Monday, October 09, 2006

Playing Hardball With the Hermit Kingdom

Fire of Liberty

With the confirmation that North Korea has successfully tested a nuclear weapon folks are wondering what steps we should take. Today this country has got to draw a strong line in the sand with North Korea and reassure them most definite that any thoughts of bilateral talks are a non-starter and that its time for a tightening of the all economic(finances and energy) and diplomatic screws on the regime. Someone who seems to have a firm grasp on what's needed to be done with North Korea is Josh Manchester(Blogs at The Adventures of Chester) who has enumerated in a timely piece over a TCS Daily that pretty much sums up a strategy that should becoming a common mantra within the US for dealing with the Hermit Kingdom. Here's a look at Manchester's game plan:
When the North prepped to test seven ballistic missiles this summer, two former Clinton administration officials issued a breathless warning: "if North Korea persists in its launch preparations, the United States should immediately make clear its intention to strike and destroy the North Korean Taepodong missile before it can be launched." Within their warning was an easy dismissal of the idea that such an act would start a regional war.

Instead, let's take a more calculating, sober view. These should be the steps forward as this crisis plays out:

1. Reinforce success. The Proliferation Security Initiative is working and is gradually causing a collapse of North Korean state power. Let's reinforce success by adding more money and capabilities to this effort to continue to speed the collapse of the North Korean state and force them to abandon their weapons program. Let's acknowledge that our current course is driving the North Koreans bonkers -- and then just ratchet up the pressure all the more, absolutely unfazed by their threats.

2. Add international legitimacy to the PSI. The PSI is basically an ad hoc group of nations that are voluntarily assisting the US in enforcing its own sanctions. UN Resolution 1695, enacted earlier this summer, "bans all UN member states from selling material or technology for missiles or weapons of mass destruction to North Korea and from receiving missiles, banned weapons or technology from Pyongyang." That's a good start. But why not take this up a notch, and offer a new resolution stating that any member nation that does engage in such trade with North Korea will immediately be referred to the Security Council for sanctions?

3. Encourage Japan not to go nuclear - yet. The only way that the six-parties will succeed in getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear program is if they all act in concert. When the North threatens a nuclear test, one of its hopes is that some of the six will overreact. A Japanese announcement to seek nuclear weapons would comprise one such overreaction, especially given the American ability to offer Japan assurance of a nuclear deterrent under its own nuclear umbrella. If Japan announces an intention to pursue nuclear weapons, then the six party talks may dissolve completely. It's very likely that South Korea and China see Japan as more of a threat than North Korea. Indeed, It should come as no surprise that the North made their announcement only days before the new Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is scheduled to visit both South Korea and China. The President might call him before he goes and read a line or two of Kipling: "If you can keep your head when all about you/ Are losing theirs..."

4. Begin a conversation domestically about a new nuclear doctrine. The Bush Doctrine, announced at West Point in 2002, promulgated a policy of preventive war should the US be threatened by terrorists or rogue states developing weapons of mass destruction. This doctrine needs a corollary of some kind, inspired by the principles of both non-proliferation and deterrence, which sets certain triggers for preemptive nuclear strikes against states that knowingly or not pass nuclear weapons material or know-how to terrorist organizations or other states. Elaborating such a position is beyond the scope of this article, but it's clear that no matter how robust policies like the PSI are, they are still largely defensive in nature, and at some point nuclear weapons, materials or knowhow could slip through. It would be best to attempt to curb this behavior from the get-go by offering severe disincentives for engaging in it.

Such a policy might sound drastic: destroy a state for shipping some nuclear materials? But at its formulation, mutually assured destruction was no less drastic and no less frightening. Consider reports that Iranian officials were present at Pyongyang's missile launches this summer. There's no reason to think they won't be eager observers of North Korea's test. It is just such exchanges in the shadows that most threaten the world's civilization and it's time to develop a policy that addresses them.
This latest test is just another example of what you get from North Korea. We've witnessed one to many times the North Koreans promising not to do one thing and then going ahead with it anyway and then we see the Chinese, South Koreans, Japanese, US, Russia going to North Korea hat in hand begging them to come back to the table for more talks and more promises that the break again. So let's push aside rewards for Kim Jong Il's bad behavior and shut the Hermit Kingdom down via sanctions and pushing through ideas like Josh Manchester noted above. Time is a wastin' and the world's not getting safer with North Korea running amuck.

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