Vernuccio’s View: Dangers, Stakes of North Korea Are Vast

The stakes and dangers of the crisis in North Korea are significantly larger than has been discussed in the media so far.

The stakes and dangers of the crisis in North Korea are significantly larger than has been discussed in the media so far.

The stakes and dangers of the crisis in North Korea are significantly larger than has been discussed in the media so far. Those dangers are not restricted to North Korea’s direct actions. The realities  are deeply worrisome.  Hopes that the United Nations could rein in Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons program have been dashed.

In April, the United Nations Security Council issued a statement which noted: “”The members of the Security Council expressed their utmost concern over the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s highly destabilizing behavior and flagrant and provocative defiance of the Security Council by conducting this ballistic missile launch in violation of its international obligations.” The move was ignored by North Korea.

38 North noted in 2016: “The evolution of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs has created a new strategic reality. In that reality, the current sanctions approach cannot lead to the denuclearization of North Korea and may not do much more to slow it.”

Contrary to public statements, it is evident that neither China nor Russia have exerted the decisive pressure they are capable of against Kim Jong-un.

There is the generally unspoken, but clearly distressing fact that Beijing and Moscow both gain from North Korea’s belligerence. It distracts from China’s unlawful aggression in the South China sea, and from Russia’s occupation of Ukrainian territory and its increased threats toward Eastern Europe. Both of those nations have also embarked on massive weapons programs, which have been jettisoned from the headlines by North Korea’s actions.

The unfortunate but all too relevant fact is that China, (while potentially suffering from a significant influx of refugees if fighting were to break out on the Korean Peninsula, and would not welcome a potential South Korean-led reunited Korean nation if in fact a U.S. led military action (or coup) successfully took place) would make major geopolitical gains if North Korea initiated a major military strike against American, Japanese, or South Korean forces in the region. Even if a U.S. led retaliation proved ultimately successful, the wearing down of those allied forces, and the inevitable exhaustion of their civilian populations, would clearly allow Beijing to fulfill its goal of becoming the nearly undisputed regional hegemon.

In the past, Russia has objected to some U.N. Security Council resolutions. China, while supporting some measures, has done so only after insisting they be watered down, rendering them useless.

While there are no direct links between Russia and China with the North Korean nuclear-capable missile program, there are disturbing ties. In February, the National Interest stated that:

“…In fact, America may have a big, big problem with China…he needs to know where the [North Korean missile] Pukguksong-2 came from…Last August, two leading analysts—Tal Inbar, of Israel’s Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, and Bruce Bechtol, of Angelo State University in Texas—noted the missile tested then looked like it was modeled on China’s JL-1 submarine-launched ballistic missile. Richard Fisher of the Virginia-based International Assessment and Strategy Center, in comments to the National Interest, also points out the similarities between China’s and North Korea’s SLBMs, as sub-launched missiles are known.”

The analysts quoted by the National Interest note that there is no specific evidence that either the Kremlin or Beijing directly provided the technology. They maintain that other nations that were the recipients of Russian or Chinese tech, including Iran and Pakistan, could also have provided the transfer.

That potential increases worries that North Korea could, in return, provide its nuclear technology to those nations, and, particularly in the case of Iran, to terrorist forces they support.

North Korea is rapidly nearing the ability to blackmail any nation it chooses to with its nuclear capabilities. Pyongyang may also enable other forces wishing to harm the United States and other western nations by providing them with the weapons of mass destruction to do so.

Frank V. Vernuccio, Jr., J.D.

Frank V. Vernuccio, Jr., J.D.

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government at 

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