Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

North Korean Crisis

Delivered in Plenary - January 29th 2003

Mr President

I have been the co-author of two resolutions in quick succession with Jas Gawronski and Jacques Santer, who are experts on this very isolated country. North Korea presents one of the most threatening humanitarian crises and military flashpoints on the globe. Run by a vain and maverick dictator, Kim Jong-il, whose disastrous Stalinist economic policies have brought the country to its knees, the DPRK is now resorting to nuclear blackmail and dangerous brinkmanship with the world community, in breach of the 1994 framework agreement and other previous binding international agreements.

Mr Kim has chosen to withdraw from the NPT and to expel IAEA inspectors, and threatens to reactivate his nuclear weapons programme by switching on the Yongbyong nuclear power station, ostensibly to generate electricity, but no-one is really fooled by this as it is really a source of weapons-grade plutonium for him.

Rather than feed his people, he has chosen to maintain one million men under arms, with an immoral diversion of food and resources to the military, irrespective of the sufferings of the civilian population, many of whom are rotting in political re-education camps or dying of starvation. North Korea remains a failing, rogue state and a very dangerous one at that. It could wreak havoc on South Korea with which it is technically still at war, and it has ten thousand artillery pieces aimed at Seoul.

Although I am at a loss as to why out-going President Kim of South Korea is so flattering about his Pyongyang counterpart. I suppose the sunshine policy requires a very sensitive approach to such a strange man who has just rebuffed the South's special envoy, Mr Lim, who returned empty-handed yesterday from his trip to the North. Also, our so-called ally Pakistan needs to consider the consequences of its actions in its alleged provision to North Korea of uranium enrichment technology in exchange for help in weaponising its Ghauri -2 long range missiles with nuclear warheads by adapting North Korean Nodong missiles. Already many are suspicious of the genuineness of Pakistan' s commitments in its war against terrorism and the disappearance of the records of Pakistan's relations with North Korea is worrying. There are also suspicions that both countries are helping Iran's covert weapons proliferation programme.

The international community must close ranks against this rogue state and stop it becoming a nuclear proliferator if it is not one already, not only because of the threat posed to the South and the 37,000 US troops stationed there, but also the 40 million civilian South Korean population. It also has a track record, no doubt worsened by its desperate self-inflicted poverty, of exporting arms, including weapons of mass destruction, to any willing buyer irrespective of the danger posed to world security.

In this respect, China and Russia, for once, have a common agenda with the West in preventing a nuclear arms race in the region, which will quickly spread to the South Korean part of the peninsula and to Japan, with very dangerous consequences for the whole world.

The EU must assess the situation carefully and concentrate on delivering humanitarian aid. It must also, however, send a very clear and strong signal to North Korea - which, rather surprisingly, listens carefully to our pronouncements - that it will not tolerate nuclear blackmail in the event of UN sanctions. It must also urge strongly against any further provocative testing of ballistic missiles over Japan, as happened a couple of years ago, or moving the sealed spent nuclear fuel rods which are currently sitting in water tanks, which therefore would effectively show that they are very serious in their intent to progress to manufacturing plutonium weapons.

The DPRK cannot pursue a policy of ignoring the collective will of the United Nations and must cease its nuclear proliferation immediately.