The Heritage Foundation

News Releases on Asia

August 28, 2003

August 28, 2003 | News Releases on Asia

U.S Must Display Resolve in Dealing With North Korea, China, Analysts Say

WASHINGTON, AUG. 26, 2003-China may well prove more a part of the problem than a part of the solution for U.S. officials participating in this week's "six-party" talks in Beijing over North Korea's nuclear ambitions, warns an analyst from The Heritage Foundation.

Indeed, the talks may bog down quickly as sharp differences with the Chinese emerge, writes China expert John Tkacik. He recommends that, if that happens, the United States move the issue quickly to the United Nations Security Council, rather than allow North Korea to come up with reasons to continue dodging its nonproliferation obligations.

According to Tkacik, Chinese negotiators are more likely to side with the North Koreans than with the United States. "Pyongyang seeks legitimacy for its nuclear weapons by painting the nuclear issue as something of concern only to the United States," he writes. "Beijing supports that position."

But many other nations should be concerned about North Korea's nuclear ambitions, Tkacik says, which is why the Security Council would be a good forum for settling the issue. A strong debate led by the United States, France and Britain would force China to take a public stance against nuclear proliferation and would isolate North Korea.

In a second Heritage paper, Korea expert Balbina Hwang urges Washington to use its allies to pressure North Korea. In May, the Bush administration announced the Proliferation Security Initiative, a group of 11 nations that will work together to stem the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Hwang says that the Initiative also should concern itself with stopping North Korea's other illegal activities, such as drug trafficking and counterfeiting. "In North Korea," she says, "illegal activities are not conducted by a rogue organization operating independently of the government: They are sanctioned and run by the regime itself."

If the United States and other nations crack down on that illegal activity, Washington will gain leverage in its other dealings with North Korea. Hwang says that will put the United States in a better position to eliminate Pyongyang's nuclear program.

"Peaceful efforts won't succeed without a muscular diplomacy," she says, "And that diplomacy must be built around the unconditional and multilateral position that a nuclear North Korea will not be tolerated."

Hwang's paper includes an appendix that lists all publicly known incidents of North Korean drug trafficking since June 1994.

Tkacik's paper, "Getting China to Support a Denuclearized North Korea" and Hwang's paper, "Curtailing North Korea's Illicit Activities" are both available at

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