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    Greater China
     Jun 17, 2010
US looks within, Pyongyang looks to war
By Eli Clifton

WASHINGTON - The administration of United States President Barack Obama should implement more effective policies to prevent North Korea from proliferating its weapons technologies and pressure North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to denuclearize, said a report released on Tuesday in Washington.

The influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) report called on the White House to back up its rhetoric of denouncing North Korea's weapons program with actions to change Pyongyang's behavior and ensure stability in the region.

At the top of the authors' recommendations was a strong endorsement of the six-party talks on the North's nuclear program - which include the United States, Japan, South Korea, Russia, China and North Korea - and a call for the administration to create a better understanding between the US and China about their


shared interests in creating a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

The report acknowledges that fundamental issues of distrust between the US and China, particularly China's suspicion about US strategic interests in the region, must be overcome for the two countries to cooperate more effectively in preventing North Korea from continuing its nuclear weapons program.

Distrust between Beijing and Washington emerged as a stumbling block after North Korea's suspected involvement in the sinking in March of the Cheonan, a South Korean warship, with the loss of 46 sailors.

While most countries accepted the findings of a South Korean investigation that concluded that North Korea was responsible for the attack, Beijing was careful to avoid an explicit denunciation of its ally. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, however, did make a public statement that China "will not protect" the perpetrators of the attack.

During a rare press conference on Tuesday in New York, North Korean ambassador to the United Nations Sin Son-ho dismissed the investigation as "a complete fabrication". He said any UN Security Council action over the sinking would have a direct military response.

"A war may break out any time ... Our people and army will smash our aggressors with merciless counter-reaction if they dare to provoke us despite our repeated demands and warnings," he said.

Repeating an earlier demand, Sin said Pyongyang must be allowed to send its own investigation crew to the site of the Cheonan sinking. His comments came a day after North and South gave their versions of events to the UN in separate hearings. The likely obstacles to any Security Council moves to censure Pyongyang over the Cheonan would be China and Russia, though experts in Washington say China's influence over North Korea might be overestimated.

"[China's influence over North Korea] has been an illusionary creature we've manufactured here in Washington. [We're told] it has simultaneously an enormous amount of influence in North Korea and is willing to follow up on that influence at our suggestion," John Feffer, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, told Inter Press Service.

"Such a creature doesn't exist," he said. "It would be nice from the point of view of the Pentagon and the State Department, but it isn't true. China doesn't have that degree of influence and where it does have influence it is reluctant to use it to achieve US ends."

The CFR report emphasized that greater US-led, regional cooperation would be necessary to deal with any host of scenarios which could occur on the Korean Peninsula:
To best address North Korea's continuing nuclear challenge, the United States needs to provide political leadership in cooperation with regional counterparts to roll back North Korea's nuclear development, coordinate actions designed to contain the spillover effects of possible North Korean instability while insisting that North Korea give up its destabilizing course of action, and affirm that one prerequisite to a normal US-DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] relationship is a denuclearized North Korea.
The task force that authored the report, chaired by Charles "Jack" Pritchard, former ambassador and special envoy for negotiations with North Korea, and retired four-star general John H Tilelli, put the highest priority on the ongoing US role in limiting the proliferation of North Korean weapons.

Reports have suggested that North Korea has exported technology to Syria, Libya and Myanmar but regime instability - a growing concern as Kim Jong-Il's health remains uncertain - could lead to a situation where the leadership loses control of its weapon technology or chooses to sell technology to the highest bidder. (See Myanmar's nuclear bombshell Asia Times Online, June 5, 2010.)

Working toward denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and curbing Pyongyang's development of further weapons should also be at the top of the US agenda, according to the authors.

Following these policy challenges, the CFR listed planning for contingencies of regime instability, and promoting engagement and improving the situation for North Korean people as important policy objectives.

"The task force finds that the efforts taken thus far by the United States and its partners are insufficient to fully prevent North Korea's onward or vertical proliferation or to roll back its nuclear program. The United States must seek to resolve rather than simply manage the challenge posed by a nuclear North Korea. Resolving these issues would also allow the implementation of an effective US humanitarian and human-rights policy toward North Korea," the report's authors concluded.

But an attempt by the Barack Obama administration to engage North Korea on a wider range of issues than denuclearization or the sinking of the Cheonan would have to be carefully orchestrated to protect the White House from attacks by its Republican opponents.

"Obama doesn't want to expose himself to the ridicule of Republicans. But that aside, if it is difficult for the administration to engage in direct interactions with North Korea, then it can at least encourage other actors to move forward," said Feffer.

"We have some humanitarian organizations involved in North Korea and we have some other initiatives that could go forward at the cultural level. The Obama administration could green-light those. It's at times like these that we need these kinds of connections," he continued.

(Inter Press Service with additional editing by Asia Times Online.)

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(24 hours to 11:59pm. ET, Jun 15, 2010)


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