On Monday, 22-year-old Otto Warmbier died after being released by the North Korean government. Returned to the United States when the Trump administration managed to actually employ some good old fashioned American strength – some courage that the Obama folks sorely lacked – Warmbier was in tragic condition from the moment he stepped off the plane. Doctors said he was virtually comatose, unresponsive to any external stimuli and likely to have suffered severe brain damage. And with his death, we have a situation where an American tourist was essentially executed by the North Koreans for stealing a propaganda poster from his hotel.
This cannot go unanswered.
“It’s a brutal regime,” President Trump said of North Korea after the news of Warmbier’s death broke. “Bad things happened, but at least we got him home to his parents.”
In a written statement to the press, Trump added that the tourist’s fate “deepens my Administration’s determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency.”
So far, however, that determination seems to be playing out in the State Department, which is considering banning all tourist travel to North Korea. While that may be the most appropriate response in the short term – there is, after all, no reason that American money should be going to prop up the Pyongyang dictatorship, especially as they pursue nuclear weapons – it is not sufficient. And it is a tiny bit backwards to curtail the free roam of U.S. citizens in response to the evil whims of Kim Jong Un. So while a temporary ban on travel might be best, this incident calls on the White House and Congress to do more.
First of all, it’s time to demand – unequivocally – that any and all Americans being held in North Korean labor camps be immediately released. Trump should not accept any explanation or excuse. We don’t really care if there are actual murderers, thieves, or spies that were caught by the Pyongyang authorities, and frankly, we wouldn’t take this regime’s word for it anyway. If they ever deserved the benefit of the doubt, they gave it up with this stunning breach of international relations. Let Kim Jong Un know that if he refuses to return those Americans, then he is risking nothing less than economic and – if need be – military annihilation.
As far as the nuclear threat goes, Pyongyang has thumbed their nose at the world for long enough. Trump has been patient and optimistic as he works with the Chinese, but it’s time for Beijing to put up or shut up. The Trump administration has said that the time for strategic patience is over, so let it be over. If regime change is needed in North Korea, then regime change is needed. This nation has shown us time and again that it will not be held in check by the normal standards of logic and sanity. We cannot allow a nation like that to wield weapons of mass destruction, or the fate of the world will rest in the hands of a lunatic.