2003 March 13 Thursday
China Blocks UN Security Council Resolution On North Korea
China is blocking a UN Security Council statement condemning North Korea for its nuclear weapons development program.
UNITED NATIONS: China on Thursday acknowledged blocking major powers from discussing the North Korea crisis at the United Nations, saying it was pushing instead for a dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang.
A slightly shorter version of the story is here.
The UN Security Council will not force Iraq to disarm or act to prevent North Korea from becoming a nuclear power. This is to be expected. China is a member and China's regime sees the North Korean regime as both helpful in the maintenance of the stability of the Beijing regime and as a proxy for challenging the United States. The UN is once again demonstrating that it is irrelevant to the national security needs of the United States because various of its members see increasing threats to the national security of the United States as in their own best interest.
The biggest lever the United States has with China is trade. China needs to sell to the United States a lot more than the United States needs to buy what China makes. There are other suppliers after all. Will the US play the trade card with China to get China to use its own economic levers against the North Korean regime?
How much does China need US trade? As Christopher Horton points out China has a large population of unemployed workers who are already a threat to the Beijing government.
Wang also estimated that there was a floating population of 150 million rural laborers in the countryside who drifted in search of work. It doesn't take a political scientist or historian to realize out how volatile these immense numbers of unemployed urbanites and poor migrant laborers could become. Indeed, Zhu asserted that "agricultural, village and farmers' problems relate to the overall situation of China's reform, opening and modernization. We cannot neglect them or relax at any time."
Barriers to trade with the United States would increase unemployment to a level that could bring down the Beijing regime. Therefore the United States has a very powerful card to play if Bush decides to play it.
Oh, but won't the lefties squeal about the human tragedy of US sanctions? Not that a dangerous repressive communist regime could possibly cause any suffering. Nope, only the US can do that.
So let me see if I got this right:
Irag is attempting to construct nuclear weapons and currently possesses chemical & biological weapons. And the U.S. is being pushed by several Security Council member-nations to deal with Iraq only through and with the approval of the UN Security Council.
North Korea currently possesses nuclear weapons and admits the desire to build more (and, BTW, probably is in possession of chemical and biological weapons as well.) North Korea has also threatened South Korea, implicitly, by threatening to withdraw from the Armistice Agreement it has with South Korea. And the U.S. is being pushed by China, a member of the UN Security Council to deal with this problem alone.
Can someone please tell me why we are part of the UN?
There are three (primary) problems with your proposed strategy of cutting off trade with China to force them to squeeze North Korea into giving up its nuclear weapons program:
1) Economic sanctions are very blunt instruments that rarely harm dictators but always harm their people. This may be acceptable if we know that the dictatorship's internal security apparatus is weak enough to be overthrown by a popular revolt. The opposite is probably true in the short term. The Chinese Communist Party appears to have the will to use force on a large scale and appears to have the loyalty of the secret police and the Peoples Liberation Army.
2) Economic sanctions against the Chinese will strengthen Chinese popular support for the Communist dictators, in the short term, and may push the Chinese to openly side with the North Koreans. The Chinese population is very nationalistic. Remember the reaction to the accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia? That doesn't mean we should never use the trade weapon against the Chinese. However, we should use it when we want to go after China directly, not over N. Korea.
3) Economic strangulation doesn't deal directly, or quickly, with N. Korea's development of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missile technology. It also does not deal directly with the possibility of N. Korean sale of nuclear weapons to terrorist groups or other rogue states. Finally, it does not deal with the possibility that N. Korea will act on its threats to attack S. Korea, Japan, and the United States if sanctions are imposed on it. Time is the issue here. N. Korea will not immediately collapse if China cuts off all trade and aid. The N. Korean population is already destitute and enduring large food shortages but this has not made Kim Jong-Il's regime more cooperative. If anything, it has made them more aggressive and more willing to sell weaponry to anyone with cash.
So what do we do to safeguard our security? First, accept that there are no good choices with N. Korea. Second, accept the fact that the problem is not N. Korea's nuclear weapon program or its development of long-range missile technology. The problem is the core nature of the Stalinist regime in Pyongyang. They will not change their nature and become believers in representative democracy, free market economics, and international peace and goodwill. They will always be hostile to the United States and its allies and they will alway be proliferators of weapons technology to our enemies. Third, accept the fact that regime change is the only way to solve this core problem.
Fourth, accept the fact that this means war with N. Korea sooner or later. Fifth, accept the fact that fighting a war in the near future on our terms will be much better for us, and S. Korea and Japan, than waiting for them to strike first and/or transfer nuclear weapons to Islamic terrorists. Sixth, accept the fact that a limited strike against the Yongbyon reactor complex will not be enough. We also need to remove the threat from the N. Korean Army poised on the DMZ near Seoul.
Seventh, accept the fact that this will probably mean the pre-emptive use of tactical nuclear weapons against N. Korea. We may be able to destroy the N. Korean Army along the DMZ with large numbers of super conventional weapons but I doubt it. Eight, accept the fact that this will probably occur in the next 6-12 months. If the N. Koreans reactivate the Yongbyon nuclear reactor and remove the existing 8,000 (+) plutonium rods, they could build at least one nuclear weapon per month. And this is in addition to any nuclear material they may develop from the separate uranium enrichment program that was recently exposed.
As I said above, we have no good choices in this situation. We can try appeasing them again. Unfortunately, it hasn't worked before and I don't see why it would work any better over the long term this time. Temporary appeasement is probably a good tactical choice while we finish off Iraq. (A tip of the hat to Charles Krauthammer's excellent column on this issue). If temporary negotiations and some food/energy/financial aid (bribes) can slow down N. Korea's nuclear weapons program, it is worth doing. But we should be under no illusions. N. Korea was able to secretly work on enriching uranium for at least four years before we caught them in 2002. We would be incredibly naive to believe that they will stop working on nuclear weapons while we negotiate with them. Sooner or later, we will have to destroy the N. Korean regime or face nuclear ICBMs targeting Hawaii and the Western states AND nuclear-armed Islamic terrorist groups. I vote for sooner.
Jim, I agree that all of the options are bad. I'm not advocating the economic sanctions option ahead of the other options. If you look at my other posts on North Korea you'll see I have discussed some other options. I think an effort to break the information monopoly of the North Korean regime over its people is an option that hasn't gotten enough attention. It may be too late to use that option before a preemptive strike becomes necessary. However, unless the military strike brings down the regime a covert program to smuggle in books and radios ought to be pursued on a large scale.
A preemptive strike against the nuclear weapons facilities runs up against one big problem: we do not know where the uranium enrichment facilities are located. That's a long post on North Korea but you will find a link to an article by John Diamond about the limits of US intelligence information on North Korea.
Randall, I like your idea about breaking the information monopoly of the DPRK over its oppressed people. It probably will not work fast enough to bring down the regime in the time frame that is required. However, it may be an excellent way to prepare the N. Korean people for a change of regime.
I failed to make clear in my earlier post that invasion and occupation of N. Korea will be necessary, in addition to pre-emptive strikes against the Yongbyong reactor complex and the N. Korean Army on the DMZ. You very correctly pointed out that we don't know where the uranium enrichment facilities are. The only way we will ever know completely what the DPRK really has in all of its weapons programs is to replace the regime. This is going to require a major commitment of US Army and Marine ground forces. I hope the S. Koreans will go with us. After all, we will re-unify the Korean Peninsula in the process. However, their population appears to have a very limited grasp on reality when it comes to dealing with N. Korea. (Discussion and/or research question: What is the relationship over time between prosperity, democracy, and military protection from an outside power that stimulates national populations to develop a fantasy world-view?)
Invading N. Korea is a scary proposition. We will lose a lot of brave men and women and we will run the risk, again, of Chinese intervention. Unfortunately, all the alternatives will leave the N. Korean bomb factory in operation and eventually result in nuclear-tipped ICBMs aimed at S. Korea, Japan AND the United States. It also will result in the transfer of nuclear weapons technology to every rogue state and every major Islamic terrorist group on the planet. And that means that sooner or later, directly or indirectly, Kim Jong-il's regime will cause the destruction of American cities if it is allowed to survive.
P.S. I really dislike living in interesting times!