politics, history and the war on terror
Thursday, June 24, 2004
NoKo's Nukes 

Another aspirant to the nuclear club has popped up in the headlines. North Korea's quest for nuclear weapons is a source of much debate. Officially they state the pursuit of nuclear capabilities is to defend against American, South Korean and Japanese aggression, but the real motivations appear to be related to extracting concessions from these nations. But no matter what their reasons, a nuclear armed North Korea does not bode well for the prospects of peace. North Korea's leadership, political makeup, history of nuclear proliferation and the current round of negotiations gives insight on the prospects for success of stopping North Korea's drive to join the nuclear nations.

The Dear Leader

Kim Jong Il, son of North Korea's founder Kim Il-Sung, is viewed as both an erratic and a dangerous leader of the Stalinist North Korean state. He is best described by Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic.
Kim Jong Il is able to blackmail the world with the help of his huge army, nuclear weapons, long-range missiles, and the export of weaponry and military technology to like-minded dictators around the world. He wants to be respected and feared abroad and to be recognized as one of the world's most powerful leaders. He is willing to let his own people die of hunger, and he uses famine to liquidate those who show any sign of wavering loyalty to his rule. Through blackmail, he receives food and oil, which he distributes among those loyal to him (first in line being the army).
The Hermit Kingdom

The brutality of North Korea's Stalinist state is well documented. The U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea states that up to 200,000 political prisoners are in forced work camps or jails where starvation, rape, forced abortions and infanticide are policy. The existence of the camps is confirmed via satellite imagery. The economic policies of North Korea have repeatedly caused famine and starvation while Kim Jong-Il and the elites live in luxury. It has been estimated that up to 5 million North Koreans have died since the latest rounds of sorrow began in the 1990s. The desperate situation has caused tens of thousands of North Koreans to risk their lives by fleeing to China, as those captured and returned are placed in the brutal gulags of the state. North Korea also has kidnapped Japanese citizens who are forced to train North Korean intelligence officers in the language and customs of Japan. Many of these Japanese citizens have not been returned to this day.

Delivery Systems

The advanced ballistic weapons program poses a direct threat to Northeast Asia as their Nodong and Taepodon 1 missiles have been designed to be armed with nuclear weapons and have ranges of several thousand kilometers. The latest Taepodong 2 intercontinental ballistic missiles can reach Alaska or Hawaii, and possibly the continental United States. North Korea has been directly linked to Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan's underground nuclear weapons program, and has exported its missile technology to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Syria and Egypt.

NoKo's Nukes, A Brief History

North Korea began its nuclear program in the 1950's with the aid of the Soviet Union, and its weapons program can be traced back to the early 1980s. In 1985 North Korea was pressured to join the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and in 1992 the Joint Declaration on Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. These treaties were ignored by the North Koreans when they refused to let IAEA inspectors verify the terms of the NPT. This lead to the crisis of 1993-94 that almost resulted in a military conflict between America and North Korea. The crisis was resolved with the signing of the Agreed Framework, where North Korea was provided light reactors, fuel oil and other imports in exchange for their promise to dismantle their heavy nuclear programs and remain a member of the NPT. The issue appeared to die down until the fall of 2002, when the United States confronted North Korea about its hidden activities and North Korea began to subvert the IAEA's monitoring and move stored nuclear fuel. This has led to the current crisis we face today.

Current Negotiations

The most recent round of negotiations between the United States, North Korean, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia have been at an impasse since the spring of 2003. The United Nations Security Council refused to address the problem of North Korea's nukes, despite pleas from the IAEA, so the problem was directed to the regional powers that be. South Korea, Japan, China and Russia have refused to take the lead in the negotiations and have placed the burden of the responsibility on the United States. Following the advice of South Korea, the United States has submitted the latest proposal that is much like the Agreed Framework signed in 1994.
Under the American plan, North Korea would have to fully disclose its nuclear program, submit to inspections and pledge to begin eliminating the program after a "preparatory period" of three months. In exchange, the reclusive regime of Kim Jong-Il, the North Korean leader, would receive shipments of heavy fuel oil to meet its energy needs, be granted a "provisional security guarantee" by the United States, and see the lifting of some sanctions.
Current negotiations directly refute recent claims by Senator Kennedy that the Bush Administration is unwilling to deal with international partners on the North Korean problem. As the United Nations Security Council took a pass and the other negotiating partners refuse to take the lead, the United States is forced to shoulder the burden.

Dealing with the Devil

As distasteful as negotiating with the North Koreans may be, there are very few options available to the United States. The United Nations, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia refuse to apply the necessary pressure to get North Korea to truly halt its nuclear program. This is odd, as these countries have the most to lose from a nuclear armed North Korea. China and Russia should be appalled by such an unstable regime in close proximity possessing nuclear weapons, and this development may force Japan and South Korea to develop nukes of their own as a deterrent. A nuclear arms race in Northeast Asia is in no one's interest, neither is attacking North Korea's nuclear program as it can have serious consequences and would likely lead to a full scale war. South Korea and the United States have the capability to destroy North Korea's army, but the cost would be enormous due to North Korea's conventional artillery being within range of Seoul, South Korea's capitol, home to 10.5 million people. The North Korean problem is a situation that calls for a bitter dose of realism. There is little the United States can do militarily without risking a wide scale war. But whatever agreement is made, the disarmament of North Korea must be verifiable, or this problem will surely reoccur in the future. We cannot allow North Korea to play the game of nuclear brinkmanship indefinitely, and must be prepared to deal with the North Koreans more forcefully if they are unwilling to relinquish their quest for nuclear weapons.

Posted by bill roggio @ 7:00 AM