Wednesday, June 21, 2006

North Korea

Today's WSJ has a good editorial summarizing the threat which North Korea poses to us and our allies, and calling for the use of our missile defense system to knock the Korean test missile out of the sky.
As we went to press in the U.S. last night, morning was breaking at the Musudan-ri launch facility in the remote northeast of North Korea. It's possible we'll wake up to the news that Pyongyang has tested the long-range ballistic missile that is fully fueled and which U.S. satellites have monitored for more than a month.

If so, we hope we'll also learn that the U.S. responded by testing its newly operational missile defense system and blowing the Korean provocation out of the sky. What better way to discourage would-be nuclear proliferators than to demonstrate that the U.S. is able to destroy their missiles before they hit our allies, or the U.S. homeland. Even a miss would be a useful learning experience all around.
After detailing the capabilities of various Korean missiles they go on to note that North Korea has also been selling the technology to some of our worst enemies:
Missile exports have also long been a major source of foreign exchange for Pyongyang, with customers in Pakistan (whose "Ghauri" missile is a renamed Nodong) and throughout the Middle East. Its longtime best customer is Iran, which last year was reported to have purchased technology that allowed it to extend the range of its Shahab-3 missile to 3,500 kilometers from 1,500. In the blunt words of the German daily Bild last December, "this means that the 'madmen of Iran' could reach targets in the whole of Germany."
Unfortunately, the editorial doesn't go far enough in asserting our interests or in analyzing how North Korea became the threat it is. They seem to think that the whole problem is that we haven't gone far enough in developing defensive weapons systems, which emboldens rogue nations:
As North Korea weighs a launch, it's a useful moment to recall how we got to this pass: Amid the arms-control era of the Cold War, the U.S. chose to defend itself against attack by plane or ship or ground but not by missile. One reason North Korea--and Iran--decided to invest scarce resources into developing nuclear weapons and ballistic-missiles is simply this: The U.S. was vulnerable.
Fortunately, Elan Journo at ARI also published an editorial today examining how diplomacy, i.e. appeasement, has brought North Korea to the point where it is a credible threat to the US and it allies:
Some twenty years ago, North Korea's nuclear ambitions became glaringly obvious. The West pretended that this hostile dictatorship would honor a treaty banning nuclear weapons. To get its signature took years of Western groveling and concessions. The North's promises to halt its nuclear program were predictably hollow. By 1993, after preventing required inspections of its nuclear facilities, Pyongyang announced its intention to withdraw from the treaty. Our response? More "diplomacy"--in the form of the "Agreed Framework," brokered in 1994.

For agreeing to freeze its nuclear program, North Korea was offered two light-water nuclear reactors (putatively for generating electricity) and, until the reactors were operational, 500,000 metric tons of oil annually (nearly half its annual needs). The United States, along with Japan and South Korea, paid for these lavish gifts. During these years of apparent tranquility, our handouts and assurances of security buoyed North Korea as it furtively completed two reactors capable of yielding weapons-grade fuel. By 2003--when the North actually did withdraw from the nuclear treaty--it was clear that Pyongyang had continued secretly to develop weapons-capable nuclear technology.

The pattern of America's suicidal diplomacy is clear: the North threatens us, we respond with negotiations, gifts and concessions, and it emerges with even greater belligerence.

Without economic aid, technical assistance and protracted negotiations affording it time, it is unlikely that the North--continually on the brink of economic collapse--could have survived. It is also unlikely that it could have built the fourth-largest army in the world. The North is believed to have sold long-range ballistic missiles to Iran, Yemen, Pakistan and Syria. By some estimates, North Korea already has the material to create eight nuclear bombs. As it doubtless will continue engaging in clandestine nuclear development, the North may soon be wielding--and selling--nuclear weapons.
Elan rightly concludes:
There is only one solution to the "North Korea problem": the United States and its allies must abandon the suicidal policy of appeasement.
I think it also important to note that North Korea is one of the most brutal dictatorships in existence today, and because it systematically violates the most basic rights of its own citizens, it has no rights or legitimacy of its own. As one observer describes it:
It's one of the most brutal governments on earth. ... It's a place where the level of sheer physical brutality is extreme and the psychic violence is constant. There is no such thing as individual rights of any kind. The state is ubiquitous and all-pervasive. There is no idea of privacy or of independent thought. To get a sense of how perfectly oppressive it is, it's worth realizing that there are no dissidents. They simply disappear -- they're sent to camps or executed. The system of social control is based on the idea that an entire family can be held accountable for any perceived slight by any single member of that family. So if you happen to be listening to a South Korean radio broadcast, or you say something like "Gee, I hear North Korea started the Korean War," your entire family can be purged--taken off to camps, and never heard from again.
Moreover, by its rhetoric and actions, including supporting terrorists and hostile regimes around the world, North Korea has shown itself to be an enemy of the US. This means that, assuming it is militarily feasible, it is completely moral not just to shoot down any test missile that North Korea happens to launch, but to pre-emptively destroy any military capability they have, including their reactors, missile factories and test bases. In other words there can not be any question of respecting their so-called national sovereignty, there can only be the question of what is required for us to secure our long-lasting safety from them.

(Here is some more background on the situation in North Korea. I obviously don't subscribe to the policies or interpretations put forth in it, but I did find the data which it contains to be of value.)

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