President Trump is on to something in Vietnam, where he’s having his second historic hilltop meeting with Kim Jong-un, the once and probably future Little Rocket Man (LRM).
Mr. Trump no longer aims to persuade Pyongyang’s Butcher-in-Chief to turn into plowshares his countless missiles and nukes — countless because Mr. Kim won’t tell Mr. Trump how many there are.
Complete denuclearization in North Korea won’t happen anytime soon because it’s not in Mr. Kim’s interest.
No matter. It’s not what really what matters to us — or to our allies within range of Mr. Kim’s warheads.
Mr. Trump is pursuing the far-more practical goal of persuading Mr. Kim to let himself and his country get fabulously rich by following the path of Vietnam’s Communist Party.
It has turned Vietnam’s former basket-case socialist economy into a wildly successful form of free-market capitalism constrained only by a single-party authoritarian political system that doesn’t suffer disagreement with it gladly. Much like the wildly successful economy of capitalist-communist China.
Getting Mr. Kim to go more or less free market means also giving him time to persuade his top military and civilian lieutenants to follow and become capitalist roaders, too — the ones he hasn’t already blown away with anti-aircraft cannons (it does get his point across).
Keeping his top guys in line is not as easy as it may sound, since Mr. Kim’s cabinet and generals may be communist hardliners or more likely second-class con men who rightly fear getting trampled if real competition breaks out in government management’s ranks.
Even as an isolated, impoverished little communist police state with medium and long-range nuclear-tipped missiles, Kimland is not much of a threat to its neighbors or the U.S.
It’s a simple fact of death that the minute you launch a nuclear war that you’re not sure to win, you’ve just committed suicide.
Mr. Kim knows he doesn’t have the atom-splitting power to defeat a nuked-up Pakistan, let alone the United States.
His nukes really are for defense. They exist to say to the U.S. and, yes, to China, you start up your regime-change engines and we’ll take out a few million of your civilians before you get your boots on Pyongyang’s ground.
The trouble here is that if Mr. Trump succeeds — and he will — in starting Mr. Kim on the road to ideological apostasy, there’s no sure-fire political reward in store for Mr. Trump by November 2020.
De-nuking another country leads the evening news for months on end and makes for arresting campaign commercials.
Reporting on another country’s freeing up its own markets, not so much,
So there’s been talk of another possible way to lead the news and make it last: bring peace to the Korean peninsula.
No question, the time has come for both sides to sign a real piece of paper called a peace treaty. The Korean War ended 65 years ago in a truce, not a victory. Maybe because former President Harry S. Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur instead of letting him chase a million or so Chinese communist soldiers in Korea back across the Yalu River into China. Maybe not.
Peace on the Korean peninsula we already have, de facto. No maybes about it.
With the Kim family, de jure is a joke. LRM’s grandfather and father ran the communist police state before LRM took it over. They played our presidents like a violin — OK, one made in Pyongyang, but a violin nonetheless.
A formal declaration of peace between North and South Korea has value, though modest, for the United States and for the nations in the region. And especially for South Korea, provided Mr. Kim means to let his people visit the South at will and let South Koreans visit Kimland freely. As Mr. Trump likes to say, we’ll see.
There are no maybes either about the fix Mr. Kim’s communism has him and his country in. The value of the goods and services North Korea produces comes out to a measly $1,300 for each of its 26 million people.
Compare that to South Korea’s good and services, worth $29,940 divided among each of its 51 million people.
Or compare it to Vietnam, where we lost a 14-year war to keep it from going all communist all the time. It went all communist and wound up for years as badly off as Kimland.
The free-market Vietnam of today, however, conducts joint maritime maneuvers with the U.S., provides a deep-water port for the U.S. Navy, and produces goods and service worth $1,835 for each of its 96 million people.
A good place to make the point to Mr. Kim.
Vietnam, here we come.
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