By Eric S. Margolis
Times" -- -- NORTH Korea’s announcement this
week it would shortly conduct an underground nuclear test
provoked a 10-megaton explosion of international anger and
threats against the isolated Stalinist regime.
A senior US State Department official warned, "we are not going
to accept a nuclear North Korea." But that, of course, is just
what Washington has been doing ever since CIA disclosed in 2003
that North Korea had up to five operational nuclear weapons, and
more in development.
That also was the same year President George Bush launched an
invasion of Iraq, ostensibly to protect America from nuclear and
other weapons of mass destruction that it, in fact, not possess.
Three hundred sixty billion dollars later, this unnecessary war
in Iraq goes on.
North Korea has repeatedly stated it is developing uranium and
plutonium-based nuclear weapons, and medium and
intercontinental-range missiles to carry them.
In 2005, CIA’s then director, George Tenet, confirmed North
Korea’s Taepo-dong ICBM was theoretically able to deliver a
nuclear warhead to North America. North Korea’s eccentric ‘Dear
Leader,’ Kim Jong-il, has made an art of using nuclear blackmail
to squeeze money out of South Korea, Japan and the West.
Nuclear threats are North Korea’s only remaining exports. A
US-led coalition has shut down its exports of missiles to the
Mideast, counterfeiting US currency, and black market
amphetamine sales to Japan. So, what is the tough-talking Bush
Administration going to do about North Korea? Probably not much.
The US and Japan have already imposed a de facto naval blockade
on North Korea, and conducted military exercise in its region.
US military strikes against North Korea would be unlikely to
destroy its deeply-buried nuclear weapons - if they could even
The Pentagon estimates that a US invasion of North Korea would
cost 500,000 American casualties. Since North Korea has buried
many vital industries and military facilities deep underground,
US air strikes would have limited success.
Moreover, any attacks on North Korea would quickly make South
Korea and Japan targets of North Korea’s medium-ranged missiles.
Seoul’s ten million people are within range of North Korean
long-ranged artillery and missiles batteries behind the DMZ.
Amid all the international hysteria over North Korea, it’s
important to understand that the ‘Dear Leader’s’ nuclear
programs are primarily defensive. Their goal is to protect North
Korea from a long-feared US attack, not to attack the US or
Japan. Attacking the US would bring massive American nuclear
retaliation. Kim Jong-il and his Politburo are not anxious to
commit suicide or see their nation vaporised. In reality,
America’s real concern about North Korea’s nuclear weapons is
exactly the same as those about Iran. Possession of nuclear
weapons by these states would limit US power to impose its will
militarily or diplomatically in their regions.
North Korea has repeatedly agreed to junk its nuclear weapons
provided the US does three things: 1. deal directly with
Pyongyang, which Washington refuses to do; 2. provide security
guarantees that the US will not attack North Korea; 3. provide
economic aid. The Bush Administration’s hard-line
neoconservatives refuse to ‘validate’ North Korea’s totalitarian
regime through direct talks. Neocons are determined to overthrow
Kim Jong-il. But Washington has no qualms about dealing with
other despotic regimes in the Mideast and Central Asia.
South Korea’s biggest fears are a US-North Korean war that would
devastate it; and an economic implosion of North Korea sending
millions of starving refugees to south. So Seoul keeps North
Korea on life support, while trying to calm American militancy.
Japan wants to deter a united Korea as long as possible, rightly
fearing it would one day constitute a major economic and
military threat. Shinzo Abe, Japan’s new conservative prime
minister, has taken a tough line towards North Korea but has
also just apparently buried the hatchet with China over his
predecessor’s inflammatory visits to the Tokyo’s Yasukuni war
However, the stalemated situation abruptly changed this week
when China dropped its former indulgent attitude to North
Korea’s nuclear programme and issued a very stern, eve ominous
warning to Pyongyang not to conduct nuclear tests.
The Dear Leader likes to do zany things, but offending China,
his patron, closest ally and, most important, sole source of
oil, would seem too much even for him. But with Kim, a great
admirer of James Bond villains like Dr No and SPECTRE, one never
One thing is clear: money, lots of it, not war, is the most
effective way of making North Korea behave. Bribery is always
far, far cheaper than war.
Eric S Margolis
is a veteran US journalist and contributing
foreign editor of the Toronto Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2006 Khaleej Times All Rights Reserved.
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