Tuesday, October 10, 2006

We Need a New Deterrent

By David Ignatius
The Washington Post
Wednesday, October 11, 2006; Page A19

"Present at the Creation" was the title Dean Acheson gave to his memoir about the founding of the post-World War II order. Now, with North Korea claiming to have tested a nuclear weapon in defiance of the international community, and Iran seemingly on the way, Harvard professor Graham Allison argues that we are present at the unraveling.

The North Korean bomb test is a seismic event for the world community. It tells us that the structure created to maintain global security is failing. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France -- all warned North Korea against taking this step. Yet the leaders in Pyongyang ignored these signals and in the process blew open the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The North Korean leadership, puny in everything but weapons technology, has been marching toward this moment since the 1950s. It's unrealistic to think that, having brazened their way to detonating what they say is a nuclear bomb, the North Koreans will now give it up. The proliferation machine isn't going to run in reverse. In that sense, the question is less how to repair the old architecture of nonproliferation -- practically speaking, it's a wreck -- and more how to build a new structure that can stop the worst threats.

What are the right cornerstones of this new security structure? I put that question to Allison, who is a national resource when it comes to matters of nuclear proliferation and deterrence. He wrote the definitive book, "Essence of Decision," on the Cuban missile crisis, the world's closest brush with all-out nuclear war. In recent years he has been studying the danger of nuclear terrorism, and he edited a prescient discussion of the implications of a North Korean breakout that appears in the September issue of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

Allison believes that the world must focus on what he calls "the principle of nuclear accountability." The biggest danger posed by North Korea isn't that it would launch a nuclear missile but that this desperately poor country would sell a bomb to al-Qaeda or another terrorist group. Accountability, in Allison's terms, means that if a bomb explodes in Manhattan that contains North Korean fissile material, the United States will act as if the strike came from North Korea itself -- and retaliate accordingly, with devastating force. To make this accountability principle work, the United States needs a crash program to create the "nuclear forensics" that can identify the signature of fissile material of every potential nuclear state.

Arms control expert Robert Gallucci describes this approach as "expanded deterrence" in his article in the September Annals.

President Bush seemed to be drawing this red line of accountability when he warned Monday: "The transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States, and we would hold North Korea fully accountable for the consequences of such action."

Tough words, but are they credible? That's why the second essential pillar of a new security regime is a restoration of deterrence. The Bush administration warned North Korea over and over that it would face severe consequences if it tested a nuclear weapon. So did China and Russia, but Kim Jong Il went ahead anyway. Iranian leaders are similarly unimpressed by Bush's saber rattling, viewing America as a weakened nation bogged down by an unwinnable war in Iraq. To restore deterrence, the West needs to stop making threats it can't carry out.

And the United States must salvage its strategic position in Iraq -- either by winning or organizing the most stable plan for withdrawal.

After the Cuban missile crisis, President John F. Kennedy got serious about preventing nuclear war. He installed a "hotline" so the White House and the Kremlin could talk when crises arose; he negotiated the 1963 test ban treaty; and he began the discussions that led to the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty. That treaty worked adequately for almost four decades. Instead of the 20 nuclear states that Kennedy feared would exist by 1975, we had just eight, until last weekend.

But the North Korean test threatens to begin what a 2004 U.N. commission warned would be "a cascade of proliferation" that could spread to Japan, South Korea, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
We are present at the unraveling. We must "think about the unthinkable" with new urgency.

The United States and its allies must begin constructing a system that can succeed where the Non-Proliferation Treaty has failed. A terrorist nuclear bomb in Manhattan or Washington isn't a thriller writer's fantasy; it's a probability, unless America and its allies establish new rules for nuclear accountability that are clear and credible.

The writer co-hosts, with Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria, PostGlobal, an online discussion of international issues athttp://www.washingtonpost.com. His e-mail address isdavidignatius@washpost.com.

North Korea's nuclear test puts onus on China, S. Korea

USA Today Editorial
October 10, 2006

Over the past decade, North Korea's erratic leader Kim Jong Il has learned two things. First, his nuclear program is what makes the outside world pay attention to him. And second, even when the United States and others threaten punishment and sanctions, he can count on old comrade China and reunification-minded South Korea to bail him out.

But North Korea's declaration that it has conducted an underground nuclear test - becoming only the eighth country to do so - crosses a red line and provides an opening to break the pattern. China and, to a lesser extent, South Korea hold the key.

The initial world responses, on Monday, were encouraging. China joined the global condemnation, calling North Korea's test "brazen." Meanwhile, South Korea canceled an aid shipment.

Public denunciations, however, are unlikely to have much effect on Kim. The real test is whether North Korea's neighbors are willing to cut off Kim's life support system. China provides more than 70% of North Korea's fuel and a third of its food imports.

Tough sanctions would be wrenching for China. Not only would it have to crack down on an ideological ally - not so long ago, both shared the same Maoist isolationism - but it also fears a flood of refugees if sanctions starve North Korea's population. It's nervous, too, about North and South Korea reuniting as East and West Germany did, bringing a capitalist democracy to its borders, which is exactly what the United States seeks.

Presumably, Kim is fully aware that the international community has few levers it can use effectively unless China stops behaving like an indulgent parent. But his defiance of Beijing might prompt China to see its (and the world's) longer-term interest: Without effective action against North Korea, the region will become dangerously destabilized. Japan, South Korea and others in Asia and beyond will feel compelled to build their own nuclear weapons. China, at odds with Japan for centuries, does not want that.

Cutting Kim's lifeline, at least temporarily, might sound draconian. Many of North Korea's 23 million people could starve. But the masses are already starving. Some reportedly subsist on tree bark. Food aid and goods, as in other totalitarian regimes, tend to go to the elite, including Kim.

To be effective, sanctions would have to reach the top tier. They would have to include a crackdown on Kim's own reported business empire, known as Division 39, that provides him with luxuries and includes several billion dollars in such places as Macau and Switzerland. But painful sanctions can't be the whole picture. They have to be accompanied by the kind of skillful and forceful diplomacy - from China, the United States and others with a key stake - that makes clear to Kim the two roads available to his nation: isolation and pain if it continues its reckless nuclear program, and rewards and security assurances if it renounces it.
There is time for this.

North Korea's nuclear weapons are not yet developed or sophisticated enough to put on a missile, and military pre-emption isn't a viable strategy. Any attack aimed at destroying Kim's weapons would likely unleash North Korea's million-man army, poised just miles from the South Korean capital and the 28,000 U.S. troops stationed nearby.

There are no magical solutions to the North Korean nuclear crisis. Successive U.S. administrations have failed to curb Kim's nuclear ambitions, and
President Bush's policy of refusing to accept a nuclear North Korea appears hollow. But if China steps up to the responsibilities befitting the global power it aspires to be, the beginnings of a solution might emerge - and the pattern that has enabled Kim's tyranny might finally be broken.

In a Test, a Reason to Talk

Bilateral Diplomacy Could Still Roll Back North Korea's Nuclear Arms Effort

By Selig S. Harrison
The Washington Post
Tuesday, October 10, 2006; Page A21

"You have learned to live with other nuclear powers," said Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan, North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator, leaning forward over the dinner table in Pyongyang. "So why not us? We really want to coexist with the United States peacefully, but you must learn to coexist with a North Korea that has nuclear weapons."

"You misunderstand me," he said. "We are definitely prepared to carry out the Beijing agreement, step by step, but we won't completely and finally dismantle our nuclear weapons program until our relations with the United States are fully normalized. That will take some time, and until we reach the final target, we should find a way to coexist."

This exchange foreshadowed the North Korean test of a nuclear explosive device that has prompted demands for a naval blockade or military strikes against known North Korean nuclear facilities. But my conversations with six key North Korean leaders on a recent visit indicated that the test opens up new diplomatic opportunities and should not be viewed primarily as a military challenge.

Paradoxical as it may seem, Pyongyang staged the test as a last-ditch effort to jump-start a bilateral dialogue on the normalization of relations that the United States has so far spurned.

Over and over, I was told that Pyongyang wants bilateral negotiations to set the stage for implementation of the denuclearization agreement it concluded in Beijing on Sept. 19, 2005, with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea.

Washington focuses on Article One of the accord, in which North Korea agreed to "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs." But what made the agreement acceptable to Pyongyang was the pledge in Article Two that the United States and North Korea would "respect each other's sovereignty, exist peacefully together and take steps to normalize relations."

In North Korean eyes, it was a flagrant violation when, four days after the agreement was signed, the United States in effect declared economic war on the Kim Jong Il regime. The Treasury Department imposed financial sanctions designed to cut off North Korean access to the international banking system, branding it a "criminal state" guilty of counterfeiting and money laundering.

The sanctions issue has given the initiative to hard-liners in Pyongyang, who can plausibly argue that the sanctions are the cutting edge of a calculated effort by dominant elements in the Bush administration to undercut the Beijing agreement, squeeze the Kim regime and eventually force its collapse.

To be sure, the United States should take action against any abuse of its currency. But the financial sanctions are not targeted solely against counterfeiting and any other illicit North Korean activity. They go much further by seeking to cut off all North Korean financial intercourse with the world. The United States has warned financial institutions everywhere, Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey said Aug. 23, "of the risks in holding any North Korean accounts."

Foreign businessmen and diplomats in Pyongyang told me of numerous cases in which legitimate imports of industrial equipment to make consumer goods have been blocked by the banking sanctions. This slows down the efforts of North Korean reformers to open up to the outside world and curtails economic growth. So far, the sanctions do not appear to be undermining the regime, but North Korean leaders can feel the noose tightening.

The Bush administration says that it is not pursuing a policy of "regime change," but the president did tell Bob Woodward that he would like to "topple" Kim Jong Il, according to Woodward's book "Bush at War." Recently, when a State Department official told Levey that the sanctions should distinguish between licit and illicit North Korean activity, Levey replied, "You know the president loves this stuff." Robert Joseph, John Bolton's successor as undersecretary of state for arms control, said at a recent State Department meeting that he hoped the sanctions would "put out all the lights in Pyongyang."

To advance U.S. security interests, the United States should agree to bilateral negotiations. It should press North Korea to suspend further nuclear and missile tests while negotiations on normalization proceed, freeze plutonium production and make a firm, timebound commitment to return to the six-party talks. In return, the administration should negotiate a compromise on the financial sanctions that would reopen North Korean access to the international banking system, offer large-scale energy cooperation and remove North Korea from the State Department's list of terrorist states, thus opening the way for multilateral aid from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank, all of which North Korea is actively seeking to join.

Playing games with "regime change" has become much too dangerous and should now give way to a sustained diplomatic effort to roll back North Korea's nuclear weapons program while it is still in its early stages.

The writer, a former Post bureau chief in Northeast Asia, is the director of the Asia program at the Center for International Policy and the author of "Korean Endgame."