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Dealing with North Korea
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Those that have argued that the world is going to hell in a handbasket for years actually have a much stronger case these days. The end of the Cold War was a mixed blessing, and now the uncorked nuclear genie is disseminating to every lowlife despotic thug around the globe.

Intelligence indicates that North Korea probably already has 1 or 2 nuclear weapons, and right now, having removed monitoring devices and kicked the IAEA inspectors out of their country, they're feverishly enriching fissile material to build more weapons.

In the meantime, yesterday North Korea threatened to withdraw from the armistice signed between them and the U.S. at the end of the Korean War.

So what to do?

William Safire's most recent editorial in the NY Times suggests the moderate step of passing a resolution condemning North Korea's recent withdrawal from non-proliferation treaties.

And he begins the editorial by rightly pointing out the hypocrisy of those who accuse us of acting "unilaterally" (a word that's already outlived any usefulness it might have previously had):

For the past year, the central message that Saddam's protectors have been sending to the U.S. is: Do not "go it alone." On the contrary, take the multilateral route. Seek the world's support through U.N. consensus.

But when it comes to the weaponry menace on the other side of the world, the message of Paris-Berlin-Moscow-Beijing is exactly the opposite.

The clear message that the coalition of the unwilling sends Washington about North Korea, which confessed its secret nuclear buildup, then ejected U.N. inspectors just as Saddam did four years ago, is this: Go it alone, America. Korea's nukes and long-range missiles are your problem, not the world's. Hold bilateral talks as the Koreans insist, pay them off as you tried to do before and forget all we have been saying about multilateralism. You work it out with them alone; we'll hold your coat.

What's even more hypocritical is when some people try to call our policy toward North Korea inconsistent. Just as we've done for years with Iraq, we're trying to engage them with diplomatic and economic measures first, building a broad base of multilateral support. Which part of this is inconsistent? Which part of this is difficult to grasp?

The fact is, North Korea is a problem. And it's a problem that we shouldn't, and can't, deal with on our own. Its neighbors, South Korea, China, and Japan, all have just as much, if not more at stake in peace and stability in the region than we do. As I've mentioned before, a nuclearized North Korea would probably lead to a nuclearized Japan and South Korea, sparking off an Asian arms race and a vastly increased potential for their use.

This isn't to say that we don't have a stake. North Korea is one of the biggest exporters of military technology, with no qualms about selling to the highest bidder, no matter what their politics. We can't afford to have a nuclear merchant on the block, especially one that has a crippled economy.

But the point is, the U.S. should not go it alone with North Korea. And we're not trying to. So far, North Korea is screaming that it's between us and them, that it doesn't concern anyone else. And so far, even though we're trying, we haven't gotten much support from countries in the region to deal with the problem multilaterally.

This double-standard is not only two-faced and morally reprehensible, it makes the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, already dangerous, even more so.

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