Editors note: News reports July 4, 2006, said North Korea test-fired six missiles, some short-range and some long-range. Another missile was tested July 5. At least one long-range missile that was tested was believed capable of reaching the United States. The United Nations Security Council was reported to meet sometime during the week of July 5-8 to discuss North Koreas missile tests. The following Guest Column was submitted prior to the testing of the missiles, but is still relevant to the ongoing struggle of diplomacy with North Korea.
After decades of chasing nuclear weapons, North Korea is on the brink of success. Worse yet, it may already have the means of mounting an attack against us. According to news reports, North Korea is about to test-fire a powerful long-range missile capable of threatening not only South Korea and Japan, but also the continental United States.
To end this nuclear standoff without bloodshed, many people believe that we must restart the stalled negotiations with North Korea and engage in diplomacy. Pitched as levelheaded and practical, this approach would culminate in a supposedly win-win deal: the North promises to halt its nuclear program in exchange for a combination of economic and diplomatic concessions from the West.
But such a shameful deal, like all previous ones, would reward the North for its aggression and strengthen it into a worse menace. North Korea has become a significant threat precisely because we have appeased it for years with boatloads of oil, food and money.
Some 20 years ago, North Koreas nuclear ambitions became glaringly obvious. The West pretended that this hostile dictatorship would honor a treaty banning nuclear weapons. To get its signature took years of Western groveling and concessions. The Norths promises to halt its nuclear program were predictably hollow. By 1993, after preventing required inspections of its nuclear facilities, Pyongyang announced its intention to withdraw from the treaty. Our response? More diplomacyin the form of the Agreed Framework, brokered in 1994.
For agreeing to freeze its nuclear program, North Korea was offered two light-water nuclear reactors (putatively for generating electricity) and, until the reactors were operational, 500,000 metric tons of oil annually (nearly half its annual needs). The United States, along with Japan and South Korea, paid for these lavish gifts. During these years of apparent tranquility, our handouts and assurances of security buoyed North Korea as it furtively completed two reactors capable of yielding weapons-grade fuel. By 2003when the North actually did withdraw from the nuclear treatyit was clear that Pyongyang had continued secretly to develop weapons-capable nuclear technology.
The pattern of Americas suicidal diplomacy is clear: the North threatens us, we respond with negotiations, gifts and concessions, and it emerges with even greater belligerence.
Without economic aid, technical assistance and protracted negotiations affording it time, it is unlikely that the Northcontinually on the brink of economic collapsecould have survived. It is also unlikely that it could have built the fourth-largest army in the world. The North is believed to have sold long-range ballistic missiles to Iran, Yemen, Pakistan and Syria. By some estimates, North Korea already has the material to create eight nuclear bombs. As it doubtless will continue engaging in clandestine nuclear development, the North may soon be wieldingand sellingnuclear weapons.
What made this cycle of appeasement possible, and why do our political and intellectual leaders insist that further diplomacy will work? Because they cling to the amoral fiction that North Korea shares the basic goal of prosperity and peace. This fantasy underlies the notion that the right mix of economic aid and military concessions can dissuade North Korea from its nuclear ambition. It evades the fact that the North is a militant dictatorship that acquires and maintains its power by force, looting the wealth of its enslaved citizens and threatening to do the same to its neighbors. This abstract fact, the advocates of diplomacy believe, is dispensable; if we ignore it, then it ceases to exist.
Notice how, in preparing the way for renewed talks, the George W. Bush administration ceased describing North Korea as part of an axis of evilas if this could alter its moral stature.
What the advocates of diplomacy believe, in effect, is that pouring gasoline onto an inferno will extinguish the fireso long as we all agree that it will. Thus, if we agree that North Korea is not a hostile parasite, then it isnt; if we pretend that this dictatorship would rather feed its people than amass weapons, then it would; if we shower it with loot, it will stop threatening us. But the facts of North Koreas character and long-range goals, like all facts, are impervious to anyones wishful thinking. Years of rewarding a petty dictatorship for its belligerent actions did not disarm it, but helped it become a significant threat to America.
There is only one solution to the North Korea problem: the United States and its allies must abandon the suicidal policy of appeasement.
Elan Journo is a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Randauthor of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
From the July 5-11, 2006, issue