The North Korea nuclear test may well bring tougher sanctions. But the US can use the lure of liberty – visas – to undercut the Kim regime and challenge China's support of it.
North Korea tested a nuclear device Tuesday, the third since 2006. The underground explosion, which was more powerful and perhaps smaller in design than the previous ones, has sparked a critical mass of international alarm.
Has the regime of Kim Jong-un now perfected a bomb able to be launched on a missile toward the United States? Will it sell a device to Iran or terrorist groups? Can it now blackmail South Korea into submission?
These possible dangers are pushing the US and others to toughen sanctions against North Korean leaders. Direct threats, however, have not worked up to now, and for one simple reason: China still provides an economic lifeline of fuel and food to its ally in Pyongyang. Beijing doesn’t want a unified Korea on its border, one allied with the US. And the Kim regime itself has long thrived on isolation and adversity.
Given the world’s heightened concerns over this latest nuclear test, now may be the time to try a softer approach, one based on an invitation rather than added sanctions.