N. Korea's nuclear defiance may embolden Iran, Israelis worry
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates promised Saturday that the US will not 'stand idly by,' but the communist nation's example could be a case study in how to side-step diplomacy.
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"The United States and our allies are open to dialogue, but we will not bend to pressure or provocation," said Mr. Gates. "We will not stand idly by as North Korea builds the capability to wreak destruction on any target in Asia – or on us."Skip to next paragraph
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N. Korean ties to Iran
According to a technical report published earlier this month by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Theodore Postol, Iran's ballistic missile program "relies very heavily" on North Korean components, which it began importing as early as the 1980s. Three of its four known missile systems have flight characteristics "essentially identical" to those of North Korean missiles, the report says.
US intelligence officials believe North Korea and Syria, which have a longstanding military relationship, began cooperating on nuclear issues as early as 1997.
After Israel destroyed an alleged nuclear reactor in Syria in September 2007, the US accused North Korea of providing the nuclear know-how for the plant. Any transfer of technology from Pyongyang to Damascus is prohibited under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718, which was adopted in response to North Korea's 2006 nuclear test.
Where the US, Israel go from here
Despite international consensus that Israel is a nuclear power, the country has never confirmed or denied its non-conventional abilities and has refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which would require it open up its nuclear program to international inspectors.
North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 2003. That year, former president George W. Bush launched the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), an alliance of US allies to blockade and monitor transfer of non-conventional weapons between states.
The PSI is being mentioned as a possibility for stepping up pressure against North Korea, but Professor Steinberg was skeptical as to whether US allies in Europe would reach a consensus to apply it.
The degree to which the Obama administration succeeds or fails on North Korea will impact its ability to coax Israel to go along with its effort to engage Iran in political talks to abandon its nuclear program, says Steinberg. With Israel worried that Iran is about to make the jump to becoming a nuclear power, President Obama said that the US should be able to tell by the end of the year whether its diplomatic efforts are making headway.