The unanimous UN Security Council resolution condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear program and imposing sanctions should at long last assure Ambassador John R. Bolton’s confirmation by the Senate for the position in which he has performed so well since his presidential recess appointment in August 2005. Bolton's nomination has been held up because leftist senators and a gaggle of "one world" activists know he rejects their view that the United States should be subservient to the United Nations. But this is precisely why he deserves confirmation, for he has shown the ability to do the reverse: to use the UN to serve U.S. interests.
Resolution 1718 was passed under Chapter VII, which allows not only for economic sanctions, but is the article under which military action can be authorized. Economic sanctions alone cannot overthrow a ruthless dictator like Kim Jong Il, but they can perform the critical function of limiting the resources available to the regime to carry out its agenda. Resolution 1718 says member states shall not engage in any trade with North Korea which could contribute to its nuclear or other WMD projects, missile programs, or high-end conventional military buildup. The resolution also prevents the travel of North Korean officials known to be involved in WMD efforts. The resolution also targets the way Pyongyang finances itself through criminal activities like money laundering, counterfeiting, and narcotics trafficking. All member states are to take action against those activities and freeze the assets of those involved.
The most important provision, however, is one of personal accomplishment for Ambassador Bolton; the authorization of cargo inspections to expand the legitimacy of the Proliferation Security Initiative. The PSI was an international coalition composed initially of Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Singapore, Norway, Canada and the United Kingdom. It now numbers over 60 member states. Its purpose is to facilitate the sharing of intelligence information, the tracking of suspect international cargo and the conducting of joint military exercises to interdict the shipments. It is this last point that is the key to the PSI’s effectiveness, and the one that has made it contentious.
Section 8 of Resolution 1718 addresses this subject three times. Part (a) states “All Member States shall prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the DPRK, through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in their territories” of not only WMD and missile related items, but also a list of conventional weapons (armored vehicles, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships) and spare parts. Part ( c) restates this even more forcefully, “All Member States shall prevent any transfers to the DPRK by their nationals or from their territories, or from the DPRK by its nationals or from its territory, of technical training, advice, services or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of the items in subparagraphs (a).” Part (f) echoes the PSI itself “In order to ensure compliance with the requirements of this paragraph, and thereby preventing illicit trafficking in nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, their means of delivery and related materials, all Member States are called upon to take, in accordance with their national authorities and legislation, and consistent with international law, cooperative action including through inspection of cargo to and from the DPRK, as necessary.”
For PSI members to act within their own jurisdiction against foreign shipments is not controversial. It is the essence of sovereignty. So would be agreeing to allow the boarding and searching of its own flag vessels by other PSI states and to the seizure of any WMD-related cargoes so found. The problem comes from the declared intent of PSI members to stop, search and seize ships and cargoes belonging to non-PSI “state or non-state actors” who have not given prior permission in “areas beyond the territorial seas of any other state” which means in international waters and in violation of the principle of “freedom of the seas.”
In a speech at the National Defense University on February 11, 2004, President George W. Bush stated, “We're prepared to search planes and ships, to seize weapons and missiles and equipment that raise proliferation concerns.” The NDU speech had been preceded by international meetings in Krakow in May, 2003; Madrid in June; Brisbane in July; Paris in September; and London in October. A Statement of Interdiction Principles was adopted at the Paris meeting.
One of the great success stories of the PSI occurred when the WMD network of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear arms program, was dismantled. American and British intelligence worked for years to penetrate the Khan network. In September 2003, they identified a shipment of centrifuge parts used in the enrichment of uranium. They followed the shipment from Malaysia to Dubia, where it was transferred to a ship owned by a German company, but using the Antigua & Barbuda flag of convenience. After the ship passed through the Suez Canal on its way to Libya, German authorities were contacted. They ordered the ship to an Italian port where the centrifuge parts were seized. President Bush credited this operation with helping to convince Libya’s dictator Colonel Moammar Qaddafi to end his WMD programs.
Yet, it has been felt that this “coalition of the willing” would be enhanced if there were specific UN authorization for such interceptions. Article 23 of the UN Law of the Sea Convention allows “ships carrying nuclear or other inherently dangerous or noxious substances” the right of “innocent passage” through territorial seas as long as they “carry documents and observe special precautionary measures established for such ships by international agreements.” And their right to operate freely on the high seas is uncontested. The United States has wisely refused to ratify the LOSC, but many of the other PSI members have.
Bolton was the principle architect of the PSI when he was serving as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. But when the U.S. first tried to bring a resolution to the UN to authorize this new doctrine, China vowed to veto it. China has the world’s third largest merchant fleet with over 2,000 ships, and will not allow any of them to be inspected for arms shipments. UN Security Council Resolution 1540 was finally adopted unanimously on April, 28, 2004, but in a greatly modified version from the original text. Instead of endorsing PSI, it avoided giving any explicit support to it. Whenever Resolution 1540 mentions “international cooperation,” it is quick to hem such actions in by stating that any such cooperation must be “in accordance with their national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law.” The operative sections refers only to “Non-State actors” and “illicit trafficking” in WMD, thus providing no foundation for taking action against national governments. Cooperation was not to be allowed to grow into a coalition that can act unilaterally, but must be kept under UN authority. Chinese diplomats had worked hard to turn the resolution against its original intent.
At the end of October 2004, a PSI exercise off the coast of Japan involved warships from Japan, France, Australia and the United States, with eleven other countries sending observers. The exercise was clearly aimed at practicing the interdiction of North Korean trade. A Chinese nuclear submarine caused an international incident by entering Japanese territorial waters shortly after the PSI exercise, upon which it may have been spying.
That China has now voted for an adopted UN resolution that authorizes countries to take the kind of action envisioned by the PSI is a major development. Beijing insisted that the phrase from Resolution 1540 “in accordance with their national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law” remain. However, the clearly stated mandate to prevent North Korea as a nation-state from trading in WMD and other armaments, and the authorization for “cooperative action” by national authorities against Pyongyang shipments, gives the United States and its PSI partners increased legitimacy to enforce their own blockade of North Korea. Secretary Rice discussed an expanded plan to stop and search ships to and from North Korea with Japanese officials Wednesday.
As Bolton argued when the PSI was launched, “we need the option of interdicting shipments to ensure this technology does not fall into the wrong hands. Properly planned and executed, interdicting critical weapons and technologies can help prevent hostile states and terrorists from acquiring these dangerous capabilities.” With the world’s most powerful navy deployed around the world, the United States has always had this option, and, indeed, from a historical perspective, it is one of the core capabilities of the dominant sea power. However, Washington now also has the diplomatic cover of a unanimous UN resolution.
For conceiving the PSI, putting together the broad international coalition, and now securing UN backing for its core principle, Ambassador Bolton richly deserves a strong confirmation vote as soon as the Senate returns to Washington next month. Bolton’s recess appointment in August 2005, when the Senate was out of session, circumvented a threatened filibuster against his nomination. But his recess appointment expires at the end of the 109th Congress. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-CT, said last month that the Democrats should continue to stall a vote to keep Bolton from being confirmed. Such narrow partisanship should now fall away in the face of a clear triumph for the national interest.
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