Thursday, March 24, 2011
North Korea Suggests Libya Should Have Kept Nuclear Program
A North Korean statement that Libya’s dismantling of its nuclear weapons program had made it vulnerable to military intervention by the West is being seen by analysts as an ominous reinforcement of the North’s refusal to end its own nuclear program.
North Korea’s official news agency carried comments this week from a Foreign Ministry official decrying the air assault on Libyan government forces and suggesting that Libya had been duped in 2003 when it abandoned its nuclear program in exchange for promises of aid and improved relations with the West.
Calling the West’s bargain with Libya “an invasion tactic to disarm the country,” the official said it amounted to a bait and switch. “The Libyan crisis is teaching the international community a grave lesson,” the official was quoted as saying on Tuesday, proclaiming that North Korea’s “songun” ideology of a powerful military was “proper in a thousand ways” and the only guarantor of peace on the Korean Peninsula.
As they have watched the attacks in Libya this week senior North Korean leaders “must feel alarmed, but also deeply satisfied with themselves,” said Ruediger Frank, an adjunct professor at Korea University and the University of North Korean Studies, writing on the Web site 38 North. North Korea is believed to have 8 to 12 nuclear weapons and last year disclosed a new uranium-enrichment facility.
Mr. Frank said the Libyan situation was “at least the third instance in two decades that would seem to offer proof that they did something right while others failed and ultimately paid the price.” He said Pyongyang would probably see object lessons in the Soviet Union’s decision to end the arms race and to “abandon the political option to use their weapons of mass destruction,” and in Iraq’s agreement to accept United Nations nuclear inspectors and monitors. And now, Libya.
“To put it bluntly,” Mr. Frank said, “in the eyes of the North Korean leadership all three countries took the economic bait, foolishly disarmed themselves, and once they were defenseless, were mercilessly punished by the West.”
“It requires little imaginative power to see what conclusions will be drawn in Pyongyang,” the North Korean capital, he said, adding that anyone in the senior leadership who favors denuclearization “will now be silent.”
The United States said there was no link between Libya’s abandonment of efforts to develop nuclear arms and other weapons and the current military campaign by Western nations.
“Where they’re at today has absolutely no connection with them renouncing their nuclear program or nuclear weapons,” said Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman.
The comments by the anonymous North Korean official appeared to dim the chances for a renewal of the so-called six-party talks on the dismantling of North Korea’s atomic program. The talks ended in 2009 when North Korea withdrew, angry over international sanctions that followed a long-range missile test. The two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan are the participants in the six-party process, which began in 2003. China, North Korea’s only major ally, has served as the host country.
David Straub, a former State Department official who worked on the early rounds of the talks, said it became clear to American negotiators “by 2004 that the North Koreans had no intention of giving up nuclear weapons, and China had no intention of pushing them hard to do so.”
“The lessons the North Korean leadership is drawing from the situation in Libya now are probably ones that will lead to less possibility for a negotiated solution of some type with the other powers,” said Mr. Straub, associate director of the Korean Studies Program at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford. While a public renunciation of the six-party process by the members is unlikely, Mr. Straub said, “all of the parties know that North Korea does not intend to give up nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future.” New York Times