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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Korea?
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un before a meeting with US President Donald Trump June 30, 2019. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Korea?

Walter Russell Mead

The Journal reports that Kim Jong Un’s authorized biography is out and a Korean-language edition has been uploaded to the web. The authors are, unsurprisingly, bullish on Mr. Kim. The closing section (“Spinning the World Under the Axis of Sovereignty and Justice”) hails Mr. Kim’s summits with leaders including Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in. Summing it up, the authors gush that “there has never been a time when all the world has been this focused on our people’s greatness and dignity in our 5,000-year history.”

They are not wrong. North Korea, with a gross domestic product estimated at less than $26 billion and a population of 26 million, punches well above its weight. Kim Jong Un doesn’t see himself as the crackpot leader of a failed state. He sees himself as a winner, the uncontested leader of a tiny state that by ruthless dedication has forced the greatest powers in the world to deal with it as an equal.

As another American administration struggles with the difficult and thankless task of developing a North Korea strategy, the Biden team needs to understand that even severe sanctions are unlikely to work. For years sanctions proponents have argued that if the U.S. could only get full Chinese cooperation, North Korea would have no choice but to accept some kind of denuclearization process.

Read the full article in the Wall Street Journal

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