President Barack Obama should authorize a U.S. search of the North Korean ship with weapons from Cuba seized last week in Panama, says former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton.
The interdiction "should open President Obama's eyes," Bolton, now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, writes in The Wall Street Journal.
"The seizure's chilling implication is that significant trading exists among proliferators (and their powerful friends), despite mountains of sanctions resolutions, vaunted intelligence capabilities, and Western leaders who think dictators can be talked out of long-sought military capabilities."
Obama's decision to leave the investigation up to the United Nations is a mistake, Bolton says, noting he should be moving "swiftly to investigate the suspect cargo" instead of "giving way to the U.N. to evaluate possible sanctions violations."
Bolton warns in his piece that U.N. inspectors won't even make it to Panama until Aug. 5, which gives plenty of time for North Korean-Cuban allies China and Russia to intervene, potentially hindering U.S. counter-proliferation efforts.
It's unclear exactly what was on the ship, Bolton notes. But the claim from Cuba and North Korea that the vessel merely was transporting obsolete weapons and equipment could well be false, he adds.
"The freighter could well represent a pattern of trafficking in weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, with Havana purchasing Pyongyang's missiles, previously marketed to the Middle East and Africa, and other dangerous weaponry," he says.
"We have no idea how often North Korean ships have made this passage, but last week obviously wasn't the first one."
Bolton writes that "Panama's interdiction highlights undeniably dangerous trade among rogue states and their allies." But, he asks, "Will President Obama use this information wisely? Or will he ignore it because it would upset his fantasy negotiations with Tehran and Pyongyang?"
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