Monday, June 01, 2009

North Korean Nuclear Crisis: A Test for President Obama + Japan and South Korea

Remember that Vice President Joseph Biden warned "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama.” Kim Jong Il did it. North Korean nuclear bomb test raises a serious concern over the Obama administration’s competence. Despite widely accepted understanding that multilateral sanctions by the global community are necessary, experts doubt China’s commitment to contain North Korea. Let me review commentaries and analysis by leading security experts.

Dan Blumenthal, Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and Robert Kagan, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, points out that the Bush administration did not accept recommendation by former Secretary of Defense William Perry and current Under Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter ("If Necessary, Strike and Destroy"; Washington Post; June 22, 2006), to attack missile facilities in North Korea. Their idea sounds right, as Israel bombed a nuclear power plant construction site in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. However, as Blumenthal and Kagan say, the Obama administration is more reluctant to take this approach. Also, China wants to keep relations with North Korea, despite rhetorical denounce to the nuclear test. Instead of current six-party talk, both authors argue that the United States negotiate with North Korea, in close consultation with Japan and South Korea. They say that current negotiation process allows China to to set the political agenda while quietly increasing its leverage over the North. It is quite regretful that President Obama is cutting missile defense system, although Kagan and Blumenthal argue enhancing this system as the first option against this rogue regime (“What to Do About North Korea”; Washington Post; May 26, 2009). Come to think of it, Ronald Reagan defeated the Evil Soviet Empire with the SDI program. North Korea tests nuclear bombs whoever the US President is. But missile defense system would deter North Korea to fire its nuclear missiles, because this rogue state would ruin them if they were intercepted. Had Senator John McCain been elected, he could have managed this crisis through Reaganite diplomacy. How unfortunate that Barack Carter Obama assumes presidency now.

In view of this, William Kristol urges Republicans and conservatives who are obsessed with resisting Obama’s big government to focus more on national security as Former Vice President Dick Cheney has drawn public attention with his bitter criticism to President Barack Obama (“Who Will Confront Obama? Cheney, Gingrich and...?”; Washington Post; May 25, 2009). I agree with Kristol. It is not only a man named Barack Obama but whole America is tested now. This is why I strongly disagree with K.T. McFarland who belittled the threat of North Korea in an interview with FOX News.

Jamie Fly, Executive Director at the Foreign Policy Initiative, argues that a sea blockade combined with Chinese pressure will screen out illicit trade with North Korea and send a strong message to Kim Jong Il (“Making Pyongyang Pay”; Weekly Standard Blog; May 28, 2009). The Cuba Crisis in 1962 was resolved in this way. The problem is, China is not willing to use strong pressure. As Fly insists in the blog post, the Congress needs to pressure the Obama administration to take a steadfast action.

Douglas Paal, Vice President at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and National Security Council staff of the Reagan and the Bush Sr. administrations, told the current administration not to rush back to negotiation because it would appear a reward for wanton behavior by the rogue regime (“North Korea's Move Tests International Will on Nuclear Issues”; PBS Jim Lehrer News Hour; May 25, 2009).

In Japan, Yoshiko Sakurai, a conservative journalist and the founder of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, announced an urgent policy proposal to manage the crisis of North Korean nuclear test on May 29. She and her proponents declared a four point recommendation, whose fundamental viewpoints are in common with American experts. The following points were declared.

1. Close trilateral partnership of the United States, Japan, and South Korea. Re-inclusion of North Korea into the terrorists list of US State Department.
2. China should stop aid to and trade with North Korea. Chinese banks must be sanctioned, if they continue illicit business with North Korea.
3. Impose a sea blockade to stop technology transfer to Iran and Syria, thereby cut North Korea’s source of revenue.
4. Permit Japanese Self Defense Forces to attack enemy if necessary. Japan should found a defense policy framework beyond postwar pacifism.

I agree to this proposal.

On the other hand, Motoaki Kamiura, a military analyst and the Director of Japan Research Center of Military Affairs, presents an interesting analysis in Hyakka Saiho which is the online journal that took up some of my previous blog posts. Kamiura says that Kim Jong Il may have lost control over radical generals in the military (“UN Security Council Explores Further Sanctions against North Korea”; Hyakka Saiho; May 29, 2009).

It is time that we understood current negotiation process would not work. Further sanctions and blockades are not enough. I strongly agree with Jamie Fly that we sponsor democratic uprising against the Kim regime. We can learn good lessons from brilliant success of President Ronald Reagan who liberated people in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The rogue tiger tests Barack Obama plus Japan and South Korea. But the wanton dictator must be defeated by all means.