A Radical Change in North Korea Policy

President Bush’s reelection mandate has apparently resulted in a radical change in our policy toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Quoting some unnamed U.S. official, the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun said that the U.S. has just established a "red line" the DPRK is not to cross.

Ten years ago, the DPRK was operating a small Soviet-supplied reactor and had a reprocessing plant capable of extracting nuke-grade plutonium from the reactor’s spent-fuel. They had much larger plutonium-producing reactors and reprocessing facilities under construction.

The neo-crazies demanded that President Clinton "take them out," notwithstanding the fact that DPRK was then a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and that all these DPRK facilities were to be subject to a Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Clinton later said that, “We actually drew up plans to attack North Korea and to destroy their reactors, and we told them we would attack unless they ended their nuclear program."

Result? The U.S.-DPRK Agreed Framework, wherein DPRK nuclear programs were "frozen" – subject to continuous monitoring by the IAEA – in return for two free nuclear power plants and a half-million tons of fuel oil a year.

Then, in 1998, U.S. spy satellite photos showed thousands of workers burrowing into a mountainside near the site of a "frozen" nuclear plant. The neo-crazies promptly concluded that the Koreans were building an underground nuclear reactor and/or reprocessing plant and demanded that Clinton "take out" the underground facilities, using nukes if necessary.

Instead, U.S. Ambassador Charles Kartman met with DPRK Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan.

Result? The DPRK “has decided to provide the United States satisfactory access … by inviting a U.S. delegation for an initial visit in May 1999, and allowing additional visits to remove U.S. concerns about the site’s future use.”

The delegation’s report concluded that "the site at Kumchang-ni does not contain a plutonium production reactor or a reprocessing plant, either completed or under construction. Given the current size and configuration of the underground area, the site is unsuitable for the installation of a plutonium production reactor – especially a graphite-moderated reactor of the type North Korea has built at Yongbyon. The site is also not well designed for a reprocessing plant."

Hence, at the beginning of President Bush’s first term, the neo-crazies had been twice thwarted. All of DPRK’s nuclear facilities and all the plutonium the DPRK had already produced was safely under IAEA control, subject to the U.S.-DPRK Agreed Framework.

So, Bush told South Korea’s President Kim in March 2001 that he and Secretary Powell would not continue the talks with DPRK representatives – begun the year before by President Clinton and Secretary Albright – with the aim of formally ending the Korean War.

Then, President Bush’s 2002 State of the Union Address included this zinger:

“Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction. Some of these regimes have been pretty quiet since Sept. 11. But we know their true nature. North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.

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

Finally, in October 2002, an anonymous State Department munchkin told a few media sycophants that some anonymous DPRK official had "admitted" to him at a cocktail party that the DPRK had a clandestine uranium-enrichment program, built right under the noses of the IAEA.

Result? We promptly canceled the fuel-oil shipments to DPRK, thereby abrogating the Agreed Framework. The DPRK then withdrew from the NPT and resumed operation of its plutonium-producing reactor and plutonium recovery facility.

Meanwhile, Bush invaded Iraq to uncover and destroy the uranium-enrichment facilities that we claimed Saddam had secretly built right under the noses of the IAEA.

Of course, Saddam denied that he had any such facilities. And we had no idea where the alleged facilities might be hidden.

Similarly, the DPRK vehemently denies having a uranium-enrichment program. And we have no idea where the alleged facilities might be hidden.

So, is Bush’s new policy to do unto DPRK what he did to Iraq? To invade, uncover, and destroy their nuke-usable plutonium and uranium production facilities?

No, Bush’s new policy is merely to "red-line" the DPRK: to illegally prevent via a "web of counter-proliferation partnerships" the perfectly legal sale of DPRK’s now perfectly legal cash crop – nuke-usable materials – on the open market.

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.