Does North Korea Have What Iraq Didn’t?

In his 2002 State of the Union Address, President Bush threw down the gauntlet before Iraq, North Korea and Iran.

“States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.

“I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.”

Bush-Cheney have since claimed to have “intelligence” that Iraq, North Korea and Iran – all no-nuke signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – each had illicit nuke development programs.

Each country has vehemently denied it, demanding that the “intelligence” be provided to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for verification or refutation.

During the Cold War, when we were spending a zillion dollars a year collecting “intelligence” from outer space, the rest of the world took us at our word. After all, we regularly intercepted phone calls Chairman Brezhnev made from his limousine and tracked the limousine’s movements.

Well, we are still spending a zillion dollars a year, but by now hardly anyone takes us at our word.

Everyone now knows that the real Bush-Cheney objective along the “axis of evil” has been regime change.

In October 2002, Bush-Cheney submitted the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) entitled “Iraq’s Continuing Programs of Weapons of Mass Destruction” [.pdf] that formed the basis for the Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq.

Bush then took his “intelligence” to the UN Security Council, seeking their authorization, too. But the Security Council balked, sending inspectors into Iraq to check-out Bush’s “intelligence.” By mid-March it was obvious that there were no continuing WMD programs in Iraq. Virtually the entire NIE had been wrong.

Well, what about the CIA assessments of North Korean nukes?

In October 2002, a Bush-Cheney weenie claimed that a North Korean diplomat told him at a cocktail party they had a secret uranium-enrichment program.

North Korean officials immediately and vehemently denied it. All North Korean nuclear programs had been “frozen” – subject to IAEA lock, seal and continuous surveillance – by the Agreed Framework of 1994.

Bush-Cheney ought then to have provided – as we were obligated to do – the IAEA the “intelligence” that formed the basis for the charge so the IAEA could check it out.

Instead, Bush-Cheney used the cocktail party admission as the basis for unilaterally abrogating the Agreed Framework, immediately shutting off the U.S. fuel-oil shipments to Korea required by it.

By December it was obvious that Bush-Cheney were going to invade Iraq no matter what the IAEA inspectors found or didn’t find. Furthermore, North Korea might be next. So, the Koreans asked their IAEA inspectors to leave, announced they were withdrawing from the NPT, restarted their frozen nuclear power plant and began recovering the weapons-grade plutonium contained in their frozen spent-fuel elements.

They now have enough weapons-grade plutonium to make a half dozen nukes and the CIA assesses that they probably have one or two ready to test.

How good is that CIA assessment? Well, the North Koreans don’t deny it.

But the Koreans still do adamantly deny the CIA assessment that they have – or ever have had – a uranium-enrichment program.

The Chinese tend to believe the Koreans, not the CIA. Now that North Korea has withdrawn from the NPT, and doesn’t deny having a plutonium-nuke program, there is no reason to deny having a uranium-nuke program.

How about Iran?

Well, last year Iran agreed to submit to essentially the same full-disclosure, unlimited-access IAEA Safeguards regime that Iraq had agreed to a year earlier. As of this writing, the IAEA has found no indication that Iran is pursuing – or ever has pursued – a nuke development program.

The IAEA did find such indications in Iraq, South Africa and North Korea in 1991-92, so they do know what to look for.

Nevertheless, Bush wants the IAEA to refer to the UN Security Council for possible punitive action the nuke program the IAEA says Iran doesn’t have. On this issue, the Brits-French-Germans-Russians-Chinese tend to believe the IAEA, not Bush.

Meanwhile, the CIA reported a mushroom-shaped cloud last week, near where they were expecting North Korea to test a nuke. Well, according to the DPRK news service:

“There has been no such accident or explosion in the DPRK recently. Probably, plot-breeders might tell such a sheer lie, taken aback by blastings at construction sites of hydro-power stations in the north of Korea. “

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.