RESPONDING TO NORTH KOREA'S NUCLEAR THREAT
September 11, 2001 reminded Americans that the world is a dangerous place, and that we must be vigilant to protect our country from threats before they reach our shores. In recent days, with the claim that North Korea has tested a nuclear weapon, we have once again been reminded of the dangers that confront our world.
Following North Korea's claim, we have seen swift action by the international community. Japan has applied unilateral sanctions, China has expressed support for punitive actions, and members of the U.N. Security Council are meeting to assess what actions should be taken.
Unfortunately, North Korea's threat to the global community is not a new one. In the early 1990's, North Korea threatened to implement a nuclear program and refused to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect facilities. Hoping to protect the stability of the region, the U.S. entered into the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea seeking to halt production of nuclear weapons. However, this agreement, led by former President Jimmy Carter and the Clinton Administration, was very favorable to North Korea, providing them with free oil and nuclear reactors in exchange for a freeze of nuclear sites.
The U.S. worked to keep its commitment to the framework and maintain a nuclear-free Korean peninsula. However in 2002, North Korea admitted, what had been long suspected, that it had not kept its word and had continued its nuclear program through the 1990's.
In recent years, North Korea has only escalated their threat. They have expelled U.N. inspectors, withdrawn from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and their recent claim to have tested a nuclear weapon threatens global security and solidifies the fact that the 1994 agreement failed.
We must learn from the mistakes made in the 1990's. Bilateral talks with this hostile state don't work. It didn't work in 1994 and it won't work now. To protect the security of our country and advocate the security of the region we must be joined by those countries most closely affected by North Korea's actions- China, South Korea, Russia, and Japan. The only way to get North Korea to commit to peace is to have pressure exerted on it by its neighbors. Working with these countries, we stand the greatest chance of influencing North Korea and must therefore continue to keep their involvement at the forefront of efforts to curtail nuclear weapon programs in North Korea.
We must remain vigilant against the threat posed by North Korea and review all options. Diplomatic channels must remain open if there is any hope of avoiding a further escalation of tensions. The global community must join together to stop these hostile actions. The success of reducing nuclear threats relies heavily on the continued coordination between sovereign states around the world and a willingness to act when our collective interests are directly threatened.