Kim Jong-il, North Korea president.
U.S. policy toward North Korea must change if the communist
government led by Kim Jong-il is to be prodded into giving up its pursuit of
nuclear weapons, according to researchers at the Nautilus Institute for
Security and Sustainability at the University of San Francisco.
The Six-Party Talks that have been Washington’s primary
diplomatic and negotiating window into North Korea for years have stalled and
the U.S. reliance on sanctions and one-ups-man nuclear threats have, if
anything, escalated the likelihood of conflict on the Korean Peninsula, say
Scott Bruce, director of the Nautilus Institute, part of USF’s Center for the
Pacific Rim, and Peter Hayes, co-founder and executive director of the Nautilus
Institute and professor of international relations at the Royal Melbourne
Institute of Technology in Australia.
Bruce and Hayes’ findings are published in a June report
released in the wake of the sinking in March of the South Korean naval ship Cheonan, which a multi-national team of investigators blamed
on a torpedo launched by a North Korean miniature submarine.
While North Korea has denied involvement, the sinking of the
Cheonan benefits the North by exposing
the South Korean leadership’s dependence on the U.S. to protect it from attack
as provided by treaty – something that didn’t occur.
“The attack on the Cheonan suggests that the DPRK (North Korea) intends to exploit its nuclear
capacity for political ends, not deterrence,” according to the report, “North
Korea’s Nuclear Shadow and the Sinking of the Cheonan.”
In the report, Bruce and Hayes argue that there is no
military, let alone nuclear, response that makes sense to North Korea’s
strategy. Rather, what is needed is a new U.S. political strategy aimed at
devaluing not only North Korea’s nuclear weapons, but nuclear weapons in
What might work is the negotiation of an internationally
legal binding nuclear weapons free zone that includes both Koreas and Japan and
would mean that the U.S. won’t target North Korea with nuclear weapons. Such an
approach also has the benefit, from a U.S. perspective, of being touted as part
of the U.S. pursuit of the global abolition of nuclear arms, Bruce says.
“This approach – currently ‘the road not taken’ – would
leave the DPRK sitting in splendid isolation atop a small pile of useless
nuclear weapons in a very deep economic hole from which there is no exit, and
facing massive, overwhelming conventional force in response to any DPRK
first-use of nuclear weapons,” the report states.
Instituting a nuclear weapons free zone, which requires
validation by the world’s five declared nuclear powers, China, Russia, the
U.K., France, and the U.S., would provide security for North Korea from a U.S.
nuclear first strike. It would also ensure support from China and Russia on the
issue (which hasn’t always been the case). For the U.S., a nuclear weapons free
zone would establish a nuclear weapons monitoring and verification system to
ensure that North Korean spent nuclear energy fuel is not diverted for weapons
use and that all weapons grade nuclear material is accounted for, Bruce and
“Thus the zone puts the demands made on both sides on the
table, and enables denuclearization in a way that has not been yet been reached
in the negotiations,” the report states.