threat. In the late 1990s, the CIA predicted Pyongyang could pose a nuclear threat to America by 2015.

Now, emboldened by years of getting away with outrageous acts of aggression, it’s closer than ever.

Hopes are high that Beijing will join international efforts to appropriately sanction its Stalinist neighbor, but sadly, China has consistently defended North Korea, allowing it to remain a dangerous proliferator.

According to U.S. documents released by WikiLeaks, the Bush administration asked Beijing 19 times to stop North Korean missile parts from moving through China to Iran. China never acted.

Since new U.N. sanctions likely will be weak, Washington must move aggressively to unilaterally penalize any nation or entity that supports North Korea’s prohibited and illegal activities, to curb Pyongyang and compel China and Russia to stop shielding it. By sanctioning Banco Delta Asia, a Macau bank accused of laundering North Korean finances, the Bush administration ensured no government or institution would touch tainted money for fear of running afoul of Washington. That brought Pyongyang back to the negotiating table, but Washington naively gave up that leverage to “improve the negotiating atmosphere.”

New Secretary of State John Kerry is right: How America responds will send a powerful signal to other rogue states like Iran. America must get serious with both countries by strangling the financial engines that underwrite their illicit activities. Only by damaging their finances can the U.S. hope to meaningfully alter their behavior.

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