North Korea has bounced back into the headlines due to its recent successful nuclear testing conducted on October 9, 2006. This has come hardly months after it tested its Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) in July 2006, which had led to worldwide criticism. The new event has plunged the whole world into a flurry of condemnations. Coming on the heels of its withdrawal from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it appears as if the Korean leader Kim Jong II has thrown a challenge to countries which have been trying to restrain him. This testing puts extreme pressure on the United Nations, which now has to decide upon a strict action against the erring country.
The US Government has always considered Iran and North Korea as part of a major “axis of evil”, of which they have warned the world. North Korea has been historically favored by both China and South Korea, in spite of their various regional differences. The chief reason behind this being that, any kind of problem that would arise in North Korea would lead to a huge refugee influx into both of these countries. A lesser evil as per them would be a nuclear powered North Korea. China and South Korea have found an ally in Russia in their support of North Korea. Though all these countries are under pressure from the US and the UN to convince North Korea to put an end to its nuclear plans, they have not been playing this game. North Korea has been a big market for Russian and Chinese goods. Sanctions against North Korea could put and end to the flourishing business.
A dilemma that both the US and the UN face is that if no action is taken against North Korea, then other countries across the world could also be encouraged into similar activities. Non-nuclear North East Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, etc. may be forced to gear up to face a nuclear competent North Korea, leading to a major arms race in the entire region. Considering all the repercussions of imposing sanctions on North Korea, it is very much possible that both Russia and China will use their veto powers to strike down any action against North Korea.
In a report submitted to the US Congress, R. Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs mentions that there “is a dual track approach comprised specifically of (1) sanctions aimed at penalizing and isolating the North while pressuring them to pursue diplomacy, and a (2) diplomatic track aimed at a negotiating North Korea’s denuclearization. The sanctions also protect the U.S. and our allies from North Korea’s nuclear, WMD, and missile threats, including its proliferation of nuclear, WMD, and missile technologies.”
The diplomatic option is about discussing the situation during the resumption of the Six-Party talks of which the US, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and North Korea are members. Through this meeting, the five members need to make it clear to North Korea in no uncertain terms that these kind of irresponsible acts will not be accepted and a denuclearized Korea is topmost priority.
The alternate option that is available is “to fully and effectively enforce the sanctions against North Korea and to get the international partners to do the same.” Burns also states that “UN Security Council Resolution 1718 required Member States to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to North Korea of a specified list of conventional weapons, and items, material, equipment, goods and technology, which could contribute to their nuclear, ballistic missile, or other WMD-related programs. UNSCR 1718 additionally banned the transfer of luxury goods to North Korea.”
The decision in this regard has to be taken jointly by the United Nations as well as the United States and the other four countries. It has to be noted that whatever decision is taken in this regard should be strong enough to deter other countries from taking a nuclear route in blatant disregard of norms laid down by the United Nations.
- Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, U S Government “U.S. Policy Toward North Korea”
November 16, 2006. November 29, 2006. <http://www.state.gov/p/us/rm/2006/76178.htm>