North Korea

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  • Abhishek Tyagi asked: Why is the Security Council not taking any military action against the DPRK under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, despite continued testing of nuclear weapons by the latter?

    Pranamita Baruah replies: After the latest round of nuclear tests by North Korea in February 2013, many seemed to argue that the political realities in the Korean Peninsula dictate that an overt military strike-even one limited to cruise missiles-should be on the cards. However, that cannot be the case as even the most restrained attack could have devastating implications for the East Asian security.

    Most of the US military planners too seem to be of the view that even the notion of limited strikes against the hermit kingdom is fraught with potential escalations. It could destabilise the country and further aggravate the tension in the whole of East Asian region. Moreover, Pyongyang might treat such an attack as a part of Washington’s attempt to bring about a regime change in North Korea. This cannot be acceptable to the current regime as the Kim family, since the time of Kim Jong-il, has used the perceived threat from the US and its allies in the region to legitimise its dynastic rule over North Korea. So, in the interest of keeping the current regime intact, Kim Jong-un and his advisors in such circumstances could retaliate by a military action of their own.

    Though North Korea’s claim of having missiles capable of striking at the US mainland is still doubtful, one cannot really deny that the North, with reportedly 10,000 fortified artillery pieces trained on Seoul, could easily target South Korea. Most importantly, North Korea has more than 100 No-Dong missiles that can reach deep into South Korea as well as Japan. Under such circumstances, both South Korea and Japan will not support any military action against the North. In fact, North Korea’s erstwhile ally Russia and current benefactor China too will oppose such an action. Though after the latest provocation both Moscow and Beijing had strongly criticised Pyongyang, they will, for the time being, continue to insist on diplomatically engaging with North Korea. Beijing’s recent effort towards resuming the Six Party Talks (SPT) clearly demonstrates its support for continued diplomatic engagement.

    If the UN is to take a military action against North Korea, then it will require full support from its Security Council. However, this may not be possible if two of the permanent members of the Security Council, Russia and China, decide to veto it.

    North Korea keeps the SPT members confused

    The developments in the Korean peninsula indicate that the East Asian states are not really in tune with each other on North Korea’s recent missile launches. Most of these states have their national priorities while dealing with the North.

    June 06, 2013

    The Korean Imbroglio

    North Korea’s uranium enrichment programme has made the US jittery and is not totally confident of reopening the six-party talks. Washington needs assurances regarding North Korea’s future nuclear programmes and the key to finding a solution to the present stalemate lies with Beijing.

    April 25, 2013

    Jagdish asked: How is the relationship between India and North Korea and what are the implications of change of North Korean leadership for India?

    R.N. Das replies: There has been continuity in relations between India and North Korea, irrespective of change in leaderships. Peace and stability in the Korean peninsula has always been a matter of abiding interest to India. It may be recalled that a special session of Indian Parliament was convened on July 31, 1950 to discuss the Korean crisis. Drawing the attention of the House, the then President Dr. Rajendra Prasad had noted that Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru has appealed to the Russian Prime Minister Joseph Stalin and to the US Secretary of State Dean Acheson that the authorities of these two great countries should use their influence to localise the armed struggle in Korea, and break the dead lock in the UN Security Council over the admission of the People’s Republic of China, so that the present international tension might be eased and way is opened up for the resolution of the Korean problem by discussion in the Security Council.

    India was appointed as Chairman of the 9-member UN commission to hold elections in Korea in 1954. After the Korean war of 1950-53, India had played an important role as the chairman of the NNRC (Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission). Consular relations with DPRK were set up on March 1, 1962 and full diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on December 10, 1973. Relations between India and the DPRK have been generally characterised by friendship, cooperation and understanding. India has been extending humanitarian assistance to the DPRK, which has suffered from food shortages during the last few years as a result of natural calamities. The DPRK authorities have expressed their gratitude for India’s humanitarian assistance to them from time to time.

    Ajai Vir asked - How do you view the nuclear stance of Iran and North Korea? Is it similar in the context of geopolitics?

    S. Samuel C. Rajiv replies: Iran and North Korea have presented significant challenges to the international non-proliferation regime. Both countries face difficult regional security situations. However, there are differences in the two cases which make their respective nuclear stances also different.

    Iran is a regional power in its own right – a huge country (Robert Kaplan calls Iran ‘the greater Middle East’s universal joint’), significant population, massive natural resources, among other strengths. The only claim to fame for North Korea is its dubious nuclear status. While Iran is a theocracy with democratic elections, the other is an authoritarian state based on a personality cult.

    As regards their interactions with the non-proliferation regime, North Korea is no longer part of the NPT, while Iran had threatened in the past that it will quit the treaty if pushed to the wall. However, all of Iran’s ‘declared’ nuclear activities continue to come under NPT/IAEA safeguards. While Iran has not followed through on IAEA/UNSC resolutions since September 2005 urging it to stop its uranium enrichment activities among other requirements, North Korea has indulged in a series of nuclear and missile brinkmanship and has been unpredictable in its nuclear stance.

    North Korea’s Rocket Fails

    Without getting into any a debate about whether the satellite launch was actually a missile test or not, the US should make an offer to help North Korea launch a satellite in order to foster sustained engagement with Pyongyang

    April 16, 2012

    The Poor Prospects of the CTBT Entering Into Force

    While Indonesia’s ratification has given a boost to the CTBT, the positions of the other hold-out countries do not show any promise of forward movement.

    January 09, 2012

    North Korea after Kim Jong-Il: Implications for East Asian Security

    The demise of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il on December 17, 2011 has introduced a new dimension to the security situation in Northeast Asia. The future of East Asian security would largely be shaped by developments that unfold in the Korean peninsula.

    January 02, 2012

    Kim Jong-Il’s Death - A prospect for change or instability?

    Kim Jong-Il’s death on December 17, 2011 has not only provoked concerns regarding security and stability on the Korean peninsula, but has also raised hopes of improved engagement with North Korea’s new leadership.

    December 21, 2011

    South Korea relives the Yeonpyeong attack by North Korea

    The people of Yeonpyeong Island remember with trepidation the devastating attack of November 2010. Since the Cheonan incident in March 2010 and chastened by the attack last year, South Korea has beefed up its military arsenal and strengthened its defence preparedness.

    November 29, 2011

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