North Korea: What's Being Done Besides Finger Pointing?


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Talk to a Republican and they'll rant a litany of the failings of the Clinton Administration, which ended January 20, 2001, to keep North Korea out of the Nuclear Club. Talk to a Democrat and they'll tell you that it is the Bush Administration's consistent policy of disengagement (refusing direct talks) that is to blame. Consider this moderating quote from Larry Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell:

"It's difficult to say that the Clinton policy failed, but it's crystal clear that the current policy has failed. You need a carrot-and-stick approach -- you can't just use the stick."

I do believe that the Clinton Administration was lax in it's dealings with many of the threats facing the U.S. and its interests, preferring to put out fires rather than work to prevent them. In 1994, the U.S. and North Korea entered into the "agreed framework," negotiated by former president Jimmy Carter, under which North Korea would receive two light water reactors in exchange for abiding by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and handing over its old reactor rods. This deal, had it been kept, would have left North Korea without material for weapons.

It was not until 1998 that Kim Jung Il came to power, and it is unclear at what point after that North Korea decided to not honor the deal. What that does mean is that the Clinton Administration had only the time between Kim's rise and the end of their second term to detect Kim's weapons program and stop it.

Now that the finger pointing is out of the way, what's being done? Well, there is a push on for U.N. sanctions, although there is some debate under which article. The U.S. Is determined to have the sanctions be under Article 7, so that they can be backed by the threat of force. Russia and China are opposed to them being under Article 7 and would prefer they be under Article 41 which doesn't afford a military response.

Combine North Korean sanctions with the Iran issue and things get muddier. The U.S. would like to see sanctions in place against both nations and may be looking to link the response to North Korea with their efforts to contain Iran. This is likely to produce Security Council gridlock -- something the Bush Administration has used in the past as an excuse for unilateral action.

There is a great deal more in the articles than I can summarize here. As always, comments are welcome below.

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