Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) was unimpressed with the administration’s reaction. In a written statement he declared, “It is not enough to condemn North Korea’s latest provocation, which is, by all accounts, a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and international will. Nor is it enough to convene the UNSC for another round of hollow rhetoric, that does nothing to the Kim regime but signal a lack of international commitment to enforcing international will.” He called for “meaningful steps that are available to us, a product of a bipartisan approach that speaks the only language North Korea’s regime can understand: aggressive, material consequences for aggressive, reckless provocations.” This includes a prompt Senate vote on sanctions, a step the House has already taken.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) likewise recommends putting North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terror, ratcheting up sanctions, enhancing our Asian alliances and stepping up missile defense efforts.
While GOP and Democratic presidential candidates are running away from it, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is one step in bolstering those Asian alliances. Its defeat would be a victory for China and for its dependent ally North Korea. (Rubio and Jeb Bush have defended the trade pact with democratic allies and refused to imbibe the protectionist brew that cowering opponents such as Sen. Ted Cruz and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have been spewing.)
The international reaction to North Korea’s multiple missile launches and tests designed to advance its nuclear weapons program — empty rhetoric and symbolic resolutions — underscores the failure to deter Pyongyang. Katharine H.S. Moon of the center-left Brookings Institution analogizes the cycle of tests-empty threats-more tests as a diplomatic “Groundhog Day”:
Well-targeted sanctions and enforcement are no doubt in order. In addition to reducing access to hard cash, reducing the availability of materials for the nuclear program is key. However, much of the flow goes across the Chinese-North Korean border—not because the Chinese government intentionally wishes it, but because export controls in China are weak. Even legitimate trade in parts and technology, for example, between Germany and China, gets diverted to the North.The United States and South Korea have repeatedly expected China to midwife a new normal: a better-behaved DPRK. But the United States was wrong from the outset to rely on China, starting with the George W. Bush administration. China’s own interests, not bilateral ties and regional stability, drive Beijing when it comes to the DPRK. Unless Chinese territory, the health of its citizens (through radiation), and political stability are threatened, China will not act. We have no idea what the Chinese red line would be.
Her next suggestion is even better: “Throw North Korea out of the United Nations. The DPRK worked so hard to be admitted into the prestigious international club in 1991, but has flagrantly violated many of its rules and norms. Chapter II, articles 5 and 6 of the U.N. Charter sanction suspension and restoration of ‘the exercise of the rights and privileges of membership.’ Also, a member ‘which has persistently violated the Principles contained in the present Charter may be expelled from the Organization.'” The fact that we have not done this — and will not take such action with any rogue state — points to the ineptitude that permeates President Obama’s foreign policy. We are supposed to use soft power — including diplomatic pressure — but we never seem to do so in any meaningful way.
Instead of using international organizations to further the West’s shared interests, the administration repeated points to the danger of dissension as reason not to act. (“China and Russia would certainly oppose. But the point is this: Disregarding and disrespecting club rules should have severe consequences. Pyongyang seems to care more about international than bilateral ties since it prizes the limelight and glamour of the global stage. When the World Economic Forum dis-invited the DPRK from its January meeting in Davos, Pyongyang was demonstrably upset.”)