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Giving in to North Korean nuclear blackmail would encourage nuclear proliferation

By David T. Pyne
web posted February 3, 2003

In recent months, the crisis with North Korea has escalated and Pyongyang has brazenly violated four international treaties. In addition to pulling out of the Carter-negotiated Agreed Framework of 1994, which was supposed to 'freeze' its nuclear weapon production, it has announced its withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The purpose of this North Korean announcement appears to have been a bid to increase the yearly bounty in aid it receives from the United States. North Korea has also taken visible and concrete steps to restart its nuclear reactors and commence overt nuclear weapon production. Early last month, it announced its intention to begin flight tests of its Taepodong 2 ICBM, which has sufficient range to reach Los Angeles and San Francisco.

North Korea has threatened nuclear war with the United States almost daily for the past couple of weeks and repeated its earlier threats to turn the US into a nuclear "sea of fire." In response, the administration has sought to allay fears and play down its concerns of imminent war with Pyongyang. Bush officials have downplayed reports that North Korean military forces on the DMZ have gone on full alert, claiming that the alerts are no cause for concern, despite the fact that North Korean troops are now positioned for a blitzkrieg assault across the South Korean border without warning.

Nuclear blackmail, it seems, may be paying off for Pyongyang as the Bush administration's far-reaching doctrine of pre-emptive attacks apparently does not apply to North Korea, a known nuclear power. Since the North Korean nuclear war threats began a month or so ago, the Bush administration has renounced any potential military action against North Korea, saying it has no plans for such action now or in the future. It has refused calls by more conservative members of Congress like Sen. John Kyl for UN sanctions against the Stalinist regime of Kim Jong Il and has refused to cut off food aid to Pyongyang despite the President's extremely apt characterization of Kim as an 'evil' man whom he 'loathes.' After saying it had no plans to talk with North Korea, it has since announced its intention to do exactly that.

Despite declaring it would not negotiate with North Korea until Pyongyang refroze its nuclear weapons program, the administration has since indicated a willingness to renegotiate the Clinton-era Agreed Framework that many conservatives have condemned as little more than Chamberlain-esque appeasement. The Washington Times reported on Jan. 17 that the Bush administration has even requested that Congress budget millions of dollars for KEDO, the organization established under the Agreed Framework and charged with building two large nuclear reactors in North Korea.

These two nuclear reactors would be capable of producing 60 nuclear warheads a year, according to the GOP-led House Policy Committee and some Democrat congressmen as well. The administration's decision to request funding for KEDO represents yet another reversal, since it had informed Congress in December that it would not request such funding. The Times quoted one Republican congressional staffer as having told UPI that this represents a triumph for those in the State Department who have been advocating a policy of accommodation and a return to the Agreed Framework. This staffer concluded that this policy represents "a huge retreat for the administration."

The president was right to include North Korea as part of its "Axis of Evil." North Korea is one of the most evil and murderous regimes on the planet today, not far behind its longtime ally and benefactor, the People's Republic of China. North Korea reportedly holds more than 200,000 political and religious prisoners in its gulags. Under the Stalinist regime of Kim Jong Il, North Korea is reported to have been complicit in the starvation of two million of its own people. It has used US food aid to feed its army and enrich its elite, but not to feed its people. It has even resold some US food abroad to purchase weapons for the Korean People's Army.

The KPA is the fifth largest Army in the world and is massed along the DMZ like a dagger aimed at the South Korean capitol of Seoul, a mere 60 kilometers to the south. The administration was mistaken to rule out military action against Pyongyang. No country save Communist China and the defunct Soviet Union has been more worthy of regime change than North Korea. Yet regime change appears not to be the administration's policy for North Korea. The Bush Doctrine, we are led to assume, does not apply to nuclear-armed enemies like Pyongyang.

The Bush administration should return to a more consistent policy based on its previously declared position--no talks with North Korea until it freezes its nuclear weapons program. It should also call for UN sanctions against North Korea and cut off its agricultural and food assistance unless and until North Korea halts its nuclear weapons production. Furthermore, it should proclaim that North Korea is no longer off limits to US military action and that it will consider overthrowing Kim Jong Il if he continues his attempts at nuclear blackmail.

The US should continue redeploying nuclear weapons aboard its warships and aircraft carriers as it appears to have done -- at least one aircraft carrier near Japan is nuclear capable -- to defend against a North Korean blitzkrieg. Finally, the Bush administration should do everything it can to expedite the deployment en masse of Standard 3 ABMs on its 60-odd Aegis destroyers and cruisers, to defend against the threat of North Korean nuclear missile attack against US and allied cities.

Any attempts by the administration to accommodate Pyongyang would not merely shore up the latter's brutal Stalinist regime, prolong its existence and delay hopes for eventual Korean reunification under the leadership of Seoul. They would also encourage other rogue states to engage in further nuclear blackmail. Equally dangerous, accommodating North Korea will encourage scores of other countries to jump-start their development of nuclear weapons and engage in nuclear blackmail against the US. It will give them reason to hope that they too might be the beneficiaries of the lavish $270 million in annual aid the US has bestowed on North Korea since the conclusion of the Agreed Framework appeasement pact. For all of these reasons, North Korea must not be rewarded for its nuclear blackmail threats. Otherwise, it will just repeat them a few years hence in a bid to up the US aid ante even higher.

David T. Pyne, Esq. is a national security expert who serves as President of the Center for the National Security Interest, a pro-defense, national security think-tank based in Arlington, VA. He has worked both as a defense contractor and International Programs Manager responsible for the countries of the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and Latin America. He has traveled as a member of Department of Defense-led delegations to Canada, South Africa, Israel, Brazil and Argentina. Mr. Pyne is a licensed attorney and former United States Army Officer. He holds an MA in National Security Studies from Georgetown University. Mr. Pyne also serves as Executive Vice President of the Virginia Republican Assembly. © 2003 David T. Pyne

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