Thursday, April 16, 2009

Unleash the financial furies

There's an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times that Joshua of One Free Korea might enjoy for its emphasis on punishing Pyongyang by punching them in the pocketbook. It's penned by Juan Carlos Zarate, a former Bush-43 Treasury Department official and NSA deputy adviser.

Here's the gist:
It remains to be seen how far countries such as China and Russia will actually go in tightening sanctions. But the U.S. should ensure that the condemnation has meaning by taking decisive action with or without the Security Council.

We know what works: leveraging smart financial power to pressure North Korea and disrupt the regime's continued proliferation and illicit financial activity.

In September 2005, as part of a strategic pressure campaign, the Treasury Department ordered U.S. financial institutions to close correspondent accounts for a private bank in Macau -- Banco Delta Asia. This bank was facilitating money laundering, proliferation and counterfeiting on behalf of the North Korean regime.

The regulation cut the bank off from the U.S. financial system. More important, the unilateral regulation unleashed the global financial furies against North Korea. Banks in China, Asia and Europe stopped doing business with North Korea, denying it access to the international financial system. North Korean bank accounts were closed, its transnational commercial transactions were canceled, and officials' financial activities were carefully scrutinized.

This hurt Pyongyang. The North Korean regime scrambled to regain access to money and accounts around the world while trying to undo the official damage done to its reputation in the international financial community. Key state actors, including China, had no incentive to block the full effect of the market reaction. On the contrary, they did not want their banks or financial reputations caught up in the taint of North Korea's illicit financial activity.
That's more than just the gist, it's over a third of the editorial.

I tend to agree with Joshua that this kind of thing would work, and it looks like it's something where Beijing (and Moscow?) might be forced to join Washington. If this was in fact a missile launch, it would be nice to take a tough stand against Pyongyang, especially when it doesn't involve military action which could get very, very messy (that's pretty much a last resort, but it should be left on the table).

Joshua might not like one of the goals Mr Zarate has for this leverage: It seems what the US can gain by squeezing Pyongyang's ecojones is to force Pyongyang back to the six-party talks, which the OFK crowd generally finds to be a fruitless objective.


  1. Why is it that you get white trash like Joshua that serve for a few years in the US military as part of the US occupation in Korea, pick up some flat faced 30 year old scab woman, and go home to some marginal job in the suburbs and then blog shit about the country when they have evidently nothing to go on than ideological furore.
    Its a weird world, since this Internet thing.
    I imagine if I too was a 12 year old girl in san jose and my Xbox was broken I would also set up a blogsite to free north korea and shower the democratic freedom loving spirit of the United States all over their breasts and face.

  2. emily, again, I implore you to please play nice. Stop making the personal references about me and others, especially when it heads into insults about people you don't know. Even if you don't like what Joshua writes, what is the point of insulting his wife?

    Joshua is a lawyer, I believe, so it's doubtful he has "some marginal job," though it might be in the suburbs. I don't know and I really don't think it's material to anything.

    I do agree that he has a lot of ideological grounding in what he's saying, and I've tried — however meekly I've done so — to point out where I think the ideological approach can still head you in the wrong direction, only faster.

    But Joshua has what few others have, and that's a true sense of compassion for the people suffering up there. I've met North Korean escapees (including Kang Cholhwan but also much less famous former refugees) and I definitely get how he feels and that's where a lot of my own anger and frustration (mine heavily targeted at Beijing) stems from.

    I've also interviewed the head of the World Food Programme to discuss the North Korean food crises, and the sense of helplessness coming from someone who obviously cared was palpable. That kind of thing also has had an effect on me.

    So don't knock what Joshua is doing. The fact is that the 12-year-old San Jose girls with broken X-Boxes are not blogging to free North Korea or do anything for North Korean people. It's a subject that is too low on our radar compared to the breadth and depth of the tragedy there (which I feel we are all buying into buying cheap Chinese crap from WalMart or wherever).

    IOW, there's no one trying to shower democratic freedom-loving spirit, or anything, from the US of A all over their breasts or face.

    Really, I think there's something a little wrong with you if you think reducing the slow-motion death of hundreds of thousands of people to a disgusting porn analogy is appropriate.

    Please, calm down and tone it down.


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