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The Threat of North Korea By: Bobby Eberle
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, January 10, 2003

As thousands of U.S. troops head toward the Persian Gulf, a situation is brewing which might ultimately be more dangerous, more destabilizing, and more complex than the current conflict with Iraq.  As with Iraq, the North Korean regime is hostile and oppressive; as with Iraq, North Korea possesses weapons of mass destruction; unlike Iraq, North Korea's weapons are nuclear.
This past October North Korea admitted that it is conducting operations to enrich uranium -- a vital process in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.  These operations are in direct violation of several treaties and agreements signed by the North Korean government.
First, North Korea's actions are a violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968 which North Korea signed in 1985 and which, under Article III, requires inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to verify nonnuclear weapons states are using nuclear technology only for peaceful means.  Second, in 1991, North Korea signed a treaty with South Korea in which the entire Korean peninsula was to remain nuclear-free.  Third, North Korea's actions violate the Agreed Framework negotiated with the United States in 1994.
It is the third point that is the real "thumb in the eye" for the United States.  In 1993, North Korea was threatening to withdraw from the NPT.  It had shut down its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and was removing the spent nuclear fuel rods.  According to reports, these rods contained enough plutonium to make 5 or 6 nuclear weapons.  The IAEA was having trouble gaining full access to inspections, and the U.N. Security Council began consideration of economic sanctions against North Korea.
This is when the Clinton administration stepped in, and with the help of former president Jimmy Carter, helped negotiate the Agreed Framework of 1994.  In this agreement, North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear weapons program in exchange for the development and construction of two light-water nuclear reactors and the delivery of 500,000 metric tons of fuel oil per year.  In essence, the Clinton Administration agreed to deliver nuclear technology to North Korea if North Korea promised to be good and cease its nuclear weapons program.
Now fast forward to the present and North Korea has admitted to enriching uranium in violation of several treaties and has also reactivated its facilities at Yongbyon in which spent nuclear fuel rods have previously been removed.  The plutonium derived from these spent fuel rods is a necessary ingredient in the construction of nuclear weapons.
North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-il, is a dictator who starves his own people, has no concern for human rights, and who is looking to be a "player" on the world stage.  The possession of nuclear weapons is his ticket in. With nuclear weapons, Kim Jong-il can apply tremendous pressure on his neighboring countries.  He can also become the premier arms dealer in the world.
North Korea has also shown a fondness for selling weapons to rogue nations and for supporting terrorism.  If North Korea is allowed to continue its nuclear weapons program, then the country will surely become "nuke central" for terrorist organizations and unsavory regimes around the world.
So, what is the U.S. to do?  The situation is complex to say the least, and the debate on possible courses of action has been varied and fragmented.
South Korea and Japan, two of North Korea's nearest neighbors, depend heavily on the United States for defense.  There are approximately 37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea and another 50,000 in Japan.  North Korea has a million-man army almost all of which is positioned near the demilitarized zone bordering South Korea.  China borders North Korea to the North and is a consistent supplier of nuclear technology to its Southern neighbor.
The U.S., along with South Korea, Japan, and the European Union, has cut off fuel oil supplies to North Korea.  This type of economic pressure should continue.  Food shipments should not be halted, however.  Just as Bush was concerned about food drops to the Afghan people while we were bombing the Taliban and al-Qaeda, we should not confuse military actions with humanitarian aid.
In addition, diplomatic measures should be used to the fullest extent possible to pressure North Korea into ending its nuclear ambitions.  Russia and China have stepped forward to denounce the actions of North Korea, and if the principal countries of the region (Russia, China, South Korea, and Japan) can speak with a single diplomatic voice, then chances for a peaceful end to this "crisis" are greatly enhanced.
There are those who now say that a possible remedy to the situation is to allow Japan and South Korea to develop nuclear weapons if they so desire. This is not a realistic course of action at this time and should not be pursued.  Building up nuclear arsenals in the region, might lessen North Korea's ability to threaten or bully its neighbors with nuclear weapons, but it does nothing to address the nuclear proliferation issue.
North Korea has an affinity for selling weapons, and it sells them to the worst of the worst.  With nuclear parity in the Southeast Asian region, North Korea would still be able to sell nuclear weapons to Iraq, Iran, al-Qaeda, Syria, and on and on. 
One element that should be pursued is a missile defense program for both Japan and South Korea.  This would help neutralize a nuclear advantage by North Korea without further proliferating nuclear weapons.  The tenets of the NPT are still sound, and even if the countries possessing nukes are friends and allies, nuclear technology still finds a way of making it into the wrong hands.
Finally, when the time comes, we must then take our case to the U.N. and make the same type of argument we made against Iraq.  Working through the Security Council, we must build a world resolve to maintain a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
North Korea cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons.  This fact should be obvious to not only the countries of the region, but to the world community as a whole.  A nuclear North Korea is a danger to the United States whether directly through potential attacks on the U.S., its friends, and allies, or indirectly through the sale of nuclear weapons to terrorist organizations and hostile nations.  The situation is grave and will take the use of all our options including that of military force, if necessary, in order to work it out.

Bobby Eberle is President and CEO of GOPUSA (www.GOPUSA.com), a news, information, and commentary company based in Houston, TX. He holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Rice University.

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