TCS Daily

Nothing's Shocking

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - October 23, 2002 12:00 AM

The admission this past week by North Korea that it has been developing a nuclear weapons program, is no surprise. And why should it be? The North Koreans are accustomed to the soft dealings and easy forgiveness that characterized American foreign policy in the 1990s.

Besides that, the "Hermit Kingdom," as North Korea is often called, is aptly named. It is one of the most closed societies in human history, a veritable monument to the horrors and paranoid secretiveness that is emblematic of Stalinism and Stalinist societies. How could anyone have honestly believed that we could have uncovered a covert nuclear weapons program in so closed a society?

But what's done is done. At this point, the Bush Administration must deal with the mess of a nuclear-equipped North Korea. Nuclear processing plants in North Korea, including plants that could help produce nuclear weapons, are widespread, as are facilities for the creation of chemical and biological weapons. North Korea's weapons program must be stopped. Here are some logical next steps:

  1. Any and all transfers of nuclear technology, whether deemed "peaceful" or otherwise, between the United States and North Korea must be halted immediately. There should be no assistance of any kind to North Korea's nuclear program under the current circumstances, and for the foreseeable future.

  2. The United States should assume that any monetary aid given to North Korea would go towards the further enhancement of its programs of weapons of mass destruction. Such aid should be halted, along with the transfers of nuclear technology. This is not an easy decision. North Korea's population is starving thanks to the regressive and Stalinist juche policies followed by the government. Nevertheless, it should be made. The risk that monetary aid will be used to further weapons technology in North Korea - as it has been in Iraq - is too great.

  3. It should become a sine qua non of American policy when dealing with China, Russia, and other countries with close or semi-close ties to North Korea, that such countries refrain completely and absolutely from doing anything to assist the North Koreans in developing weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, what China and Russia intend to do to halt North Korea's weapons program should become a primary-if not the primary-topic of discussion in any meeting or communication between leaders of North Korea, and representatives of the Bush Administration.

  4. In order to express full and firm solidarity with the people of South Korea in facing the threat from the North, and in order to make clear its displeasure with the North's double-dealing regarding the terms of the 1993 agreement, the United States should engage in the "Team Spirit" joint military exercises with South Korea that it has used for years to enhance military cooperation and coordination between the two countries. Indeed, considering the fact that President Clinton offered to halt the "Team Spirit" exercises in exchange for cooperation from the North Koreans regarding the issue of nuclear proliferation, the commencement of those exercises posthaste becomes doubly imperative.

  5. The United States should reaffirm its nuclear deterrence commitments on behalf of South Korea and Japan-the two countries in Southeast Asia most directly threatened by the North's proliferation program. In light of the North's belligerence, an extra effort is required to prompt Japan to become more militarily self-sufficient, while ensuring that American protection and force projection in the region are made more robust.

    Additionally-and admittedly, this is a tremendously controversial proposal-it may be time to consider whether a nuclear-armed Japan would serve as a deterrent against further belligerence and/or aggression on the part of the North. The idea of giving Japan nuclear weapons, or helping it develop its own nuclear weapons program, is one not to be taken lightly, but it should be considered and explored openly and publicly-if only for the diplomatic purpose of communicating to the North Koreans that their own weapons program is intolerable, and will prompt grave consequences. It may be possible to use the prospect of a Japanese nuclear weapons program as a way to bluff the North Koreans into abandoning their own program. That would be the optimal outcome.

    The Japanese have lived for decades under the American nuclear security umbrella. They are, as a result, intimately familiar with the doctrines and philosophies of nuclear deterrence, the outcomes of various nuclear wargaming scenarios, and the need to diversify control over a national nuclear weapons program so as to ensure that one faction or individual within a government cannot arrogate unto itself the power to make the cataclysmic decision to launch nuclear weapons. Additionally, allowing and urging the Japanese to take nuclear security into their own hands may reduce-if not eliminate-any credibility problems with the American claim that the United States is prepared to use nuclear weapons-and risk the use of such weapons against it-in order to protect Japan.

A new and tough policy for dealing with North Korea must be crafted and implemented. The naïveté that characterized past American dealing with North Korea must be completely dispensed with. The margin of error, low to begin with, has now shrunk to microscopic levels. We cannot afford more significant mistakes. The next one could be fatal.



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