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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go 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.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More