Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Holding Steady on North Korea

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Holding Steady on North Korea

Article excerpt

If Kim Il Sung has heard about Western criticism of Clinton foreign policy as wavering and thinks he can bluff or threaten the United States out of firm action against his nuclear weapons program, he is making a mistake.

On this issue the administration's watchword is resolution. So I believe after conversations here. I do not sense the tentativeness that has marked the search for effective policies in Bosnia and Haiti.

The national security interest in the Korean nuclear question is overpoweringly clear. If five or 10 years from now North Korea were making numbers of nuclear weapons and selling them, with missile systems, to Iran or Iraq or other rogue regimes, it would be a different world: an intolerably more dangerous one.

For three years, under Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, the United States tried to deal with the problem by diplomacy. The North Koreans responded by bobbing and weaving, indicating at times that they would allow full inspection of their nuclear facilities if we opened diplomatic relations, then abruptly barring international inspectors from the site that would have shown whether they had diverted nuclear fuel to bomb-making.

Now the Clinton administration is moving to economic sanctions. Over this past weekend American officials agreed on a sanctions package with two crucial partners, Japan and South Korea. The Japanese government was either less reluctant about the idea than had been reported, or the United States brought it around.

The plan is for sanctions to be applied in phases, becoming increasingly severe if North Korea remains intransigent. For example, a ban on North Koreans in Japan sending money home - they send as much as $1 billion a year - might not be imposed until the second phase. But the entire package has been agreed on and does not have to be renegotiated with Japan or South Korea.

The big question-mark on sanctions is China, North Korea's neighbor and supplier of the one import on which it is most dependent: oil. The Chinese government has been critical of sanctions. But there are also signs that it is worried about the instability caused by the nuclear policy of its longtime ally in Pyongyang. …

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