Stanley's blog

It is only a question of time before North Korea becomes a nuclear weapon power with a missile capability that can reach, Japan and probably Hawaii. There are three good reasons why North Korea must not have nuclear weapons.

First, it is obvious that it would be potentially catastrophic as the régime is not rational and its use of nuclear weapons will always be a possibility.

Second, there will be a serious risk of North Korea selling weapons to other states and terrorist groups.

Third, it will fundamentally alter the strategic situation in the region and bring instability.

Sooner or later, a decision as to what to do has to be made. All preventative policies to date have failed and North Korea has a long history of prevarication. The choice appears to be:

· accept the reality and take the risk;

· destroy the nuclear installations by bombing;

· change the regime;

· cut the country off from China and bring it to its knees.

Any action must have the support of China or risk another Korean war.

Beijing has the greatest influence over Pyongyang, but this seems to have achieved nothing so far. North Korea is economically dependent on China which therefore has the necessary leverage, but fears that using the economic tool would lead to a huge flow of refugees northwards into the PRC, serious instability and a re-unification of the two Koreas. There are a million North Korean soldiers under arms.

However, China also fears the behaviour of a nuclear North Korea and knows that it holds the key to solving the problem. What then does it do? It is hard to imagine China using a military solution. China must also be opposed to action to force a régime change. Its only effective weapon is to cut off oil and other essential supplies. This would quickly bring Pyongyang to it knees.

China would need substantial help from other countries, particularly in the event of the Kim Jong-il regime collapsing. This means money and humanitarian aid.

No long term solution is achievable without also South Korea, the US Japan and probably Russia.China knows that, unless North Korea is stopped, the likelihood of nuclear proliferation in the region is considerable.

Henry Kissinger is right (New York Times 4 June) in saying:

“But if China exercises the full panoply of its pressures without an accord with America and an understanding with the other parties, it has reason to fear chaos along its borders at or close to the traditional invasion routes of China. A sensitive, thoughtful dialogue with China, rather than peremptory demands, is essential.”

The alternative to action is accept the reality and take the risk.

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