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North Korea and Security Risks

North Korea and Security Risks

BAHNG Tae-Seop

Aug. 28, 2006

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In defiance of opposition from the international community, North Korea test-fired seven ballistic missiles on 5 July 2006, including the Taepodong-2 long-range missile technically capable of hitting the mainland of the United States. The multiple launches were apparently intended to demonstrate its objection to the US financial sanctions, under which the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia (BDA) has frozen its accounts. At the same time, the missile-firing was chosen to intimidate the US into accepting its demand for a direct negotiation. North Korean delegates at the July 11-13 ministerial meeting in South Korea insisted the missile test was something that had to be settled bilaterally with the US.

Since the start of his second term in office in 2005, US President George W. Bush has intensified his pressure on Pyongyang. The first-term Bush administration sought to engage North Korea in the framework of the six-party talks, with help of the Proliferation Security Initiative designed to block the North's illegal trafficking in missiles and drugs.

In the second-term Bush administration, Washington is raising the human rights violations in the North, with the help of financial sanctions to freeze its overseas bank accounts. The US Department of Treasury has designated North Korea as a 'primary money laundering concern,' in effect reaffirming its unwillingness to ease the financial sanctions.

Against that backdrop, an early resumption of the six-party talks appears unlikely. Since the closing of the fifth round of the six-party talks in Beijing in November 2005, Washington and Pyongyang have failed to narrow their differences. The US demands that the North first give up its nuclear program without precondition. The North insists it will do so only after the US provides it security guarantee.

Washington imposed financial sanctions on the North against its suspected counterfeiting of the US dollars and related money-laundering. The North now claims it will return to the six-party talks only if the US lifts this sanction and unfreezes its accounts. The US is of the opinion that sanctions and nuclear issue are separate. Now some American experts argue that only strong economic sanctions will prompt the North to give up its nuclear weapons program.

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