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North Korea Policy Recommendations to Keep In Mind

North Korea has emerged as a top national security priority for the Trump administration. It’s also a human rights priority.

Article by Amanda Schnetzer August 4, 2017 //   2 minute read
This April 15, 2017 picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency shows ballistic missiles being on parade. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

North Korea has emerged as a top national security priority for the Trump administration. It’s also a human rights priority. If U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and North Korea’s foreign minister cross paths at the ASEAN regional forum in the Philippines this weekend, how—and why—might Tillerson make the link?  The answer is clear:  North Korea’s human rights problem is directly tied to the safety and security of the American people.

Six months ago the American people needed to be concerned about the potential for a nuclear armed North Korean missile to reach California by the year 2020. Based on Pyongyang’s latest tests, estimates now suggest the ability for a missile to reach far beyond the West Coast of the United States is very likely.

While national security remains our top priority, there’s reason to keep North Korea’s horrific human rights record at the forefront of U.S. policy.  As Victor Cha and Robert Gallucci wrote in a recent Bush Institute report, “[U]nderstanding that the nuclear and missile issues remain the proximate threat…we also understand that the nuclear threats from a regime that pathologically violates human rights are accentuated, as much as they are supported materially, by profits from those abuses.”

Translation: North Korea sends its own people to places like China and Russia to perform slave labor in exchange for hard currency. That hard currency is used not for the benefit of North Korean workers and their families, but, rather, to fund Kim Jong Un’s nuclear program. And that nuclear program threatens American allies in the region like South Korea and Japan—and it now threatens all Americans.

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