On Point: North Korea's Nuclear Revelations

by Austin Bay
October 23, 2002

So North Korea admits it lied to the Clinton Administration and continues to pursue nuclear weapons despite promises, promises, promises.

Who's shocked, other than the perpetually shifty Clinton foreign policy scrum that assured us -in hot yet self-righteous tones- that North Korea was a Clinton success?

On PBS' News Hour last February 20, Wendy Sherman, Clinton's special advisor on Korea, dissed President Bush's inclusion of Korea on "the axis of evil."

"What I think was wrong about it in terms of North Korea," Sherman opined, "is North Korea has negotiated successfully with us. We have a 1994 framework agreement that stops the production of fissile material...needed to build nuclear weapons...They have principally kept to that agreement and taken the steps that were necessary for it to take. It's not finished yet. We still have a ways to go, but they do and can follow through." (www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/asia/jan-june02/korea_2-20.html) This wasn't Ms. Sherman's first trip into a diplomacy of words trumping a diplomacy of deeds.

Describing the North Korean agreement's benefits (News Hour, March 7, 2001), Sherman said: "...what have we got in return, we have gotten a moratorium on missile testing...There was an underground site that we were all concerned about - the intelligence community was very concerned about. We have had access to that site twice." (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/asia/jan-june01/korea_3-7.html)

Hey Wendy, beam up from Never Land. The US didn't get a moratorium, it got rooked.

Do we get a retraction? Does Ms. Sherman get bumped from the PBS rolodex? Don't bet on it. The American left's Iron Triangle of big media, one-party academia, and government bureaucracy deftly avoids accountability. All that matters are good intentions.

Jimmy Carter also put a finger in the plutonium hole, assuring Clinton in 1994 that North Korea's hereditary Communist government was a reliable peace partner. Hello, Nobel Prize committee? May I monitor a re-call election?

Clinton's offer to trade fuel oil and light water reactors for North Korean weapons could have been a useful opening probe of the Strange Kingdom's opaque regime. Drop a card on the table and watch the hands that take it. But playing high stakes with savage dictators requires spine and sustained focus -the guts to break a cheat's knuckles. 1993's Somalia debacle had already revealed Clinton's lack of policy stamina. Pyongyang concluded that Clinton practiced the politics of instant gratification, no matter how deleterious the long haul consequences. Words, not works. And as for words, do you mean "is is" or "is is?"

So what's the impact of a revelation confirming dark suspicions? The nukes will be Topic A in South Korea's upcoming elections. "Normalization" won't proceed as South Korean President Kim Dae Jung planned. The nukes will spur Japanese deployment of ABMs and may nudge Japan toward deploying offensive forces. Seoul and Tokyo don't have nukes but they can make them. For many Asians Japanese nukes are scarier than Al Qaeda.

China doesn't want Pyongyang's nuke-shaking zanies on its border. But it doesn't want a reunited Korea, either, a nuclear-armed economic bulldog of a peninsula biting into its flank. A New Korea would have roughly the same population as Vietnam but ten times the economic power, and the third-strongest military in East Asia.

North Korea's revelation actually sustains the policy of pre-emption in a post-9/11 world. Pre-emption is the teeth behind any meaningful non-proliferation agreement. Cheaters will lose their gains. That's the lesson in store for Saddam.Which is why Beijing may conclude it's time to strangle Kim Jong-il's regime. Every day more disruptive North Korean defectors appear in China. North Korea's admission could lead to an effective economic and political "python policy" administered by Washington, Beijing, Tokyo, Moscow, and Seoul, one backed by US willingness to use force at any indication Pyongyang is preparing to use weapons of mass destruction. A real python embargo means no goods leave, no goods enter, by land, sea, or air.China's price? If Korea must reunite, then New Korea must be non-nuclear and neutral. And neutral means no lingering US military ties.

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To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.


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