Though North Korea’s nuclear explosion had a low yield, its reverberations are clearly heard in the Middle-East. The failure of the United States’ policy in the Asian Crisis, was highlighted in this last experiment. A status report
In a rare and unusual remark from a diplomatic point of view, an Israeli official has anonymously spoken of the nuclear experiment performed in the other half of the globe. The senior political source, as the media identified him, called upon the International Community to respond forcibly to the underground nuclear experiment conducted by North Korea (on 9 October, 2006). Exceptionally, the Israeli speaker also demanded that a naval quarantine be imposed on the stubborn country and that military action against it should be considered unless it shed its nuclear capabilities. These belligerent statements provide evidence of Jerusalem’s deep anxiety with regards to the alarming development in the Far East.
The Danger – a Nuclear “Axis of Evil”
Indeed, despite the relatively weak nuclear blast (With a yield of 5,000 to 15,000 tons of TNT, similar to the bombs the US dropped on Japan at the end of WWII), the reverberations of the blast in the Far East are acutely discerned in the Middle-East, and are reaching Teheran. The Iranians, who until the ascension of Ahmadinejad “walked a tightrope” in their combination of endearing and provocative behavior toward the International Community, have learnt how to pay little heed to the world with almost complete impunity. The large-scale cooperation between the two countries could now face a disturbing upgrade – in the nuclear field.
This is the nightmare scenario for Jerusalem and Washington: A powerful “Axis of Evil”, where North Korea provides Iran with nuclear empowered protection in return for massive economic support and supply of oil (which North Korea desperately needs for energy), which changes overnight the geo-strategic situation in the region and the entire world. This could also significantly ease Iran’s way to attaining a nuclear bomb, due to North Korean technological assistance and with Iran’s nuclear facilities secured from Western attack under a mutual defense pact with the “partner in crime” to the East.
“Five years of diplomatic efforts have gone down the drain”, said Madeleine Albright, former American Secretary of State, following the nuclear experiment by North Korea. Indeed, it is a failure of the policy led by the US in the Asian crisis, which shattered in this last experiment. Why failure? After all, it could be claimed that the defiance on the part of North Korea against the International Community was globally condemned, starting with Washington, continuing with the capitals of Europe and Asia and ending with the important superpower closest politically and geographically to North Korea – China. Even the sister nation, South Korea, has responded with fury to the experiment and has announced that it would cancel the food aid it was planning to send to North Korea, alongside menacing statements and raising the readiness of its army. However, it could be assessed that in the frozen capital of North Korea, Pyongyang, the “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-Il sits on his throne, smiling insolently, knowing that his objective has been attained.
And what were the objectives of the experiment? The first objective was to focus, in one swell swoop, the attention of the world on this far and forgotten country, which is suffering from famine and straining under the burden of heavy economic sanctions and recurring natural disasters (Floods and drought). Absurdly, stopping external aid to the country only worsens the internal distress within it, and “arms” its leaders with the claim that such collective punitive actions are immoral and are a “humanitarian crime” against the populace.
But increasing the suffering of the people of North Korea was only a secondary objective of the experiment, which is a milestone in the core struggle for the survival of the regime. Thus, while in the White House corridors they “play for time” dreaming that ostracism, siege and internal troubles, will rid North Korea of its eccentric ruler, Kim Jong-Il displays his muscles and strength in an experiment with the avowed goal of developing a nuclear weapon, but which also sends a clear message regarding the stability of his rule. And this is the American failure – for years, ever since George W. Bush became President, the US leads a “refusal” policy, which stubbornly refuses to yield to Kim Jong-Il’s demands that his regime be recognized and granted a non-aggression pact, after which he would be willing to restore nuclear supervision to his country. Washington, which has been burnt in the past by North Korea’s violation of agreements, demands the order be reversed – first North Korea must disarm its nuclear capabilities, its only strategic asset, and only then can negotiations for a non-aggression pact begin.
In this last nuclear experiment, and those expected to follow, the North Korean scientists have once again demonstrated their technological prowess- after having been successful in developing ballistic missiles from existing platforms and marketing them to “friendly” countries such as Iran and Syria. However they have also shown that North Korea is both audacious and willing enough to challenge the current international structure of forces born towards the end of the Cold War. This is a time of trial that will test the resoluteness of the powerful countries and major superpowers in preserving the system of agreements and alliances that founded the United Nations and the weapon inspection organization, based on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This system divided the world between the legitimate nuclear club, which has the five superpowers (The US, Russia – as heir of the USSR, China, France and Britain) and the rest of the nations, which are allowed to possess nuclear energy for peaceful needs only. This global system survived an important test, when three nations developed offensive nuclear capabilities and placed themselves in the middle ranks of nuclear nations which are not superpowers, i.e. Pakistan, India and Israel, who according to foreign reports has some 200 nuclear bombs.
So far, the world can give itself an F for failure in addressing the threat from the East. North Korea’s ambition to attain a nuclear weapon was clear all along – since it removed the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency from the reactor in Yongbyon at the end of 2002. However, the weakness of the International Community was likewise clear – Russia and China would not agree to an American military attack against North Korea, a country in their back yard sphere of influence; the sanctions imposed on North Korea by the UN Security Council in July of this year, following an experiment that included the firing of a number of missile towards Japan, sanctions that involved the mega-economies of South Korea, Japan and China, have proven hollow and ineffective and the sanctioning countries are now expected to suffer from them. In all of this tumult, North Korea is marching unhindered towards its goal.
Conclusions and Concerns in Israel
Without immediate, resolute and powerful action by the entire International Community, it would be difficult to prevent the danger from North Korea. In the case of a weak response, in the style we are so familiar with, Israel would have to conclude from the ramifications regarding Iran that International Diplomacy can not be counted on to stop those countries seeking to attain nuclear weapons. Therefore, by that same logic, Israel must strike Teheran now knowing that it would pay a price, possibly a heavy one in economic, political, and military terms. The lesson of the recent war in Lebanon, which was a result, amongst other things, of a six year unhindered buildup of Iran’s military appendage in Lebanon, Hezbollah, is that policy makers on all echelons should devise today an operative multi-channeled plan to openly and effectively stop the Iranian nuclear plan. This plan would be lead by Israel, possibly executed solely by it. If such a plan is not possible, and its price is too onerous to sustain, we must ready ourselves for a new Middle-East: Not the one envisaged by Shimon Peres, but one where Ahmadinejad has a nuclear bomb.
A Light at the End of the Tunnel?
However, perhaps in this dire hour, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Without being overly optimistic, it is possible that a psychological threshold has now been crossed, which would prompt the world to real action, such as the military intervention in Kosovo. The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, aptly defined the point at which we are situated, declaring that in the absence of a powerful response by the Security Council to North Korea’s behavior, the UN ‘s status will continue to decline. Perhaps the election of Ban Ki-Moon, the South Korea Foreign Minister, as Secretary General of the United Nations – South Korea being a country directly threatened by the crisis – instead of Kofi Annan, the anemic and compromising character, might augur a change in this international body. In a discussion regarding the experiment (9 October), a consensus was starting to coalesce regarding the imposition of sever economic sanctions, including a complete ban on exports to North Korea that might serve for military needs and initiating close inspection of every shipment to the country. This would take place under the aegis of Chapter 7 to the UN charter, which allows use of force against a country threatening world peace – which might hint at military action should the need arise. This positive development, should it persevere, would provide Israel and the US with a strong claim for similarly severe action against Iran.
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