Posted by: Rodrigo Fonseca | June 28, 2007

North Korean Nuclear Threat

Since its very beginning the North Korean nuclear issue has been widely regarded as problematic and not easy to solve. Indeed, most of what was done come up with no positive results, and a step towards a peaceful solution is most unlikely to be taken. Even the United Nations coupled with international pressure were not able to force Mr. Kim Jong Il, president of North Korea, to shut down his nuclear reactors. Should the International Community take a strong measure against North Korea? Yet the threat Mr. Kim poses to the world is no less strong.

When North Korea first started its nuclear programme, the world took suspicious view of it. Not many were the countries that believed Mr. Kim only planned of acquiring nuclear-produced energy – and those that didn’t were quite reasonable not to. The same technology used in enriching plutonium can be used in a nuclear warhead and thus North Korea could technically have nuclear bombs – some would dare saying it already has. One question remains unanswered: what should be done with Mr. Kim’s stubbornness?

Some say an embargoe is necessary, others would rather bet on a sanctions regime, and there are even those who believe no action is needed. However, making this decision is still very complicated, for countries such as the USA, China and Russia have not yet come up with an agreement on North Korea. Whatever decision is made, it must be a consent of the United Nations Security Council.

It is clear the United States of America expect the imposition of a sanctions regime on North Korea and are willing to impose one themselves, should the International Community remain frozen. Nonetheless, one cannot forget that to Russian eyes, Mr. Kim has the undeniable right of developing atomic technology. In other words, the two biggest countries in the world, both of which can veto in the UNSC, view the issue through completely opposite perspectives.

To make matters even worse, China stands a position of its own. Unlike the Japanese, which vow not to “normalise” relations with North Korea, the Chinese tend to accept the North Korean nuclear programme. Actually, only a small aspect differenciates China from Russia: while the first tolerates short-term UN sanctions, the latter rejects them vehemently. Even though Russian and Chinese regards are somewhat alike, they remain irrevocably opposite, making thus a consensus even more unprobable.

Were the deal closed in February between South Korea, North Korea, China, Japan, Russia the USA to be fulfilled, agents and inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would have already “closed and sealed” (with the clear purpose of abandonment)  Yongbyon – a North Korean nuclear facility. Also, Mr. Kim would have already provided the International Community with a full list of all his nuclear programmes and nuclear facilities.

Neither progress nor a peaceful solution is certain. We see now what chess players call “mutual zugswang“: a position where no one wants to make the first move. Maybe, the best solution is for America to offer aid in exchange for North Korean nuclear programmes. If Mr. Kim gets the US$ 25m promissed by Mr. Bush, he might actually shut down his factories for good.

Rodrigo Machado Fonseca



  1. This is why the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive war is necessary. Once a nation gets nukes, it is too late. So what if Saddam had no WMD (although I think they are hidden in Syria)? Should we have waited until he did?

    Anyway, I would consider it an honor and a privilege if you would add my blog “The Tygrrrr Express” to your list of linked sites if you feel the quality is high. If this request is redundant, my bad in advance.

    Happy summer.


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