US must overhaul North Korea policy: expert

06 02 13-005 (3)

By Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga, Research Assistant for Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme

The United States needs to push North Korea straight to the top of its policy agenda, says academic Joel Wit (above), saying that Pyongyang might already possess 25 nuclear weapons and may have deployed a prototype road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Speaking at the IISS several days before Pyongyang carried out its third nuclear test on 12 February, the former State Department official and Visiting Scholar at the US–Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) said he thought the passive policy of ‘strategic patience’ during the Obama administration’s first four years had failed.

As the administration entered its second term, he suggested, the White House should take a more proactive approach to North Korea – especially given President Barack Obama’s recommitment to Asia and his outspoken advocacy on nuclear issues.

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North Korean rocket may shoot down Leap Day deal

North Korean Security Challenges: a net assessmentBy Mark Fitzpatrick, Director Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme

The satellite that North Korea announced it will put into orbit on 15 April, the hundredth birthday of regime founder Kim Il-sung, has no military target. Yet it could well destroy prospects for an improved relationship with the US that was set in train just two weeks ago with the acclaimed Leap Day deal.

Under that deal the US agreed to provide food aid in exchange for a North Korean moratorium on nuclear tests, uranium enrichment at one of its facilities, and ‘long-range missile launches’. (The positive momentum started by the deal continued in informal talks in New York over last weekend, when North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator proposed diplomatic liaison offices in both capitals.)

But the moratorium agreement was ambiguous about exactly what activity was to be stopped. At a seminar last night at the Daiwa Foundation, I predicted trouble over this issue because North Korea does not consider space-launch rockets to be missiles. This was the case in April 2009, when North Korea launched the Unha-2, which failed to put a satellite into orbit and was seen as a slap in the face of the new Obama administration.

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