By Bridget Johnson - 11/14/10 10:00 PM EST
A new Security Council report detailing brazen North Korean activities intended to circumvent multilateral sanctions and assist regimes including Iran in its nuclear program has raised alarm on Capitol Hill just before a lame-duck session.
The report released last week follows up one year later on U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874, which tightened sanctions against North Korea, strengthened the arms embargo, and called for inspection of cargo by member states if there was "reasonable grounds" to believe prohibited items were on board, seizing and disposing of banned items, and denying fuel to such cargo ships. The resolution followed an unnerving nuclear test by the country in May 2009.
In addition, the report utilizes evidence gleaned by various sources including the International Atomic Energy Agency to conclude that North Korea is active in “nuclear and ballistic missile related activities in certain other countries including Iran, Syria and Myanmar."
Rep. Ilena Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the likely incoming chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, fired off a statement calling the report "a wake-up call for the U.S. and other responsible nations."
“Instead of continuing its failed strategy of seeking to engage the regime in endless negotiation, the administration must ratchet up pressure on Pyongyang," she said. “...We must act quickly and firmly to stop North Korea’s proliferation before it ends up costing American lives and those of our allies.”
Ros-Lehtinen reiterated the call of many in Congress to re-list North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. The DPRK was removed from the list by the George W. Bush administration in 2008 to inject momentum into nuclear negotiations as the North took steps toward transparency, and President Obama told Democratic leaders in a letter earlier this year that North Korea would stay off the list as the country "does not meet the statutory criteria to again be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism."
The office of the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry (D-Mass.), said he would not be issuing a statement on the U.N. report.
Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the likely incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also slammed the report's findings.
"China, Russia and the United Nations need to get serious about this growing and dangerous threat," Hoekstra said in a statement. "It is irresponsible for world powers to continue whistling past the problem as the threats to international stability posed by North Korean and Iranian nuclear efforts continue to grow.
"President Obama also must speak forcefully about the risks and challenges of nuclear proliferation and push the U.N. toward forceful and necessary action to halt the spread of these weapons."
Fallout over the report came as President Obama was in South Korea for the G-20 meeting, tussling with a host of issues ranging from trade to currency manipulation.
"There will be an appropriate time and place to re-enter into six-party talks but we have to see a seriousness of purpose by the North Koreans," Obama said Thursday at a press conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak. "We are not interested in just going through the motions with the same result."
The six-party talks between North and South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the U.S. over Pyongyang's nuclear activities, which were launched after Pyonyang withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003, have been on life support since an April 2009 ballistic missile test and North Korea's expulsion of nuclear inspectors.
North Korea lashed out at economic development carrots dangled as incentives to return to six-party talks in an editorial in a state-run newspaper Thursday. "The imperialists are now becoming craftier in their methods to tighten the economic subjugation and intensify plunder of other countries with their 'assistance' as bait," the Rodong Sinmun screed against "aid diplomacy" said.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, told The Hill that the information in the report has been known or suspected for some time, but said that Iran's progress in its nuclear program stands testament to how concerned the world should be with North Korea's role in proliferation.
"Iran now has missile technology superior to North Korea even though early technology came from North Korea," Franks said. "There is a coincidence of jihadiist terrorism and nuclear proliferation but this administration by and large seems to be asleep at the wheel."
Franks introduced the Protect the Homeland from North Korean and Iranian Ballistic Missiles Act after that May 2009 nuclear test. The bill, introduced with 10 co-sponsors including one Democrat who was defeated in this month's midterm elections, Blue Dog Jim Marshall (D-Ga.), appropriates $500 million for the installation of at least 40 ground-based missile interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, and at least four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
It was never given a hearing under Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Franks said, but "time will tell what will happen here in another couple of months."
In line with his support for "absolutely draconian sanctions," Franks said he will "consider" introducing a bill next Congress that would apply to North Korea but would use the Iran sanctions in his Peace Through Strength Act of 2009, which was referred to committee a year ago, as a model.
Pressure also should be applied to China, which delayed the release of the Security Council report for six months, he said.
"My concern is that this genie is getting out of the bottle in more than one place," Franks said. "Nuclear proliferation in a 9/11 world is more dangerous than any of us can truly grasp."