49-page National Security Report by US NSC released on March 16, revealed that the threat North Korea (NK) and Iran posed is the greatest challenge to US security interests. The report goes on to say, in that it helped spread nuclear weapons, fabricated small number of nuclear weapons violating international obligation, and as a result destabilized the international community.
One thing noteworthy is that Iran is the next target for the US to handle. In this case NK will be safe for a while from the US air strike, until the US is freed from the Iranian problem. Unless the six party talks is re-opened, NK will continue to have time to develop its nuclear weapons. If the number of NK's nuclear weapons surpasses certain criteria,NK will someday be guaranteed a status of nuclear weapons state.
In order to prevent this situation the US must resolve the Iranian problem as early as possible. In terms of military and economy, Iran is much more powerful than Iraq where the US is dragging for more than three years.
If problems in Iraq and Iran are resolved early, the next target for the US is likely to be NK. Iran may yield to the Western pressure for early settlement, especially because the Bush administration seems determined to use military force to frustrate Iran's nuclear program. The Iranian leadership is anxious. This is why Iran proposed direct talks with the US for the first time since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
Yet, in any case early settlement in the Middle East is only wishful given dragging situation in Iraq and Afghanistan and strong anti-American sentiment that is widespread in the Middle East.
It is all the less likely that the US uses its military force against NK. A war on the Korean peninsula may escalate into something next to world war. Problem is NK will continue to use this delicate situation to accomplish its ambition.
What if NK becomes a de facto nuclear state and the US cannot afford an air strike against NK's What comes to my mind is the strengthening of missile defense (MD) system in South Korea and Japan. This scenario is not too bad for the US since its real concern in Northeast Asia is to confront China to maintain regional hegemony in Northeast Asia. MD system in these two allies may support its security goal in the region. In short, we need to prepare for the possibility that Korean peninsula's security structure will evolve into NK's nuclear weapons vs. South Korea's missile defense system.
- by Professor Yoo Chull (International Studies)