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North Korea Won’t Surrender Its Nuclear Weapons: Analysts

By | October 16, 2006

      North Korea, after announcing it detonated a nuclear weapon, likely won’t surrender its nuclear arsenal even if the isolated regime is punished with further sanctions, analysts said yesterday.

      However, sanctions such as interdicting shipments might prevent North Korea from obtaining more materials to produce further weapons, according to analysts at a media forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington think tank.

      While China has leverage over North Korea by supplying it with fuel and food, and China is angry over the atomic weapon test, Chinese leaders nonetheless are likely to be measured in imposing any punishment on North Korea, the analysts said.

      “No nation that has [produced and successfully detonated a nuclear weapon] has ever given it up,” said Jon Wolfsthal, fellow with the CSIS International Security Program.

      Therefore, the United States must “think through what it is we can achieve” as a realistic goal here, Wolfsthal said.

      Their comments came after North Korea tested seven missiles, six of them successfully, as Americans celebrated the July 4 holiday, and after the rogue regime just announced it tested the nuclear weapon. Military experts estimate the isolated nation may have constructed perhaps 10 or so nuclear weapons thus far.

      One problem facing the United States is that North Korea, instead of attempting to place a nuclear weapon atop a Taepo Dong-2 long range missile (that’s the one that failed in July), North Korea might obtain desperately needed cash by selling a nuke to a terrorist group or rogue state.

      While the United States thus would wish to prevent North Korea from exporting a nuclear weapon or weapons-grade fissile material, such material might be the size of a softball, Wolfsthal said. “How do you prevent a softball from being smuggled out?” he asked.

      At this point, perhaps the best the United States can do in dealing with North Korea is to draw a new “red line” as to what further steps North Korea can take. For example, Washington might warn Pyongyang that “any offensive use of nuclear weapons by North Korea” would draw a response from the United States, he said.

      He also wondered aloud what might occur if the North Korean government of Kim Jong Il felt it was collapsing and losing control of the populace.

      There likely won’t be any immediate negotiations with North Korea, which has flouted the will of the industrialized world and other nations, according to Michael J. Green, CSIS Japan chair and senior adviser.

      “There’s going to have to be a time-out” for North Korea, after its misbehavior, Green said.

      The rogue nation also defied its benefactor, China, and there may be “more tension in the relationship between North Korea and China” than in any other Korean bilateral relationship, even that with the United States, according to Kurt Campbell, CSIS senior vice president, Henry A. Kissinger Chair in national security and director of the CSIS International Security Program

      Chinese leaders “are extremely angry,” and might punish North Korea by slowing deliveries of fuel and food to the isolated nation, Campbell said.

      Not only has China lost face as North Korea openly defied Chinese warnings not to go nuclear, the Sino leaders also are aware that their ability to influence or intimidate others is now on the line.

      For example, Campbell pointed out, Taiwan is watching, intently, as North Korea defies China and gets away with it, at least thus far. China passed a law saying that Taiwan is a renegade province, and if Taiwan doesn’t capitulate soon to rule by Beijing, then China will invade Taiwan and seize it by force.

      Thus China “can’t afford to let little North Korea get away with this” without any punishment, Campbell said.

      China could wake up to a nightmare reality, in which it would face not only a nuclear-power North Korea, but also instability on the border with China. Both South Korea and China have worried what might happen if thousands of starving, desperate North Koreans were to rush across borders, fleeing the police-state regime.

      “If they don’t react to this, it’s a huge loss of face,” said Derek J. Mitchell, senior fellow with the CSIS International Security Program. Chinese leaders “are enormously frustrated with the North” Korean intransigence.

      While North Korea at the same time ignored the similar warnings from the United States that building the bomb was unacceptable, at the same time Americans saw some silver lining in this:

      U.S. negotiators now are gaining sympathy and traction with other nations in saying that Iran must be prevented from developing nukes, Mitchell said.

      Analysts saw no simple, workable solution to the dilemma posed by North Korean nuclear testing, saying that the West can’t merely accept that the Korean peninsula is now nuclearized and move on.

      “The United States should not be prepared to accept [the North Korean decision to go nuclear] the way we accepted India and Pakistan” developing atomic bombs, and tacitly accepted the unannounced nuclear weapons program of Israel, Wolfsthal said.

      Green said a possible move would be to halt shipments to North Korea of items that could be used to make more weapons of mass destruction.However, cutting off food and fuel to the isolated state would harm common people who bear no responsibility for the nuclear weapons program, he said.

      Financial sanctions, too, might work in harming those in power in North Korea, Green said.

      But he was pessimistic that any sanctions might force North Korea to surrender its nuclear weapons and program, giving that “less than a 50/50 chance” of success, and perhaps much less probability than that.

      Mitchell noted that North Korea has no stock in trade save threats, and a nuclear weapon is a huge threat.

      On the other hand, in the United States, don’t expect President Bush to admit he was wrong not to negotiate in bilateral, versus six-party, talks with North Korea.

      For now, Bush is gaining bipartisan support for his actions responding to North Korea, according to Campbell.

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