Analysis: Korean clash could happen with nuclear Iran

N. Korean attack on Yeonpyeong Island is example of what Israel has been warning will happen if Iran continues developing nuclear program.

November 24, 2010 01:39
3 minute read.
Smoke rises from South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island.

north korea attack_311. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)


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Many Israelis heard about the Korean flare-up on Tuesday between the North and the South and justifiably wondered what it had to do with the Jewish state.

Thousands of kilometers away from Israel, which already has enough problems closer to home, the tension in the Yellow Sea should not immediately be a point of concern. But it is.

Tensions rise after North, South Korea exchange heavy fire
North, South fire artillery shells on Korean peninsula

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From an Israeli point of view, the North Korean attack on Yeonpyeong Island Tuesday morning is an example of what Israel has been warning will happen if Iran is allowed to continue developing a nuclear capability – a nuclear power will be bolder in its acts of aggression.

North Korea and Iran are close allies and have for decades collaborated on military and nuclear technology. North Korea is a known exporter of missile technology to Syria and Iran, which have both built up formidable ballistic missile capabilities, from various versions of Scud missiles to Shihabs and Sajils. Some of the missiles are modeled on North Korean designs.

In nuclear terms, the collaboration was demonstrated by the revelation in 2007 that Syria was building a nuclear reactor modeled after the one North Korea has built at Yongbyon. Pictures later leaked to the press showed Chon Chibu, a leading member of the North Korean nuclear program, posing next to Ibrahim Othman, director of Syria’s Atomic Energy Commission, in front of the Syrian reactor that was destroyed by Israel.

More than anything, though, North Korea is a role model for other rogue states like Iran of how a country can violate international treaties and agreements, develop a nuclear weapon, and get away with it. This appears to be exactly what the Iranians are after.

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman made this point at a press conference in Jerusalem with his Italian counterpart, Franco Frattini.

“I think that North Korea is, as we see, a threat not only for their part of the world, but also for the Middle East and the entire world,” Lieberman said. If the international community “cannot stop, cannot suffocate this crazy regime,” then how could it deal with Iran, he asked.

Now, with a proven nuclear capability – North Korea has already tested a weapon – Pyongyang can be aggressive and its targets – for example, South Korea – will need to be restrained in their responses so as not to come under nuclear attack as well.

This is one of the challenges Israel faces when considering a nuclear Iran. While Israel and Iran do not share a border, Iranian proxies such as Hizbullah and Hamas would be able to be more daring in their acts of aggression against Israel since they would have the backing of a nuclear country.

While saying that it was “too early” to relate to the incident in the Korean peninsula, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the events there did show that the “world is coming under threat from irresponsible countries that are arming themselves with advanced weaponry, the most threatening weapons. And since these countries are at their core very aggressive, it is only a matter of time before this aggression is expressed in one incident or another.”

Netanyahu, who made the comments during a tour of Israel Military Industries, said Israel was familiar with this phenomenon because of Iran’s behavior, and its cooperation with North Korea, Syria and other countries.

The international community is facing the challenge of “how do you stop this aggression, and stop it in time,” the prime minister said.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

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