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WASHINGTON – Is testing the will of the world’s lone superpower a profitable exercise?
Yes, say many analysts, who suggest it is more than a coincidence that North Korea began preparations for an intercontinental ballistic missile test in the direction of the United States less than two weeks after America and its allies offered Iran new incentives for backing away from its nuclear arms program.
G2 Bulletin sources in the Pentagon and in foreign intelligence and defense establishments say North Korea was just doing what should be expected following the major powers effort to appease – or buy off – Iran.
“Why wouldn’t Pyongyang become just a little more bellicose?” said one foreign intelligence operative with expertise in Far East matters. “After seeing Iran getting a sweeter deal after threatening Israel’s existence in a dozen different ways, it only makes sense that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. North Korea wants some grease, too.”
Not only is this a lesson based on observation from afar, some say, but it could well be part of a calculated effort based on consultation between North Korea and Iran – strategic allies who both see America as the ultimate evil in the world.
“Iran has learned key insights from North Korea’s negotiating and bargaining tactics, including the importance of maintaining strategic ambivalence over its nuclear program,” Lee Chung Min, a Korean expert on Asian security, told the Associated Press. “Both are pariah states, fiercely nationalistic and mistrustful of the great powers. So, they probably share a common bond in terms of their world views, i.e., that nuclear weapons can provide prestige and power against a very hostile external environment.”
Iran has been a longtime customer of North Korean missile technology, and both states were linked to the network of A.Q. Khan, the founder of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program who admitted passing nuclear technology to other countries.
North Korea pulled out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 after ejecting U.N. inspectors, resumed work at its plutonium-based reactor and shifted from denials or ambiguity to defiant affirmations that it made atomic bombs. Pyongyang is believed to have a nuclear arsenal of about eight or nine warheads.
Tehran is considering a Western incentives package offered June 6 that would require it to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for electric plants or the material for nuclear warheads. The offer is similar to one North Korea accepted in 1994, though that deal later unraveled.
“The real lesson Iran learned from North Korea is that high-stakes brinksmanship brings rewards,” arms control expert Mark Fitzpatrick wrote in Survival, a publication of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Fitzpatrick said North Korea’s withdrawal from the nuclear arms control treaty gives credence to Iranian threats to do the same, “especially when North Korea paid no discernible price for it.”
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