[Posted by Karl]
Following a series of provocative (and largely unanswered) tests of its missiles and nuclear arsenal, North Korea reportedly no longer considers itself bound by the armistice that ended the Korean War, as a protest over the South’s participation in the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative. The communist regime’s military has said that it will take “immediate, strong military measures” if the South actually stops and searches any North Korean ships suspected of spreading weapons of mass destruction.
This is an immediate problem for the Obama administration, but it is also an opportunity.
After all, the real obstacles to effective action against North Korea are Russia and China, who both have interests in the continued existence of the DPRK regime. Neither has shown much interest in nuclear non-proliferation; both would prefer less US involvement and influence in East Asia.
However, as Daniel W. Drezner points out, North Korea’s increasingly bellicose threats of war may well increase the likelihood that China and Russia can be budged into taking meaningful action against North Korea. The threat of war increases the likelihood of US entanglement in the region and even a collapse of the DPRK. The regime has made non-proliferation an issue for China and Russia.
Accordingly, Pres. Obama should view the latest North Korean provocation as leverage to persuade China to join the Proliferation Security Initiative. Such action would serve China’s interests by sending the message to North Korea that it has gone too far, while serving US interests — and even Obama’s Utopian desire for a nuke-free world — by strengthening the PSI.
Whether the Obama administration is capable of making this sort of deal will be a measure of its ability to harness that “soft power” we heard so much about during the campaign, and will serve as a likely prelude to the administration’s dealings with Iran.