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US Ponders Dialogue vs. UNSC Action on NK Missile

Posted April. 03, 2009 09:47,   


U.S. media have apparently concluded that diplomatic efforts to block North Korea from launching its rocket are over since the Stalinist nation has begun fueling its long-range missile.

The U.S. State Department, which has served as a diplomatic channel, has repeated a launch, whether of a missile or satellite, will violate U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718 and have consequences for Pyongyang. Washington, however, has failed to reach a consensus on how to consider and deal with the launch.

Experts cite the different approaches of the State Department and Pentagon and Republican criticism over President Barack Obama’s measures to deal with North Korea as why Washington has failed to reach an agreement.

The Obama administration is still fine-tuning its policy of engaging North Korea.

Washington seeks to take the missile launch to the U.N. Security Council, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special U.S envoy for North Korea Stephen Bosworth will strengthen their diplomatic efforts via the six-party talks.

In an interview with the Tufts Daily, the independent student newspaper of Tufts University, Bosworth said, “The Obama administration’s foreign policy is framed by the principles of engagement. I think there is a predisposition toward engagement and dialogue, and that characterizes our attitude toward North Korea.”

Robert Gallucci, the former top U.S. nuclear negotiator who helped land the 1994 Agreed Framework, said, “To denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, we have to remove fundamental reasons standing behind North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons. To this end, we have to ease uncertainties in security and eradicate threats faced by the North Korean regime. Dialogue can be the only viable measure. We have to give a last chance to North Korea.”

The U.S. is determined to talk about the missile launch at the six-party talks, along with the North’s nuclear program.

Frank Jannuzi, senior East Asia specialist for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, “We have to deal with the issue through dialogue and talk about North Korea’s missile launch.”

Korea Economic Institute President Charles Pritchard, a former special envoy for North Korea under the Bush administration, added, “North Korea’s missile launch is a pending issue that cannot be postponed any longer.”

The Pentagon said it would intercept any North Korean missile but has taken a 180-degree turn in stance. The change reflects disputes among related parties. Certain officials including Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, say Washington is capable of intercepting Pyongyang’s long-range missile and must have the determination to do so.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, however, ruled out plans to intercept the missile at this point.

Experts say Gates’ comment is understood as the U.S. strategy to ignore the missile launch.

He also doubted that diplomacy can persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons. Instead, he cited increased economic sanctions against the North as the only viable option, showing his differing point of view from the State Department.

Republicans and other politicians with a more hawkish stance say the missile launch could be a chance to revive the U.S. missile defense system. The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based conservative think tank, has emphasized that the North’s long-range missile can reach the U.S. mainland within 33 minutes.

In their letter sent to President Obama, 16 Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee encouraged him to resort to the U.S. missile defense system if the U.S. or its allies are put at risk.