2003 June 01 Sunday
Other Powers Reluctant To Apply Economic Sanctions To North Korea

Writing in The Washington Post Doug Struck reports that the Bush Administration continues to meet resistance from China, South Korea, and Japan for sanctions against North Korea.

Bush administration officials have said they want to pursue both negotiation and pressure to further isolate North Korea. But South Korea and China -- and to a lesser extent Japan -- remain reluctant to squeeze the impoverished country by cutting off its few sources of income with sanctions or a blockade.

The most effective method the United States could use to get the South Korean and Japanese governments to go along with sanctions would be to convince them that the alternative would be something they'd like even less: an American preemptive strike against North Korea. However, my guess is that the Bush Administration is not ready to play that kind of hard ball over North Korea. Currently the US has too many problems in the Middle East (over 4 out of 10 US Army divisions tied down in Iraq, the Saudi Arabia/Al Qaeda problem, the Israeli-Palestinian problem, and the Pakistan/Afghanistan problem) and doesn't have enough resources to bring to bear on North Korea.

Update: In an interview with Yusuke Takahashi of Japan's NHK Television Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz effectively calls on China to signal North Korea that China will cut off economic aid if North Korea does not back down on nuclear weapons development.

Takahashi: Mr. Secretary, a month ago, Secretary Rumsfeld said that he talked about US forces in the Korean peninsula, and of course of the DMZ, and he tried to more (inaudible) or more air oriented and sea oriented, and that that kind of discussion and impression for Japanese that the United States have been thinking about to increase the presence in Okinawa.

Wolfowitz: No, itís rather, weíre still doing our thinking, so I donít want to say that weíve come to conclusions. But the thinking Iíve seen about Korea involves rationalizing our posture in Korea, not shifting our posture from Korea to Japan. I think in fact in some ways it would be to give our posture in Korea a little bit more of the character that it already has in Japan, which is not so focused on heavy ground force deployments and a bit more outward looking, a bit more of a maritime orientation.

Takahashi: And fifth question is North Korea. This morning you sounded a little soft spoken (laughter). Iím sorry to say that nobody expect that Mr. Kim Jong Il suddenly become a reformer like Deng Xiao Ping in communist China. Why donít we seek a regime change in that country like we did in Iraq and if not, why canít US give the North Koreans the security guarantee they ask? That non-aggression pact or some such kind of guarantee.

Wolfowitz: Well, Iím not quite sure what anyone thinks that by itself is going to accomplish. Itís not -- if we were talking about it in the context of the kind of major change that I talked about, there are many things that could be on the table, but if take a view that North Koreaís never going to change, that Kim Jong Il will continue to rule the country and continue to pursue the insane policies heís pursuing, then itís hard to see any successful outcome other than that country increasingly heading towards collapse. But I think what is essential is for everyone in North Korea to get a message that comes not just from the United States, but from all the regional powers, that they face a fundamental choice. Now itís true, maybe there are only a few people in North Korea who have any ability to make that choice, but I think the clearer it can be presented to them including to Kim Jong Il, the better chance there is of a peaceful outcome and I think we all want to see a peaceful outcome because war in Korea would be quite a terrible thing.

Takahashi: But if they were to escalate the situation again, would you specify that what is the additional step that we can make to stop them from exporting nuclear reactive materials?

Wolfowitz: Well, thereís a great deal we can do in that regard. In fact this wasnít the purpose of our operation in Iraq, but weíve just taken one customer away from them. There are a lot of other things that can be done to prevent the export of those materials and it will be important, because as I said in my comments, I think the greatest single danger posed by what theyíre doing is in fact the potential export. But, look, the further North Korea goes up this escalatory road, the further itís going to have to climb back down at some point. Theyíre not improving their security by what they do and theyíre wasting their limited national resources and what they need to understand very clearly, and that message has to come not just from the United States, but from Japan and South Korea and Russia and most of all from China, is that the help that they are getting now is going to dry up if they keep going down this road of provocative behavior.

If the Chinese leaders continue to be unwilling to apply economic sanctions against North Korea then the Bush Administration is going to need a Plan B.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 June 01 12:22 AM  Korea

Scof said at June 1, 2003 2:28 AM:

Thanks for the comments on my entry, I updated it with a permalink if you are so inclined. I agree that the hardball option isn't viable at this point, but without those 3 nations cooperation, I don't see what other options will work. The situation is kind of like an 800-pound gorrilla in the corner that nobody really wants to do much about.

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