North Korea said yesterday that they will keep their nuclear program.
According to a Newsweek article, Pyongyang said flatly that it will not give up its right to civilian nuclear programs. Of course since the North Koreans have issued claims before that they already have nuclear weapons, and millions of its citizens still live in huts with no electricity at all, it is clear that this 'civilian' nuclear program is code talk for nuclear weapons program.
The fact is, the North Koreans can say what they want. They know they are safe from an American military invasion (and have been for years). There are two main reasons for this:
1) they already have a deterrent, in the form of thousands of artillery pieces aimed at Seoul, which essentially hold the south Korean capital hostage and could begin blanketing that city with shells within literally seconds after an order came to do so, and 2) recalling that the Chinese intervened in 1950 when American forces came too far up into North Korea, they know it is unlikely that America would risk an invasion. China, to be sure, sees North Korea as a minor nuisance, sometimes flooding the border with refugees, but it has to be considered a possibility that an American army that close to their borders would provoke the same response it did in 1950. That said, the article suggests that the Chinese intend to lean on North Korea, In New York on Tuesday, Chinese President Hu Jintao told President Bush that China was ready to “step up” pressure on Pyongyang for progress in the negotiations.
Beyond that, truth be told, the North Koreans (just like the Iranians, who I posted on a couple of weeks back) know that despite inheriting the strongest military machine in the history of the world, President Bush has squandered it to the point where other than bombing, there isn't a whole lot we CAN do. Right at the moment, we simply don't have the ability to invade North Korea or anywhere else. Our army is scattered and does not have a clear mission.
The fact is, North Korea can develop any nuclear capable system right now that it wants.
So what should we do?
First, tone down the rhetoric. We won't invade North Korea, so why should we keep talking like we mean it when clearly we don't?
Second, sell them the food and medcine they want. A hungry country is a desperate country, and there certainly indivuals and organizations who would pay a great deal of money for a working nuke. If we make them too poor, then we risk creating exactly the hazard that is our greatest fear-- terrorists with nuclear weapons.
Third, We need to come to grips with the fact that another nation is in the nuclear club. The whole nuclear non-proliferation treaty is rarely endorsed by countries now building them. We won't be able to prevent more and more nations from joining, so we need a different 'line in the sand' (I blogged on this early in July).
Fourth, we must begin a policy of 'constructive engagement.' It is no secret that alone among communist countries, Cuba and North Korea stand out as being old line Marxist states. And, not coincidentally, those are the two countries where we have maintained a cold -war style of engagement. In communist countries where we have engaged the public and showed them the benefits of our lifestyle, either the people themselves have overthrown their governments (i.e. Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union) or pushed them into making some reforms, which will be an ongoing process (i.e. China, Vietnam). Isolating countries like North Korea and Cuba only serves to strengthen the Marxist dictators in those countries internally.