The Rosett Report

The Lighter Side of North Korean Nuclear Tests

The pattern now being established is that North Korea tests a nuclear device, and the “international community,” in response, tests… a UN resolution.

If that idea fills you with hope, then this should be the moment to kick back and relax about those North Korean nukes. Problem solved!

 The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution #1874 on Friday condemning “in the strongest terms” North Korea’s May 25th nuclear test. Devotees of such stuff will note that this sure-as-shootin’ sounds stronger than UN Security Council Resolution #1718, adopted in 2006 in response to the previous North Korean nuclear test. In that case, the Security Council, instead of condemning “in the strongest terms,” contented itself merely with “Expressing the gravest concern.”

 This latest UN resolution, #1874, demands that North Korea “not conduct any further nuclear test or any launch using ballistic missile technology.” Or rather, this new resolution makes the demand again, since the previous resolution, three years ago, made the same demand. (Well, with one small difference — the previous resolution demanded no more nukes or ballistic missiles. The new resolution demands no more nukes and no more launches using ballistic missile “technology” — a fine distinction perhaps meant to address the problem that two months ago North Korea tested a ballistic missile, but described it as a satellite launch).

Anyway, the UN’s new resolution #1874 doesn’t stop there. It contains 34 articles demanding, deploring, deciding, calling, requiring and requesting, plus a coda in which the Council decides to “remain actively seized of the matter” (which may sound like what happens to an engine block without oil,  but at the UN, it means they plan to keep fussing about it).

Some of these articles spell out plans that could be interesting, especially the calls for UN member states to inspect ships and seize cargoes if they have information that gives “reasonable grounds” to think that items pertaining to Kim Jong Il’s missile and nuclear bomb projects are aboard. More broadly, there is a list of actions the UN Security Council has (again) decided North Korea should take — which boil down to abandoning its nuclear and long-range missile programs, allowing complete and verifiable inspections and not trashing the world’s non-proliferation deals. (Seems like the Security Council, while on this roll, might just as well have tossed in a few demands for Kim Jong Il to disband his military, open his gulag and move to Hawaii — but maybe Russia and China wouldn’t have gone along with that).

No doubt there will be lots of debate about all this in coming days. But on a warm Friday evening — a few points, some lighter than others.

1) The new resolution calls for North Korea to return immediately to the Six-Party Talks. But the point of the Six-Party Talks was to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. So if North Korea complies with the rest of this new resolution, and gives up its nuclear and long-range missile habits, then there should be no need for any more Six-Party Talks. One might wonder if even the authors of this resolution find most of its text hard to take seriously.

2) Six-Party Talks! Give us a break. The Six-Party Talks were an abysmal and costly failure. In Feb., 2007, President Bush’s main man for the Six-Party Talks, Chris Hill (now President Obama’s ambassador to Iraq) triumphantly announced that a denuclearization deal had been struck. North Korea then redefined the terms, extorted, demanded, cheated and reneged. By the time the Six-Party Talks collapsed in late 2008, North Korea had raked in massive amounts of free food, free fuel and hard cash; had haggled its way off the U.S. list of terror-sponsoring states, and had managed to avoid any penalty for the mind-boggling act of helping Syria build a copy-Yongbyon reactor on the Euphrates (destroyed in Sept., 2007 by an Israeli air strike). The U.S. got… another North Korean nuclear test. And Iran and cohorts got… the message that nuclear extortion has all the makings of a growth industry.

Now, the entire gang on the Security Council, from the U.S. to Burkina Faso, want to give Kim another crack at this extortion racket.

3) In the statements by Security Council members explaining their positions on this new North Korea resolution, China offered a fascinating caveat on the issue of inspections of suspect cargo. As summed up by the UN: “Under no circumstances should there be the use of force or threat of the use of force.” … So, if force is forbidden, then how do these inspections work? If a ship’s crew refuses to cooperate, do the would-be inspectors just go away? Hang around and look plaintive? Or maybe ring up some of those mobile-phone-equipped Somali pirates and ask for a bit of off-the-books help? The only way inspections can work without any threat of force is if any vessel involved in North Korean proliferation traffic just cheerfully volunteers to open its hatches and let inspectors have a look. I have my doubts about this approach.

4) Time for some fun. Libya, also a member of the UN Security Council, ought to win the Miss Venality Award for most flagrantly self-interested party to the proceedings.

According to the UN record of the discussion, Libya’s Ambassador Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgam noted that his country had renounced its own WMD programs. He went on to lament, as the UN information department paraphrased it, that “Unfortunately the international community had failed to take advantage of Libya’s actions and reward it with development assistance in a way that would have helped further the case for non-proliferation.”

… One might well wonder if Muammar Gaddafi is miffed that Kim Jong Il has so far proved more adept at raking in payoffs while hanging on to his nuclear bomb projects. Though in the pay-off department, Gaddafi can hardly complain. Not only did the U.S. reward him by nodding Libya onto the UN Security Council. Libya’s former foreign minister Ali Treki was just “elected” at the UN to chair the 2009-2010 General Assembly.

Anyway, that’s a taste of the scene at the UN on Friday. For some, this is all supposed to be part of the solution to the nuclear ventures of totalitarian North Korea. I’d say it’s part of the problem.