January 24th, 2013
06:19 PM ET

The North Korean dance begins, again

Michael Auslin is director of Japan Studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

By Michael Auslin, Special to CNN

With most countries, one remembers dates, such as 1066 or 1776; with North Korea, one remembers U.N. resolutions. Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 2087, the seventh since 1993 concerning North Korea’s illicit nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program. Like the other resolutions, it is empty and meaningless, and will do nothing to resolve a growing crisis on the Korean Peninsula. It’s time for Washington to grow up and either decide to put real pressure on North Korea or to admit diplomatic defeat and reserve the right to retaliate for any unprovoked North Korean aggression in the future.

North Korea: New nuclear test will be part of fight against U.S.

There’s nothing new, either, in North Korea’s strident denunciations of the U.N. resolution, except perhaps its clarifying reiteration of the United States as a “hostile power” and enemy of the Korean people. Nor must any observers delude themselves into thinking that, simply because Beijing decided to support this resolution, China is in any way serious about crimping Kim Jong Un’s style. The Kim regime long ago figured out that China would much rather have an obstreperous and unbalanced quasi-theocratic totalitarian state controlling the northern half of the Korean Peninsula than trust that a reunified Korea would not somehow decide to side with the United States and possibly even Japan in the game of global geopolitics in Northeast Asia.

If North Korea stays true to form, then the world should expect a third nuclear test within weeks, as a sign of Pyongyang’s displeasure with the U.N.’s temerity to express, yet again, its opposition to North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs. This will undoubtedly spur the United States, China and other nations in the region to act upon the U.N.’s repeated desire to restart the Six-Party Talks, despite their having achieved nothing in the decade since they began. Instead, Washington will likely once again prove that it has caught itself in a “dialogue trap,” in which the end goal of dealing with North Korea remains maintaining the forms of diplomatic interaction, regardless of their lack of content.

Yet even if America and its allies, along with China, have not learned any new tricks, Pyongyang is not standing still. Indeed, its successful ballistic missile launch last December now gives it the confidence to begin increasing the range and payload of its long-range missiles. As it allegedly has in the past, North Korea will likely sell these weapons, first to Iran, its longtime partner in weapons proliferation, but also potentially to other nations with the cash to pay for “Made in North Korea” goods. In addition, conducting a third nuclear test will only give the North Koreans more experience in handling nuclear technology, and move them further along the road to weaponizing their nuclear stockpile, so as to put it on top of their newly-credible missiles.

America is thus getting perilously close to a red line, in which an aggressive and hostile rogue regime will have the means to target at least some of the American homeland. Most observers would find it easy to conclude that Kim Jong Un, like his father and grandfather before him, is crazy like a fox, and therefore would do nothing to precipitate the almost certain destruction of him and his regime should he be foolish enough to let an errant missile land in Los Angeles. Yet given that this is a leadership that only several years ago sunk a South Korean naval ship, killing more than 40 sailors, not to mention kidnapped dozens of South Korean and Japanese citizens over the decades, only someone professing to have a crystal ball or a backyard nuclear shelter should feel comfortable making such an assumption.

Opinion: For the U.N. and North Korea: Game on

What should we do? One suggestion is to return to the Bush-era financial sanctions on the Kim family and other leaders of the regime that caused such consternation a decade ago and seemingly led to the North Koreans agreeing to serious negotiations. However, the Bush administration gave up its leverage soon after dialogue began, and the North returned to its old tricks. Hitting the Kim pocketbook seems to be one way to get the regime’s attention.

Another suggestion is to take a page from the Obama Administration’s early treatment of North Korea, refusing to enter into negotiations until the regime showed some good faith. “Good faith” with North Korea is of course an elastic concept, but the Obama administration was right not to rush into hasty agreements; the fact that it did so soon after Kim Jong Un took power last year and was rewarded with yet another broken agreement, proves the wisdom of its first course.

Yet perhaps it’s time for America and its allies to grow up, and admit that, now that North Korea has nuclear weapons and functional ballistic missiles, there’s nothing we can do to prevent them from building a force as large as they want. The North will not denuclearize, nor will it give up its long-range missiles. Therefore, the United States should make it very clear that it is done negotiating and reserves the right to annihilate the North Korean military (and regime) should South Korea or Japan, or the U.S. for that matter, be attacked by North Korea’s nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles.

Some would say that is containment, while others would recoil from the de facto recognition of North Korea as a nuclear power. It would however have the saving grace of being the only realistic path to come out of nearly two decades of failed diplomacy. It would mean neither more nor less than the stalemate we’ve been living with since 1993, and is perhaps the only way to let the North Koreans know we are serious about protecting our interests.

Topics: North Korea

soundoff (82 Responses)
  1. Hot Carl

    Who cuts his hair? The barber probably says, "I make you look like Moe!"

    January 25, 2013 at 8:54 am | Reply
  2. Boo

    North Korea is like a spoiled little brat...when it doesn't get it's way it start's throwing hissy fits and tantrums. All this head case leading this country wants is attention...like a spoiled little brat.

    January 25, 2013 at 8:57 am | Reply
  3. felix_in_Mass

    This country is threatening the United States and South Korea with nuclear weapons. Is this an empty threat? Perhaps. But can you imagine the kind of hell that would reign down upon North Korea if any sort of heavy bomb was actually used against us? The country would be left a wasteland.

    January 25, 2013 at 9:20 am | Reply
  4. Hahahahahahahha

    Lil Dong One must be compensating for something again. Hahahahahahahahahah

    January 25, 2013 at 9:22 am | Reply
  5. more2bits

    NK relishes the debate while we do nothing. Sanctions never work–witness Iran about to enter the nuclear club. The only club that works is the one with spikes on it.

    January 25, 2013 at 9:45 am | Reply
  6. JAL

    When life becomes something like a game of chess, just remember that God owns the board.

    January 25, 2013 at 10:20 am | Reply
  7. I'm So Ronery

    I'm so ronery.

    Maybe if I set of a nuke someone will call me on my birth day.

    January 25, 2013 at 10:34 am | Reply
  8. Just For Fun

    Why not pick a fight with the U.S? Every country we have kicked butt on now has a good strong economy and a higher standard of living then before the fight. Just look a night time shot of N.K. and you will see no lights in 95% of that country.
    So it makes sence to have a little war from their stand point.

    January 25, 2013 at 10:42 am | Reply
  9. 100 % ETHIO

    U.N. power or rules applied against for those who does not have Nuclear (the only Earthly power). To NK, UN does not mean anything.

    January 25, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Reply
  10. 100 % ETHIO

    If they got balls, why France, Canada(tailgate),...go after NK and Iran? Instead, they show their muscles against Mali and other non-Nuke Countries.
    These motive shows, Nuke is the only weapon to be SAFE, SECURED and GOT RESPECT.

    You got a NUKE, you got respect.
    You got no-NUKE, you got no-respect.

    January 25, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Reply
  11. Romey

    No more talk.


    January 25, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Reply
  12. Hahahahahahahha

    Who's been smuggling Big Macs into North Korea??? Hahahahahahahaaha

    January 25, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Reply
  13. johnny

    Right, instead of being cornered, even cowered, America and their nuclear missles armed allies should altogether challenge North Korea to launch the first nuclear missile to America or anywhere. Defy and dare them. At the same time promise North Korean generals that one missile sent out by them – will be excuse for 100 similiar missiles heading to Pyongpyang.

    January 25, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Reply
    • Anthony

      Seems with our "diplomacy first" stance...which should indeed be the first step in any case...rogue countries have taken advantage of that fact to flex their muscles to obtain international clout. These countries want to see how hard they can push us before we react. And when we DO react, then claim we are aggressors and warmongers.

      I say give them what they want. Diplomacy can only go so far before you have to react and show them you mean business. The more we let them do what they are doing, the more it makes us look weak and vulnerable for them and other rogue nations to do as they please until it does erupt into a giant crap

      January 28, 2013 at 2:57 pm | Reply
      • johnny

        Right, and one sure way to get China involved is for US to declare war against NK . US must let Pyongpyang know that US is ready to destroy NK's missile launch site at any sign of another nuclear missile test in NK. America will not take responsibility for that kind of attack, because NK has already announced their intention to strike America with a nuclear missile bomb.

        America's threat to bomb NK should move China to make some political and economic action against NK. Because we all know China do not like any war near their border.

        January 28, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
  14. Hahahahahahahha

    Who gets the first dance with the fat kid in the front row with the DIY haircut??? Hahahahahahhahaha

    January 28, 2013 at 10:11 am | Reply
  15. Elizabeth

    You all have it wrong and in time the eyes will open.... USA is not a saint and when you see how diabolical are own country is then you will humble yourself, just as many of us have when we opened our eyes to the truth.. This is another tactic of the US to get us yet into another war. Oh and IRAN they never started a war and havent been in one for eons.. USA? many,, we are responsible for 9/11 we are responsible for Pearl Harbor.... the list goes on... I suggest all of you Patriots dig deep... Are country committed a genocide on over 500 tribes of people,,, we built this country on the backs of black slaves...... So how saintly and great is the USA? Karma is cause and effect.... we will soon pay for the reality that has taken over the world and that is a reality filled with the power of the bankers (Rothschilds, Vatican (big players)..... We are broke and thanks to them the foreign investors bankrupted are country and the pimps who let them....... 1913 bad year when we let the FEDERAL (private banking system) Reserve come into being..... We have created all this mess...... just as in your own life the micro cosm one must take responsiblity for their actions same in the Macro,, we must take responsiblity for all that we have done... We have always been imperialists thanks to the British Empire.... We just are subjects that is it.. This has been one big facade and we have all been duped...... Open your eyes. THE CHAOS is coming within months are dollar will collapse and I am glad, we can kick out those who hijacked are true reality and that is about peace, compassion, love for everyone in this world.... Evil will not rule no longer.... its that like anything else for those who have no vision,, things must fall to pieces in order for them to see the truth....... GOD BLESS ALL, yes that includes the Iran the North Koreans, the DIabolical vatican, Israel and the US

    January 28, 2013 at 11:51 am | Reply
  16. Rick McDaniel

    No one has any influence with NK but China, and China has no intention of exercising its influence.

    January 28, 2013 at 2:56 pm | Reply
  17. johnny

    Right, and one sure way to get China involved is for US to declare war against NK . US must let Pyongpyang know that US is ready to destroy NK's missile launch site at any sign of another nuclear missile test in NK. America will not take responsibility for that kind of attack, because NK has already announced their intention to strike America with a nuclear missile bomb.

    America's threat to bomb NK should move China to make some political and economic action against NK. Because we all know China do not like any war near their border.

    January 28, 2013 at 9:38 pm | Reply
  18. bombitgood

    North Korea has reached a point where they need to be curbed and curbed hard. The US needs to either walk away and accept defeat, or target the NK leadership with "the bomb" and stand firm. The Chinese have more to lose than we do if they choose to get involved.

    January 29, 2013 at 7:41 am | Reply
  19. Michael

    It is not only North Korea, no, also South Korea is very dangerous. Koreans have very strong and dangerous international intelligence networks, using non-typical and non-Western methods for winning international markets. Stop "Koreans" with no imports from South Korea, and not buying "Koreans" products. We do not need Samsung phones, satellites, no Hyundai, no Kia, ... , once they penetrate the West, it will not possible to stop them ... STOP "Koreans" now!

    January 29, 2013 at 8:55 am | Reply
  20. rightospeak

    This is just a propaganda piece for endless wars and military buildup.While we are borrowing money from its neighbor, Communist China , we are worried about North Korea ?. China and Russia next door do not seem to be worried . If the insane propaganda stopped maybe we could get the two Koreas united and have peace on the Korean Peninsula. The future of Koreans is in the unification of their people . The Globalists HATE nationalism, so that is where the problem comes in.

    January 29, 2013 at 10:25 am | Reply
  21. empresstrudy

    Just make them all honorary Mexicans and give them free citizenship.

    January 29, 2013 at 10:34 am | Reply
  22. Sam Molloy

    A lot of Iranians are actually pro-American, it's their leadership that is fanatical. North Koreans are brainwashed and kept in the dark. His posturing is for their ears, to keep up the myth that we are trying to destroy them. In either case, a military strike would only empower their leaders and prove them right. We need to take both of these threats very seriously. Perhaps a few pinpoint actions to embarass the leaders and make them look silly without manufacturing martyrs could be done. Hire Pink Floyd to fly a pig over their capitol or something.

    March 8, 2013 at 8:38 pm | Reply
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