North Korea update; Update: UNSC approves sanctions

posted at 11:44 am on October 13, 2006 by Bryan

We have a window of opportunity to deal with a North Korea that has played all of its cards. We know that it wants nuclear weapons and that it wants ICBM technology and that it has the will to use both, and thanks to its failed tests this year we know that as of now it doesn’t possess either one. Its missiles don’t work and its nuke was a dud. But that won’t be true forever.

This raises an interesting possibility, both with regard to the North Korean programs and the parallel Iranian nuclear and missile programs. They both start from the same sources: missiles, the old Soviet SCUD technology; and nukes, the AQ Khan network. It’s possible that to the extent that the Iranians and North Koreans have shared technology and expertise, North Korea’s failures are also Iranian failures (Iranian scientists were reportedly in North Korea to observe the July missile tests). That may be why Iran promised the other day, in what seemed like defiance in the face of uncomfortable facts, to keep on developing nukes. Iran may have seen the North Korean dud as a reflection of its own nuclear and missile programs. With the missile and nuclear tests conducted this year, both North Korea and Iran apparently thought they were laying down a full house, but it turned out they only had a pair of 9s. Not a terrible hand, but not one that’s all that difficult to beat if you know how to play the game.

Unfortunately, we don’t seem to know how to play the game anymore. In his first term, President Bush developed a reputation as a poker player, constantly outmaneuvering the Democrats while staying a step or two ahead of international opponents, but in his second term he has let the Democrats and pretty much everyone else get the better of him (and then the Republicans actually banned internet poker). It’s hard to see the administration now as anything other than a rump of its former self, and that may become even more true after November’s elections. Right now, the Chinese and Russians seem to be gaining the upper hand against us again, using the UN once again to keep North Korea from experiencing much meaningful punishment for its reckless nuclear and missile tests. China and Russia consistently talk a good game when North Korea acts, but then do everything in their power to block serious UN action. The UNSC is supposedly nearing agreement on North Korea, but notice how far things have already moved: There won’t be any reference to Chapter 7, which means there won’t be any hint of using force, nor will there even be a full arms embargo against one of the most aggressive and dangerous governments in the world. This can’t be the outcome that the Bush administration wanted. It’s certainly not the outcome our allies in Tokyo wanted. But it’s what China and Russia wanted, and it’s what we’re all apparently going to get. If we blockade North Korea, it will only be in concert with allies and won’t have the blessing of the UN. I personally couldn’t care less about the UN’s sacraments, but most of the world does. If the blockade sparks a war, we’re likely to be blamed for it.

China has acted entirely out of self-interest. It doesn’t want to deal with a refugee crisis on its border and thus doesn’t want either a war or even a regime collapse in Pyongyang. China also doesn’t want a Korea united under a democratic, capitalist government, at least not yet. China continues to feed North Korea and provide it with fuel to keep North Koreans, starving though they are, on their side of the border and divided by the DMZ from their cousins in the south. But the so-called world community would rather look the other way and let China let North Koreans suffer while their government becomes ever more dangerous. If we still knew how to play the game, we would ratchet up criticism of China for enabling North Korea, but we don’t know how to do that anymore. Russia has acted mostly out of weakness: Using the UN is the only way it can have much political effect on the world outside its borders, and it doesn’t want to give the US any room to maneuver in what Russia regards as its neighborhood. Russia may also be acting out of spite against its longtime enemy, Japan. Like China, Russia deserves criticism for shielding North Korea from deep punishment, but like China, Russia won’t face any international criticism.

Japan is the one country in the region that seems to be acting rationally and consistently to deal with the threat that Kim Jong-Il poses. True, it is also acting out of self-interest, but it’s a self-interest that happens to be good for the world because it helps contain North Korea and starve it of cash. Japan unilaterally slapped very tough trade sanctions on North Korea, and was tested today when about two dozen North Korean merchant ships approached Japanese ports looking for business. The Japanese turned them away and refused to do any business with them. North Korea depends on trade with Japan, where many ethnic North Koreans live and remit cash back to their relatives in North Korea. Japan’s sanctions will bite, and soon.

The bottom line now is that the United Nations will probably prove to be useless in preventing crisis again. China and Russia will use their vetoes to water down any punishment, and the US will acquiesce rather than play hardball and get them to stop protecting North Korea. South Korea will duck. Japan will do what it has to do to survive, with our without help from anyone else including us. We’ll work with our allies and use the Proliferation Security Initiative as well as we can, but as long as China props North Korea up Kim will go on menacing the world. This won’t solve the North Korea problem, and will only kick it down the road until North Korea’s missiles and nuclear weapons actually work. The window for dealing with a mostly toothless North Korea will have passed. And when North Korea’s weapons work, so will Iran’s.

Unilateralism has its disadvantages, but in the current environment multilateralism may have even more. You can’t depend on despots to do anything other than protect their own narrow self-interests. Expecting them to do anything else is naive and foolish, and failing to leverage the political environment against them will probably lead to very serious problems and confrontations in a year or two. And the UN these days is dominated, or at least stymied, by despots in Beijing and Moscow. It’s unlikely to be very useful for the foreseeable future.

Update (AP): They’ve agreed on a resolution. The vote’s expected tomorrow morning:

In a concession to China, the U.S. dropped explicit reference to a part of the UN Charter that would make sanctions militarily enforceable, changing it to Article 41 of Chapter 7, which only authorizes diplomatic and economic sanctions. Agreement on a draft Security Council resolution circulated by the U.S. on North Korea sanctions had been held up because of opposition from China and Russia.

The resolution would bar the sale or transfer of missiles, warships, tanks, attack helicopters and combat aircraft, as well as missile- and nuclear-related goods to the North Korean regime. So-called “luxury goods” would also be banned, though there hasn’t been any specific mention of which items would fall into this category…

The resolution also demands that North Korea return to the so-called six-party talks, aimed at disarming its weapons program, and eliminate its nuclear and missile programs.

Japan will also impose unilateral sanctions, including a ban on NK imports.

Is Kim ready to come back to the table?

Update: What do you know? It was a nuke test! A … failed nuke test.

Update (Saturday afternoon): Sanctions are a go. Fox just broadcast the vote at the Security Council. 15-0.


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Comments

“Its missiles don’t work and its nuke was a dud.”

Its hotels are pretty sweet. though.

Alright, humor aside I see eye-to-eye with you on your thesis—100%. You’ve hit all the major points and I hope someone with your intellect and understanding is on the President’s team of advisors.

Christoph on October 13, 2006 at 11:56 AM

Very well done Bryan. The UN is useless, and not looking to improve any time soon.

MT on October 13, 2006 at 12:09 PM

And the UN these days is dominated, or at least stymied, by despots in Beijing and Moscow. It’s unlikely to be very useful for the foreseeable future.

Why does the Bush administration consider the U.N. to be sacrosanct? This charade is really getting to be embarrassing and dangerous to our security.

How about setting up a new framework for security? A “Security Council” outside the U.N.: Australia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and other prosperous, pro-freedom allies. No dictatorships (China) allowed. Anything is better than this U.N. Security Council farce. By annointing the U.N. sacrosanct, Bush is relying on enemies (China and Russia) for our security and the stability of Asia.

januarius on October 13, 2006 at 12:10 PM

Interesting analysis.
I still have hope for this administration though. Bush has let Domestic political calculations drive his agenda since his numbers sank. If the GOP can maintain one or both houses this Fall I expect Bush’s foreign policy to become much more robust.
Interesting times.

there it is on October 13, 2006 at 12:16 PM

I’m not seeing where our ‘opportunity’ is. It’s great that N. Korea doesn’t have working missiles or nukes, and is largely toothless as you say. But what can we do to stop them from finally developing them, when they have China and Russia in their pocket? If Japan’s sanctions hit hard as you state, China will just bump up it’s support of N. Korea to compensate.

So, we have a few more years of relative safety from Mr. Il. But what opportunity do we actually have? Attacking them?

Kevin M on October 13, 2006 at 12:17 PM

Japan is acting less out of self interest and more out of self defense… to be accurate.

Cary on October 13, 2006 at 12:40 PM

Unilateralism has its disadvantages, but in the current environment multilateralism may have even more. You can’t depend on despots to do anything other than protect their own narrow self-interests.

That about nails it.

Well said.

EFG on October 13, 2006 at 12:42 PM

You know what will make the Chinese play ball and sanction NK? A Mexican economy pumping out goods to compete with Chinese imports. That would give us great leverage on China. Hello Mexico try being our ally for once.

Theworldisnotenough on October 13, 2006 at 12:47 PM

I’d announce today that the USA, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea are forming a coalition to blockade the N. Koreans from further shipments of any and all armaments…

canvas on October 13, 2006 at 12:57 PM

Speaking of playing ball, did you read the article linked on Drudge about the sat photos showing NK nuke techs playing volleyball? Like, a few hundred feet from where the “nuke” went off?

DaveS on October 13, 2006 at 1:01 PM

Amazing analysis, with angles I hadn’t considered prior. I personally think the key is the precedental nature of our actions.

As has been stated prior, more than anything, many countries are standing on the sidelines to see not only how the world reacts to NorKo, but most importantly, how the world will manage to undermine America’s effectiveness as a worldwide diplomatic player. This issue doesn’t just end at NorKo’s nuclear program, nor at the proliferation of such technologies…what we do will set a precedent for our ongoing ability to implement diplomatic resolutions, and influence world affairs. As our abilities to do so decrease, our enemies’ willingness to test the limits of acceptability conversely increases.

from here.

E.T.Cook on October 13, 2006 at 1:02 PM

Great article Bryan.

Speakup on October 13, 2006 at 1:02 PM

They might have more success if their engineers ate a little more often.

Wander on October 13, 2006 at 1:06 PM

Unilateralism has its disadvantages…

But if one must choose, it is better to be feared than loved, for you decide whether they fear you, but they decide whether they love you.

Kralizec on October 13, 2006 at 1:55 PM

Volleyball.

No, it’s relevant, really. What’s more… no radioactive isotopes.

What do these two things have in common?

Christoph on October 13, 2006 at 2:58 PM

It’s hard to see how China and Russia can view a nuke arms race in their neighborhood as to their advantage. But a Japan, Taiwan, S. Korea, Australia, able to defend themselves with their own nukes is much to our advantage. Are we sure we want NoKo to cease and desist?

dhimwit on October 13, 2006 at 4:08 PM

Yes, NK wants to talk (6 parties), but this is what they have in mind:

North Korea “wishes in the nearest future to settle through negotiations the problems connected with the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsular,” Alexeyev told Itar-Tass in an interview.

…read “no nukes” in both Koreas!

Entelechy on October 13, 2006 at 4:09 PM

NK might have the bomb but doesn’t have light – striking picture!

Entelechy on October 13, 2006 at 4:14 PM

Democrats can be blamed for many of the problems we are encountering when trying to deal with the NK situation.

They have, with the willing help of a few RINO’s, managed to keep Bolton from being nominated. That sends a message to the U.N. that they don’t have to take the U.S. representative too seriously, thus they don’t.

The liberal MSM, in lock step with Congressional Liberals, have pushed the idea that America has already lost both the war in Iraq, and the war against terrorism. Indeed, if we were to believe these sources we would conclude that our economy is in the tank, the stock market is about to crash, the “housing bubble” has burst, and Bush is responsible for both 9/11, and the creation of Katrina. Yes, they demand that you believe that America is in ruins, and Bush is Satan.

The MSM first touted the POTUS failure in keeping NK from having nuclear weapons, and now tells us that NK has failed in getting a working nuke. So which is it? No matter the outcome, we must all admit that Bush is a total failure. Well, you can believe that fairy tale [no homosexual bash intended] if you want, but I’m not buying it!

Both China, and Russia are playing a political game with NK, and Iran as their willing pawns. This game could easily backfire on them IF America would get behind our commander-in-chief. Bush could run rough shod on these countries, and the U.N. if he had our support, but it appears that too many are willing to destroy our country in order to give political gain to a few. The choice is yours. You can continue to surrender, or decide it is time to fight.

DannoJyd on October 13, 2006 at 4:35 PM

I’m sure IRAN is watching this useless, pathetic UN crap and turing up the dials on their own nuclear reactors. It’s embarassing that we have to even think we have to talk to the UN about anything.

Must breathe deeply, must calm down…

SouthernGent on October 13, 2006 at 4:48 PM

If a picture was ever worth 1000 words, our current U.N. Ambassador’s is.

Entelechy on October 13, 2006 at 4:52 PM

First, fire everyone over at state that doesn’t toe the “POTUS is the boss” line. If they do without paychecks for awhile, it might teach them a thing or two.

BOOT THE U.N. TO THE CURB/OUT OF THE US.The american public needs to actively sacrifice something for the war cause. I SUGGEST THAT IT BE THE 9/10 MINDSET THAT PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY STILL POSSESS.

Pull a “Patton” and give the new recruits broad incentives to “make it work” over at state or they get replaced.

Washington needs a shakeup, too many are treating this as a war we have already won.

WE CAN STILL LOSE THIS WAR!!!

tormod on October 13, 2006 at 7:53 PM

It’s time to insert a missle defense system into Northern South Korea and Ballistic Missles into Southern South Korea. This is for the aiming of China not the NOKERS. We should consider any nuke or attack as comming from China.

Egfrow on October 13, 2006 at 8:52 PM

Thanks a bunch, Bryan, well done.

Several posters have expressed sentiments I’m sure we all feel: Why hasn’t the administration repudiated the U.N. and taken matters to our trustworthy allies for action?

My fear is that it isn’t simply the President trying to appease, though that’s bad enough, or calculating in a way we wish he wouldn’t, but is instead an ideological principle of our President to take the globalist stance. It is in keeping with his father’s history, and is the only logical way to reconcile his clear inaction regarding borders and immigration.

If he thinks that taking the right steps can eventually create a peaceful one-world system, he is badly mistaken. But a person is allowed to be mistaken. What’s worse is that if true, this ideology drives him to subordinate that which he swore to defend, the U.S. Constitution, to international opinion, rules, and laws. That cannot be allowed to continue.

This question needs to be confronted, and the President forced to show his hand if true. I remain convinced that he is a good man, and am ecstatic that he, not Al Gore was in the Oval office on 11 September 2001 and since. But the structure of the nation is more important than any person, and wrong decisions from leadership harm us all.

Freelancer on October 13, 2006 at 9:06 PM

It’s time to insert a missle defense system into Northern South Korea

Actually, I believe the best missile defense is what the pros call “Pre-Boost Phase Interdiction”. Make of it what you will….

HerrMorgenholz on October 13, 2006 at 10:06 PM

Interesting historical comparison at JWR.

starflyer on October 13, 2006 at 10:17 PM

NoKo is believed to have tens of thousand missiles aimed toward the south. Seoul is approx 35 miles south of the DMZ. The missiles do not have to be terribly accurate to kill millions in the south. Secondly, the NoKo’s have the majority dug deep into the mountains making them all but impossible to eliminate from the air. A military option is undoable with out us using tactical nukes to take them out. Even then some will remain. Lets not forget that the NoKo’s have chemical weapons to fire. There really is no military option available without severe civilian casualties.

rockdalian on October 13, 2006 at 11:38 PM

Whatchya gonna do? Whatchya gonna do if Kimmie goes for two?

Bad boy, bad boy, whatchya gonna do when special ops comes for you.

Kimmie is an extreme egomaniac with two big friends.
Santions mean zilch, nada, to this guy, only when his life hangs in the balance will he come to the table.
That’s why he instantly retaliates with escalation, his only concern is his own skin.
His ease with which he sacrifices the lives of millions is proof that they are just spendable currency to him.

Even as he is positive that his life will end, he’d still rather climb a tree and lie versus stand on the ground and tell the truth. When the truth would serve better (sounds like B. Clinton).

Only when this bad boy is ready to take exile on Bintan Island will the world be free to move on from his threats.

Speakup on October 13, 2006 at 11:44 PM

It’s hard to see how China and Russia can view a nuke arms race in their neighborhood as to their advantage. But a Japan, Taiwan, S. Korea, Australia, able to defend themselves with their own nukes is much to our advantage. Are we sure we want NoKo to cease and desist?

dhimwit on October 13, 2006 at 4:08 PM

I’m 100% sure. There is absolutely no telling in what direction that jackass will fling a horribly inaccurate missile. It could be SK, Japan, China, Russia, Thailand, etc. (maybe even as far as the US or Australia if they get their missile issues resolved). There is no telling WHY he would do it.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I do not wish a surprise nuclear detonation on anyone. As much as Russia and China piss me off, it’s not their people that do it. It’s their governments (much like the US government finds a way to piss me off every day, and I live here).

If NK starts lobbing nuclear tipped missiles around, it’s not going to be those governments that will suffer per se. It’s going to be innocents who are just trying to go about their daily lives with no fuss that eat the detonation. Even if the missiles land in unpopulated areas, there would be widespread fallout issues.

It’s simply better that NK doesn’t have them. We don’t need them do do any “dirty work” for us. If we ever have to go to war against China or Russia, we can do the job.

American_Jihadist on October 13, 2006 at 11:55 PM

Bryan,

I wouldn’t equate the Iranian and Norko programs too much. Iran is pursuing a uranium track while the Norko’s have concentrated on Plutonium (though they supposedly started a uranium enrichment program in the past few years). The technology and requirements for producing the fissile material for each is vastly different and so are the weapon designs.

NPP on October 14, 2006 at 12:30 AM

We don’t need them do do any “dirty work” for us. If we ever have to go to war against China or Russia, we can do the job.

I wouldn’t call being able to defend oneself without depending on the USA doing our “dirty work”. We have enough on our plate without having to charge to the rescue of, say, Taiwan. As for taking on China/Russia/Islam?, let it be on our terms and schedule.

dhimwit on October 14, 2006 at 7:36 AM

Bryan another great insight

In his first term, President Bush developed a reputation as a poker player, constantly outmaneuvering the Democrats while staying a step or two ahead of international opponents, but in his second term he has let the Democrats and pretty much everyone else get the better of him – Bryan

Can we be sure? A good poker player doesn’t go bad. Bush knows more of the cards than we do. He may be playing better than appears. Or he could be an idiot. You cannot tell the difference in a good game.

“China also doesn’t want a Korea united under a democratic, capitalist government, at least not yet – Bryan”

Or ever? Keeping Korea weak by division makes them less competition for market share and drains the USA. China loves one people, the Chinese.

The ideal way to deal with Korea is to make them a problem to China. Only then will China act.

Deep inside I had a dream that the fools in the North would cause a health threat to China – in some way, radiation, destroying a bunch of paying customers, threatening the drinking water.

Blockading the NOrth may not hurt China, it may help. Open up more trade. Make the North more dependent.

If only the North could impact Walmart orders to Chinese factories.

There is a memorial in North Korea, the Juche Tower. Makes me think of the Arizona 911 memorial. Has 82 frienship plaques around the base. What we have to do is see who those friends are.

entagor on October 14, 2006 at 11:03 AM

entagor, the chinese have already had two spills that caused them to pollute a river:

Intl. Herald Tribune, 12/21/2005,
A toxic waste spill from a zinc smelter, the second environmental disaster to hit China in weeks, forced one city to halt water supplies from a southern Chinese river for eight hours and threatened other cities downstream, state media said on Wednesday.

The accident comes as the Chinese government is still trying to cope with the results of an explosion at a chemical plant in northeast China last month which poisoned drinking water for millions and sent a toxic spill heading to neighboring Russia.

The latest spill dumped the chemical cadmium into the North River, which cuts across the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. Water taken from the river in the city of Shaoguan – about 250 kilometers, or 155 miles, north of Hong Kong – found cadmium levels 10 times above normal amounts, The Guangzhou Daily said Wednesday.

“It has been confirmed that the Shaoguan smelter illegally discharged the cadmium-containing waste water during an overhaul of equipment,” the newspaper said.

china is full of fools, and cannot be relied on to do anything, they are going to self-destruct. IMHO.

tormod on October 14, 2006 at 12:58 PM

What kind of sanctions are we talking Bryan? Just curious as to what happens next.

wytammic on October 14, 2006 at 2:40 PM

Naval blockade, for sure. Intensify aerial patrols and engagements along the DMZ.

The North Koreans may get violent — as I’ve pointed out in other forums, the North Koreans are begging to be destroyed by the US military. It will be up to them as to how that takes place.

The weapons that destroy North Korea’s threat are those the North Koreans never see, can’t defeat, and pretend we don’t possess in huge numbers.

Spider Dan on October 14, 2006 at 3:06 PM

I mean it can’t hurt, but does this really change anything? I just refer back to the last set of major sanctions. Iraq. They didn’t really do much there and I believe they were Chapter 7 (military consequences). These are not. I guess it is nice to know all are on the general same page but I doubt this will solve anything. If anything it may push DPRK back to 6-party talks, then something may be accomplished. Wish I could be more optimistic, but anytime the UN is involved well… need I say more?

mdconservative on October 14, 2006 at 4:08 PM

As of now we know, according to the MSM, that Kim did have a Nuclear test using ACME components, and the U.N. managed to pass a resolution that will again accomplish nothing.

Woo freaken hoo.

DannoJyd on October 14, 2006 at 6:21 PM

UN “Security” Council resolutions mean little or nothing. U.S. diplomatic efforts at the U.N. just distract Americans, exhaust Presidential administrations, and make the U.S. look stupid and weak.

I admit I’m no mindreader, but I keep vaguely perceiving a local attachment to the UN at HotAir. The UN is acknowledged to be corrupt, feckless, and anti-American, but is somehow still held to be worth bringing up for purposes other than disparagement. Of course, any mention of the UN does acquire some instrumental value when it provokes my own disparagement.

Kralizec on October 15, 2006 at 12:03 AM

And the UN these days is dominated, or at least stymied, by despots in Beijing and Moscow. It’s unlikely to be very useful for the foreseeable future.

Why does the Bush administration consider the U.N. to be sacrosanct? This charade is really getting to be embarrassing and dangerous to our security.

Why do you think this is new or in any way unique to the Bush administration?

The only reason there was a U.N. involvement in the Korean war in the first place was because the USSR was boycotting the Security Council for recognizing Chiang Kai-shek’s government in Taiwan. If not for this Soviet miscalculation, they would have vetoed the U.N. resolution authorizing force to defend South Korea and it would be communist.

Bush didn’t set it up this way, it was the five major powers at the end of WW2. Now, this is a daft idea I think, but it’s how things are. And why France has a veto on the Security Council, but India doesn’t is just one of those historical oddities that come when you win a major war.

Because darn it all, France fought so heroically and the Indians didn’t.

/sarcasm off

Seriousness on: Many French fought herorically.

Christoph on October 15, 2006 at 12:23 PM

Hey, I tried to do a double blockquote, but this site wouldn’t let me. The item in blockquote above was the first one… the next paragraph:

Why does the Bush administration consider the U.N. to be sacrosanct? This charade is really getting to be embarrassing and dangerous to our security.

… was the commentator whom I was responding to. My comment is everything below that.

Christoph on October 15, 2006 at 12:24 PM

china is full of fools, and cannot be relied on to do anything, they are going to self-destruct. IMHO.

tormod

That is my fearful assumption too. They are too clever by half. I fear the Chinese would be happy if half the world incinerated if it left them with the other half. China makes me think of America during the westward expansion, the era of the robber barons and supercapitalists but without the Western Judeo-Christian underlayment to reign them in. Current technology now allows so much more damage to be inflicted in the consumption-spree. Stalinist robber barons.

Nprth Korea is a nation of one stalinist robber baron. Or their leader is a puppet of a cabal of top-feeders.

entagor on October 15, 2006 at 12:42 PM