[Outlook]The Syrian nuke connetionWe were treated to an odd sight during a hearing at the Committee on Foreign Relations in the United States’ House of Representatives in October.
The hearing was supposed to evaluate the diplomatic policies of the Bush administration, but instead it turned into a highly critical cross-examination of the alleged nuclear-related activities between North Korea and Syria.
Republican representatives turned on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill.
“Why should the six-party talks be continued, and why does the U.S. government agree to begin the process of removing North Korea from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, while there are indications that North Korea might be providing Syria with nuclear production facilities?” they asked.
Some conservatives maintained that the second phase to complete the provisions of the “Feb. 13 Agreement” should even include allegations of the North’s nuclear links with Syria. North Korea strongly denies these allegations, but if the North fails to shed any further light o the matter, it might place an unexpected burden on promoting the six-party talks and normalizing U.S.-North Korean relations.
The reason U.S. political circles are so focused on these alleged links between Syria and North Korea is, if true, they pose a major threat to both the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to Israel’s security. American neocons and the Israeli lobby have significant influence over U.S. diplomatic policies, and they tend to categorize American and Israeli security under the same heading.
According to Russell Kirk, a neocon theorist, Israel serves as a crucial link between the neocons. It’s partially the reason why North Korea was accused of threatening the proliferation of WMDs and placed on the Bush administration’s “axis of evil,” together with Iraq, Iran, and Syria.
Since the Bandung Conference in 1955, the North has intensified international diplomatic competition with the South, carrying the banner of non-alignment and non-hegemonic policies.
Against this backdrop, North Korea has condemned the imperialistic hegemony of the U.S. government and Israeli maneuvers against the Arabs.
At the same time, the North sees Israel as an invader, and has been willing military action by the Arab that promotes Palestinian liberation.
Solidarity between North Korea and the Arabs has been bolstered by maintaining security relations, which go far beyond diplomatic rhetoric.
During the 1967 Six-Day War, the North dispatched 1,500 troops to Syria, including 25 pilots. In addition, during the course of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, also known as the Ramadan War, the North offered relatively large-scale military aid to Syria and Egypt.
It’s no surprise, then, that Israel sees North Korea as a major threat to its security.
This awareness surfaced recently during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in July 2006. Hezbollah, a Shi’a political and paramilitary organization in Lebanon, threatened Israeli security by hitting the outskirts of Tel Aviv with missiles, a powerful display of its military capability.
The Israeli Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, otherwise known as Mossad, partially blames North Korea. They say vital missile components were transferred from North Korea to Iran where the missiles were assembled before transportation to Hezbollah via Syria.
As long as North Korea is thought to pose such a major threat to Israel’s security, normalizing ties with the U.S. will continue to be an extremely challenging task.
Even if the six-party talks are seen to be making progress, the neocons and the Israeli lobby will continue to play a major role in influencing U.S. political circles.
Admittedly, the impact of the neocon and Israeli lobby, which has spearheaded the Bush administration’s policies on the Middle East, is eroding. The failed war on Iraq and the relentless deadlock in the Middle East peace process in relation to Palestine have caused serious damage.
But both forces remain powerful conservative lobbies in U.S. government.
As things stand, North Korea prioritizes the normalization of ties with the U.S. But to achieve its goal, the North must implement carefully designed strategies that will serve to scupper unnecessary allegations involving its relations with Syria and Iran.
The North must start to enact diplomacy aimed at dealing with the changing face of international politics, rather than focusing on the conventional values of ideology-focused diplomacy.
*The writer is a professor of Political Science and Diplomacy at Yonsei University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Moon Chung-in