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Dealing with a defiant North Korea

February 14, 2013 14:01 IST

The US should join hands with Japan, South Korea, India and Israel to target North Korea’s nuclear and missile establishments through covert action, feels security expert B Raman

North Korea’s third nuclear test was not secretive. Its first two tests were with plutonium. One does not know whether it used plutonium or enriched uranium in the third. There were indications from Pyongyang about the impending test. It spoke well of the Kim Joing-un regime that it was speaking openly of the impending test even at the risk of it being a failure. We had seen similar transparency earlier in respect of a rocket launch that failed in April last. Transparency in such sensitive matters -- likely to have an impact on national prestige -- reflects its confidence in its scientists and its ability to withstand any adverse political impact of a failure.

The long history of collusion between North Korea on the one side and Pakistan and Iran on the other in the clandestine development of nuclear and missile technologies is well-known. This collusion started when Zukfiquar Ali Bhutto was the Pakistani foreign minister before the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war and continued for many years thereafter. The missiles for nuclear technology exchange between North Korea and Pakistan added to Pakistan’s missile capability against India in exchange for North Korea developing a military nuclear capability. China was in the picture regarding this collusion. The exchange of visits by political leaders and experts of North Korea and Pakistan took place via China. Some of the road consignments from North Korea were received by Pakistan via the Chinese constructed Karakoram Highway.

However, one had not seen new evidence of continuing collusion ever since the clandestine activities of Pakistani scientist A Q Khan were exposed in 2004 and seeming action was initiated against him by Gen Pervez Musharraf under US pressure. This does not mean that the collusion had stopped after A Q Khan was exposed and placed under house arrest. It only means that the two countries probably used more clandestine and restricted exchanges.

North Korea’s persistence on the nuclear-missile road poses serious threats to the security of South Korea, Japan and the US and is a matter of concern to China too, which would not want a rogue state as its perceived ally.

It also poses a threat to the national security of India because of the past Pakistani links and Israel because of the past links with Iran. Till now, the US has been trying to neutralise North Korean capabilities through sanctions. They have not worked so far and will not work in future. Sanctions never worked against Pakistan and have not worked against Iran.

The US hope that China will collaborate in making North Korea see reason have been belied so far. It will not be in China’s interest to weaken North Korea which would benefit Japan and South Korea.

The US has to think of neutralising North Korea’s capabilities through covert action to make its computer network dysfunctional and other means. The US should join hands with Japan, South Korea, India and Israel to target North Korea’s nuclear and missile establishments through covert action.

Israel would be happy to co-operate in this venture. India should be too.

This may please be read in continuation of my article of 2003 titled 'The Pakistan-North Korea nexus'

B Raman