Australian news, and some related international items

A diplomatic path to containing the North Korea nuclear threat

The nuclear threat can be contained by diplomacy, These issues are manageable if they are given the right degree of priority, 25 Sep 17    “……… North Korea is the issue of the day. The objective of a denuclearised Korean peninsula, pursued by the previous US administrations, is no longer an achievable goal.

The best that can be hoped for is the suspension of nuclear and missile testing in return for security assurances and practical aid. Sanctions are designed to draw Kim Jong Un into a negotiation with that aim, and to pressure China to take a more active part. But it is very hard to see President Kim pulling back now. And China is more concerned about a new US-led war in Korea or the north collapsing and sending millions of refugees into China, than it is about living with a nuclear armed Pyongyang.

The US only really has two strategic options: contain and deter the threat; or destroy it, which would require regime change. There are always military options. But all who have studied the secret Pentagon plans are sobered by the scale of loss of life in South Korea these would entail. There is also a risk of China reluctantly coming to the aid of the north as it did in the 1950s.

Realistically, it seems the only practical option is containment. That requires missile defence systems to create uncertainty that nuclear-tipped missiles would ever get through to their target, and to deter any use of such weapons by being clear that North Korea would be destroyed if it ever tried to use them.
Mr Kim may be hard for us to comprehend, but he is a rational actor and he is certainly not suicidal. US concern about this isn’t exaggerated by the Trump administration: it has a serious problem on its hands.
However much we may view containment as the only sensible answer, there are still dangers of miscalculation. Mr Kim may be tempted to use his nuclear arsenal to hold others to ransom. There is also a proliferation threat. We have seen how Pyongyang has used its nuclear technology as an export earner. In 2007, the Israelis destroyed a secret nuclear reactor in the Syrian desert that had been designed and built by the North Koreans. Is it conceivable that a future terrorist organisation might be able to obtain such a device? Unlikely. But if they had the means, then Pyongyang would be the first place to go to get it. Pakistan’s ambivalent relationship with terrorist organisations adds to the dangers.
One country where our nuclear weapons concerns had eased is Iran. The nuclear agreement has its weaknesses, especially that it only applies for 10 years. But it is worth having, and Tehran is complying by its technical requirements. If Donald Trump walks from the nuclear deal — as he threatened at the UN last week — then before long he could find he has another North Korea to deal with, this one in the Gulf.
The outlook on nuclear weapons might look grim. But as we showed in the cold war, these issues are manageable with skilful diplomacy and the right investments in defence. We just have to give it the right degree of priority. When I was at MI6, and before that our negotiator with Iran on its nuclear programme, I was always mindful of the nuclear threat. The only issue that can seriously threaten our way of life must be among our top international security priorities. The writer is chairman of Macro Advisory Partners and a former chief of MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service

September 25, 2017 - Posted by | General News

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