Despite sanctions, talks still urged in Korea crisis

UNITED NATIONS — The crisis set off by the detonation of a nuclear device by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) has continued to escalate, with hawks calling for confrontation, while more level-headed leaders calling for negotiations.

Last week, the United Nations Security Council voted to impose sanctions on North Korea. But by most accounts, the hawks, represented by U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, did not get their way with the resolution.

The resolution bans “the provision of large-scale arms, nuclear technology and related training to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as well as luxury goods,” and calls on all states “to take cooperative action, including through inspection of cargo, in accordance with their respective national laws.”

The UN said that the inspections “should aim to prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, as well as their means of delivery and related materials.”

The resolution, due to U.S. pressure, invokes Article VII of the UN Charter, which would make military action automatic were the sanctions not followed. But the Bush administration did not get everything it wanted. The threat of military action was specifically left out of the resolution, mainly due to pressure from China.

Despite weekend reports that China, a main trading partner with North Korea, would ignore inspections, it has started inspecting trucks crossing the border it shares with the DPRK. China’s UN representative, Wang Guangya, said after the vote that China supports the decision, but he stressed that sanctions were not an end in themselves and called for dialogue. He also said that China held reservations about inspecting cargo.

Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesperson Le Dzung said the UN resolution “should be strictly observed.” Vietnam would like to see peaceful negotiations for the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, he added.

A statement released by the DPRK’s foreign ministry noted the history of U.S. aggression in the region, saying that it had been forced into building weapons as a nuclear deterrent. However, the statement reiterated a readiness for dialogue.

Meanwhile, peace activists and others are calling for negotiations to bring about a resolution to the crisis and, ultimately, to denuclearize the entire peninsula.

John Feffer, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus and director of global affairs at the International Relations Center, told the World, “I think the way forward is to send a high-level military person from the U.S. to North Korea to negotiate with them bilaterally.”

“If President Bush said to himself, ‘I really want to negotiate out of this problem,’” Feffer continued, “then that’s the solution he should look to.”

Regarding the impact of the sanctions, Feffer said, “We’re talking about less whiskey getting to the leadership — I’m sure they won’t be happy about that.” But, he added, “In terms of the amount of food going to the average person, my guess, there isn’t going to a major reduction in humanitarian aid.”

In terms of intercepting DPRK ships in international waters, Feffer said, it was “conceivable” that Japan, which has been steadily becoming more militaristic, may do that. This would almost guarantee a dispute between Japan and China and South Korea, who are worried about Japan’s rising militarism.

Mohammed ElBaradei, chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency, underscored the nuclear dangers facing the world. There are now about 30 states that could potentially develop nuclear weapons relatively quickly, he said. “It’s becoming fashionable for countries to try to look into possibilities of shielding themselves” with nuclear weapons.

Hans Blix, chairman of the UN Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, told the General Assembly Oct. 17 that current nuclear weapons states must, in accordance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, also cut down their stockpiles of nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia, he said, had to lead the way.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty is not on the verge of collapse, Blix said, but its safeguards needed strengthening.

“A lack of implementation by nuclear-weapon states of their commitments to work toward disarmament has undermined their moral authority and has left non-nuclear-weapon states feeling frustrated and cheated,” he said. “Had those commitments been kept, negotiations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran would be less difficult.”

U.S. peace coalition United for Peace and Justice issued a statement demanding that the Bush administration negotiate with North Korea.

“For eight years (1994-2002),” the statement says, “direct negotiations with the North Korean government reduced the threat of nuclear proliferation and war on the Korean peninsula.” (See related article, page 13.)