News / Asia

Pyongyang's New Nuclear Facility Tests World Resolve

A 2008 file photo of Pyongyang, North Korea, at dusk
A 2008 file photo of Pyongyang, North Korea, at dusk

North Korea's recent revelations about its new, modern uranium-enrichment facility stunned scientists.  Asia analysts see it as Pyongyang's latest attempt to force the world to accept it as a nuclear state.  With international talks about the North's nuclear program broken off, and uncertainty about whether sanctions can halt North Korea's nuclear advances, analysts say the international community has few good options to deal with the problem.  

North Korea's revelation that it now has two nuclear programs - one to enrich uranium and another to create plutonium - presents the United States and its allies in the region with a new challenge, one that Asian experts say will not be easy to resolve - especially since North Korea seems increasingly unwilling to give up its nuclear programs.

Victor Cha, a former Bush administration White House director for Asia affairs, says North Korea sees its nuclear programs as its ultimate security blanket, a way to gain acceptance in the world.

"In the end, it is becoming clearer and clearer that while they are willing to negotiate in different periods of time, portions of their program," said Cha. "They are willing to 'rent' pieces of their program for a freeze for a few years.  In the end they are trying to get us all to accept that they are going to be a nuclear weapons state."

North Korea has offered to return to six-country talks on ending its nuclear weapons programs.  The talks involve China, Japan, the two Koreas,  Russia and the United States. Last year, however, Pyongyang stormed out of the talks and shortly afterward carried out a second nuclear test.

Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, says North Korea has shown no indication it is willing to give up its nuclear weapons.

"The reality is they are a wonderful bargaining tool.  They are a wonderful defensive weapon," said Bandow. "Nobody would pay attention to the North without them.  And especially imagine the political dynamic in Pyongyang today:  Would anyone, including the Dear Leader, want to go to the military and say we are giving away your most important weapon.  My guess is that with a political transition in the offing, that is very unlikely."

Analysts note that the addition of a uranium-enrichment program will add to the difficulty of keeping track of the North's nuclear activities.  Facilities used for plutonium require nuclear reactors, which are easier for satellites to monitor, but uranium enrichment plants are much easier to conceal.  The products of both programs can be used to make nuclear weapons.

And if the North's nuclear ambitions were not enough, there is this week's artillery shelling, and the sinking in March of a South Korean military ship, the Cheonan, that killed 46 sailors.  North Korea says the shelling was a defensive move - because South Korea was conducting military exercises in the same area - and the communist state also denies it was responsible for sinking the Cheonan.

The United States has adopted an approach to North Korea it calls "strategic patience" - that is, waiting for North Korea to come forward and agree to give up its weapons instead of using incentives to get Pyongyang to come back to the negotiating table.

Analysts note, however, that as recent events have shown, the longer the administration waits, the more time North Korea has to advance its nuclear program.

"The problem is that if we continue to insist that North Korea has to give up everything first - which may be morally correct - that simply is not going to work practically," said  Balbina Hwang, a visiting professor at the U.S. National Defense University.

Hwang went on to say that "it is OK to engage North Korea, but only if we are willing to put on the table ourselves ... have a very, very serious conversation amongst the United States and the allies about what it would take to actually address North Korea's security concerns.  Any other type of diplomacy is frankly just a waste of time.  And I think that is what needs to happen now with the six-party talks."

\

U.S. nuclear envoy Stephen Bosworth (R) is surrounded by reporters after meetings in Tokyo, 22 Nov 2010
U.S. nuclear envoy Stephen Bosworth (R) is surrounded by reporters after meetings in Tokyo, 22 Nov 2010

Stephen Bosworth, the top U.S. envoy on North Korea, has already met in Asia with participants in the six-party talks.  He says China, the host of the talks, and the United States agree that a multilateral, diplomatic approach is the only way to realistically resolve these problems.

Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute says what is needed is a positive package that has China's support and addresses North Korean concerns such as economic aid, trade and diplomatic recognition.

"I've long thought that we should have diplomatic relations - at the very least, a consulate office there [in North Korea]," said Bandow. "It would show some sign of respect to the North, which matters to them.  It would give us a small window into North Korean society.  It would be a very small concession from our part [and] it might be a positive step that would be helpful."

Bandow adds that the U.S. government may even need to consider the option of accepting the North as a nuclear state in some shape or form.

"I think that the U.S. has to have as a backup option that if we could stop them from proliferating, if we could stop them from ... any further production, we could live with them [having] 10 to 12 nuclear weapons. That is not a good option, but do we want them to turn into a Nukes-R-US [a nuclear weapons proliferation center]?" Bandow asked.

Yet, without any new ideas and no good military option, analysts say the best approach is to try to get the North back into negotiations on ending its nuclear program.  Again, Victor Cha:

"I hate to say that because it is so dissatisfying. But you try to get back into a negotiation with them, with the Chinese on your side, really trying to push the North to put this facility and these new capabilities on the table for negotiation," said Cha.

However, how soon and under what pre-conditions those talks may resume is unclear.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs