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October 13, 2006
Standing On Chapter VII

The usual suspects of appeasement took center stage again last night at the UN after the US circulated a draft resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea. Russia and China objected to the use of Chapter VII language in the proposed sanctions, which could later support military action against Kim Jong-Il, but John Bolton said he would not back away from the reference this time:

The American push to win Security Council backing for tough, swift sanctions against North Korea appeared to be set back by China and Russia on Thursday, in an echo of the obstacles the United States faces in a similar push to punish Iran.

The United States circulated a softened draft resolution to the Security Council in response to North Korea’s assertion that it conducted a nuclear test on Monday. The United States pressed for a vote by Friday, but China and Russia immediately signaled their opposition to critical parts of the measure and said they needed more time. ...

The resolution still cites Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which makes sanctions mandatory and suggests the possibility of military enforcement. China and Russia have consistently opposed Chapter VII enforcement for North Korea.

The United States was able to win a unanimous Security Council resolution condemning North Korea’s missile launchings last July only by dropping the reference to Chapter VII, but John R. Bolton, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said he would resist that step this time.

“In light of the fact that North Korea has claimed a test of a nuclear device, we need stronger language,” he said.

This is exactly right, although it will kill the deal. Issuing another vague and empty scolding to Pyongyang will do even less than the same message did in July. It will confirm that the UN will never act to enforce its own resolutions, and now will hesitate to even issue them lest the member states get tasked with enforcing them.

It's not just North Korea who has an interest in the outcome of this debate, either. Iran, facing its own showdown with the UNSC, has to be learning a valuable lesson in the gastric fortitude of the Council. After hiding its own nuclear research and development from the UN for over a decade, Iran has flouted its pursuit of uranium enrichment for the last three years. In fact, they regularly hold rallies celebrating the program, and have taken steps to turn their reactor into a tourist attraction. They do not fear the UN's enforcement, and the Security Council response thus far to North Korea shows why.

Bolton noted that Teheran would certainly note the response to a full-blown nuclear test, or partially blown in this case, and he expressed optimism that the UN would respond in a strong and unambiguous manner. He tried to tell people that a Chapter VII reference would not authorize military force, but that a separate resolution would still be required. Diplomats seem unconvinced, with China saying that more talks and study of the issue would be needed before a vote. Of course, China and Russia have said the same about Darfur, Iran, and said it for twelve years with Iraq.

We can't wait twelve years for Russia and China to perhaps change their mind on North Korea. No one wants to fight another war on the Korean Peninsula; it would likely kill more than a million people. Neither can we just wash our hands of the situation and walk away, leaving allies in the lurch. If the UN cannot provide a clear, unambiguous, and strong response to a rogue state conducting nuclear tests -- then why would we need a UN at all?

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 13, 2006 5:15 AM

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