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Monday, October 09, 2006

North Korea and the international burden of proof 


Stratfor predicts the, er, fallout in its morning note, observing that Pyongyang will construe anything less than a military response as a victory:

If a test did occur, the most immediate U.S. response will likely be a strong condemnation and a call for a U.N. mandate for sanctions. If there is no U.S. military response, Pyongyang will see that as an acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear power.

Many questions remain, however. Even if this were a nuclear test, it is not clear that it was a weapon rather than a device. A nuclear device produces an in-place blast from a mechanism of indeterminate size and structure. A weapon can be fitted on a missile or on an aircraft, and is therefore highly compact and ruggedized.

China's response will be hesitant. China does not seem ready to cut off food or fuel to North Korea, particularly before winter sets in. Beijing has deployed additional troops to the border, but that is to seal the frontier. Beijing will be angry, but its primary concern is to keep the North Korean people from spilling across the border into northeast China.

South Korea will, of course, suspend cooperation in Kaesong and Kumkang and will probably put its forces on alert. With the drawdown of U.S. troops in South Korea, the South Korean army is now the border patrol. U.S. military units remaining will have to go on heightened alert and rush Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries to the peninsula. South Korea could deploy high-level officials to North Korea.

Japan will work for U.N. for sanctions and Chapter 7 invocation. Japan also will heighten its military posture and increase diplomacy with China and South Korea in an attempt to show a united front against North Korea.

North Korea will go on high alert nationwide. The military will assume a high-readiness posture, and the North Koreans will proclaim their entry into the nuclear club, using sanctions to tighten control and rally domestic backing. Pyongyang might quickly invite the International Atomic Energy Agency in to make its nuclear status "legitimate." It will petition international bodies to accept the new reality.

In any event, North Korea will view the test as a victory. It will mark the acceptance of the government as a nuclear state. Further negotiations will have to take place under this new reality. North Korea cannot be isolated forever. North Korea has bet that anything less than a complete military invasion is a capitulation. Pyongyang will press for acceptance, similar to Pakistan. China and South Korea will be key; both desperately want to avoid any military action. They will end up negotiating with North Korea, finding a way to make the North comply with international regulations.

Arms Control Wonk has not posted since the test, which is a pity, but did observe ex ante that the North Koreans would not be testing as demonstrating. This is clearly true, insofar as it was the world's most telegraphed nuclear test by one of the world's least talkative governments.

Glenn Reynolds has a number of pithy observations ("Japan and China join to call it 'unacceptable.' Kim Jong Il is a uniter, not a divider!"), and makes the necessary point that Iran will be watching the world's response very carefully:
The reality is that the international nonproliferation regime has failed again, because although people are willing to talk, nobody's willing to actually do anything significant when a country appears close to going nuclear. See also Iran.

That's true, but partly because the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has an enormous flaw: it permits signatory countries to build so much of the technology that they need for a "device" that it is relatively easy to do the last bit in secret. A country can, in effect, hide its weapons program "in plain site."1 My understanding is that Iran, in its visible work, has chosen among various lawful technological paths toward nuclear power those solutions that are also most useful in the building of weapons. See my post on the "roundtable" discussion at Princeton last March, in which Princeton Professor Frank von Hippel made this very point. These rogue regimes -- let us not mince words, please -- have learned to use international law against the countries that respect international law. Unfortunately, international law takes years to change, so the law cannot keep up with those who would manipulate it. And, as with all legal regimes, if the violators succeed too often the entire system will break down.

This was a very legitimate argument of the United States in advance of the invasion of Iraq, but it was discredited among those who wish international law to dominate sovereign interests when it emerged that Saddam's recent violations of law related more to failures to disclose than substantive active programs. As a result, the political "burden of proof," as it were, has shifted to the prosecution under exactly the circumstances when it is most appropriately borne by countries suspected of building weapons. Most analysts blame the Bush administration for this, but one might equally fault its critics for making a categorical error: the failure of American and indeed virtually all foreign intelligence in understanding the state of Iraq's program is actually an argument for, rather than against, imposing the political burden of proof on suspected proliferators. After all, we now know how impossibly hard it is for outsiders to know what is going on inside a closed society.
___________________________________________
1. I kill me.

8 Comments:

By Blogger Unknown, at Mon Oct 09, 12:35:00 PM:

Arms Control Wonk has posted, says it was a dud.  

By Blogger Lanky_Bastard, at Mon Oct 09, 07:09:00 PM:

It's really bad news, but not that surprising. The whole world got to see that there were pretty much no negative consequences for India and Pakistan. All other things being equal then, why wouldn't a country pursue nukes?

Follow-up question, how many other countries are developing nukes atm?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Oct 10, 03:47:00 AM:

This will balance things up

You got to wonder what sort of game Putin is playing, given moves he is making elsewhere. This move reminds me of a move he made in the recent Balkans bash.

The two Russian Chechen GRU platoons, Vostok and Zapad, are being deployed in S. Lebanon, setting up their headquarters and surveillance posts in the Lebanese port of Sidon and giving Syrian intelligence a window on their input. Syria is drumming up local support in the strategic port-town, the largest in S. Lebanon, by pumping weapons to local branches of the two Shiite groups, Hizballah and Amal, and the two pro-Syrian clans which dominate the town.
The carve-up of South Lebanon since Israeli troops pulled out is unfolding as follows: The UN force mandated by UN Security Council resolution 1701 is centered in the Tyre region, whereas Hizballah, Syria’s supporters and the Russian intelligence platoons have taken control of Sidon further up the Mediterranean coast. The three elements are ideally positioned for Hizballah to control the south Lebanese coastal region and for the Russians and Syrians to keep track of the military movements of the Israeli army, UNIFIL and the European naval units off the Lebanese shore.

Senior Israeli officers said that the takeover of parts of Sidon by Hizballah and Syrian intelligence - plus a Russian intelligence presence – places the security of northern Israel in extreme danger.

After lagging behind Hizballah for years, Amal, the Shiite movement headed by the Lebanese parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, is now being rewarded for backing Hizballah in the war with new weapons and training by Syrian and Iranian instructors in civilian dress. Arms are also being lavished on the powerful and wealthy South Lebanese Bizeri and Saad clans which oppose the anti-Syrian Saad Hariri, whose father Rafiq Hariri was murdered in February 2005.

Hizballah’s domination of Sidon, backed up by Russian and Syrian intelligence, is a blow which virtually wipes out any advantages Israel gained from the Lebanon war. It transforms UNIFIL and the Lebanese army into a buffer that sterilizes the Syrian-Russian effort to rebuild Hizballah’s military strength and intelligence capabilities.

What is most astonishing is the Israeli government and army’s passivity in the face of this gathering security deterioration which adds up to several blatant violations of the letter and spirit of Resolution 1701.

And Russia was a party to 1701
Or is this a double blind, to obtain intel on Hezbullah????????
Why would Putin cream the Chechens and then arm Hezb??? Agreed he has become sugar daddy to Syria, since Bush was unable to deliver his oil promises to Russia in the Iraq arena (and promises to that scum France too) but why dabble in this stinking pot??????

12:35 AM
Anonymous said...

And France in the front line of the Un force too. France is toadying up to Putin in other areas. What gives?

12:40 AM  

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Helping the local bullies gives them a measure of control over them; same reason that we helped other bullies in the Cold War.  

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