Korea expert: There's only one logical conclusion for Trump's 'tough talk' on North Korea

A longtime observer of the Korean conflict told Business Insider in a recent interview that there is only one logical conclusion for President Donald Trump and his administration’s “tough talk” on North Korea: Coming up with a plan to get Kim Jong-un and his family out of power.

Allen Raymond, a GOP operative whose family was a part of founding Yonsei University in South Korea, one of the preeminent universities in the nation, outlined the framework of such a plan.

Raymond, who has kept up lifelong connections to the peninsula, offered up a suggestion from his great uncle, a Korean War veteran who was born and raised in the peninsula.

“What you need to do ultimately to solve the Korean Peninsula problem in the DPRK is you need to say to the DPRK’s leadership: ‘All of you guys can have a big sum of money, whatever that is, we’re going to buy you off. You can go to the Philippines, you can go to Malaysia, you can go to Monaco, you can go to Switzerland, you can go anywhere in the world you want to go. But you’ve got to leave North Korea. And before you go, you’ve got to give us Kim Jong-un.’ Before you do that, you have to say you’ve preloaded the nuclear arsenal to [cover] every square inch of North Korea.”

“I mean, if you’re going to go down the path of tough talking, that’s the toughest talk there is,” he continued. “That’s eventually where you have to go. Talking tough, and strictly talking tough in terms of a military action, that’s what they hear. So you may as well say it.”

As tensions remain high between the US and North Korea, the Trump administration, and the president himself, have pushed a number of messages.

Within the past few days, Trump has said that he “will not be happy” if North Korea conducts a nuclear test, demurring if that meant he would take military action. But he also said he would be “honored” to meet Kim “under the right circumstances.”

While the administration has sought to tighten sanctions on North Korea, Trump has turned to China to influence the North in ending its weapons testing. On Twitter, Trump has said that he has both “great confidence China will properly deal with North Korea” while also saying, “If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.”

Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, a 2016 Republican presidential contender, has expressed similar sentiments as Raymond, saying last week that the “best way to solve this problem is to eradicate the leadership.”

“How do you deal with this?” he said. “I think there might be a way, and that has to do with taking out the North Korean leadership.”

“The North Korean top leadership has to go and there are ways in which that can be achieved,” Kasich said. “But you have to have very good intelligence. You have to have an ability to do things very quickly. And, you know, I think that is not beyond our capability to achieve that.”

Asked about the tensions with North Korea on Tuesday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, said “negotiations are critical” with North Korea. But she said “they have to be part of a broader strategy, not just thrown off on a tweet some morning that, ‘Hey, let’s get together, you know, see if we can’t get along and maybe we can, you know, come up with some sort of idea.’ That doesn’t work.”

Raymond said he believes the Trump administration is doing “a pretty good job” so far with its policy toward North Korea, citing the increased focus on sanctions as a positive development.

“They’re looking into real sanctions, and more specifically, Chinese banks that do business with North Korea,” he said. “That’s real stuff. And that’s stuff that we’ve been reluctant to do in the past.”

But he said the Trump administration is simultaneously doing something that plays directly into North Korea’s hand. The “tougher talk,” Raymond said, serves to “scare” the South Korean populace. And if there isn’t a level of trust between both heads of government, it could cause South Korea to align more closely with China out of fear of a large-scale conflict.

South Korea has its own presidential election coming up next week, and the frontrunner is liberal candidate Moon Jae-in. Moon said recently that he believes Trump “is more reasonable than he is generally perceived.”

“President Trump uses strong rhetoric toward North Korea, but, during the election campaign, he also said he could talk over a burger with Kim Jong-un,” he said. “I am for that kind of pragmatic approach to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.”

Others don’t see it the same way. A recent headline on a major South Korean daily read: “Trump’s mouth rattling Korea-US alliance.”

While sending mixed messages about Kim, Trump slammed the US-Korean trade deal, known as KORUS, calling it an “unacceptable” and “horrible deal made by Hillary [Clinton]. … It’s a horrible deal, and we are going to renegotiate that deal or terminate it.” The president also repeated a talking point from Chinese President Xi Jinping following the pair’s meeting at Mar-a-Lago that offended many Koreans, saying that “Korea actually used to be a part of China.”

“That’s like saying Poland used to be a part of Germany,” Raymond said, adding that the comments play directly “into China’s hand.”

And on the “tough talking” from the administration, Raymond said the Trump White House must zero in on the financial sanctions they have started to ratchet up, in addition to the Kim regime’s human-rights violations.

“You’ve got to charge Kim Jong-un over in The Hague,” Raymond said of the location where the UN’s International Court of Justice is headquartered. “Say we need to bring him to trial. That’s the kind of thing you need to do to dislodge this regime. Tougher sanctions and taking the steps to charge Kim Jong-un in the Hague for atrocities. That sends a real message that the US is serious.”

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