Monday, October 09, 2006

How North Korea Got the Nuclear Bomb

The Clinton Legacy: North Korea's Bomb

Dave Eberhart,

Monday, Oct. 9, 2006

North Korea's first detonation of a nuclear weapon may have taken place during the watch of George W. Bush — but it was under the Clinton administration's watch that the communist regime began gathering necessary materials and constructing the bomb.
As Western powers race to confirm that North Korea did in fact explode a nuclear device in Gilju, a remote region in the Hamgyong province, some see it as a culmination of weak U.S. action during the 1990s that led to this fateful day.

Fateful Beginnings

After entering into an agreement with the United States in 1994, the Clinton administration ignored evidence the North Koreans were violating the agreement and continuing to build a nuclear weapon. "In July of 2002, documentary evidence was found in the form of purchase orders for the materials necessary to enrich uranium," NewsMax's James Hirsen previously reported.

"In October 2002, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly met with his North Korean counterpart for scheduled talks. Kelly confronted North Korea with the tangible evidence of its duplicity. After a day of outright denial, North Korea abruptly reversed its position and defiantly acknowledged a secret nuclear program."

Timeline of a Nuclear Bomb

A review of recent history shows that that the Clinton administration gave up a clear and perhaps last best chance to nip the North Korean bomb in the bud:
1985: North Korea signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

1989: The Central Intelligence Agency discovers the North Koreans are building a reprocessing facility — a reactor capable of converting fuel rods into weapons-grade plutonium. The fuel rods were extracted 10 years before from that nation's Yongbyon reactor.

The rods represent a shortcut to enriched plutonium and an atomic bomb.
Spring, 1994: A year into President Clinton's first term, North Korea prepares to remove the Yongbyon fuel rods from their storage site. North Korea expels international weapons inspectors and withdraws from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

• Clinton asks the United Nations Security Council to consider sanctions. North Korean spokesmen proclaim such sanctions would cause war.

• The Pentagon draws up plans to send 50,000 troops to South Korea — along with 400 war planes, 50 ships, Apache helicopters, Bradley fighting vehicles, and Patriot missiles. An advance force of 250 soldiers is sent in to set up headquarters for the expanded force.

• Clinton balks and sets up a diplomatic back-channel to end the crisis — former President Jimmy Carter. Exceeding instructions, Carter negotiates the outlines of a treaty and announces the terms live on CNN.

Oct. 21, 1994: The United States and North Korea sign a formal accord based on those outlines, called the Agreed Framework. Under its terms:

• North Korea promises to renew its commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, lock up the fuel rods, and let inspectors back in to monitor the facility.

• The United States agrees — with financial backing from South Korea and Japan — that it will provide two light-water nuclear reactors for electricity, send a large supply of fuel oil, and that it will not invade North Korea.

• Upon delivery of the first light-water reactor, inspections of suspected North Korean nuclear sites were supposed to start. After the second reactor arrived, North Korea was supposed to ship its fuel rods out of the country.

• The two countries also agreed to lower trade barriers and install ambassadors in each other's capitals — with the United States providing full assurances that it would never use nuclear weapons against North Korea.

(None of the above came to pass. Congress did not make the financial commitment — neither did South Korea. The light-water reactors were never funded. The enumerated steps toward normalization were never taken.)

Jan. 2002: In President Bush's State of the Union Address, he famously labels North Korea, Iran, and Iraq as an "axis of evil."

Oct., 2002: Officials from the U.S. State Department fly to Pyongyang, where that government admits it had acquired centrifuges for processing highly enriched uranium, which could be used for building nuclear weapons.

• It is now clear to all parties that the promised reactors are never going to be built. Normalization of relations fizzles.

• The CIA learns that North Korea may have been acquiring centrifuges for enriching uranium since the late 1990s — probably from Pakistan.

Oct. 20, 2002: Bush announces that the United States is formally withdrawing from the Carter-brokered 1994 agreement.

• The United States. halts oil supplies to North Korea and urges other countries to cut off all economic relations with Pyongyang.

Dec., 2002: North Korea expels the international weapons inspectors, restarts the nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, and unlocks the container holding the fuel rods.

Jan. 10, 2003: North Korea withdraws from the Non-Proliferation Treaty — noting, however, that there would be a change of position if the U.S. resumed its obligations under the Agreed Framework and signed a non-aggression pledge.

March, 2003: President Bush orders several B-1 and B-52 bombers to the U.S. Air Force base in Guam — within range of North Korea.

April, 2003: North Korea's deputy foreign minister announces that his country now has "deterrent" nuclear weapons.

May, 2003: Bush orders the Guam-based aircraft back to their home bases.

October, 2003: The North Koreans announce they have reprocessed all 8,000 of their fuel rods and solved the technical problems of converting the plutonium into nuclear bombs.