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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs