Dangers, Stakes of North Korean Confrontation, Part 2

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government concludes its examination of the dangers and stakes in responding to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. 

In April, The Arms Control Association noted that:

“For years, the United States and the international community have tried to negotiate an end to North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and its export of ballistic missile technology. Those efforts have been replete with periods of crisis, stalemate, and tentative progress towards denuclearization, and North Korea has long been a key challenge for the global nuclear nonproliferation regime.

“The United States has pursued a variety of policy responses to the proliferation challenges posed by North Korea, including military cooperation with U.S. allies in the region, wide-ranging sanctions, and non-proliferation mechanisms such as export controls. The United States also engaged in two major diplomatic initiatives in which North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons efforts in return for aid.

“In 1994, faced with North Korea’s announced intent to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires non-nuclear weapon states to forswear the development and acquisition of nuclear weapons, the United States and North Korea signed the Agreed Framework. Under this agreement, Pyongyang committed to freezing its illicit plutonium weapons program in exchange for aid. Following the collapse of this agreement in 2002, North Korea claimed that it had withdrawn from the NPT in January 2003 and once again began operating its nuclear facilities.

“The second major diplomatic effort were the Six-Party Talks initiated in August of 2003 which involved China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. In between periods of stalemate and crisis, those talks arrived at critical breakthroughs in 2005, when North Korea pledged to abandon “all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs” and return to the NPT, and in 2007, when the parties agreed on a series of steps to implement that 2005 agreement. Those talks, however, broke down in 2009 following disagreements over verification and an internationally condemned North Korea rocket launch. Pyongyang has since stated that it would never return to the talks and is no longer bound by their agreements. The other five parties state that they remain committed to the talks, and have called for Pyongyang to recommit to its 2005 denuclearization pledge.”

North Korea is also strongly suspected of proliferating its missile and nuclear technology, particularly to Iran. South Korea’s Yonhap  news agency reported that “ Officials from a North Korean firm on a U.N. sanction list over its suspected arms trade visited Iran earlier this month after the U.N. Security Council imposed tougher punitive measures on the firm, a source said Monday. The Korea Mining Development Trading Corp. (KOMID), known as North Korea’s primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons, has been sanctioned by the U.S. and the United Nations since 2009. Ranking officials from the company visited Iran on March 6, which has been long suspected of maintaining ties with North Korea over nuclear and missile programs, according to a source familiar to North Korean affairs. Tehran has denied such speculation.”

A 2010 United Nations report stated that North Korea had exported nuclear and missile technology to both Iran and Syria. A Syrian nuclear plant was said to be based on North Korean blueprints.

As North Korea continues to rapidly move ahead with its nuclear program, and the land and submarine-launched missile capabilities with which to deliver them against targets throughout the world, (as well as the potential to sell or give these weapons to terrorist organizations or the nations that support those terrorist forces) crucial decisions will have to be made.

As North Korea continues to loudly proclaim its willingness to engage in a nuclear attack on other nations, a new concern has now been added.

During the Obama Administration, deep cuts to U.S. defenses included the White House elimination of the American ability to effectively fight a war in two separate theaters at the same time.  Recently, North Korea threatened Israel in response to statements by Israeli officials about Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. The potential for actions against American allies in other parts of the world, the Middle East being the most likely, exists if the U.S. took action against North Korea’s nuclear program.  This would place the U.S. in the position of having to fight on two diverse fronts, at a time when its military is at an extremely weak state.

Additionally, President Obama’s opposition to U.S. missile defenses has left the U.S. with only minimal protection against a missile attack.  The fact that a signal nuclear blast, detonated at a precise location, could destroy, through an electromagnetic pulse, most continental U.S. electrical facilities, thus devastating the American economy, remains.

Considering that sobering fact, and the ongoing threats from North Korea, means that any attempt to destroy North Korea’s missile and nuclear capabilities would have to be thorough to an extraordinary degree, a feat that may wind up involving the U.S. in conflict with Chinese or Russian interests.