Korea update: Blockade could be dangerous


Richard Moore


In the previous Korea posting, we heard about plans
being considered for a limited bombing strike by the US
against N Korean nuclear installations.  Below we hear
of a less confrontational approach -- a limited
blockade, with perhaps some kind of sanctions.

But if our other posting was accurate, even this less
confrontational approach would be a very dangerous
game.  If the blockade and sanctions caused no
significant inconvenience to N Korea, then it would be
a symbolic gesture only -- not typical behavior for
Caeser Bush-On-A-Roll. And if the blockade interferes
with N Korea's perceived prerogatives, there could be
serious trouble.  Every nation presumably has the right
to sail peacefully on the high seas, and N Korea seems
to be taking a rather hard-line position in general. 
And they have said they would not tolerate sanctions.

One can imagine a N Korean ship refusing to stop at the
orders of some US destroyer, giving the destroyer the
choice of attacking or looking foolish.  And one might
expect such a N Korean test ship to be accompanied by
submarine backup, or some other kind of backup.  A
Volatile scenario.


Delivered-To: •••@••.•••
Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2003 21:27:40 -0400
To: •••@••.•••
From: Paul Wolf <•••@••.•••>


N. Korea faces naval blockade over nukes

By Shane Green, The Sydney Morning Herald
April 28, 2003

The United States is said to be considering a selective
shipping blockade against North Korea to prevent the
communist state following through on its threat to
proliferate nuclear weapons.

The Pentagon strategy has been dubbed Cuba Lite, a
lesser version of the US blockade during the 1962 Cuban
missile crisis.

The plan is in response to last week's claim by North
Korea to the US that it already had nuclear weapons,
and was prepared to make a "physical demonstration" of
them or "transfer" them to other countries.

North Korea also said it had nearly finished
reprocessing 8000 spent fuel rods to make plutonium for
several more nuclear weapons within months, a claim
some US officials doubt.

In Germany, prosecutors confirmed on Saturday that a
director of a German company suspected of supplying
aluminium tubes to North Korea's nuclear program had
been held for questioning.

The announcement came after the news magazine Der
Spiegel said the tubes, essential in making enriched
uranium, were loaded onto a French ship in Hamburg
early this month just as the German federal government
vetoed the shipment.

The Pentagon plan would include the US Navy
intercepting suspected North Korean vessels, similar to
an action in December when US and Spanish forces
stopped a North Korean ship near Yemen carrying 15 Scud
missiles and warheads.

"It's a kind of Cuba Lite strategy," The Sunday
Telegraph in London quoted a Pentagon official as
saying. "It wouldn't be a total blockade. International
shipping would not necessarily be blocked from going in
to North Korea, but the passage of North Korean
shipping would be contingent on what we knew was being

The strategy has the advantage of being less
confrontational, such as a selective air strike against
North Korea's nuclear facilities, to which the volatile
regime could easily respond by lashing out against
South Korea and Japan.

The US is also planning to talk to its regional allies
South Korea and Japan about the possibility of UN
sanctions against Pyongyang, which has previously said
it would regard such moves as a declaration of war.

The Bush Administration appears divided on how to deal
with North Korea, underlined by the revelation that
North Korea told the State Department about the
reprocessing last month, but the information was kept
from Defence Department hawks.

Those who received the information were concerned it
would be used by hardliners to scuttle last week's
talks with North Korea in Beijing, the first meeting
since Pyongyang admitted in October to a nuclear arms

Intense diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the
crisis are continuing, with a South Korean delegation
travelling to North Korea yesterday in an attempt to
persuade its neighbour to abandon its nuclear weapons.

Over the weekend President George Bush phoned his
Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, about the crisis.

North Korea's nuclear weapons claim was seen as
severely embarrassing for Beijing, which had convened
the talks. China has been increasingly frustrated with
the behaviour of North Korea -- to which it has acted
as a mentor and provided substantial aid.

In Tokyo, Japan's Defence Minister, Shigeru Ishiba,
said yesterday that North Korea's main aim was
maintaining its regime and socialism.

The hawkish defence chief said he did not believe Japan
would go nuclear to counter North Korea.

"I never support such a discussion that we will possess
nuclear weapons because North Korea possesses them."



    For the movement, the relevant question is not, "Can we
    work through the political system?", but rather, "Is
    the political system one of the things that needs to be
    fundamentally changed?"

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