As thousands of
U.S. troops head toward the Persian Gulf, a situation is
brewing which might ultimately be more dangerous, more destabilizing,
and more complex than the current conflict with Iraq. As with Iraq, the
North Korean regime is hostile and oppressive; as with Iraq, North Korea
possesses weapons of mass destruction; unlike Iraq, North Korea's
weapons are nuclear.
This past October
North Korea admitted that it is conducting operations
to enrich uranium -- a vital process in the manufacture of nuclear
weapons. These operations are in direct violation of several treaties
and agreements signed by the North Korean government.
First, North Korea's actions
are a violation of the Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968 which North Korea signed in 1985
and which, under Article III, requires inspections by the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to verify nonnuclear weapons states are
using nuclear technology only for peaceful means. Second, in 1991,
North Korea signed a treaty with South Korea in which the entire Korean
peninsula was to remain nuclear-free. Third, North Korea's actions
violate the Agreed Framework negotiated with the United States in 1994.
It is the third point that
is the real "thumb in the eye" for the United
States. In 1993, North Korea was threatening to withdraw from the NPT.
It had shut down its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and was removing the
spent nuclear fuel rods. According to reports, these rods contained
enough plutonium to make 5 or 6 nuclear weapons. The IAEA was having
trouble gaining full access to inspections, and the U.N. Security
Council began consideration of economic sanctions against North Korea.
This is when the Clinton administration
stepped in, and with the help of
former president Jimmy Carter, helped negotiate the Agreed Framework of
1994. In this agreement, North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear
weapons program in exchange for the development and construction of two
light-water nuclear reactors and the delivery of 500,000 metric tons of
fuel oil per year. In essence, the Clinton Administration agreed to
deliver nuclear technology to North Korea if North Korea promised to be
good and cease its nuclear weapons program.
Now fast forward to the present
and North Korea has admitted to
enriching uranium in violation of several treaties and has also
reactivated its facilities at Yongbyon in which spent nuclear fuel rods
have previously been removed. The plutonium derived from these spent
fuel rods is a necessary ingredient in the construction of nuclear
North Korea's leader, Kim
Jong-il, is a dictator who starves his own
people, has no concern for human rights, and who is looking to be a
"player" on the world stage. The possession of nuclear weapons
ticket in. With nuclear weapons, Kim Jong-il can apply tremendous
pressure on his neighboring countries. He can also become the premier
arms dealer in the world.
North Korea has also shown
a fondness for selling weapons to rogue
nations and for supporting terrorism. If North Korea is allowed to
continue its nuclear weapons program, then the country will surely
become "nuke central" for terrorist organizations and unsavory
around the world.
So, what is the U.S. to do?
The situation is complex to say the least,
and the debate on possible courses of action has been varied and
South Korea and Japan, two
of North Korea's nearest neighbors, depend
heavily on the United States for defense. There are approximately
37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea and another 50,000 in Japan. North
Korea has a million-man army almost all of which is positioned near the
demilitarized zone bordering South Korea. China borders North Korea to
the North and is a consistent supplier of nuclear technology to its
The U.S., along with South
Korea, Japan, and the European Union, has cut
off fuel oil supplies to North Korea. This type of economic pressure
should continue. Food shipments should not be halted, however. Just as
Bush was concerned about food drops to the Afghan people while we were
bombing the Taliban and al-Qaeda, we should not confuse military actions
with humanitarian aid.
In addition, diplomatic measures
should be used to the fullest extent
possible to pressure North Korea into ending its nuclear ambitions.
Russia and China have stepped forward to denounce the actions of North
Korea, and if the principal countries of the region (Russia, China,
South Korea, and Japan) can speak with a single diplomatic voice, then
chances for a peaceful end to this "crisis" are greatly enhanced.
There are those who now say
that a possible remedy to the situation is
to allow Japan and South Korea to develop nuclear weapons if they so
desire. This is not a realistic course of action at this time and should
not be pursued. Building up nuclear arsenals in the region, might
lessen North Korea's ability to threaten or bully its neighbors with
nuclear weapons, but it does nothing to address the nuclear
North Korea has an affinity
for selling weapons, and it sells them to
the worst of the worst. With nuclear parity in the Southeast Asian
region, North Korea would still be able to sell nuclear weapons to Iraq,
Iran, al-Qaeda, Syria, and on and on.
One element that should be
pursued is a missile defense program for both
Japan and South Korea. This would help neutralize a nuclear advantage
by North Korea without further proliferating nuclear weapons. The
tenets of the NPT are still sound, and even if the countries possessing
nukes are friends and allies, nuclear technology still finds a way of
making it into the wrong hands.
Finally, when the time comes,
we must then take our case to the U.N. and
make the same type of argument we made against Iraq. Working through
the Security Council, we must build a world resolve to maintain a
nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
North Korea cannot be allowed
to have nuclear weapons. This fact should
be obvious to not only the countries of the region, but to the world
community as a whole. A nuclear North Korea is a danger to the United
States whether directly through potential attacks on the U.S., its
friends, and allies, or indirectly through the sale of nuclear weapons
to terrorist organizations and hostile nations. The situation is grave
and will take the use of all our options including that of military
force, if necessary, in order to work it out.
Eberle is President and CEO of GOPUSA
(www.GOPUSA.com), a news, information, and commentary company based
in Houston, TX. He holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Rice University.