Americans watched anxiously this summer as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un repeatedly threatened to launch a missile attack against the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam — the latest escalation of recent provocations. The proposed attack, and news that U.S. intelligence officials believe North Korea has successfully miniaturized nuclear warheads, are chilling signs that almost no country is out of range of North Korea’s dangerous capability.
North Korea may be isolated from most of the world, but unfortunately, it has a few equally dangerous kindred spirits. One reason that North Korea even has a missile program is due to the fact that two years ago, the U.S. released billions of dollars to North Korea’s main missile test partner, Iran, with the signing of a misguided nuclear deal. North Korea’s missile program and technology are identical to that of Iran, and inaction on one sends a powerful signal to the other that is can act with impunity.
Iran, according to the Congressional Research Service, has provided “significant and meaningful” assistance to North Korea’s ballistic missile program. For instance, in May 2017, Iran conducted a failed cruise missile test launch from a Ghadir-class “midget” submarine in the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz. The Iranian submarine’s design closely mirrored that of North Korea’s Yono-class, prompting speculation that the Tehran-Pyongyang military collaboration remains vibrant. The diesel-electric Yono/Ghadir-class submarines are virtually undetectable and were used by North Korea to sink a South Korean ship in 2010.
Most alarming, Iran carried out test-launches of a ballistic missile that has a range just under 2,500 miles in July 2016 and January 2017, thus bringing Europe into Iran’s ballistic missile range. Experts believe North Korea sold this particular missile, a variant of the BM-25, to Iran.
U.S. lawmakers wisely seized an opportunity to blunt the complementary ambitions of Iran and North Korea. The bipartisan Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act, which overwhelmingly passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Aug. 2, increased a president’s ability to impose sanctions on countries found to have violated U.N. Security Council resolutions regarding North Korea. The legislation also expanded the list of activities that would trigger sanctions against a country partnering with North Korea on possible weapons development.
But more must be done.
The international community must work collaboratively on reining in the Iran-North Korea alliance to ensure that Iran does not follow in Pyongyang’s footsteps regarding nuclear weapons capability. To prevent this, the U.S. must disrupt the sea and air procurement networks between North Korea and Iran, which have operated largely free of interference. For example, the U.S. must work closely with China to ensure that cargo flights on the Pyongyang-Tehran route, which stop in Beijing, are not carrying illicit nuclear materials or large sums of cash.
The U.S. must also monitor Iranian efforts to outsource elements of its illicit nuclear program to North Korea. Two key shortcomings of the Iran nuclear deal are that its restrictions only address Iran’s domestic nuclear weapons program, and it lacks an enforcement mechanism to prevent the transfer of nuclear material and technologies to Iran from another country. The U.S. should make clear that it regards Iran carrying out extraterritorally nuclear activities forbidden by the Iran nuclear deal as a violation, and will seek activation of the agreement’s sanctions “snap-back” mechanism as a result.
Lastly, the Trump administration must address entities assisting North Korea’s access to critical parts and technologies from countries like Iran. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, a number of Chinese banks and businesses are reportedly complicit in the DPRK’s sanctions-busting and proliferation efforts through engagement with North Korean front companies. Given the interconnected nature of Tehran and Pyongyang’s ballistic missile programs, North Korea’s proliferation advancements have redounded to Iran’s benefit. Applying secondary sanctions against Chinese entities aiding North Korea in this manner would impose a significant cost.
The threat that North Korea poses to the United States has been ignored far too long and at our own peril. The U.S. should remain vigilant as it monitors Iranian and North Korean efforts to share weapons technology, particularly following North Korea’s recent missile test. Pyongyang and Tehran remain two pieces of a greater national security puzzle that Americans and their elected policymakers must address.
Source » chicagotribune