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so is Noth Korea next on the hit list? - if not why not?(29 posts)

so is Noth Korea next on the hit list? - if not why not?MJ
Oct 17, 2002 4:41 AM

October 17, 2002
U.S. Not Certain if Pyongyang Has the Bomb

WASHINGTON, Oct. 16 — 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 has now "nullified" its 1994 agreement with the United States to freeze all nuclear weapons development activity.

North Korea's surprise revelation, which confronts the Bush administration with a nuclear crisis in Asia even as it threatens war with Iraq, came 12 days ago in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. A senior American diplomat, James A. Kelley, confronted his North Korean counterparts with American intelligence data suggesting a secret project was under way. At first, the North Korean officials angrily denied the allegation, according to an American official who was present.

The next day the North Koreans acknowledged the nuclear program and according to one American official said they, "have more powerful things as well." American officials have interpreted that comment as an acknowledgment that North Korea possesses other weapons of mass destruction.

Administration officials refused to say tonight whether the North Koreans had acknowledged successfully producing a nuclear weapon from the project, which uses highly enriched uranium. Nor would administration officials who briefed reporters say whether they think North Korea has produced such a weapon.

"We're not certain that it's been weaponized yet," said another official, noting that North Korea has conducted no nuclear testing, which the United States could easily detect.

The idea of a North Korean nuclear arsenal immediately alters the delicate nuclear balance in Asia and confronts the Bush administration with two simultaneous crises involving nations developing weapons of mass destruction: one in Iraq, the other on the Korean Peninsula.

"We seek a peaceful resolution to this situation," a senior administration official said tonight, briefing reporters as news of the North Korean program began to leak. "No peaceful nation wants to see a nuclear-armed North Korea."

Yet the administration's demands on North Korea tonight were muted. "The United States is calling on North Korea to comply with all of its commitments under the Nonproliferation Treaty and to eliminate its nuclear weapons program in a verifiable manner," an American official said. There was no discussion of the consequences if that appeal was ignored, even though the announcement came only hours after President Bush issued some of his toughest and most ominous-sounding warnings yet to Iraq.

Mr. Bush said nothing about North Korea today. Instead, the State Department dealt with the issue tonight through a statement issued by Richard A. Boucher, the state department spokesman, and through briefings by midlevel officials. Mr. Boucher said Mr. Kelly and Under Secretary of State John R. Bolton had been dispatched "to confer with friends and allies about this important issue." He also said, "This is an opportunity for peace-loving nations in the region to deal, effectively, with this challenge."

At a meeting on Tuesday of the National Security Council, Mr. Bush and his aides decided to handle the North Korean declarations through diplomatic channels, a senior official said.

Japan and South Korea, which is now in the midst of a presidential election campaign, both wanted to avoid confrontation, according to several officials.

But American officials said that there was no early indication that North Korea would admit inspectors or give up its program. One senior official characterized the North Korean attitude at the Pyongyang meeting as belligerent, rather than apologetic, even while it admitted
re: so is Noth Korea next on the hit list? - if not why not?MJ
Oct 17, 2002 4:42 AM
violating the 1994 accord to freeze its nuclear weapons development.

The strongest action the administration announced tonight was the cessation of talks that could lead to economic cooperation. "The United States was prepared to offer economic and political steps to improve the lives of the North Korean people," Mr. Boucher's statement said, "provided the North were dramatically to alter its behavior across a range of issues," including its weapons programs, its past support for terrorism, and "the deplorable treatment of the North Korean people."

But in deciding on a very measured response, the White House was also implicitly recognizing the reality of how North Korea differs from Iraq. It may already have nuclear weapons, and it has a huge army and conventional weapons capable of wreaking havoc on South Korea.

Moreover, even the prospect of military action against North Korea, conducted at the same time the administration is considering an attack on Iraq, would mean that the Pentagon would be confronted by the prospect of fighting a two-front war.

Deeply impoverished, with its military might waning, North Korea has long sought nuclear capability. It pursued 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 believed that the dispute nearly veered into war. At one point in 1994, President Bill Clinton ordered Stealth bombers and other forces into South Korea to deter a pre-emptive North Korean strike.

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 fuel oil and proliferation-resistant nuclear reactors to produce electric power.

While ground has been broken on the project, the reactors have yet to be delivered, and now that agreement appears dead, officials said tonight.

Around the time that the Clinton administration negotiated the 1994 accord, the Central Intelligence Agency estimated that North Korea's nuclear weapons facilities at Yongbyon, a program that was based on reprocessing nuclear waste into plutonium, had already produced enough material to manufacture one or two weapons.

If the North Korean assertions are true — and administration officials assume they are — the government of Kim Jong Il began in the mid- or late-1990's a secret, parallel program to produce weapons-grade material from highly enriched uranium. That does not require nuclear reactors, but it is a slow process that the United States may have discovered through Korean efforts to acquire centrifuges. That is also the process that the administration believes the Iraqis are undertaking.

"We have to assume that they now have the capacity to build many more weapons, and they may have already," said a senior official who has seen the intelligence.

It was unclear today why North Korea admitted to the weapons program. Only last month, Kim Jong Il admitted that North Korean agents had kidnapped Japanese decades earlier, and he apologized. Five of those kidnapped people returned to Japan for visits this week.

But one official who was in the room on Oct. 4 when the North Korean deputy foreign minister, Kang Sok Joo, described the existence of the nuclear program, said, "I would not describe them as apologetic."

The administration's decision to keep news of the North Korean admission secret for the past 12 days while it fashioned a response appears significant for several reasons. Mr. Bush and his aides have clearly decided to avoid describing the situation as a crisis that requires a military response at a time when dealing with Iraq is the No. 1 priority.

"Imagine if Saddam had done this, that he had admitted —
re: so is Noth Korea next on the hit list? - if not why not?MJ
Oct 17, 2002 4:43 AM
"Imagine if Saddam had done this, that he had admitted — or bluffed — that he has the bomb or is about to have one," one senior official said. "But there's been a decision made that the system can take only so much at one time."

The response also has much to do with the vulnerability of America's allies. Every American administration that has considered military action against North Korea has come to the same conclusion: it is virtually impossible without risking a second Korean war and the destruction of Seoul in South Korea. North Korea maintains a vast arsenal of conventional weapons and hundreds of thousands of troops.

But dealing with the problem diplomatically will be a tremendous challenge, at a time when the administration is already at odds with many of its closest allies over how to deal with Saddam Hussein.

American officials used the past dozen days to formulate a common response. At a news conference in South Korea on Thursday morning, local time, Lee Tae Sik, deputy minister for foreign affairs, urged North Korea to abide by a series of agreements it now clearly violates: the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the 1994 agreement, and a "joint declaration" signed with South Korea to keep the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free.

"All the issues including the North's nuclear program should be resolved through peaceful methods and by dialogue," Mr. Lee said.

Tonight, senior administration officials said that inside the White House, theories have sprouted about what North Korea hoped to gain from its declaration.

According to one theory, discussed widely in the Pentagon and the State Department, North Korea's leaders want to demonstrate that they cannot be bullied by the United States. "Here they are declaring they have the stuff to make a nuke," one official said. "Whether they have one, or they are bluffing, we don't know for sure. But the message is, `Don't mess with us.' "

Another theory holds that North Korea is seeking attention, as it has done many times before, hoping to trade its nuclear capability for economic aid. That worked in 1994, according to this theory. But it could backfire now, in a post-Sept. 11 environment.
I think it's obvious...TJeanloz
Oct 17, 2002 5:23 AM
Wasn't North Korea on the "Axis of Evil"?

The logical conclusion is that they're on the U.S. hit list, but we can only beat up one country at a time.
Oct 17, 2002 6:22 AM
I thought the US military has resources to fight a two front war...

who should we be more concerned about North Korea or Iraq? does that mean that North Korea is next in line after Iraq?

before we take on Iraq (again) shouldn't we finish off Al Qaeda?
sounds like a job for Austin Powers!DougSloan
Oct 17, 2002 7:08 AM
Seriously, though. I heard that China is none to happy about this, either. My bet is that we work a deal with China to take care of this one. Sort of, "your turn, you could be next (to be attacked)." We support them, they support us. Too simple?

Here's simple: No; they don't have oil.look271
Oct 17, 2002 12:43 PM
And they didn't try to kill W's dad.Too simple? Not too much of a stretch if you ask me.....
Absent all the good analysis in the 1st reply, no because ...PdxMark
Oct 17, 2002 5:28 AM
(in no particular order) ...

South Korea is too vulnerable, North Korea is too difficult (terrain, at least), North Korea is on China's doorstep and China's response is unpredictable, we already have a bogeyman for this election cycle, and there's no oil there...

All summed up as: it would be a very hard fight that would cost us and S. Korea far more than we'd want to pay to win, and besides who cares because there's no oil and we already have a diversion from domestic issues for this election
Thanks for your critical, in depth analysis,TJeanloz
Oct 17, 2002 6:21 AM
I'm not saying that the U.S. is likely to invade North Korea- it's not palatable to re-fight a war that you already couldn't win once. But it is clear that the U.S. supports a 'regime change' in Pyonyang to the same degree it supports one in Iraq (and also Iran, for that matter). Obviously, the United States would prefer to have internal forces drive change, rather than attacking. This was also the case in Iraq, but it's apparent that nobody on the inside is capable of changing things, so, if we want a regime change, we're left with little choice but to attack.

I think the consensus is that North Korea is already on the verge of collapse. Because, as you aptly point out, they have no oil, thus no source of income to support the regime, the ability for it to survive is somewhat limited. A peaceful, or near-peaceful, resolution in North Korea seems far more likely than it does in Iraq, and that is certainly the American preferance.

On the whole oil bit that people like to banter around, I am confused. The idea that our economy is based on Iraqi oil seems a little off. We import less than 9% of our oil from Iraq, and less than 30% from the middle east. An oil shock wouldn't really cripple our economy, though it might move some people out of SUVs. The availability of oil isn't really a threat- there is plenty of oil in non-Arabic countries, and we can easily afford to pay more for it. The really tough impact would be on the developing countries who couldn't afford to pay more for oil- we could substitute away from oil, but I'm not sure a developing economy could.
On oil.czardonic
Oct 17, 2002 10:06 AM
The US currently depends on the Middle East for only a small prcentage of its oil needs. However, we are talking about a limited resource. Oil dependencey in general is forecasted to skyrocket in the coming decades, which will force the US to rely increasingly on Persian Gulf oil. In turn, this will give countries like Saudi Arabia greater leverage against the US, and make us vulnerable to price hikes. Installing a puppet regime in Iraq, which has vast untapped reserves, would be a vital hedge against a future oil market that has the US at a distinct disadvantage.
Smart play.Sintesi
Oct 17, 2002 11:43 AM
Can't let the arabs hold all the cards.
TJ - wasn't flaming your response, was saying mine was short ...PdxMark
Oct 17, 2002 3:03 PM
and curt compared to MJ's, the very first in the thread... No offense intended
agree with TJean - good pointsMJ
Oct 17, 2002 6:40 AM
do you think the US rhetoric is duplicitous?

do you think it's acceptable to say because it's too hard a fight we'll let N Korea do what they want but we think we can pick off SH - certainly same rules apply if you're justifying the fight by the bogeyman of crazy people with WMD's
agree with TJean - good pointsJon Billheimer
Oct 17, 2002 6:50 AM
Bullies only pick on the weak.
The key difference though,TJeanloz
Oct 17, 2002 6:54 AM
The key difference between North Korea and Iraq is that North Korea is mostly rational in their actions. N. Korea isn't really run by a despot who is enriching himself at the expense of his people. They're in a tough spot, and are using WMDs, effectively, as a bargaining chip. Their policies might be misguided, but they are at least rational. We aren't concerned that North Korea will blow up a nuclear weapon in New York City for the sheer thrill of it, which Hussein might do. If you gave me the choice of giving Iraq or North Korea the bomb, I'd give it to Korea- because they are less likely to use it irrationally.
Oct 17, 2002 6:57 AM
To differ, NK is run by a despot who enrichs himself at the expense of the people, but, they are not a high risk to do as you say, explode a nuke in NYC. They are rational enough to know that would result in their destruction.
The key difference though,MJ
Oct 17, 2002 7:33 AM
agree with Clyde re the despot point

please explain the NK won't do anything irrational to the Japanese - whose citizens they kidnapped off beaches with frogmen and whose country they shot a nuke capable test rocket over two years ago

irrational people with WMD's are all dangerous - or is there a sliding scale here
The key difference though,Sintesi
Oct 17, 2002 11:41 AM
Yeah, ask the South Koreans if Kim Jong II isn't a threatening kook. I think Korea is on the list tho, but America is going to tackle the problem in a way that hurts it the least. China is pretty close. South Korea definitely has a say. Plus they haven't been in our faces for almost 50 years. It's a backwater that everyone is hoping will collapse on its own.
Slight disagreementscottfree
Oct 17, 2002 7:56 AM
I think you're confusing Hussein with bin Laden re: blowing up a nuke in Manhatten for the sheer thrill of it. We have seen for many years that Hussein is, above all, a survivor interested in self-preservation and preservation of his own local power. He's many bad things, but his political behavior have never been irrational. It is, in fact, very cooly calculated. The possibility that he'd nuke NYC for the thrill of it is almost nil.

That said, he IS utterly ruthless, and a sociopath of the worst sort, and would have no humanitarian compunction about nuking New York (if he could) if his back were to the wall and it was clear he was about to be deposed by America, and captured or killed.

Bin Laden is also cooly calculating, but a lot less interested in personal survival. He's a religious zealot, with eyes on the afterlife, which Hussein clearly is not.
Slight agreement,TJeanloz
Oct 17, 2002 8:46 AM
I agree, it's not likely that SH would blow up a nuclear weapon in New York. But Tel Aviv, maybe. And the nuclear capability provides him with a new degree of leverage for retaliation.

When I look at SH, I see somebody who is trying aggressively to expand his power base (he has invaded two of his neighbors), when I look at N. Korea, I see a country that is trying to prove to the world that it is capable of defending itself from perceived threats.
Interesting take on North Korea.scottfree
Oct 17, 2002 9:01 AM
I think you're right, although that doesn't seem to be the prevailing view.

I'm no fan of North Korea (Stalinists give communism a bad name). But try as I might to enter the mind of the Bushites, I cannot see why it was included in the 'axis of evil.'

They may be doing some bad or even terrible things within their own country (I really don't know), but I have a hard time seeing them as an active, international 'evil' worthy of lumping with the terrosrist states.
Bush should be having a long, hard think....Eager Beagle
Oct 17, 2002 7:05 AM
All very well standing up and shouting the odds about what he's gonna do and all the rest of it, but when push comes to shove, there are people/things being shot and blown up with impunity by terrorists all around the world.

He's not short of tough talk, but that doesn't stop a single terrorist.

Mebbe he should think more about cutting off their motivation, rather than their heads, before it turns into a global blood-bath?
Yes, he should,TJeanloz
Oct 17, 2002 7:30 AM
The talk of cutting off their motivation is far easier said than done. We know that people in the world hate the United States, but what, realistically can the U.S. do about it? Withdraw forces from all over the world? Become isolationist? Then everybody will hate them for not 'doing their share'.

Does the United States redistribute its wealth? The answer is that the United States knows why people hate it- but they, and I, don't know what they can do to change this fact.
One thing that might helpEager Beagle
Oct 17, 2002 7:58 AM
to brorrow Doug's favourite phrase is a nice cup of shut the...

If he's going to do something, get on and do it, or shut up. All this endless tub-thumping simply gives terrorists the prefect excuse to legitimise their acts as anti-imperialist. As long as he (they) keep shooting thier mouths off about what's gonna happen if they don't get a really good listening to, the shootings and explosions will keep on happening.

Mind you, I think they will probably keep happening anyway, but at least we'll see if he can achieve what he promises/threatens.
For starters,Starliner
Oct 17, 2002 8:14 AM
I would not go so far to say that the US knows WHY people hate us, but we definitely know that people DO hate us.

IMO, a great part of our problem is that we are seen by much of the world as insincere. I'm sick of hearing Bush and others justify actions such as Vietnam and now Iraq by invoking the F-words ("fighting for freedom"). It's not a good sell in light of our past record of propping up and allying ourselves with despots, and undermining governments we don't like, as we did with Allende in Chile.

We ought to come clean with our motivations for action. No more hazy rhetorical nonsense (axis of evil, justice, freedom, liberty, etc.). Not only does the rest of the world see through these words, but a growing part of America is waking up to their emptiness.
"Whack" - the sound of someone hitting the nail square on the head. nmEager Beagle
Oct 17, 2002 8:17 AM
I entirely agree,TJeanloz
Oct 17, 2002 8:43 AM
Again, we know what we have done in the past to make people not like us. But is there anything we can do in the present to change the situation?

This bit about coming clean for our motivations, I'm not so sure of because I don't think we neccessarily have a consistent motivation. My motivation for removing Saddam Hussein (which is largely because I understand him to be a criminal causing undue suffering on millions of people), is probably different from some other American's (who may believe that this will lead to cheap oil, or are angry because their brother died in the Gulf War). I don't think our motivations are ever solid enough to focus.
The lesson from VietnamStarliner
Oct 17, 2002 9:22 AM
Vietnam taught us that the absence of a clear motivating factor makes for a dangerous and costly way to wage war. Among Bush's top people, it comes as no surprise to me that Colin Powell, a military careerist with perhaps the most intimate Vietnam experience of them all, is the least hot-to-trot on using the military card in Iraq, while the loudest pro-war voices missed the Vietnam war due to various reasons.
For starters,Sintesi
Oct 17, 2002 11:26 AM
Well that's true but then again whose freedom does Bush mean? The Iraqis? No, but Saddams remaoval would probabaly benefit everyone involved (as long as they don't get shot or blown up). The Israelis? Yep. The US'? Yep, Long term - cold war/hot war - whatever it takes to further US interests. Brutal dictators are accepted as long as they play our game internationally, whatever they do in their own country is their business. It's not clear that that is necessarily wrong.

The US habit of allying with unsavory characters was good for American freedom if it's aim was to stop the spread of communism which I believe was indeed the original motivation. I've never seen the US as a proselytizing nation unlike the USSR or China.