The non-proliferation world has been abuzz this weekend over reports that a new uranium enrichment facility has been discovered in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Some experts were stunned, others dismayed. It should have come as no surprise, the North Korean dictators are professional equivocators.
Our approach to dealing with these people has been weak and disheveled for some time. The Clinton Administration basically opened the door with the 1994 Agreed Framework – an agreement that was supposed to denuclearize all of Korea. This process has been rocky from the beginning because one party came to it with unclean hands.
While the Bush Administration started out tough, it eventually removed North Korea from the state sponsors of terrorism list in 2008 because the regime promised, among other things, that it was disabling the Yongbyon nuclear facility. Meanwhile the Obama Administration has continued its predecessor’s policy of engagement.
North Korea never renounced terrorism or its nuclear program, just ask the Japanese or the South Koreans. It supports Hamas and Hezbollah through sales of weapons and military training. It also supports numerous FTOs or Foreign Terrorist Organizations listed by the State Department. There are even U.S. government reports that it has helped construct Hezbollah facilities in Lebanon. It has supported the Tamil Tigers and other radical groups throughout Asia.
No one knows yet how this new development will turn out, its too early in the process. The South Koreans; however, have started to publicly broach the taboo subject of re-introducing nuclear weapons in his country as a defensive measure. For now it is the North Koreans that have had the last laugh. They came off the Trading With the Enemy Act (TWEA) cloud too soon. Sanctions are not an end all, be all – but coupled with other robust measures, economic isolation can work. The folks at Foggy Bottom and Turtle Bay will have their work cut out for them. With this recent development, time will tell, the North Koreans may have crossed the rubicon and nothing that we are willing to do to them in the sanctions or diplomatic realm will make much of a difference.
North Korea is not the first, but rather part of a growing group of nations led by rogue leaders that are determine to use nuclear weapons to alter regional balances of power throughout the world. Even in the Western Hemisphere we have people like Kim Jong Il, Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro, for starters. These are the conflicts of a new age and a new approach is needed to deal with them. What we have been doing up until now is stuck in Cold War-like thinking.