Special to WorldTribune.com
Last month on May 20, the Defense Commission of North Korea (DPRK) claimed that the nation had built nuclear weapons small enough to be delivered by missiles.
A statement carried by Pyongyang’s official news agency, KCNA, asserted that the DPRK’s nuclear capacity have entered the stage of producing smaller warheads and diversifying them.
Two weeks earlier, KCNA also announced that the DPRK had successfully tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile. On the other hand, a ranking U.S. military official in Washington questioned if the DPRK had acquired a nuclear weapon small enough to be put on a missile or had the ability to deliver a nuclear warhead on a long-range ballistic missile or from a submarine.
Adm. James A. Winnefeld, Jr., Vice-Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an academic conference at the CSIS that the North Korea are “many years away from developing this capability.”
Nonetheless, Pyongyang is waging a psychological warfare to pressure the U.S. and its allies to make concessions. The North Koreans have learned from Sun Tzu, the grand master of strategem in ancient China, who put great emphasis on deception in his classic The Art of War.
To deceive and mislead enemies, Sun Tzu preached that “When able, feign inability; when active, manifest inactivity; when near, manifest as far; when far, manifest as near.”
The DPRK leaders are creative and reverse Sun Tzu’s deception strategy in their attempts to mislead the enemies into believing that the DPRK is deploying nuclear arms, even though they do not yet possess such capability.
True, it is only a matter of time before the DPRK will eventually master the technology to produce smaller nuclear warheads and develop the long-range missiles.
The rogue state has already demonstrated a rocket capability needed for a long- range missile by placing a satellite into orbit in December 2012, and conducted its third underground nuclear test with “a smaller and light A-bomb” in early 2013.
The DPRK’s development of nuclear arms could have been averted and forestalled if the U.S. were decisive and bold to make the right moves at the critical movements.
In 1993-94, the Clinton administration was in a serious debate over preemptive strikes against the DPRK’s nuclear assets, but the U.S. abandoned the military option in the wake of former President Jimmy Carter’s willful intervention.
He took the initiative to visit Pyongyang in April 1994 and received a vague promise from the DPRK leader Kim Il-Sung that Pyongyang henceforth would suspend research and development on its nuclear project.
But Pyongyang was determined then, as it is now, to acquire nuclear arms, for its leaders, especially the military, consider nuclear weapons indispensable to the DPRK’s security and survival.
After Kim died in July 1994, his son and successor Kim Jong-Il initiated the “military first ” policy to solicit support of the military to consolidate his power. He continued to pursue the unfinished task in greater efforts and in utmost secrecy, much to the apprehension of the U.S., Korea and Japan.
In the belief that Beijing does not desire a nuclear-armed North Korea, a recalcitrant ally and neighbor, President George Bush tried on several occasions to secure President Jiang Zemin’s help to rein in Pyongyang, but to no avail.
In February 2003, a frustrated Bush told Jiang flatly that “I would have to consider a military strike against North Korea.” Jiang apparently took Bush’s warning very seriously and went to work on the DPRK quickly.
Beijing and Pyongyang seem to think that Bush was not bluffing and for good reasons. In March 2003, the U.S. took military actions against Iraq, and there were widespread international speculations that North Korea, a member of Bush’s “axis of evil,” could be the next target. Even the South Korean government was alarmed and dispatched its foreign minister to Washington to plead against use of force in the Korean Peninsula.
To forestall the U.S. military attack on the DPRK, Beijing intervened directly and actively. It hosted the “six-party talks”(involving North and South Korea, the U.S., Japan, Russia and China) to deal with Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. The multilateral forum began in August 2003 and, after rounds of informal consultation and formal negotiation, produced in September 2005 a broad consensus.
In “The Joint Statement on the Principles of Denuclearization in Korean Peninsula,” the DPRK consented to the suspension of R & D and eventual denuclearization, in exchange for security assurance, diplomatic recognition and economic aid by the U.S., South Korea and Japan.
Both Beijing and Pyongyang were big winners in their skillful game of deception. The “six-party talks” removed the danger of U.S. military attack and provided the cover and time that the DPRK needed to undertake R & D of its nuclear arms and long-range missile programs. As soon as the scientists in the North were ready to resume the tests in 2008, Pyongyang tore up the agreement publicized earlier and walked away from the diplomatic charade.
American officials would never admit so in public, but they know in their hearts that they were hoodwinked and taken for a ride by the Chinese and North Koreans.
A very serious question remains: Can the U.S. ever learn from its mistakes?
Specifically, will President Obama be going to sign a bad deal with Iran that would facilitate Iran’s acquisition of nuclear arms in the years to come?
Obama’s Republican critics in the U.S. Senate and in the media have pointed out the major shortcomings and dangers in the nuclear deal he intends to sign with Iran at the end of June.
They question is why the Obama administration would allow Iran to retain thousands of centrifuges, which will leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state. Moreover, for the U.S. to swiftly lift sanctions, as the deal calls for, Iran would be provided with billions of dollars of sanctions relief to fuel its export of terrorism and advance its regional expansionism.
Why is Obama so desperate to sign the deal with Iran? Is it because he cares so nuch about his presidential legacy, some critics asked?
Americans are not alone in their critique of his nuclear deal with Iran. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabins reportedly told the French Parliament, “France will not accept a deal if it is not clear that inspections can be done at all Iran’s installations, including military sites. Yes to an agreement, but not an agreement that will enable Iran to have the atomic bomb.”
It would be a tragic mistake for the U.S. to make massive concessions to Iran. The Obama administration would be wrong to believe any deal is better than no deal.
Dr. Parris H. Chang is professor emeritus of political science at the Pennsylvania State University and President of the Taiwan Institute for Poitical, Economic and Strategic Studies.