America, North Korea and Iran

Article excerpt

THE declared view of the Bush Administration is that North Korea is a rogue state with a record of terrorism. It abandoned a 1994 agreement with the Clinton Administration to dismantle its nuclear programme, expelled inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in December 2002 and withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It has, in Kim Jong-il, a leader who is both totalitarian and unpredictable. He is a dictator who has watched two million of his compatriots die of starvation and has imprisoned at least 200,000 others. If he gets usable nuclear weapons, he might pose a significant threat to the United States or supply nuclear weapons to terrorists. He must, therefore, be prevented from acquiring such weapons.

North Korea is a small and backward country with a population of 23 million possessing extremely limited military capabilities and an economy that has disintegrated in the past decade or more. It could, therefore, be strategically contained, even if it did become nuclear armed. This is especially so if, in fact, its nuclear programme is intended to be a deterrent against a feared US attack. The Australian strategic analyst Paul Monk notes:

  The problem is not limited, however, to whether a nuclear-armed North
  Korea could be strategically contained. While it could, in all
  probability, be deterred from attacking either the US or its allies,
  its blatant breakout from the NPT sets a dangerous precedent that
  could lead to the complete breakdown of that treaty. Japan and South
  Korea, it is feared, might go nuclear. Iran might feel it could
  violate or renounce the NPT with impunity. There could be an arms race
  in East Asia, for which North Korea was merely the catalyst. [1]

The solidarity between the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK), however, has been steadily weakening, and this has constrained Washington's policy options regarding North Korea's nuclear programme. The administration of President Roh Moo-hyun has been reluctant to consider any hardline tactics, at times even working to deflect US pressure. [2] As a result, policy coordination with Japan is increasingly important for the United States, and the course of the Japan-Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) relationship will influence near-term US strategy and tactics.

If the Six-Party Talks (involving the US, North Korea, Japan, China, Russia and South Korea) remain unproductive, the United States will eventually have to make a strategic decision about if and how it wants to try to break the stalemate and, regardless of the choice it makes, strong support from Japan will be critical to success. [3] Broadly speaking, US policy makers can either seek to apply greater economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea, or they can pursue a more conciliatory approach. [4] The first option will be difficult without support from China and South Korea, but it could yield some results if Japan enthusiastically backs a hard-line policy. An aggressive US strategy would fall apart, however, if support from Japan or the Japanese public wavered. [5]

North Korea

From the North Korean perspective, a nuclear weapons programme is potentially crucial for their bargaining power with the world community, especially the United States. This is, in part, due to the North Korean idea of 'juche'. Juche, which is the official state ideology, is based on the principle that 'man is the master of everything and decides everything'. Essentially, juche governs the ideology that man must be self-reliant and stand independently of others. According to this principle, then, the nuclear arms programme, from the North Korean perspective, is entirely necessary in maintaining self-reliance, independence and, more importantly, survival in the world community.

In addition, North Korea's missile development has been a source of foreign currency through its exports to 'rogue' nations such as Iran, Syria and Libya. …