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[Editorial] Countering NK`s Missile and Nuke Threats

Posted April. 02, 2009 08:48,   


North Korea’s missile threat is showing no end in sight. Having announced its plan to launch its ballistic missile Taepodong-2 despite a ban by the U.N. Security Council, Pyongyang issued a threat by saying, “If sanctions are submitted to the UNSC, the six-party nuclear talks will collapse and we will stop dismantling our nuclear facilities.” The North even threatened to conduct another nuclear test. While preparing serious aggression targeting the international community, the North is stepping up its threat against the world.

The North also threatened the South, saying it will consider Seoul’s participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative a declaration of all-out war. Pyongyang is detaining two American journalists and one South Korean from the Kaesong industrial complex, warning that it will imprison them long term. The North is using the inhumane action of taking hostages as a bargaining chip to pressure the South and the United States.

The North claims it seeks to launch a satellite, but the Taepodong-2 is part of its disguise of its plot to develop weapons of mass destruction. The North conducted a nuclear test in 2006, and if it launches the missile, it will effectively secure inter-continental ballistic missiles able to carry nuclear weapons. Moreover, the International Crisis Group said Pyongyang has manufactured small nuclear warheads, which is alarming news. If the North possesses nuclear weapons, its primary target will be South Korea. Despite the pressing situation, Washington has ruled out intercepting the Taepodong-2 if it is launched. President Lee Myung-bak also says he opposes a military response. This is tantamount to voluntary downplaying the threat and the abandonment of necessary counteraction.

South Korea and the United States are adding to public fears by not disclosing detailed information on the North’s nuclear weapons. Seoul strategy of handling Pyongyang cannot be the same as that of Washington, which formulates its policy from the perspective of its global strategy. In a report, a policy research group led by the Asia-Pacific research center at Stanford University and the Korea Society in New York said Washington will tolerate Pyongyang’s possession of a small quantity of nuclear weapons under the condition that the North refrains from nuclear proliferation. The U.S. government has also labeled North Korea as a country that possesses nuclear weapons. Washington did so in documents including those submitted to the confirmation hearings of Leon Panetta as Central Intelligence Agency chief, as well as a 2008 report on the assessment of the joint operation environment prepared by the joint military command under the U.S. Defense Department.

Seoul’s goal in its bilateral alliance with Washington should be that it cannot allow Pyongyang to possess nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. South Korea and the United States need thorough collaboration to ensure that if the North ends up launching the missile, it will face the strongest sanctions for violating U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718. With weapons of mass destruction posing a real threat, the two allies should clarify that the U.S. nuclear umbrella could be put in place if an emergency situation unfolds on the Korean Peninsula. The two sides should also beef up joint operation of South Korea-U.S. forces. To protect the country and people, Seoul should proactively consider participation in the Missile Defense (MD) program and the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).