The North Korean nuclear and missile crisis is posing a challenge to the new US administration, especially in the wake of the recent American missile strike in Syria. President Trump will need to consider not only the current North Korean crisis and the immediate military or diplomatic options available for confronting it, but also his long-term goals in the region. Diplomatic, economic, and military options will all have consequences.
Kim Jung-un’s new year declaration that North Korea will test its new ICBM this year (2017) poses a further challenge to the incoming Trump administration. It is truly a “rogue state” – a country that conducts nuclear tests in defiance of the UN Security Council, and that is willing to sell conventional and non-conventional weapons to other rogue regimes, including Israel’s enemies. The nuclear cooperation between North Korea, Syria and Iran forces Israel into new alliances to counter this threat.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Middle East does not indicate an imminent new balance of power in the Middle East, but does suggest the prospect of greater Chinese involvement in the region over the long run – a likelihood that Israel and the other Middle Eastern states should take into account. Israel should continue to improve its economic and political relations with China, but not lose sight of the constant tensions between Washington and Beijing.
North Korean adventurism only adds to Israel’s proliferation concerns. North Korea’s fourth nuclear test, the P5+1 agreement to lift Iranian sanctions, and the billions of dollars’ worth in deals between Tehran and Asian and European companies, together constitute a significant challenge. In addition, Jerusalem faces a difficult task of being the watchdog that monitors Iran’s adherence to the nuclear deal.
The overall failure of the Agreement Framework to halt North Korea’s nuclear program offers an important lesson in analyzing the potential effectiveness of a new nuclear agreement with Iran.