Another War With North Korea?

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Another
War With North Korea?

Memo
To: Nicholas Kristof, NYTimes
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Just for the Fun of It

Your
column today on North Korea and the six nuclear weapons you say
it has produced since George W. Bush has been President is probably
wrong in assuming it really does have nukes, even though it now
says so, but it is correct in asking why in the world our government
has refused to negotiate with them directly since 2001. President
Clinton had bilateral talks with Pyongyang that seemed to be bearing
fruit, but as soon as the Bush administration began, an excuse was
found to break off the talks, and ever since we have hewed to that
policy. You note that…

Selig Harrison,
an American scholar just back from Pyongyang, says North Korean
officials told him that in direct negotiations with the U.S.,
they would be willing to discuss a return to their plutonium freeze.
Everything would depend on the details, including verification,
but why are we refusing so adamantly even to explore this possibility?

You
might have mentioned that at the outset of the Bush administration,
Secretary of State Colin Powell seemed eager to continue those talks,
but all of a sudden the Undersecretary of State for Non-Proliferation,
John Bolton, threw a monkeywrench into that worthy diplomatic effort.
The talks were suspended in March 2001, and in his State of the
Union Address in 2002, the President labeled North Korea one of
the three legs of the "Axis of Evil."

It
was Bolton who was the source of the assertion that North Korea
had secretly been enriching uranium in violation of the Non-Proliferation
Treaty and that it had admitted as much to an American diplomat
at a cocktail party in Pyongyang.

I’m
afraid Bolton had to know this was baloney, but it served his purpose.
To this day, North Korea denies it had ever engaged in a uranium
enrichment process and there is no evidence that it ever has. It
has, though, openly acknowledged that it has been mining uranium,
which it uses in its two nuclear power plants that use natural uranium
as fuel, natural uranium having no use in a nuclear weapons program.

What’s
going on? In 1994, it was the United States that persuaded North
Korea to stop work on the nuclear power plant it was building, which
could produce plutonium that could find its way into a nuke. Instead,
we would help it build cold-water reactors that would give them
the electric power they need and not produce the fissile material
that would be suitable for nukes. But you have to realize we never
intended to fulfill our part of the deal. I wrote about this here
on November 6, 2003 in A
Little Joke We Played on Pyongyang
.

The
idea back then was that Kim Il Jong’s regime would soon collapse,
on the heels of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and we wouldn’t
have to live up to our part of the Agreed Framework. No kidding.
I put it this way:

By now, though,
it is clear to Pyongyang that the warhawks in the Pentagon –
and their stooge, John Bolton at State – don’t want
compliance and never have. They want a nice little war, or at
least a regime change and another puppet government like they
have arranged for Iraq. What good did it do Baghdad to persuade
the IAEA that it was no threat? The boys want An American Empire!
Secretary of States Colin Powell, whose heart is in the right
place, has been trying to work things out with Pyongyang, but
every time he makes a diplomatic move, his Undersecretary Bolton
has a press conference and calls Kim Il-Jong a commie rat fink.
What can a poor Secretary of State do when his big boss, the President,
now and then has a press conference and calls Kim Il-Jong a commie
rat fink? The General should resign and write some new memoirs,
that’s what. For three years now, I’ve been trying to get
journalists in our major media to dig into these issues in a serious
way instead of swallowing whatever John Bolton tells them. Your
column today is at least very positive in pushing for direct talks
with Pyongyang, but I am afraid the game plan remains the same
as it was in 1994: Keep delaying resolution of the process in
the hopes that Kim Il Jong will slip on some wintry ice and break
his neck, and capitalism and democracy will suddenly sprout hours
after his funeral.

A
more productive use of your time would be to unravel all the propaganda
that has been concocted by the neo-cons and their helpers, like
John Bolton. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is now digging
away at reports Bolton behind-the-scenes manipulated the intelligence
process in order to promote the right-wing foreign-policy agenda.
Sure he did that. But the Committee has yet to take notice that
over the years he has manipulated the press corps, including the
Washington Bureau of the NYTimes, into spreading the word
that the "Axis of Evil" is secretly working on nukes,
when none of the three – Iraq, Iran or North Korea – were
doing so.

As
for North Korea’s current assertion that it indeed has nukes, please
note that when Robert Zoellick was asked in the Senate hearings
on his nomination to be Deputy Secretary of State, he suggested
it might be a bluff. A bluff? What does Zoellick know that Bolton
should know (and probably does but is fudging)?

Zoellick
may have checked with officials at State who Bolton tried to have
cashiered. He would have learned that while one of the easier things
to make is a nuke with highly enriched uranium, one of the most
difficult things in the world to make is a nuke with plutonium.
Gordon Prather, the expert in this sort of thing, tells me to do
so the North Koreans would have had to assemble the equivalent of
the Manhattan Project team – and even then they could not know
if the weapon they developed would work unless they tested it.

If
you wish to learn a bit more, Dr. Prather did a column on an aspect
of this issue for Antiwar.com last November 13, "A
Radical Change in North Korea Policy
." Take a look.

April
27, 2005

Jude
Wanniski [send him mail]
runs the financial/political advisory service Wanniski.com.

Jude
Wanniski Archives

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