China Must Act Now on N.Korean Nuclear Threat

      November 23, 2010 13:03

      Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, says the North's continuing nuclear development through uranium enrichment
      "directly violates" UN resolutions but added that Washington cannot accept the view that its North Korea policies have failed.

      But South Korean and U.S. policies over the last 20 years aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program have failed spectacularly. North Korea conducted two nuclear tests using plutonium and is believed to have between eight to 10 plutonium-based nuclear warheads in that time. If the North is to obtain highly enriched uranium using the facility it revealed to a visiting U.S. nuclear expert, it would be able to produce one or two uranium-based nuclear warheads each year.

      Back in October 2002, when pressed by assistant U.S. secretary of state James Kelly about the uranium enrichment program, the North's first vice foreign minister Kang Sok-ju replied, "We could do even worse things." At the time, high-ranking officials in the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations said the comment was misinterpreted and even accused the U.S. of concocting conspiracy theories and sided with North Korea. At the same time South Korea went all out to aid North Korea in the belief that dialogue with Pyongyang was an end in itself. But these efforts were no use whatsoever in ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

      When North Korea conducted its second nuclear test in May 2009, the international community began to pressure the regime through sanctions under UN Security Council resolutions. South Korea halted all exchanges and trade with the North following the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan, and in August the U.S. implemented potent financial sanctions against the North. But these pressure tactics too were ineffective because China continued its support.

      U.S. Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen said that there are plenty of things that China needs to do. But there is very little chance that China will act according to U.S. and South Korean expectations. China fears a nuclear domino effect where South Korea and Japan pursue their own nuclear weapons programs but is taking a wait-and-see approach because it believes that Washington would not tolerate it. China is also using the North Korean nuclear issue to show off its diplomatic clout.

      If North Korea acquires uranium-based nuclear weapons, it would be a matter of life and death for South Korea and increase the threat of nuclear terrorism against the U.S. The only solution is to find a fundamental solution to the North Korean nuclear standoff. China must realize that it may be too late if it fails to act now.

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