Friday, May 18, 2007

US Non-Proliferation Policy against Iran and North Korea

The United States takes different approaches to Iran and North Korea. While threatening to impose UN resolution to Iran, the Bush administration is trying to provide food and energy for North Korea in return to stop possessing nuclear bombs. The United States see Iran more serious threat than North Korea. This is the reason why it stands tough against the former, and soft against the latter. However, this policy needs to be reconsidered as both rogue states develop close cooperation.

Regarding different approaches, Jessica Mathews, President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, explains why Iran is more imminent threat to the United States than North Korea. While North Korea by the six-party talk, there is no level of trust between Iran and its counterparts in nuclear negotiation, she said in Charlie Rose Show on March 29 (From this link, click the calendar on March 29, 2007). Certainly, Iran is more dangerous than North Korea. None of negotiators, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China, have direct influence on Iran. As mentioned in her interview, Iranian possession of nuclear bombs could trigger Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey to pursue nuclear development.

More dangerously, Iran is courting the Gulf nations to split their ties with the United States. US Vice President Dick Cheney and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the Gulf Arab states this May. While the United States emphasize common interest with Arab allies to stop nuclear threats by Iran, Iran tries to decouple them from the United States. But according to Mustafa Alani, Director of Security and Terrorism Program at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai, "We have a deep mistrust of both sides. Each is trying to defend his corner on major issues in the region. But neither is likely to accomplish very much." (“Iran, US Court Gulf Arab Allies”, Kansas City Star, May 10)

The United States and Iran are seriously antagonistic on Iraq. The media tend to report that the Iraq Security Conference at Sharm el Sheik in Egypt symbolizes US willingness to compromise with Iran. However, the Economist argues against this. At the conference, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice spent much time to talk with Syrian Foreign Minister Wallid al-Moallem. While taming Syria, the United States stands tough against Iran, and decouples these two states. (“A Cagey Game; America and Iran Spar over Iraq”, Economist, May 5)

On the other hand, Washington’s stance to North Korea is somewhat soft. Unlike Iran, China has leverage on North Korea. It does not have direct ties with religious radicals. More importantly, North Korean bomb experiment is not likely to provoke its neighbors to pursue nuclear research and development. South Korea takes the Sunshine policy to tame North Korea in a friendly way. Japan does not dare to undermine the US-Japanese alliance by having nuclear weapons.

However, this does not justify soft approaches to North Korea. The Six-Party talk has decided to lift economic sanctions and provide nuclear fuels for civilian use for North Korea. But North Korea is not willing to abide by the agreement. Japanese conservatives are vehemently critical to this deal. It is critical fir the US-Japanese alliance to fill the gap on North Korea.

Former Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph criticizes that current deal helps the Kim Jong Il regime survive without sufficient effect for non-proliferation. He resigned the position this March, and knows much in depth about the Bush administration’s arms control policy. In his lecture at the American Enterprise Institute on April 24, Joseph mentioned North Korea’s quest for WMDs at the cost of its people. Also, he pointed out that North Korea has been committed to dangerous operations overseas, including abduction of Japanese citizens, money laundering, and violation of international non-proliferation agreements. Unlike Libya, he said that North Korea was not willing to end isolation from the world. For further pressure to North Korea, he insists on closer US-Chinese partnership and stauncher regional alliance. Most importantly, he argues that the deal must be completely verifiable, in order not to repeat the same mistake in the 1994 agreement.

As worried by some experts, Iran and North Korea seeks cooperation to stand against non-proliferation efforts in the global community. Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Yong Il signed an agreement to expand political, economic, and cultural ties (“Iran, North Korea reportedly agree to cooperate more”, Boston Globe, May 12). An Iranian online journal, contributed by pro-democracy journalists and bloggers, worry closer partnership between tyrant regimes. (“Iran, North Korea tyrant regimes to boost ties”; Persian Journal, May 11)

The Axis of Evil is the Axis of Evil. Standard diplomatic techniques do not work. Appeasement makes things worse. Some sort of coercive measure must be taken.