North Korea has a long history of ignoring the global community and making dangerous and hostile moves that threaten to engulf East Asia in military conflict. In 2006, the Communist Nation tested a Taepodong missile over the objections of the global community. Last year, the attempted to detonate a nuclear device underground, though the results were questionable. Just since President Obama took office, they have tested more missiles, and successfully detonated a nuclear weapon equal in size to the Hiroshima bomb which killed more than 70,000 people.
Combined, these tests threaten the security of the United States – it is now clear that North Korea has nuclear weapons, and that they are quickly developing the technology (through improvements to their Taepodong missiles) to deliver such weapons to distant locations – presumably including the United States. These facts demand that the United States eliminate the North Korean threat before it can be used to further blackmail the developed world.
Thus far, Dimplomacy has failed. Only through what amount to bribes has the international community been able to delay – and just delay – further development. This is unacceptable. Continued appeasement of the North Korean regime will only further damage our credibility and will, in the end, still lead to a Korean nuke that can be delivered at will.
While, at this point, military action is clearly justified, there are good reasons to avoid yet another military conflict on the Asian continent. It may still be possible to avoid such conflict, but in order to do so, the US must move beyond North Korea and the United Nations and put direct, significant pressure on China to solve the problem before we do. As Gordan Chang points out on Forbes.com, China holds enough leverege in North Korea to put to rest any crisis that develops:
Today, China supplies about 90% of North Korea’s oil, 80% of its consumer goods and 45% of its food. Beijing is Pyongyang’s only formal military ally and its primary backer in the United Nations Security Council and other diplomatic forums. If it weren’t for the Chinese, there would be no North Korean missile program, no North Korean nuclear program and no North Korea.
Knowing the power China holds in this situation, and their need for continued good relations with the United States (on whom they are just as dependent as the reverse), President Obama must issue an ultimatum to the Chinese government, making it clear that we view our national security to be at risk, that we will take action to end the Korean threat if China does not, and that we will view attempts to restrict any efforts to block such action as hostile acts. It goes without saying that we must also be willing to back up that ultimatum with action if China is unwilling or unable to prevent further development of the North Korean threat. That must include, but not be limited to, airstrikes and limited ground incursions to eliminate missile pads, and, if possible, nuclear weapons development.