Speaking with Bill Hemmer on Fox News, former UN ambassador John Bolton was blunt in his assessment of how to deal with the nuclear threat from North Korea, saying, “If we end up a year from now with this regime still in place, or with the nuclear weapons capability still in place, we have lost.”
Hemmer began by noting wryly that Bolton and Russian President Vladimir Putin had something in common, as Putin said on Sunday, “Sanctions of any kind would now be useless and ineffective.” Hemmer asked, “Do you believe that?”
For two reasons: sanctioning the North Korean economy is a waste of time; it’s not really an economy; it’s a prison camp. The leadership doesn’t really care what the standard of living for the people is. We’ve tried that before. Even when it was one of the poorest countries in the world, it developed nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, so that’s why people say, “Oh, let’s sanction the countries that do business with North Korea, like China.” And yet, for years, China has said it doesn’t want North Korea to have nuclear weapons but it has not applied its unique economic power. Why not? Because it fears that doing so would collapse the regime in North Korea, bring millions of refugees into China and lead to U.S. and South Korean forces intervening and coming to the Yalu River.
The Yalu River borders North Korea and China.
There’s only one country here worth negotiating with here, with all due respect to Vladimir Putin, it’s not Russia, it’s China. And this is the pitch to make to China: you don’t want the refugee flow, you don’t want an uncontrolled American advance inside North Korea; let’s do this constructively. Merge the two Koreas and get rid of this nuclear threat.
Now, it’s a hard argument to make, and we don’t have much time, which is why the president’s rhetoric about the potential use of military force is serious. And I think that does make a difference. We are running out of time; let’s face it.
Bolton added, “Sanctions can work if you’re prepared to bear some pain yourself, and I’m not sure the United States is ready for that.” He said it didn’t really matter because they wouldn’t work, pointing out, “We could impose massive sanctions on China, and I don’t think it would move them. I think you’ve got to appeal to China’s self-interest here.”
Bolton concluded, “The only way to solve the North Korean problem is to remove the regime or remove the weapons capability; anything else, if we end up a year from now with this regime still in place, or with the nuclear weapons capability still in place, we have lost.”