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North Korea Must Be Confronted   May 27th, 2009
World can't keep ignoring North Korea       


More observations...

As has been heavily reported, North Korea has conducted another underground nuclear test and subsequently has test-launched multiple missiles. This is just the latest act of belligerence by a rogue nation that has challenged the world and the U.S. for at least three administrations.

North Korea launched tests Tuesday of two more short-range missiles a day after detonating a nuclear bomb underground, a news report said, pushing the regime's confrontation with world powers further despite the threat of U.N. Security Council action.

So far the North Korea has negotiated with, deceived, and ignored the Clinton Administration, the Bush Administration, and now the Obama Administration. They've tested and pushed both Democrat and Republican presidents, and both Democrat and Republican presidents have not taken the threat seriously.

The U.S. and the world has sat by issuing condemnations, economic sanctions, and idle words as North Korea has obviously pushed continuously to become a nuclear power. The issue used to be stopping North Korea from becoming a nuclear power. Despite negotiating an end to their nuclear program under Clinton, they demonstrated in 2006 that they had actually continued their program and were now capable of producing a nuclear weapon. They were supposed to cease and desist in 2006 but have clearly continued improving their technology as this test appears to have been 10x stronger than the previous test.

All the while they've been working on and are now testing increasingly-capable missile systems. So they've been improving their nuclear technology while perfecting their capability to deliver a warhead.

North Korea has a history of negotiating with the United States, reaching an agreement, getting something from us, while all the while not living up to their side of the agreement. North Korea cannot be trusted. This makes virtually any attempts at negotiations with them pointless.

Is a trend not obvious here? North Korea is simply ignoring the world because, it would seem, they know the world is not going to stop them. Issuing U.N. Security Council resolutions in response to nuclear detonations by a rogue nation is not a response. It's a joke. And the fact that North Korea has been ignoring the U.S. and the U.N. for close to two decades should give us a pretty clear picture at just how credible those words from the U.S. and the U.N. are. North Korea has been hearing them for years and it's clear there are no consequences to ignoring them.

North Korea is already isolated. With so little for North Korea to lose diplomatically and economically, words and gestures will continue to be ignored.

It's time to take action. And, no, I'm not advocating attacking them today. But I would recommend taking a page out of North Korea's book: The North Koreans almost constantly warn that any given action that others might take against them will be interpreted as an act of war.

It's time that the world--or in its absence the U.S.--issue these last final words: "Any further missiles launches or nuclear weapon detonations will be interpreted by the United States and the world as an act of war, and will be responded to as such."

If words are going to be used in response to a nuclear test by a rogue nation, those are the only words I can imagine being reasonable at this point. Basically, "last chance." That ultimatum probably would have had a bit more weight under Bush than Obama, but the ultimatum must be issued nonetheless. Anyone that believes diplomacy is going to get us anywhere is ignoring the last two decades of history regarding North Korea.

The stakes here are very high. Issuing the above ultimatum--and following-through if North Korea doesn't blink--could result in an obscene number of deaths, especially in the Koreas. But the threat and risk is only going to get worse if we continue to ignore the problem.

Indeed, things took a further turn for the worse today, Wednesday May 27th:

The communist North's military said in a statement Wednesday that it will respond with "immediate, strong military measures" if the South actually stops and searches any North Korean ships under the Proliferation Security Initiative.

The statement, carried by the North's Korean Central News Agency, said North Korea no longer considers itself bound by the armistice that ended the Korean War, as a protest over the South's participation.

The Korean War is still technically active. Both sides have just been in a cease-fire for the last 50 years. And North Korea has indicated today that it no longer considers itself bound by that cease-fire. North Korea is improving its nuclear capability and getting more and more aggressive as it does. That's not a good sign.

We're talking about nuclear devices in the hands of a rogue nation. These are not rubber bands, and it's not like Iraq where WMDs were suspected. North Korea is proud of their weapons and is demonstrating them to the world. They're real.

The potential threat to the world that these nuclear weapons already pose cannot be understated. North Korea could announce today that it had smuggled one of its nuclear weapons into Seoul and another into a U.S. city and that it had a list of demands. If we balked then they could detonate the one in Seoul as an example. At that point we'd be in a situation where we'd have to give them anything and everything they wanted--even if they hadn't really smuggled one into the U.S. We wouldn't know for sure and probably wouldn't take that gamble. We're already living in the shadow of the potential of state-sponsored nuclear blackmail.

And that's without even considering the possibility of them giving or selling their nuclear weapons to countries like Iran or Venezuela, or to terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda.

This is essentially "The Mouse That Roared" in real life. You don't need to be able to defeat the United States in war; you just have to hold the U.S. in checkmate with a strategically positioned nuclear weapon so that the U.S. doesn't dare fight.

We have one last chance to use words to avoid conflict. But they have to be the right words and we have to be serious... and we must be prepared to act if those words aren't taken seriously.

The issue of North Korea was fumbled by President Clinton and President Bush and, together, they've left us with a nuclear-armed North Korea. Unfortunately for President Obama, that leaves him in the difficult position of cleaning up the mess.

We can only hope that Obama doesn't commit the same mistakes as his predecessors.

    Update Same Morning: North Korea has made clear exactly how much it cares about sanctions. As I mentioned above, there is no reason for them to care about sanctions or isolation as that's been the status quo for decades.

    A North Korean newspaper, Minju Joson, said in a commentary Wednesday that Pyongyang does not fear repercussions.

    "It is a laughable delusion for the United States to think that it can get us to kneel with sanctions," it said. "We've been living under U.S. sanctions for decades, but have firmly safeguarded our ideology and system while moving our achievements forward. The U.S. sanctions policy toward North Korea is like striking a rock with a rotten egg."

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