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October 11, 2006
South Korea Shrugs

South Korea has decided to continue its policy of appeasement despite the obvious results shown with North Korea's nuclear test. President Roh Moo Hyun eschewed urgent action and instead called for a period of extended "coordination" between the nations trying to convince Kim Jong-Il to return to the bargaining table:

THE prospects for tough, swift action against North Korea were scuppered yesterday when it became clear that South Korea will not abandon its policy of engagement with its totalitarian neighbour, in spite of North Korea’s claimed nuclear test.

As the US and Japan called for tough punishment for Monday’s test and experts predicted that a second may be imminent, leaders in Seoul appeared to have accepted that they will have to live with a nuclear North Korea — at least until Washington can be persuaded to engage in direct talks with the isolated Stalinist state. ...

Diplomats said last night that China opposed US plans for international inspections of all cargo going in an out of North Korea. Beijing also wants any sanctions focussed only on North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, and does not want any reference to enforcement under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Russia broadly endorsed the Chinese position.

Even before this week, the US and Japan have favoured the most aggressive action against North Korea, but they have been frustrated by China, South Korea and Russia, which seek a stable continuation of Kim Jong Il’s regime rather than the chaos and refugee exodus that could result from his overthrow.

So what does that leave for a strong response? John Bolton introduced a resolution at the UN Security Council that would ban all nations from conducting business in arms and nuclear technology with Pyongyang, as well as with the nations and companies that have facilitated North Korea's counterfeiting and drugrunning operations. It also bans the sales of luxury items. a codicil intended to humiliate Kim, who favors Western trappings. However, it doesn't place an embargo on North Korea, mostly because South Korea refused to cooperate with one. In fact, Seoul refused to cancel its joint projects with Pyongyang.

The three nations that border North Korea clearly do not want the Kim regime to suddenly collapse, which is the reason that they have not advocated tougher measures at any point in the ongoing crisis. They fear the chaos that will ensue -- the release of a million-man army from state control, the mass panic of a starving nation, and the potential use of the regime's war toys by instant warlords. A failed state on the Korean Peninsula could have catastrophic consequences ... but so could Kim's plans for war.

If a nuclear test doesn't get Russia, China, and South Korea serious about Kim's lunacy, we can assume that the UNSC will never move beyond banning Kim's favorite French brandy. That conisgns the region to a nuclear arms race or a war on the peninsula to stop one -- or perhaps both.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 11, 2006 5:43 AM

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Tracked on October 11, 2006 2:37 PM


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