Outside editorial: N. Korea goes rogue

Posted: Monday, December 06, 2010

The following editorial appeared in the Kansas City Star:

The game has become all too familiar.

North Korea commits a provocative act, talks ensue, the North makes a series of promises in exchange for aid. Aid deliveries commence, the North fails to comply fully.

Last week Pyongyang drastically upped the ante by shelling a village on a South Korean island, killing two civilians and two South Korean marines, wounding 20 and leaving much of the village smoldering.

It was an outrageous move, even for the North Koreans. This time the pattern of the past should be broken: Pyongyang should not be rewarded with another agreement to supply fuel oil or build nuclear power plants or any other sort of aid.

Over the years the North has made and broken pacts almost with nonchalance. In 2005, for example, it promised to abandon all "nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs."

A few weeks ago, Pyongyang invited experts to come have a look at a uranium-enrichment facility and nuclear reactor it was not supposed to have built.

Washington has accelerated naval maneuvers with South Korean vessels in the Yellow Sea, despite complaints from China. And the United States has moved to crimp Pyongyang's access to the international financial system _ an important step. Similar moves by the Bush administration were effective in getting Pyongyang's attention.

Unfortunately, the Bush White House later relented and eased the pressure, and in late 2008 Washington even took North Korea off the State Department's list of states that sponsor terrorism. Given the North's activities in proliferation of nuclear and missile technology, Pyongyang should be relisted.

The real key to this tangle is China, which remains the North's main source of aid and energy. The Obama administration should make it clear to China that being a great power and enjoying access to the global trading system entails obligations, and one of them is curbing the destabilizing impulses of reckless client states like North Korea.



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