[VIEWPOINT]It’s now time to move past wordsPresident George W. Bush of the United States sent a strong warning to North Korea on Monday by saying, “North Korea has defied the will of the international community, and the international community will respond.” President Bush reiterated his commitment to “a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula,” and also gave a strong warning against “nuclear proliferation” by North Korea. However, the key part of Mr. Bush’s statement was that “threats will not lead to a brighter future for the North Korean people.”
On the same day, Christopher Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, gave a further explanation about Mr. Bush’s statement. He said the United States would do all it could to let the North know there was no future for the country as long as it was armed with nuclear weapons. He made it clear that the United States would take the necessary steps to impose pressure and put sanctions on Pyongyang so it will give up its nuclear weapons.
In other words, the United States has decided to take the role of erasing the future from the minds of the North Korean leadership.
The Bush administration had already decided to impose pressure on the North Korean regime, because the administration believes the regime in the North has no intention of giving up its nuclear development program.
Washington has judged that such a strategy would be an effective way to solve the North Korean nuclear issue, a national security issue for the United States, because for the regime in North Korea, its security is more important than national security due to the peculiarity of the North’s political system.
Therefore, Washington has imposed pressure on the regime’s security by raising issue with the Kim Jong-il regime’s “illegal financial activities” and “human rights violations” and trying to induce North Korea to give up its nuclear development program in return for compensation at the six-party talks. This strategy remains valid even after the North’s nuclear test.
Through the United Nations, Washington will try to highlight the fact that the North Korean nuclear issue is not a bilateral problem between the United States and North Korea, but an international issue. The UN Security Council strongly demanded that North Korea observe the council’s resolution 1695 through the “chairman’s statement” adopted on Friday that urged the North to abandon its plan to test nuclear devices, and made it clear that the council would take action in accordance with its responsibility under the UN Charter ― that is, sanctions under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter ― if the North ignored the statement.
Now that the North ignored the statement, it is highly likely that the council will adopt a resolution that reflects Chapter 7 sooner or later. The United States has already presented a draft resolution that demands sanctions on North Korea according to Chapter 7.
The United States will try to maximize the effect of sanctions by imposing a “tailored blockade” of launching intense attacks on weak points of North Korea when a resolution is adopted at the UN Security Council.
It will take such measures as inducing stronger financial sanctions on North Korean financial companies, expanding the application of the proliferation security initiative, a maritime blockade of North Korean products and the strengthening of the missile defense system, by stages. In the course of taking such measures, it is important what attitudes South Korea and China will take.
Except for the nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, it is difficult for the United States to decide on other military targets in North Korea in case the United States decides to take military action.
As long as the North does not challenge the U.S. nuclear non-proliferation policy by revealing its intention to sell nuclear weapons to terrorist groups in the Middle East, it seems that Washington will refrain from taking military action against North Korea as long as possible.
But if Washington decides that the North Korean regime has been confronted with a crisis that it can hardly resist, the situation will change.
If the United States loses confidence that the North will not use its last card, there is a possibility the crisis will be amplified. The comment by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that, “I think North Korea intends to sell its nuclear weapons,” was made with the worst case scenario in mind.
Ultimately, between North Korea’s nuclear weapons and the future of the nation, South Korea must choose the latter on the basis of watertight South Korea-U.S. cooperation, in order to make the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free and accomplish national unification.
Going beyond the level of sending strong warning messages to North Korea, this is time for us to show with action why North Korea should not possess nuclear weapons together with international society.
* The writer is a professor at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Sung-han