Wednesday, October 16, 2002
Leaving the world a safer place than when you got it: The New York Times is reporting that the North Koreans have told U.S. officials that they have a nuclear weapon.
Confronted by new American intelligence, North Korea has admitted that it has been conducting a major clandestine nuclear-weapons development program for the past several years, the Bush administration said tonight. Officials added that North Korea had also informed them that it was terminating a 1994 agreement with the United States to freeze all of its nuclear activity.
North Korea's surprise revelation came 12 days ago in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, after a senior American diplomat confronted his North Korean counterparts with American intelligence data suggesting a secret project was under way. At first, the North Korean officials denied the allegation, according to an American official who was present.
The next day they acknowledged the nuclear program and according to one American official, said "they have more powerful things as well." American officials have interpreted that cryptic comment as an acknowledgment that North Korea possesses other weapons of mass destruction.
This is trouble, because North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il is not the most mentally stable of ruthless, murderous despots.
Besides the 1994 agreement with the United States, the revelation also means that North Korea has violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a joint declaration with the South Korean government to keep the peninsula "nuclear-free."
We may be looking head-on at a second Korean War. It's one that we can win, but much of South Korea would likely be in ruins before enough of North Korea's war machine could be destroyed.
While North Korean may not actually use the nuclear weapon -- it's existence certainly puts them in a position to demand money from the rest of the world to prop up that distressingly poor government: "Give us food and money (that we could have been spending on food to feed our people, but instead spent on nuclear and missile technology) or we drop the bomb on Seoul. Or, alternatively, we could sell it, along with some of our missile technology to our friend Iran."
North Korea's admission should also shine a light on those who counsel waiting on taking out Saddam. How much worse would it be if it was Saddam making this announcement?
Getting back to the point of the lead-in above; who do we have to thank for that 1994 agreement with North Korea that looks now like it could've been better used as toilet paper?
Well, that's in the Times' story too.
North Korea conducted an aggressive nuclear weapons program in the 1980's and 1990's that resulted in a major confrontation with the Clinton administration in 1994. Officials who served at the time said they feared the dispute could veer into war. At one point in 1994, President Bill Clinton ordered Stealth bombers and other forces into South Korea.
But a deal was struck, partly with the intervention of former President Jimmy Carter. The result was a 1994 agreement under which North Korea committed to halting its nuclear work, and the United States, Japan and South Korea, among others, agreed to provide the country with proliferation-resistant nuclear reactors to produce electric power.
Kim Jong Il now has a nuclear bomb and who do we have to thank for it? Jimmy Carter.
With apologies to James Taranto... Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.
Now, we never actually provided North Korea with the proliferation-resistant nuclear reactors -- because they never allowed inspectors the free reign they needed to make sure that North Korea's nuclear program wasn't continuing. It turns out now that they were right, but if this is how Clinton "aggressively" handled the crisis, I'd hate to see what we'd be facing today if he'd done nothing.
*UPDATE* One of the readers over at littlegreenfootballs.com created this page with links to various factsheets on North Korea.