Monday, July 10, 2006

Diplomacy's a Joke to Iran, N. Korea -- Sanctions Needed

Chicago Sun-Times: Commentary
It should come as no surprise to the Bush administration that North Korea chose July Fourth to launch seven test missiles. What better way to vex your foe than to play war games on a day it is celebrating freedom and democracy? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called Pyongyang's threats to launch long-range rockets "provocative." In plain words, it was an in-your-face dare to the United States and its allies to do something about North Korea's belligerent stance.

Right now, with America's attention diverted to Iraq, both Iran and North Korea have been playing a dangerous game of chicken, saying "yes" to diplomatic overtures one day and "no" the next. READ MORE

For the last few weeks, North Korea's neighbors -- China, South Korea, Russia -- asked it not to deploy its missiles, including an intercontinental ballistic one that supposedly could reach as far as the United States. But North Korea ignored the pleadings and resisted the overtures of South Korea, which sends millions of dollars of food and humanitarian aid to the North. Luckily, that much-ballyhooed long-range Taepodong-2 was a dud that flopped into the Sea of Japan.

What is going on in the mind of "Supreme Leader" Kim Jong-Il is anyone's guess, since he relishes his role as an enigma. It had been perceived that China had influence over him, but his belligerent actions belie this, and the reluctance of the Chinese and Russians to take strong measures through the United Nations Security Council makes it seem less likely that stringent measures can be applied to North Korea.

Last fall, North Korea walked away from six-party talks, even though America had promised possible economic bonuses. Now, with such overt bellicosity from North Korea, the anxious Japanese say they may enforce strong sanctions against Pyongyang and be inclined to remilitarize -- a notion that could bring even further instability to East Asia.

Meanwhile, the day before July Fourth, the Iranians were also playing cat-and-mouse with an international offer for a package of economic programs in return for an end to their nuclear program. Iran says its nuclear development is for peaceful purposes, but the rest of the world, including the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, believes Tehran intends to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says it will respond later this summer to the overtures from the Group of 8, but the Iranian minister of intelligence later threw hot water on that prospect by claiming the United States is trying to start a "soft revolution" in Iran -- this after the arrest of an Iranian-Canadian philosopher, Ramin Jahanbegloo, in Tehran.

North Korea and Iran are treating diplomatic initiatives as a running joke. Much stronger action -- strict economic sanctions -- is the only answer to rein them in. Too bad China and Russia don't get it.