Tue, Feb 18, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Pyongyang is just as dangerous as Baghdad

By Lin Cheng-Yi 林正義

At a time when the US is on the verge of attacking Iraq, North Korea's actions will depend on whether the US is willing and able to fight wars in two separate regions at the same time.

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has repeatedly stated that the US does have that ability, but while Iraq is being compelled to turn over its weapons of mass destruction by military threats, the US has consistently stressed that it has no intention of invading North Korea and instead will use diplomacy to settle the crisis.

However, the US is now also considering moving part of its forces stationed in South Korea away from Seoul to avoid fanning the flames of South Korean nationalism and to get beyond the range of North Korean artillery.

Some US experts and Democratic congressmen fear that once the Yongbyon nuclear reactor begins operations, 8,000 spent fuel rods could be reprocessed within months to refine enough plutonium for between four and six nuclear weapons. This would pose a threat to the US and the rest of the world at least as serious as that posed by Iraq. They are frustrated that the Bush administration is ignoring Pyong-yang's threat -- a crisis which has implications for the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Pyongyang has acknowledged its nuclear plans while Baghdad has strenuously denied having any such plans. But Washington sees Iraq as the primary enemy in its "axis of evil." If Pyongyang completes the manufacture of nuclear weapons and successfully avoids an attack by the US, the Asian-Pacific security environment will then contain one more volatile unknown quantity.

The US must look squarely at North Korea and send key negotiators as soon as possible. Although North Korea would not go so far as to launch a major attack on US forces, it could create small skirmishes in the Demilitarized Zone and distract the US as it tries to concentrate on Iraq. Pyongyang has methods of sowing discord between the US and South Korea and casting the shadow of a nuclear threat over Japan.

Neither the crisis in Iraq nor that in North Korea will impact Taiwan directly, which reduces the complexity of preparing a response plan. Nevertheless, Taipei must not be lax in observing the responses of the US and Japan, in analyzing China's reaction to US actions and in establishing its own comprehensive crisis management mechanisms.

Lin Cheng-yi is a research fellow at the Institute of European and American Studies at Academia Sinica.

This story has been viewed 2660 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top