TEL AVIV – The nuclear threat posed by Iran is more serious than the unfolding crisis with North Korea, the former commander of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet in the Pacific Ocean warned on Tuesday.
“We don’t want to end up in the same situation with Iran, where we are being blackmailed,” the Algemeiner quoted Vice Admiral John Bird as saying on Tuesday at a conference organized by DC-based think tank the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA).
The admiral added that recent U.S. policy “sent a signal to the world that if you have nuclear weapons, you are somewhat protected against us.”
He said that North Korea’s recent threats to launch missiles at U.S. Pacific territory Guam was a “defensive posture” and that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was far less likely to follow through with a nuclear threat than the Iranian regime.
“As crazy and wacky and murderous as Kim is, he will be rational in terms of regime survival,” Bird, who commanded the Japan-based Seventh Fleet in the Pacific from 2008-2010, said. “Iran would be more aggressive and would want to carry out their threats against Israel and even the U.S.”
The vice admiral warned that as is the case with North Korea, Iran could end up as “the land of lousy options if we don’t prevent them from getting nuclear weapons.”
Former assistant secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration Stephen Rademaker told the same gathering that “sanctions could be more effective against Iran than against North Korea — the ultimate hermit kingdom.”
Rademaker also said that integration into the global economy would threaten Kim Jong-Un’s dictatorship.
“Integration would open the eyes of (the North Korean) people to what they’ve been missing out on,” Rademaker said.
He added,“North Korea and Iran are in a better position to pursue nuclear weapons at the end [of a nuclear deal] than they are at the beginning.” North Korea and the U.S. reached a deal in 1994 under the Clinton administration that Pyongyang later breached by leaving the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2002.
Both Bird and Rademaker did not believe that either regime was capable of changing its nuclear positions through diplomatic means and in the case of Iran, all sanctions would be lifted by 2030.
Bird added that cooperation between the two rogue regimes was a “real concern.”
“We need to be watching to our full capabilities to see if North Korea is doing that with Iran and other bad actors,” he said.
According to North Korea expert Maria Rosaria Coduti, the international community has been aware since 2002 “that Pyongyang and Tehran have cooperated on missiles, as the resemblance between Iran’s Shahab-3 and the DPRK’s (North Korea’s) Nodong missiles makes clear.”
“There have been a lot of unconfirmed reports about the missile and nuclear program collaboration between the two states, as well as of Iranian missile experts stationed at a facility in North Korea near the Chinese border,” Coduti said on Tuesday.
She added that Iran “has strategic interests in cooperating with the DPRK” on military advancements. “Improved naval capabilities with sophisticated ballistic missiles enhance Tehran’s deterrent power toward the U.S. both in terms of creating high costs for a military confrontation with Washington and in Iran’s ability to threaten U.S. ships in the Straits of Hormuz,” Coduti said. “And should Iran obtain a 2,500-mile strike range, its capability to militarily threaten Israel, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. will increase considerably.”