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  • North Korea's Nuclear Challenge

    Pyongyang ’s eagerness to conduct a nuclear test so quickly after its long-range missile launch shows it has abandoned its previous façade of negotiations and is instead striving to achieve a viable nuclear weapon and ICBM delivery capability. North Korea ’s unflinching efforts to develop the means to threaten the US and its allies with nuclear weapons underscores the ongoing need to continue to develop and deploy a missile defense system.

    The rapid pace of Pyongyang ’s provocations since January indicates it has altered its objectives and is no longer responsive to diplomatic entreaties. International diplomatic pressure was unable to prevent North Korea from launching a Taepo Dong-2 missile in April. The paltry sanctions subsequently imposed by the UN Security Council for North Korea’s violating UN Resolutions 1695 and 1718 were insufficient to deter Pyongyang from its nuclear test.

    Previous North Korean tactics were to engage in a slow buildup prior to an escalatory act in order to allow the US and its allies sufficient time to offer new diplomatic or economic inducements to buy Pyongyang back from the brink. On those occasions when North Korea carried out the act, it followed with several months of calm to allow all countries to become accustomed to the new elevated status quo prior to initiating the next lengthy provocation process.

    Since the beginning of 2009, however, North Korea has engaged in a series of provocations against the US , South Korea , and Japan without allowing any time for diplomatic outreach. It is evident that Pyongyang is now intent on achieving strategic technological achievements rather than gaining tactical negotiating leverage. As such, North Korea is likely to continue additional missile and nuclear activity during 2009 impervious to naïve initiatives such as offering a senior-level presidential envoy for bilateral discussion.

    Despite high expectations that North Korea would adopt a moderate policy after the change in US leadership, Pyongyang has refused repeated attempts by the Obama administration to establish contact. North Korea ’s refusal to engage in dialogue with the US , South Korea , and Japan is another indicator Pyongyang is playing a new game.

    The change in North Korean objectives may have been triggered by Kim Jong-il’s health crisis and a desire to achieve nuclear objectives prior to his death or a formal succession. Pyongyang has announced it seeks to become a “powerful nation” by 2012, the 100th anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birth. The goal may reflect achieving formal recognition as a nuclear weapons state.

    Discussions with US and South Korean officials indicated Washington and Seoul were complacent with the minimalist UN Security Council response to North Korea ’s provocations. The Obama and Lee Myung-bak administrations were reticent to pursue any initiatives beyond the three North Korean companies placed on the UN sanctions list. Instead, the US and South Korea were passively awaiting the next North Korean provocation to then use it to leverage China for additional punitive measures in the UN.

    The US, South Korea, and Japan should utilize North Korea’s latest outrage to demand China and Russia agree to stronger punitive measures in the UN Security Council. Washington should cease the charade of praising Beijing ’s behavior in the Six Party Talks and instead criticize its obstructionism to carrying out the will of the international community as expressed in two UN resolutions.

    Washington should press for additional North Korean as well as foreign companies and government agencies to be added to the UN sanctions list and insist on active enforcement. In addition, the Obama administration should lead a multilateral effort to identify and target proliferators as well as those complicit in North Korea ’s illegal activities such as currency counterfeiting and drug smuggling.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to North Korea's Nuclear Challenge

    1. MAS1916 - Denver, CO says:

      The DPRK fully understands that President Obama is weak. As the US President demonstrated his willingness to apologize worldwide for American actions over the years, North Korea understands that the current US President is extremely unlikely to take action against them. Additionally, China and Russia are sure to block UN Security Council sanctions. In short, North Korea is free to pursue its weapons program without challenge.

      The statements issued by the Obama team over the past two days have been laughable. Threatening the DPRK with further isolation is just ridiculous and silly. Obama's words only encourage North Korea to continue. Without US willingness to act unilaterally, this crisis will only escalate.

      Obama's response has been a joke. For a list of the most laughable Obama statements issued since the most recent nuclear test, you can visit:

    2. RJ Davidson says:

      Unfortunately, the most recent administration defense budget has minimal emphasis on the layered missile defense approach by virtually elimininating any near term capability of interceping threatenting missiles in the boost phase. The only feasible near term (next five years) boost phase system, the kinetic energy interceptor, was cancelled less than a month ago. This system has been under development for the last five years and was scheduled for its first test flight this fall. After spending about $1.2 billion in development, the program is being cancelled and the first dev flight unit being "yanked' out of Vandenberg AFB whee it was being assembled. As Alabama's Senator Shelby said in a open letter to General Patrick O'Reilly (MDA Head), it's utterly "irresponsible" to not fly this state of the art dev missile after the resources ($1.2 billion) and energy put into this program. It's obvious that the new adminstration policy differs from the "layered" system and earliest intercept point envisioned by the previous charter. Testing this vehicle in the fall would also send a clear message that we arn't standing on our laurels in terms of our preparedness. Lastly, since announcing the cancellation, Defense Secretary Gates has repeatedly shown a lack of knowledge about the capabilities offered by this intereptor.


      R Davidson

    3. Michael Ejercito says:

      Christopher Morton put it best.

      Just tell them to build all of the nuclear weapons they want… and

      wish them well in their attempts to eat plutonium.

      After that, they should let their conscience be their guide. And if

      they decide to use nuclear weapons, hey the Chinese have always been

      concerned about a land border with South Korea. A North Korea

      consisting of radioactive glass would solve that problem….

    4. Michael Haltman, New says:

      Full article at The Political and Financial Markets Commentator at http://politicsandfinance.blogspot.com

      President Obama, this is on you. This is not a situation that can credibly be blamed on the Bush administration although I am sure that you will try. No more crap about failed policies of the last 8 years.

      This is not about micro-managing the auto industry. This is not about telling bankers how much they can make. This is not about pandering to Americans by attempting to vilify capitalism and capitalists.

      This nuclear test the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima is because of the weakness that you are showing and your endless rhetoric about 6 party talks and your reliance on the United Nations to serve as the linchpin of our foreign policy.

    5. Mike McMack says:

      Im surprised by the number of people whining about "Obama's weak" responses. It takes a decade to develop nuclear weapons, so the administrations of the past 8 years bear no responsibility? Please, get your heads out of the sand. And just what do you propose that the current administration do? Attack immediately? Sanctions? Let's see how well sanctions have worked in the past: Worked well in Cuba. Castro ran and hid in 1954. Not. What about Iraq? The sanctions there helped Saddam steal UN food and medicine and sell it on the black market. Worked well. Not. And what about Iran? Its gotthem shaking so badly that they're turning up their centrifuges. This constant partisan bickering is really stupid. Obama has no more power than George W or anyone else in stopping nutjob countries from getting the N bomb. But you like to dream don't you. Pakistan has the N bomb, for Christ's sake! How did they get it?

    6. Andy H, coquitlam says:

      6 hiroshima nuclear sized bombs and counting.. 10-20 kilotons is the power of it. relying on UN nor Us wont do any good. no one is that powerful to stop a nuke. why provoke them? leave them be. it cant be helped if they want to research on nuclear weapons- the world peace org has interfered too much. im not saying they have all the right to threaten south korea, we are what made them. kim jong ill is a nutcase but using force will never solve anything

    7. Steve says:

      @ Michael Haltman, New York

      Hey Mike – N. Korea tested a nuke under Bush… something to consider before you post – Facts.

    8. Tom Ponder Port Char says:

      Mike I am so glad you have spent extensive time in Korea to know all about what is going on in that country. I'm glad you know all the secrets both sides of the DMZ have. The fact is that you do not and most of the people that comment on this matter does either. Until you truly understand the history of any country, to include this country, you will not know what actions should be done. Study your history, pleade with D.C. to give up all the secrets they have to you and then you might have the first part of what sould be done in mind. Until then, well you a Couch Coach on Saturday Afternoon.

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