Posted tagged ‘South Korea’

North Korean Nukes, South Korea, Japan, China and Obama

September 10, 2016

North Korean Nukes, South Korea, Japan, China and Obama, Dan Miller’s Blog, September 10, 2016

(The views expressed in this article are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of Warsclerotic or its other editors. — DM)

On September 9th, North Korea conducted its fifth nuke test, of its most powerful nuke thus far. Can Obama get China to help make North Korea stop developing and testing nukes? Nope. China sees Obama, not as the representative of the world’s greatest power, but as a joke. He has no clout internationally and is a national embarrassment.

China and North Korea – a very short history

Here’s a link to an article I posted on June 25, 2013 about the Korean conflict. To summarize, China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) have a long history of acting together. China views the Republic of Korea (South Korea), which borders North Korea to the south and is an American ally, as a threat. She does not want reunification of the Korean peninsula under a government favorable to America.

When, on June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea with Russian aircraft, weaponry, training and other substantial support, China did not assist North Korea. North Korean forces pushed the South Korean government, as well as the few American military advisers (then under the command of the Department of State), south to the Pusan perimeter. Following General MacArthur’s unexpected and successful Inchon invasion which began on September 15th, American and other United Nations forces pushed the North Korean forces back north: MacArthur sent his by then greatly augmented forces east to Wonson and eventually managed to push North Korean forces to the northern side of the Yalu River. However, Chinese forces struck back en masse and MacArthur’s forces were driven back to Seoul.

Ever since bringing to an end MacArthur’s successes in the Korean Conflict, China has supported North Korea. She has opposed, and has then declined to enforce, significant sanctions responsive to North Korean nuclear and missile development and testing. While China may acquiesce in weak UN resolutions condemning North Korean provocations, she rarely goes beyond that.

China, Japan and the two Koreas

China has a long memory and still resents, bitterly, the lengthy period prior to and during World War II when Japan occupied significant parts of China. Ditto South Korea, all of which was under Japanese occupation for a lengthy period prior to and during World War II. Although China has substantial trade with both South Korea and Japan, she is more hostile to Japan than is South Korea; the latter two have substantial mutual interests transcending trade.

Perhaps the most important current dispute between China on the one hand, and Japan-South Korea-America on the other, involves the plans of Japan and South Korea to defend against North Korean missiles by the installation of THAAD anti-missile weapons provided by America. China’s stated reason for opposition to the THAAD system is that it could be used against Chinese, as well as North Korean, missiles. Why does China assert this objection unless she hopes to fire missiles at one or both of them? If China fires missiles at Japan and/or South Korea, they have every right to destroy her missiles and to respond in kind with U.S. assistance if requested.

President Obama

condemned Pyongyang’s fifth nuclear test today in the “strongest possible terms as a grave threat to regional security and to international peace and stability” as outraged lawmakers from both parties called for tougher action to stop North Korea’s nuclear program. [Emphasis added.]

That may well be all that Obama does — despite the warnings of Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, that

we have to make it absolutely clear that if they engage in any military activity, they will be destroyed. We have to have a credible deterrent. That seems to be the only thing that will stop North Korea from engaging in military action… We have sanctioned them, and we should keep sanctioning them, but it’s not going to stop them from developing the nuclear weapons.” [Emphasis added.]

Obama won’t do that:

In a statement Friday, President Obama vowed to “take additional significant steps, including new sanctions, to demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences to its unlawful and dangerous actions.”

Obama did not suggest what He might have in mind, beyond historically ineffective sanctions and condemnations “in the strongest possible terms,” to let North Korea know that there will be “consequences.”

A September 9th article at the New York Times provides an unpleasant analysis of the options Obama now has, and which His successor will have, in dealing with North Korea.

A hard embargo, in which Washington and its allies block all shipping into and out of North Korea and seek to paralyze its finances, risks confrontations that allies in Asia fear could quickly escalate into war. But restarting talks on the North’s terms would reward the defiance of its young leader, Kim Jong-un, with no guarantee that he will dismantle the nuclear program irrevocably.

For more than seven years, President Obama has sought to find a middle ground, adopting a policy of gradually escalating sanctions that the White House once called “strategic patience.” But the test on Friday — the North’s fifth and most powerful blast yet, perhaps with nearly twice the strength of its last one — eliminates any doubt that that approach has failed and that the North has mastered the basics of detonating a nuclear weapon.

Despite sanctions and technological backwardness, North Korea appears to have enjoyed a burst of progress in its missile program over the last decade, with experts warning that it is speeding toward a day when it will be able to threaten the West Coast of the United States and perhaps the entire country. [Emphasis added.]

. . . .

Mr. Obama has refused to negotiate with the North unless it agrees first that the ultimate objective of any talks would be a Korean Peninsula without nuclear arms. But Mr. Kim has demonstrated, at least for now, that time is on his side. And as he gets closer to an ability to threaten the United States with a nuclear attack, and stakes the credibility of his government on it, it may be even more difficult to persuade him to give up the program.

 In a statement Friday, Mr. Obama condemned the North’s test and said it “follows an unprecedented campaign of ballistic missile launches, which North Korea claims are intended to serve as delivery vehicles intended to target the United States and our allies.”

“To be clear, the United States does not, and never will, accept North Korea as a nuclear state,” he said.

Many experts who have dealt with North Korea say the United States may have no choice but to do so. [Emphasis added.]

“It’s too late on the nuclear weapons program — that is not going to be reversed,” William Perry, the defense secretary under President Bill Clinton during the 1994 nuclear crisis with North Korea, said in August at a presentation in Kent, Conn. The only choice now, he argued, is to focus on limiting the missile program. [Emphasis added.]

Obama has taken no significant steps to limit Iran’s continuing missile development and testing program. How can He limit that of North Korea without Chinese cooperation?

Yet the latest effort to do that, an agreement between the United States and South Korea to deploy an advanced missile defense system in the South, has inflamed China, which argues the system is also aimed at its weapons. While American officials deny that, the issue has divided Washington and Beijing so sharply that it will be even more difficult now for them to come up with a joint strategy for dealing with the North. [Emphasis added.]

China has been so vocal with its displeasure over the deployment of the American system that Mr. Kim may have concluded he could afford to upset Beijing by conducting Friday’s test. [Emphasis added.]

Fueling that perception were reports that a North Korean envoy visited Beijing earlier this week.

North Korea almost certainly sees this as an opportunity to take steps to enhance its nuclear and missile capabilities with little risk that China will do anything in response,” Evans J.R. Revere, a former State Department official and North Korea specialist, said in a speech in Seoul on Friday. [Emphasis added.]

The breach between China and the United States was evident during Mr. Obama’s meeting with President Xi Jinping last week. “I indicated to him that if the Thaad bothered him, particularly since it has no purpose other than defensive and does not change the strategic balance between the United States and China, that they need to work with us more effectively to change Pyongyang’s behavior,” Mr. Obama said, referring to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, as the advanced missile defense project is known. [Emphasis added.]

North Korea and Iran

Iran and North Korea have a long history of cooperation in developing nukes and missiles with which to deliver them. In the past, Iranian scientists have been present at North Korean nuke tests, and vice versa. They have also assisted each other in the development of nukes and missiles.

Iran and North Korea have substantial reasons to cooperate: by virtue of the Iran scam, Iran now has lots of money but is at least minimally restricted in its nuke development. North Korea has little usable currency, needs whatever it can get, and no attempts to halt or even to limit its nuke development have worked.

A missile fired recently by North Korea bore a striking resemblance to an Iranian missile.

Photos released by North Korea of its launch of long-range ballistic missiles are the latest proof of the close military cooperation between Pyongyang and Tehran, an Israeli expert in the field told the news site IsraelDefense on Tuesday.

According to Tal Inbar — head of Space and UAV Research Centre at the Fisher Institute for Air & Space Strategic Studies — what was new in the photos was the shape of the warheads attached to the Nodong missiles, known in Iran as the Shahab-3.

Until now, such warheads — first detected by Inbar in Iran in 2010 — have not been seen in North Korea. At the time, Inbar dubbed them NRVs (or, “new entry vehicles”), which became their nickname among missile experts around the world. [Emphasis added.]

Inbar told IsraelDefense: “The configuration that we saw [on Tuesday] is identical to what we saw in Iran six years ago. In principle, its penetrating body (warhead) is identical to that of Scud missiles, but is mounted on the Shahab-3, and creates a more stable entity than other Shahab/Nodong warheads.”

Inbar said this was the third time that something of this nature had appeared in Iran before it did in North Korea. “But we must remember that the two countries engage in close cooperation where military and space-directed missiles are concerned,” he said. “It is thus possible that both plans and technology are being transferred regularly from one to the other.” [Emphasis added.]

Are North Korea and Iran rational? According to this New York Times analysis, North Korea is.

North Korea’s actions abroad and at home, while abhorrent, appear well within its rational self-interest, according to a 2003 study by David C. Kang, a political scientist now at the University of Southern California. At home and abroad, he found, North Korean leaders shrewdly determined their interests and acted on them. (In an email, he said his conclusions still applied.) [Emphasis added.]

“All the evidence points to their ability to make sophisticated decisions and to manage palace, domestic and international politics with extreme precision,” Mr. Kang wrote. “It is not possible to argue these were irrational leaders, unable to make means-ends calculations.” [Emphasis added.]

Victor Cha, a Georgetown University professor who served as the Asian affairs director on George W. Bush’s National Security Council, has repeatedly argued that North Korea’s leadership is rational.

I submit that the same analysis, applied to Iran, produces the same result. Iran’s leaders know what they want, and are sufficiently rational to achieve it; they did. Obama, not the leader of a dictatorial theocracy, is sufficiently irrational to believe that what he wants for the Islamic Republic of Iran is what America needs it to have. It is not.

Obama and Iran

Obama’s Iran scam would be farcical were it not potentially deadly. He did not do what would have been best for America and the free world in general — increase sanctions until Iran complied fully with UN resolutions on missile testing, ceased Uranium enrichment and disposed of the means to do it, ceased all nuke research as well as all nuke cooperation with North Korea and ceased supporting all terrorist groups, including Hezbollah and Hamas. Instead, perhaps considering Himself above such trivia, Obama sought little more than what He considered His greatest achievement — His legacy:

iranian-navy-copy-1

Conclusions

If Obama were viewed internationally as the powerful leader of the world’s most powerful nation, He might be able to get China to clamp down, severely and successfully, on North Korea’s nuke and missile development. Were China to reject His overtures, He could arrange for it to wish that it had acceded. That’s not who Obama is, as demonstrated by, among His other actions, entering into the Iran Scam deal with Iran.

Perhaps Kim Jong-un needs to dress like an Iranian mullah to convince Obama to give him a “deal” similar to the one He gave to Iran. He had better hurry: that won’t work with President Trump.

A Big Blast in North Korea, and Big Questions on U.S. Policy

September 9, 2016

A Big Blast in North Korea, and Big Questions on U.S. Policy, New York Times

GENEVA — North Korea’s latest test of an atomic weapon leaves the United States with an uncomfortable choice: stick with a policy of incremental sanctions that has clearly failed to stop the country’s nuclear advances, or pick among alternatives that range from the highly risky to the repugnant.

A hard embargo, in which Washington and its allies block all shipping into and out of North Korea and seek to paralyze its finances, risks confrontations that allies in Asia fear could quickly escalate into war. But restarting talks on the North’s terms would reward the defiance of its young leader, Kim Jong-un, with no guarantee that he will dismantle the nuclear program irrevocably.

For more than seven years, President Obama has sought to find a middle ground, adopting a policy of gradually escalating sanctions that the White House once called “strategic patience.” But the test on Friday — the North’s fifth and most powerful blast yet, perhaps with nearly twice the strength of its last one — eliminates any doubt that that approach has failed and that the North has mastered the basics of detonating a nuclear weapon.

Despite sanctions and technological backwardness, North Korea appears to have enjoyed a burst of progress in its missile program over the last decade, with experts warning that it is speeding toward a day when it will be able to threaten the West Coast of the United States and perhaps the entire country.

“This is not a cry for negotiations,” said Victor Cha, who served in the administration of President George W. Bush and now is a North Korea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “This is very clearly a serious effort at amassing real nuclear capabilities that they can use to deter the U.S. and others.”

Mr. Cha said the usual response from Washington, Seoul and Tokyo — for another round of sanctions — was not likely to be any more successful at changing the North’s behavior than previous rounds. That means Mr. Obama’s successor will confront a nuclear and missile program far more advanced than the one Mr. Obama began grappling with in 2009.

Mr. Obama has refused to negotiate with the North unless it agrees first that the ultimate objective of any talks would be a Korean Peninsula without nuclear arms. But Mr. Kim has demonstrated, at least for now, that time is on his side. And as he gets closer to an ability to threaten the United States with a nuclear attack, and stakes the credibility of his government on it, it may be even more difficult to persuade him to give up the program.

 In a statement Friday, Mr. Obama condemned the North’s test and said it “follows an unprecedented campaign of ballistic missile launches, which North Korea claims are intended to serve as delivery vehicles intended to target the United States and our allies.”

“To be clear, the United States does not, and never will, accept North Korea as a nuclear state,” he said.

Many experts who have dealt with North Korea say the United States may have no choice but to do so.

“It’s too late on the nuclear weapons program — that is not going to be reversed,” William Perry, the defense secretary under President Bill Clinton during the 1994 nuclear crisis with North Korea, said in August at a presentation in Kent, Conn. The only choice now, he argued, is to focus on limiting the missile program.

Yet the latest effort to do that, an agreement between the United States and South Korea to deploy an advanced missile defense system in the South, has inflamed China, which argues the system is also aimed at its weapons. While American officials deny that, the issue has divided Washington and Beijing so sharply that it will be even more difficult now for them to come up with a joint strategy for dealing with the North.

China has been so vocal with its displeasure over the deployment of the American system that Mr. Kim may have concluded he could afford to upset Beijing by conducting Friday’s test.

Fueling that perception were reports that a North Korean envoy visited Beijing earlier this week.

“North Korea almost certainly sees this as an opportunity to take steps to enhance its nuclear and missile capabilities with little risk that China will do anything in response,” Evans J.R. Revere, a former State Department official and North Korea specialist, said in a speech in Seoul on Friday.

The breach between China and the United States was evident during Mr. Obama’s meeting with President Xi Jinping last week. “I indicated to him that if the Thaad bothered him, particularly since it has no purpose other than defensive and does not change the strategic balance between the United States and China, that they need to work with us more effectively to change Pyongyang’s behavior,” Mr. Obama said, referring to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, as the advanced missile defense project is known.

But Mr. Obama noted that sanctions had failed at having much effect. That is largely because the Chinese have left open large loopholes that have kept the North Korean economy alive and, by some measures, enjoying more trade than anytime in years.

In a recent paper, two researchers concluded that sanctions so far “have had the net effect of actually improving” North Korea’s procurement capabilities for its weapons program. To evade sanctions, the North’s state-run trading companies opened offices in China, hired more capable Chinese middlemen and paid higher fees to employ more sophisticated brokers, according to Jim Walsh and John Park, scholars at M.I.T. and Harvard respectively.

The sanctions, Mr. Cha noted, “are supposed to inflict enough pain so the regime comes back to the negotiation table, and that’s clearly not working; or it’s supposed to collapse the regime until it starves, and that’s not working either.”

“Unless China is willing to cut off everything, which they don’t appear willing to do, the sanctions may be politically the right thing to do and a requisite response, but they are not the answer to the problem,” he said.

That means the choices facing Mr. Obama’s successor will be stark. One option is to choke off all trade, in part by telling banks that conduct transactions with North Korea that they will be shut out of dealing in dollars around the world — an effective tactic against Iran before last year’s nuclear deal. But that would enrage the Chinese, and probably cut into cooperation on other issues.

At the same time, an attempt to intercept all shipping could quickly escalate into a full-blown conflict, something neither Mr. Obama nor the South Koreans and Japanese have been willing to risk.

On the other hand, reopening negotiations, which Donald J. Trump has indicated he is willing to consider, could mean paying North Korea again to freeze nuclear activities that the Bush administration and the Clinton administration had already rewarded them for stopping years ago.

The nuclear program dates back to Mr. Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung, the country’s founder, who emerged from the Korean War more than 60 years ago mindful that the United States had considered using nuclear weapons in that conflict and determined to get his own arsenal.

The missile program also has a long history, mostly to deliver conventional arms. But now the two are converging, as the North races to develop a weapon small, light and durable enough to be launched into space and survive re-entry into the atmosphere.

The explosive energy unleashed during the test on Friday, estimated at 10 to 12 kilotons of TNT, was nearly twice that of the North’s last test, conducted in January, said Yoo Yong-gyu, a senior seismologist at South Korea’s National Meteorological Administration.

And the fact that North Korea’s fifth test came only eight months after its fourth is another indication that it is making fast progress toward fitting its ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads, said Choi Kang, a senior analyst at the Asan Institute. The North had waited about three years between each of its previous tests.

North Korea’s advances have unnerved its neighbors in South Korea and Japan, and Mr. Trump’s suggestion that the two nations should pay more for the United States to defend them has not helped.

In both South Korea and Japan, a small but increasingly vocal minority hasbegun to advocate developing nuclear weapons to counter the North instead of relying on the United States.

Cheong Seong-chang, a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute in Seongnam, south of Seoul, argued that a South Korean nuclear program might distract the North from its efforts to build a long-range missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the mainland United States.

“If South Korea arms itself with nuclear weapons, North Korea will regard the South Korean nuclear weapons, not the distant American nukes, as the most direct threat to its security,” Mr. Cheong said.

South Korean, Japanese Media Responds to Donald Trump’s Nuclear Comments

April 2, 2016

South Korean, Japanese Media Responds to Donald Trump’s Nuclear Comments

by Frances Martel

1 Apr 2016

Source: South Korean, Japanese Media Responds to Donald Trump’s Nuclear Comments – Breitbart

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s remarks suggesting support for the nuclear armament of Japan and South Korea have sparked intense conversation in the media of both nations. Many believe the absence of America in Asia will lead to war, with Japan fearing Chinese aggression, South Korea fearing Japan, and both hoping North Korea’s strength does not match its words.

Trump has made multiple statements throughout the campaign that indicate he is uncomfortable with the decades-long status quo of a robust American military presence in Asia. Most recently, during a town hall discussion on CNN, he argued that America “can’t afford to do it anymore.”

“At some point we have to say, you know what, we’re better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea,” he argued, adding, “I would rather see Japan having some form of defense, and maybe even offense against North Korea, because we’re not pulling the trigger.” He added that South Korea should also begin contributing more to its own defense and brushed off concern about a nuclear-armed South Korea, suggesting that “it’s going to happen, anyway.”

The White House has dismissed Trump’s suggestions of arming both nations with nuclear weapons as “ridiculous.”

In Japan, the nation’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper describes the reaction as “bewilderment and unease.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refused to comment on the remarks, calling any statement he could make “improper.” Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida rejected the possibility of Japan acquiring nuclear weapons as “impossible.”

Asahi quotes a Foreign Ministry official on background as stating, however, that he does not trust Trump has invested sufficiently in experienced advisers on Asian foreign policy. “It seems he only has experts on Middle East affairs and terrorism-related issues among his diplomatic brain trust but no analyst specializing in Asian matters,” the official said.

Another official, quoted in the Mainichi Shimbun, told the newspaper Trump’s remarks “are not worth commenting on.” A separate official also dismissed the comments as an attempt to draw attention: “I think he made the remarks knowing what kind of comments will be covered (by the media).”

At least one Japanese politician has interpreted the remarks as a sign that Japan should seriously consider acquiring nuclear weapons in the event that Trump is elected and rapidly withdraws American troops from Japan. “Trump has questioned the validity of the current Japan-U.S. alliance … We may already need to start debate on whether we should keep staying away from nuclear weapons or have them as a deterrent,” the governor of Osaka, Ichiro Matsui, said earlier this week.

“What do we do if America’s military strength (in Japan) disappears?” he added. “Wishful thinking doesn’t get us anywhere.”

Some Japanese media have contended that Trump is not alone in alarming Japan. In an editorial, the Nikkei Asian Review, an English-language subsidiary of Japan’s Nikkei publication, suggests that Hillary Clinton has also exhibited signs of “isolationism” and that American displeasure at Asia could hurt Japan given China’s expansionism in the East and South China Seas. “China appears intent on establishing itself as the region’s hegemonic power. Other Asian countries, such as Japan, South Korea and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, need a strong U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific region from both an economic and security perspective,” the editorial concludes.

Concerns in South Korea are similar to those in Japan, save for one key difference: Some in South Korea actively fear a nuclear Japan will herald in another imperial era, with Japan returning to its pre-WWII militaristic instincts. Given Shinzo Abe’s moves to expand Japan’s military capabilities in the face of Chinese aggression, the editors of The Korea Times write that Trump’s “isolationism” could embolden Japan. “Making the equation more complicated is the tendency of the U.S. to take an isolationist policy, as is well illustrated by Donald Trump … who claims that Korea does not pay its fair share for its defense, indicating his willingness to withdraw U.S. troops,” the column reads.

“Few appear to be listening to the echoes of ‘Tenno Heika Banzai’ (Long live the emperor!), the battle cry of the imperial Japanese soldiers charging with bayonets fixed on their rifles during their expansion period,” the editorial continues. “Historically, a militarily strong Japan has always been a problem, threatening to throw the region into flux and posing more challenges to Korea.”

Unlike Japan, Korean media encouraged the government to seek nuclear weapons before Trump’s comments. The Chosun Ilbo, one of South Korea’s largest newspapers, ran an editorial calling for nuclear armament in January, as a response to North Korea’s claims it had detonated a hydrogen bomb. “North Korea has invaded this country in the past and has not hesitated to provoke Seoul repeatedly since the ceasefire agreement was signed in 1953. If it obtains nuclear weapons, the South faces a bleak fate,” the column reads. It continues, challenging America’s commitment to protecting Seoul:

Would China come to the rescue if the North launched a nuclear attack against South Korea? Would the U.S. step in to protect Seoul? Judging by Washington’s inaction in the military crises in the Ukraine and Syria, it would probably respond only after Seoul has been turned into a pile of smoldering ashes.

South Korean political experts are divided. “Even though he is a politician of a third country, we have reached a situation where we cannot take no action,” a government officials told the JoongAng Daily anonymously. The newspaper notes that “Koreans are therefore worried about what to expect from Trump’s continued popularity during the electoral race, as his statements indicate he is open to overturning the two countries’ existing military alliance and bilateral relations.” It cites a foreign vice foreign minister Choi Young-jin, who questions whether Trump understands his own policy stances: “Trump’s remarks do not show a sense of introspection on what their results would bring about; he does not know the gravity of what he says.” Yet at least one legislator has called for South Korea to acquire nuclear weapons in the past year.

The leaders of both nations met with President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the global Nuclear Security Summit currently underway in Washington D.C. All three vowed to commit to containing North Korea and cooperating on sanctions and other measures to minimize the threat of North Korea attacking its neighbors. All issued statements reiterating their support for nuclear non-proliferation.

Nuclear Fiascoes: From Diplomatic Failure With North Korea To Debacle With Iran

September 1, 2015

Nuclear Fiascoes: From Diplomatic Failure With North Korea To Debacle With Iran, Forbes, Claudia Rosett, August 31, 2015

(An excellent comparison of the machinations that led to the nuke “deal” with North Korea and those now leading to the “deal” with the Islamic Republic of Iran. — DM)

[B]oth Clinton and Bush purchased the transient gains of North Korean nuclear deals at the cost of bolstering a North Korean regime that has become vastly more dangerous. . . . Kim Jong Un bestrides a growing arsenal of weapons of mass murder, including chemical and biological, as well as nuclear, plus a growing cyber warfare capability. This is the legacy not least of North Korea’s skill at exploiting the feckless nuclear deals offered by U.S. presidents whose real achievements on this front were to hand off a monstrous and rising threat to the next administration.

Now comes the Iran nuclear deal, which President Obama has described as a perhaps once-in-a-lifetime “historic chance to pursue a safer and more secure world.” And from Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, leader of America’s closest ally and Iran’s prime target in the Middle East, comes the warning that this deal is a “stunning historic mistake,” configured not to block Iran’s path to the bomb, but to pave the way.

Like the North Korea Agreed Framework, the Iran nuclear deal pivots narrowly on nuclear issues, as if ballistic missiles, terrorism, arms smuggling, gross violations of human rights, blatant declarations of destructive intent and the malign character of the regime itself were irrelevant to the promised “exclusively peaceful” nuclear program.

[I]f this Iran deal goes through, is that we are about to see the mistakes made with North Korea amplified on a scale that augurs not security in the 21st century, but a soaring risk of nuclear war.

************************

With Congress due to vote by Sept. 17 on the Iran nuclear deal, there’s a warning worth revisiting. It goes like this: The president is pushing a historic nuclear agreement, saying it will stop a terror-sponsoring tyranny from getting nuclear weapons. And up pipes the democratically elected leader of one of America’s closest allies, to say this nuclear deal is mortal folly. He warns that it is filled with concessions more likely to sustain and embolden the nuclear-weapons-seeking despotism than to disarm it.

This critic has more incentive than most to weigh the full implications of the deal, because his country is most immediately in harm’s way — though it has not been included in the nuclear talks. He notes that the nuclear negotiators have sidelined such glaring issues as human rights, and warns that Washington is naive, and the U.S. is allowing itself to be manipulated by a ruthless dictatorship.

No, the critic I’m referring to is not Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though he has warned of precisely such dangers in the Iran nuclear deal. I am citing the warnings voiced 21 years ago by the then-President of South Korea, Kim Young Sam, as the Clinton administration bargained its way toward the 1994 nuclear deal with North Korea known as the Agreed Framework.

As it turned out, Kim Young Sam’s misgivings were right on target. The 1994 Agreed Framework did not stop North Korea’s pursuit of the bomb. Instead, it became a pit stop on North Korea’s road to the nuclear arsenal it is amassing today.

For all the differences between North Korea and Iran, there are parallels enough to suggest that the failed 1994 nuclear bargain with North Korea is an excellent guide to the future trajectory with Iran, if the U.S. goes ahead with the nuclear deal — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — announced by the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China and Iran on July 14 in Vienna.

Recall that in 1994, faced with the threat of North Korea producing plutonium for nuclear weapons, the U.S. sought a diplomatic solution. Taking a cue from an exploratory trip to Pyongyang by former President Jimmy Carter, the Clinton administration wooed North Korea with an offer of lightwater nuclear reactors to be used exclusively for the peaceful production of electricity. All Pyongyang had to do was give up its nuclear bomb program.

As this agreement was taking shape, South Korea’s Kim Young Sam laid out his concerns in an hourlong interview with the New York Times. In the resulting article, dated Oct. 8, 1994, the Times reported: “After weeks of watching in silent frustration as the United States tries to negotiate a halt to North Korea’s nuclear program, President Kim Young Sam of South Korea lashed out at the Clinton administration today in an interview for what he characterized as a lack of knowledge and an overeagerness to compromise.”

The Times article described Kim’s concerns that “compromises might prolong the life of the North Korean government and would send the wrong signal to its leaders.” Kim was quoted as denouncing the deal then in the making as a “half-baked compromise” which would lead to “more danger and peril.”

President Clinton rolled right past that warning. On Oct. 21, 1994, less than two weeks after Kim’s concerns hit the headlines, the U.S. signed the Agreed Framework with North Korea. Clinton praised the deal as “good for the United States, good for our allies, and good for the safety of the entire world.” Promising that the Agreed Framework would reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation, Clinton further lauded the deal as “a crucial step for drawing North Korea into the global community.”

South Koreans and their leaders, in the main, disagreed. But with South Korea dependent on the U.S. superpower for defense against North Korea, Kim Young Sam had little choice but to follow Clinton’s lead. Seoul damned the deal with faint praise. The Associated Press reported: “South Korean Foreign Minister Han Sung-joo said that even though the deal fell short of expectations, it met South Korea’s minimum policy goals.”

History now shows that the chief policy goals served by the Agreed Framework were those of Pyongyang, which racked up a highly successful exercise in nuclear extortion, and carried on, first secretly, then overtly, with its nuclear weapons program. As South Korea’s president had predicted, the Agreed Framework helped fortify Pyongyang’s totalitarian regime, rather than transforming it.

Some of the negotiators involved in that 1994 deal have since argued that while the North Korean agreement eventually collapsed, it did at least delay Pyongyang’s progress toward nuclear weapons. What they tend to omit from that select slice of history is that the Agreed Framework helped rescue a North Korean regime which in 1994 was on the ropes. Just three years earlier, North Korea’s chief patron of decades past, the Soviet Union, had collapsed. The longtime Soviet subsidies to Pyongyang had vanished. China did not yet have the wealth to easily step in. And just three months before the nuclear deal was struck, North Korea’s founding tyrant, Kim Il Sung, died. His son and heir, Kim Jong Il, faced the challenge of consolidating power during a period of famine at home and American superpower ascendancy abroad.

But in the game of nuclear chicken, it was America that blinked. In exchange for North Korea’s promise to freeze and eventually dismantle its nuclear weapons program, the U.S. agreed to lead a $4.6 billion consortium to build two lightwater reactors for North Korea, and provide shipments of free heavy fuel oil for heating and electricity production while the new reactors were being built. This was augmented by U.S. security guarantees, easing of sanctions and promises to move toward normalizing diplomatic relations, with generous food aid thrown in.

By the late 1990s, just a few years into the deal, North Korea had become the largest recipient of U.S. aid in East Asia. That did not curb Kim Jong Il’s hostile ways. The Pyongyang regime put the interests of its military and its weapons programs before the needs of its starving population. In 1998, North Korea launched a long-range missile over Japan, a test for which it was hard to discern any purpose other than developing a vehicle to carry nuclear weapons. By that time, as a number of former Clinton administration officials have since confirmed, the U.S. was seeing signs that North Korea was cheating on the nuclear deal by pursuing a secret program for uranium enrichment.

Instead of confronting North Korea, Clinton during his last two years in office tried to double down on his crumbling nuclear deal by pursuing a missile deal with Pyongyang. In 2000, that led to an exchange of high-ranking officials, in which the Clinton administration dignified North Korea with the unprecedented move of welcoming one of its top-ranking military officials, Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok, to a 45-minute sitdown with Clinton at the White House. Clinton then dispatched Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, together with the administration’s special advisor for North Korea policy, Wendy Sherman, to Pyongyang (yes, the same Wendy Sherman recently employed by Obama as chief negotiator of the Iran nuclear deal). Sherman and Albright brought North Korea’s Kim Jong Il a basketball signed by star player Michael Jordan; Kim entertained them with a stadium flip-card depiction of a long-range missile launch. There was no missile deal.

North Korea continued raking in U.S. largesse until late 2002, when the Bush administration finally confronted Pyongyang over its nuclear cheating. North Korea then walked away from the 1994 deal (on which it had by then been cheating for years), withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (on which it had also been cheating) and began reprocessing plutonium from the spent fuel rods which despite the 1994 deal had never been removed from its Yongbyon nuclear complex. President Bush then made his own stab at nuclear diplomacy, via the Six-Party Talks. North Korea punctuated that process in Oct. 2006 with its first nuclear test. In 2007, the Bush administration led the way to a Six-Party denuclearization deal with North Korea, bull-dozing ahead even after it became clear that North Korea had been helping Syria build a secret copy of North Korea’s plutonium-producing Yongbyon reactor (destroyed in Sept. 2007 by an Israeli air strike). Once again, North Korea took the concessions, cheated on the deal and in late 2008 walked away.

Since Obama took office, North Korea has carried out its second and third nuclear tests, in 2009 and 2013; restarted its plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon; and in 2010 unveiled a uranium enrichment plant, which appears to have since at least doubled in size. Having equipped itself with both uranium and plutonium pathways to the bomb, North Korea is now making nuclear weapons, and developing increasingly sophisticated missiles — including long-range — to deliver them.

In sum, both Clinton and Bush purchased the transient gains of North Korean nuclear deals at the cost of bolstering a North Korean regime that has become vastly more dangerous. When Kim Jong Il died in late 2011, North Korea’s regime managed a second transition of power, to third-generation Kim family tyrant Kim Jong Un — who was described last year by the commander of U.S. Forces in Korea, General Curtis Scaparrotti, as “overconfident and unpredictable.” Kim Jong Un bestrides a growing arsenal of weapons of mass murder, including chemical and biological, as well as nuclear, plus a growing cyber warfare capability. This is the legacy not least of North Korea’s skill at exploiting the feckless nuclear deals offered by U.S. presidents whose real achievements on this front were to hand off a monstrous and rising threat to the next administration.

Now comes the Iran nuclear deal, which President Obama has described as a perhaps once-in-a-lifetime “historic chance to pursue a safer and more secure world.” And from Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, leader of America’s closest ally and Iran’s prime target in the Middle East, comes the warning that this deal is a “stunning historic mistake,” configured not to block Iran’s path to the bomb, but to pave the way.

There are surely dissertations to be written on the intricate differences between the North Korea Agreed Framework and the Iran nuclear deal now before Congress. But important and alarming similarities abound.

Like the North Korea deal, the Iran deal dignifies a despotic, murderous regime, and provides its worst elements with relief from economic distress, via a flood of rejuvenating resources. In North Korea’s case, the main help arrived in the form of aid. In oil-rich Iran’s case, it comes in the far more lucrative form of sanctions relief, including access to an estimated $55 billion or more (by some estimates, two or three times that amount) in currently frozen funds held abroad.

Like the North Korea Agreed Framework, the Iran nuclear deal pivots narrowly on nuclear issues, as if ballistic missiles, terrorism, arms smuggling, gross violations of human rights, blatant declarations of destructive intent and the malign character of the regime itself were irrelevant to the promised “exclusively peaceful” nuclear program.

Like the North Korea deal, the Iran deal comes loaded with incentives for the U.S. administration to protect its own diplomatic claims of success by ignoring signs of cheating. Monitoring of nuclear facilities is shunted to the secretive International Atomic Energy Agency, which has no power of enforcement, and will have to haggle with Iran for access to suspect sites.

Like Clinton with North Korea, Obama chose to frame the Iran deal not as a treaty, but as an executive agreement, performing an end-run around vigorous dissent within Congress by submitting the deal pronto for approval by the United Nations Security Council. In the North Korean case, the Security Council gave its unanimous blessing in the form of a presidential statement. In the Iran case, the Obama administration drafted a resolution which the Security Council unanimously approved. Having hustled the deal directly to the U.N., despite legislation meant to ensure Congress a voice, Obama administration officials are now pressuring Congress to defer to the U.N.

To be sure, there are two highly significant differences between the 1994 North Korea deal and the 2015 Iran deal. Iran, with its oil wealth, location in the heart of the Middle East, messianic Islamic theocracy and global terror networks, is even more dangerous to the world than North Korea. And, bad as the North Korea deal was, the Iran deal is much worse. Along with its secret side agreements and its promises to lift the arms embargo on Iran in five years and the missile embargo in eight, this deal lets Iran preserve its large illicitly built nuclear infrastructure and carry on enriching uranium, subject to constraints that will be problematic to enforce, and are themselves limited by sunset clauses that even North Korea never managed to obtain at the bargaining table.

When Israel’s Netanyahu spoke this past March to a joint meeting of Congress, warning that the Iran nuclear deal would lead to “a much more dangerous Iran, a Middle East littered with nuclear bombs and a countdown to a potential nuclear nightmare,” Obama dismissed that speech as “nothing new.” That’s true, in the sense that we have heard similar warnings before. What’s new, if this Iran deal goes through, is that we are about to see the mistakes made with North Korea amplified on a scale that augurs not security in the 21st century, but a soaring risk of nuclear war.

Now the Saudis are developing a nuclear arsenal

March 12, 2015

Now the Saudis are developing a nuclear arsenal, Examiner, March 12, 2015

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US nuke testThe “Baker” explosion, part of Operation Crossroads, a nuclear weapon test by the United States military at Bikini Atoll, Micronesia, on 25 July 1946.

Thus far, South Korea has been secure behind America’s nuclear arsenal. But, that country seems to have lost confidence with President Obama as well. It also might be disposed to share the technology with Japan, a country that has cast an anxious eye toward North Korea and China. In turn, the latter country will become very much alarmed.

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One of the terrible side effects of the impending Munich-style nuclear arms deal between President Obama and Iran is the possibility of a Middle East nuclear arms race. Hot Air reported on Thursday that the other shoe has dropped, and Saudi Arabia and South Korea has signed a nuclear agreement. The agreement suggests that the Saudis have concluded that there is no hope for President Obama preventing Iran from acquiring the Bomb. Therefore, the Kingdom is moving to acquire a native nuclear enrichment capacity in advance of building a nuclear arsenal.

By pretending that it is engaged in serious diplomacy with Iran, the Obama administration has managed to frighten the rest of the region to death. Israel is the only other country in the Middle East with a nuclear arsenal. Nearby Pakistan has the Bomb as well, but its nuclear weapons are geared toward countering its main enemy, India. The Saudis have concluded that it is time for an Arabic bomb to counter the impending Iranian bomb. Thus proliferation and the bone chilling possibility that a nuclear weapon might find its way into the hands of terrorists proceeds apace.

It gets worse. South Korea, besides an infusion of petrodollars, gets access to the nuclear technology it will build for its new desert customers. South Korea faces a country, North Korea, run by an insane man with its nuclear arsenal. Thus far, South Korea has been secure behind America’s nuclear arsenal. But, that country seems to have lost confidence with President Obama as well. It also might be disposed to share the technology with Japan, a country that has cast an anxious eye toward North Korea and China. In turn, the latter country will become very much alarmed.

So, the president, with his “smart diplomacy,” is about to create more nuclear powers across the world. Moreover, these countries will have, under the right circumstances, every incentive to use their nuclear arsenals. Who would have thought it possible?

Obama Must Explain Why the Iran Deal Isn’t North Korea Redux

March 1, 2015

Obama Must Explain Why the Iran Deal Isn’t North Korea Redux, Commentary Magazine, March 1, 2015

(There are additional parallels. North Korea and Iran have comparable views of human rights, both make loud and frequent noises about obliterating their perceived enemies and both have allies willing if not anxious to sneak around sanctions. There are also differences. Iran is far more powerful than North Korea was or is and Iran’s intention to dominate the Middle East transcends North Korea’s desire to “unify” with South Korea on North Korea’s terms. Iranian governance is based on Islam, an unfortunately powerful world religion seeking world domination. North Korean governance is based on the “religion of Kim,” supreme internally but otherwise of little significance elsewhere. Iran also presents a greater danger to the U.S. than North Korea did. However, Obama won’t explain why the Iran deal isn’t “North Korea redux” because he quite likely neither knows nor cares and because it is. — DM)

The State Department has never conducted a lessons learned exercise about what went wrong with the North Korea deal. Perhaps it’s time. Diplomatic responsibility and national security demand it.

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As the Obama administration rushes into a nuclear deal with Iran, it pays to remember the last time the United States struck a deal with a rogue regime in order to constrain that state’s nuclear program and the aftermath of that supposed success.

Bill Clinton had been president barely a month when North Korea announced that it would no longer allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections, followed shortly thereafter by an announcement that it would withdraw from the NPT altogether within a matter of months. If Kim Il-sung expected Washington to flinch, he was right. The State Department aimed to keep North Korea within the NPT at almost any price. Chief U.S. negotiator Robert Gallucci and his aides explained in their book Going Critical, “If North Korea could walk away from the treaty’s obligations with impunity at the very moment its nuclear program appeared poised for weapons production, it would have dealt a devastating blow from which the treaty might never recover.” Unwilling to take any path that could lead to military action, Clinton’s team sought to talk Pyongyang away from nuclear defiance, no matter that talking and the inevitable concessions that followed legitimized Pyongyang’s brinkmanship.

As with President Obama relieving Iran of the burden of six United Nations Security Council resolutions which demanded a complete cessation of enrichment, Clinton’s willingness to negotiate North Korea’s nuclear compliance was itself a concession. After all, the 1953 Armistice required Pyongyang to reveal all military facilities and, in case of dispute, enable the Military Armistice Commission to determine the purpose of suspect facilities. By making weaker frameworks the new baseline, Clinton let North Korea off the hook before talks even began.

Just as Israeli (and Saudi and Emirati and Egyptian and Kuwaiti and Bahraini) leaders express frustration with the Obama administration regarding its naiveté and unwillingness to consult, so too did South Korea at the time chafe at Clinton’s arrogance. South Korean President Kim Young Sam complained to journalists that North Korea was leading America on and manipulating negotiators “to buy time.” And in a pattern that repeats today with regard to Iran, the IAEA held firmer to the demand that North Korea submit to real inspections than did Washington. The issue came to a head in September 1993 after the State Department pressured the IAEA to compromise on limited inspections.

In the face of Pyongyang’s defiance, Clinton was also wary that coercion could be a slippery slope to war. Just as President Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel instructed U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf not to stand firm but rather to retreat if probed or pushed by Iran, Clinton sought to mollify Pyongyang, for example cancelling the joint U.S.–South Korea military exercise in 1994. Adding insult to injury, the Clinton administration criticized the South Korean government for being unwilling to compromise. Indeed, everything the Obama administration has done with regard to Israel over the past year—with the exception, perhaps, of the classless chickensh-t comment—was ripped right from the Clinton playbook two decades before when the White House sought to silence Seoul.

There followed months of baseless optimism in Washington, followed by disappointment quickly supplanted by denial. At one point, when it looked like Kim Il-sung’s intransigence might actually lead to war, former President Jimmy Carter visited Pyongyang and, whether cleared to or not, made concessions which diffused the situation. It was the diplomatic equivalent of Obama’s voided redlines. Nightlinehost Ted Koppel observed on May 18, 1994, “this administration is becoming notorious … for making threats and then backing down.”

On July 8, 1994, a heart attack felled Kim Il-sung. Kim Jong-il, his eldest son, took over. Negotiations progressed quickly. Gallucci and his team promised an escalating series of incentives—reactors, fuel oil, and other economic assistance. They kicked inspections of North Korea’s suspect plutonium sites years down the line.

What had begun as North Korean intransigence had netted Pyongyang billions of dollars in aid; it would go down in history as the largest reward for cheating and reneging on agreements until Obama granted Iran $11 billion in sanctions relief just for coming to the table. Columnist William Safire traced the steps of concessions on North Korea. “Mr. Clinton’s opening position was that untrustworthy North Korea must not be allowed to become a nuclear power,” he observed, but Clinton “soon trimmed that to say it must not possess nuclear bombs, and stoutly threatened sanctions if North Korea did not permit inspections of nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, where the CIA and KGB agree nuclear devices have been developed. But as a result of Clinton’s Very Good Deal Indeed, IAEA inspectors are denied entry to those plants for five years.” And Sen. John McCain, for his part, lamented that Clinton “has extended carrot after carrot, concession after concession, and pursued a policy of appeasement based … on the ill-founded belief that North Koreans really just wanted to be part of the community of nations.” Again, the parallels between Clinton’s and Obama’s assumptions about the desire of enemies to reform were consistent.

Clinton wasn’t going to broker any criticism of what he believed was a legacy-defining diplomatic triumph, all the more so when the criticism came from abroad. On October 7, 1994, South Korean President Kim Young Sam blasted Clinton’s deal with the North, saying, “If the United States wants to settle with a half-baked compromise and the media wants to describe it as a good agreement, they can. But I think it would bring more danger and peril.” There was nothing wrong with trying to resolve the problem through dialogue, he acknowledged, but the South Koreans knew very well how the North operated. “We have spoken with North Korea more than 400 times. It didn’t get us anywhere. They are not sincere,” Kim said. His outburst drew Clinton’s ire. He became the Netanyahu of his day. Meanwhile, the U.S. and North Korea signed the Agreed Framework. Gallucci and his team were “exhilarated.” They later bragged they “had overcome numerous obstacles in the negotiations with the North; survived the intense, sometimes strained collaboration with Seoul and the International Atomic Energy Agency; and marshaled and sustained an often unwieldy international coalition in opposition to the nuclear challenge, all under close and often critical scrutiny at home.”

Today, by some estimates, North Korea is well on its way to having 100 nuclear weapons and is steadily developing the ballistic capability to deliver them. Iran’s nuclear negotiators have cited North Korea’s negotiating strategy as a model to emulate rather than an example to condemn. Meanwhile, Obama has relied on many of the same negotiators to advance his deal with Iran.

The State Department has never conducted a lessons learned exercise about what went wrong with the North Korea deal. Perhaps it’s time. Diplomatic responsibility and national security demand it.