The right way is collective pressure, not war
Tuesday, December 31, 2002
Against North Korea and Iraq
HONG KONG The explicit decision of the United States to use diplomacy instead of force to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis is an example of how useful a united front by allies and neutrals can be in avoiding rash responses or adventurist escapades. With North Korea's four immediate neighbors - South Korea, China, Japan and Russia - all determined that the issue must be contained, Secretary of State Colin Powell may have been relieved to find that the United States had little alternative but to go along, whatever the natural instincts of hawks playing war games in Crawford, Texas. If some of those in power in Washington seriously believe that Asia's problem is that it is divided and thus unable to deal firmly with North Korea, perhaps they should make a trip to Asia. They would find almost unanimous agreement that the way to deal with North Korea is not military confrontation or a quick strike on some facility.
Indeed, it is troubling to those who live nearest the North Korean "nuclear threat" to imagine that a preemptive strike is even contemplated against a country whose threat is now seen as more rhetorical than real and which uses the nuclear issue as its main diplomatic weapon.
Quite probably, U.S. exaggeration of the dangers to the region of the North's actual or intended strategic weapons has in the past helped Pyongyang extract more money than would otherwise have been the case. This and the Washington-Pyongyang standoff over diplomatic relations have also helped China extract concessions on other issues in return for pressure, real or imagined, on the North.
It is a moot point whether North Korea has a grievance over the supply of reactors. What is clear is that the other players are trying to use economic and trade means to pry open the North. Recent policy changes there suggest that they have not been entirely unsuccessful. All the neighbors are irritated by Pyongyang, but they have no intention of letting their long-term goals of enticing change in the North be set aside in favor of rash actions for narrow aims. The Asian response to the Korean issue should be seen as an example to Europe to talk sense into U.S. policy toward Iraq. The European Union ought to have been able to devise a policy which would have fit within the NATO context to defuse the Iraq crisis or avert a rush to war. It could probably have found common ground with Russia and Turkey as well as with many in Washington, in the same way that East Asian states with disparate starting points, ideologies and interests have found much common ground over Korea. If Tony Blair were not so keen on his role as George W. Bush's PR man and Britain were not so keen to punch above its weight in world affairs, a coalition of secondary powers could well have played that role over Iraq. Perhaps, if they look at Korea, they still will.
International Herald Tribune

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