Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

United Front Needed against North Korea

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

United Front Needed against North Korea

Article excerpt

ONCE again, the world has been treated to the spectacle of an aging dictator defying the wishes of the global community. This week North Korea is holding a session of its Supreme People's Assembly, with the usual flourishes showing Kim Il Sung, the Great and Beloved Leader, receiving the adulation of millions. Pyongyang is showing continued defiance of United Nations admonitions to accept inspection of its nuclear facilities. Mr. Kim seems intent on acquiring the bomb, and his minions say they will regard any imposition of economic sanctions as an act of war.

Neither the United States nor any of North Korea's neighbors - South Korea, China, Russia, or Japan - wants Pyongyang to become a nuclear power. Yet no one knows how to stop it.

Washington's approach has been the most clear-cut. It doesn't want nuclear proliferation, period. It is trying to keep Iran from acquiring the bomb. It has brought strong pressure on Pakistan over the years not to go nuclear, although this has been difficult given that its powerful next-door neighbor, India, exploded a nuclear device years ago.

The Clinton administration inherited the policy of previous administrations on nuclear proliferation. All proliferation is dangerous, but the case of North Korea poses the greatest immediate threat: first, because the regime headed by Kim and his son Jong Il is idiosyncratic and unpredictable; second, because it seems capable of developing both a bomb and a means of delivery relatively soon - perhaps in a couple of years; and third, because of North Korea's highly sensitive geostrategic neighborhood. Russia, China, and Japan are its immediate neighbors, while the US has treaty obligations to defend both South Korea and Japan.

In the UN, Russia seems ready to go along with the US view that sanctions must be imposed if North Korea continues to refuse nuclear inspection. China's attitude is much more problematic, and as a Security Council member with veto powers, it must be persuaded to agree to sanctions if they are to have any practical effect. Almost all of North Korea's oil comes from China.

Behind China's advice to go slow on sanctions lies a dilemma: China doesn't want North Korea to acquire nuclear capability. …

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