(first published in Oriental Morning Post, Oct.29,07)
If congress fails to ratify American involvement in the ¡®six party talks¡¯, the new American policy towards North Korea could be bankrupt. This isn¡¯t impossible. Indian congress has also failed to approve a nuclear power cooperation agreement with America, leaving both the Indian National Party and pro-Indian factions in America with empty hands for the time being. Who let them claim to be democratic?
The American government on the one hand publicly states that following this year¡¯s agreements the North Korean nuclear project will no longer pose a threat to international security, whilst on the other it continues to feel uncertain: why does North Korea continue to trouble the United States?
This summer, an American commercially-owned satellite discovered that Syria was constructing a secret nuclear facility on the banks of the Euphrates. As a result the Israeli air force was sent in to destroy the facility. Following its destruction, the Syrian military sent in troops to the destroyed facility. Of course, in the eyes of U.S. military intelligence, these Syrian actions were nothing more than an attempt to disguise the evidence of her intention to develop nuclear arms.
These recent strikes bear some resemblance to the 1981 Israeli Air Force attack on Iraq¡¯s nuclear research facilities. On that occasion, Israel received precise information that Iraq was covertly developing nuclear weapons, beneath the guise of a civilian nuclear energy project, and therefore in direct violation of the international nuclear non-proliferation treaty of which Iraq was a member. Without question, Iraq was in breach of international law. However, Israel launched an air strike without waiting for authorisation from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), thus also violating international law.
Would Israel have received approval from the UNSC for a strike on Iraq¡¯s facility. Fundamentally, it would not. First, because Israel would be reluctant to reveal the source of her military intelligence: she must protect the secrecy of her informants. Second, by revealing the intelligence Israel would give Iraq time to transfer its nuclear projects to other places, therefore reducing the opportunity of the international community to properly inspect Iraqi facilities. Third, if the evidence was considered inadequate, the UNSC would surely block Israel from making a pre-emptive strike against Iraq.
Israel attacked Iraq without UN approval, and contravened international law. However, if Israel had waited too long, Saddam Hussein might today have been in control of a nuclear power for the past 20 years. In that case, when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, there might have been many fewer countries willing to fight against Iraq. From this perspective, Israel¡¯s attack on Iraq may have prevented many serious problems in the ensuing period.
Indeed, following this logic: if Iraq is secretly developing nuclear weapons, is it not a matter of course to conclude that it might use them to invade Israel and claim the land it perceives as being Arab? Naturally, Israel believes that it was acting in the interests of its own security: it has always pledged to keep its neighbours from developing nuclear weapons, even if this is not in contravention of international law. On the contrary, Iraq, Iran and Syria all promised not to develop nuclear weapons. For disobeying the international treaty, they must be prepared to pay the price. Even following this logic, we still cannot break the vicious circle.
This recent event reminds us that next time the Israeli air force makes a ¡®pre-emptive¡¯ strike, there will be much interest in the evidence that ¡°Mossad¡± (the Israeli intelligence network) has accumulated to support the attack. Interestingly, Syria has been quite composed since the Israeli air strikes, and has not submitted any accusal or complaint to the UNSC, or to the International Court of Law. Is Syria staying quiet due to fear of arousing international attention and suspicion?
The most recent Israeli strike was guided not only by Syrian actions, but also US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Reputedly, when on this occasion the Israeli Air Force started to be troubled, Rice was unwilling to look or listen to the wider information: Syria¡¯s nuclear ambitions look similar to North Korea¡¯s. Despite the denials of the other side, it was preferred to believe that they posed a threat, rather than that they didn¡¯t ¨C as was the case of the 1981 strike on Iraq, when it was preferred to believe that Iraq was certainly in breach of international law. This is also the case with regards to Iran, where it is preferred to believe that Tehran is lying, and has perhaps already succeeded in smuggling weapons grade radioactive material across the border from Pakistan.
On this occasion, however, the situation is being complicated by certain U.S. Members of Congress who do not trust the veracity of North Korea. They believe North Korea is tricking America. Furthermore, Bush¡¯s government is anxious for North Korea to discard its nuclear weapons, and has made an abundance of concessions. They believe that the Clinton administration was tricked by North Korea. Therefore, they perceive the Bush government¡¯s concessions and compromises with North Korea as being motivated primarily by fear, and feel that this administration is merely repeating the errors of the Clinton years.
Capitol Hill is currently re-examining the responsibilities of Condoleeza Rice and Christopher Hill, since they are the architects of present American policy towards North Korea. The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee has summoned Rice to discuss and criticise her policy towards North Korea, and to demand that more congressmen be advised of intelligence regarding Syria¡¯s nuclear ambitions, as well as other important national security intelligence issues, and furthermore to request that congress have more control over the direction of the Bush administration¡¯s North Korea policy. Most recently, at the congressional multi-disciplinary hearings, members of both parties have criticised Rice.
The White House must act in its own interests, but this has many dangers: If congress fails to ratify American involvement in the ¡®six party talks¡¯, the new American policy towards North Korea could be bankrupt. This isn¡¯t impossible. Indian congress has also failed to approve a nuclear power cooperation agreement with America, leaving both the Indian National Party and pro-Indian factions in America with empty hands for the time being.
Who let them claim to be democratic?