"Why should I care about North Korea?"
Clearly, the Bush Administration is, by far, the causal factor in Kim Jong Il's entry into Earth's 'Nukular' Club. They can blame Clinton all they want. At least he did something about this rising calamity. In 1994, the Clinton Administration reached an agreement with the DPRK that successfully froze North Korea's nuclear production for the next eight years.
Bush, on the other hand has offered NOTHING except provocation and motivation for the DPRK to invest in nuclear weapons. Although many factors led to this devastating milestone, the buck unambiguously stops with the Bush administration.
To begin, after Secretary of State Colin Powell said the administration will "pick up where President Clinton left off," Bush took less than 24 hours to declare that the Bush Administration negotiations will take a different tone.
Enter the Axis of Evil! -- a clever 'new direction' to effective diplomacy, no doubt.
That moniker has served as a powerful icon for the times -- but not quite the way Bush and Co. had planned. Instead, it has come to represent this administration's bold contempt for meaningful diplomacy and staunch dedication to asserting military force in a world that can narry afford the elevated state of militaristic provocation.
Remember the last time North Korea was dominating the headlines?
It was December of 2005. The DPRK was decrying as a 'Declarations of war' the latest comments of the US ambassador to South Korea, labeling him the 'worst ambassador in history'.
Not surprisingly, that wasn't the first time Pyongyang had accused the US of implicit declarations of war. But to understand the motivation for such extreme actions, the full saga must unfold before us.
Enter Kim Jong Il and George W. Bush... diplomacy departs... chaos ensues.
"...The danger of war is snowballing, owing to the extreme US moves to isolate and stifle the [North Korean Government], and threats of pre-emptive strikes"
So where do we stand right now and how did we come to this unfortunate place in history?
Though the 'declaration of war' comment is indicative of the recent interaction between North Korea and the U.S., It is important that it was not always as impossible a situation.
In September of 2004, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su Hon explained the following at the UN General Assembly:
:: North Korea would be willing to dismantle its nuclear deterrent and restart the stalled six-party talks on the issue if the United States abandons its "hostile policy", is prepared to coexist peacefully, and agrees to compensate Pyongyang for agreeing to a freeze of its nuclear program (As the U.S. has done with Libya).
:: The Bush administration had destroyed the six-party talks because of what he called its "high-handed and unilateralist" policies, which he said had forced North Korea, to maintain its nuclear program.
"...The DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name) is left with no other option but to possess a nuclear deterrent in the face of the situation in which the present U.S. administration, being accustomed to rejecting our system, has been attempting to eliminate the DPRK by force while designating it as part of an axis of evil and a target of preemptive nuclear strikes."
:: He announced that they have turned plutonium from 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods into weapons to serve as a deterrent against a possible nuclear strike by the United States.
When asked whether the fuel had been turned into actual weapons, not just weapons-grade material, Choe said: "We declared that we weaponized this."
The US State Department commented that they have long believed that North Korea has at least one or two nuclear weapons.
In the meantime, increased activity has been observed at about 10 missile bases in North Korea and Japanese officials are sounding the alarm that the activity could be seen as preparation for a launch despite the fact that neither the presence of missiles themselves nor their launch pads have been confirmed. Nonetheless, it is this skittishness that raises the risk of an impulsive, catastrophic hair-trigger reaction. Still fresh in the minds of the Japanese is the august 1998 'test launch' over Japan by Pyongyang of the Taepodong-1 missile with a range of up to 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles). The North claimed it was a satellite launch.
A Rodong missile, with a range of some 1,300 kilometers (810 miles), can hit most areas in Japan. But another missile that North Korea might be preparing to fire is a longer-range missile that can carry a nuclear warhead, called Rodong-B or R-27 by Western experts.
This missile has a range of up to 3,600 kilometers (2,250 miles) and can hit the U.S. military base on the Pacific island of Guam.
Bush's Credibility Gap?
2004 Presidential Candidate John Kerry (D-MA) accused the Bush administration of letting "a nuclear nightmare" develop by refusing to deal with North Korea when it first came to office.
He noted that Bush's preoccupation with Iraq let the North Korean crisis fester to the point that there were now indications that the country might be preparing to test a plutonium bomb:
"This is one of the most serious failures and challenges to the security of the United States... They have taken their eye off the real ball. They took it off in Afghanistan and shifted it to Iraq. They took it off in North Korea and shifted it to Iraq. They took it off in Russia, and the nuclear materials there, and shifted it to Iraq."
Kerry does not mention the long trudge that this administration's members have taken to bring us to this point.
Setting the tone back in 1983, while serving as Assistant Secretary of State for Asia and Pacific Affairs, Bush's former Deputy US Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz blocked a Chinese initiative to hold inter-Korean talks with US officials.
And then there's Bush's Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who:
In 1983: ...shook hands with Saddam Hussein as an envoy on behalf of Reagan-Bush -- to offer military aid and financial support
In 2002: ...declared Iraq a terrorist state, part of the 'Axis of Evil' and a target for 'regime change'.
In 2003: ...executed unprovoked war of aggression on Iraq.
In addition, Rumsfeld lied about his involvement in a project that provided North Korea with nuclear reactors:
"Not only was Donald Rumsfeld a director of ABB, the Swiss firm hired by Kim Jong Il to build nuclear reactors in North Korea, but he may also have sought Washington's help to secure the contract for the construction conglomerate. In the current issue of Fortune, Richard Behar closely scrutinizes Rumsfeld's role in the North Korean nuke deal. What he discovered demolishes the rote denials served up by Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke, who has told reporters that her boss 'does not recall' any discussion of the $200 million project while he sat on the ABB board."
Enter the Reverend Sun Myung Moon... and evidence that the administration's tough talk and intimidation are easily cured by a little financial incentives and ideological support
"Bush's choice of Donald Rumsfeld to be U.S. defense secretary could put an unintended spotlight on the role of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon -- a Bush family benefactor -- in funneling millions of dollars to communist North Korea in the 1990s as it was developing a missile and nuclear weapons program... In 1998, Rumsfeld headed a special commission... that warned that North Korea had made substantial progress during the decade in building missiles that could pose a potential nuclear threat to Japan and parts of the United States... Yet, during the early-to-mid 1990s, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency was monitoring a series of clandestine payments from Sun Myung Moon's organization to the North Korean communist leaders who were overseeing the country's military strategies... Republicans have used Rumsfeld's report to club President Clinton and Vice President Gore for alleged softness toward a recalcitrant communist enemy."
Even Bush insiders were slamming the Bush Administration's approach to Pyongyang, citing a 'drive by' approach to diplomacy that was doomed to fail.
"A former key US State Department official involved in North Korean nuclear talks has attacked the Bush Administration, saying that unless its approach to negotiations is rethought, any prospect of success is 'very grim'. Charles Pritchard said the US must drop its opposition to one-on-one talks with North Korea and begin a 'serious and sustained dialogue' to try to defuse the crisis. Pritchard embarrassed the Bush Administration by resigning on the eve of the six-way talks on the Korean crisis in Beijing in late August.... Pritchard said he supported the US strategy of initiating multilateral talks with North and South Korea, China, Russia and Japan. But, he said, these could not achieve an outcome unless the US also opened bilateral talks with the North to address the security issues between the two countries.... 'We've got to get serious about this, rather than drive-by meetings that occur where we roll down the window and wave to the North Koreans and move on,' Pritchard said."
Note: That Pritchard's suggestions essentially reflect John Kerry's approach to diplomacy with Pyongyang.
Provocation as a Foreign Policy Tool
It's amazing how much the Bush Administration promotes the use of provocation as a foreign policy tool. From a wider perspective, this falls perfectly in line with the Administration's foreign policy centerpiece - the unilateral, preemptive strike. Although all U.S. leaders have reserved the right to preemptive unilateralism, this is the first administration ever to make it the hallmark of their foreign policy agenda.
The Iraq incursion was but one example of such unprecedented gunboat diplomacy as the administration has directed military threats toward Iran, Syria, and North Korea at a minimum. This has stimulated both Japan and India to threaten Unilateral Preemptive Strikes of their own. And, as the Bush Administration pushes its provocative foreign policy, it assures the world that such actions inspire other nations to abandon their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.
Unfortunately, the reality, as evidenced by the stances of both North Korea and Iran, is that such a policy actually INCREASES other nations' drive to develop nuclear capability. This makes the direction Pyongyang has traveled in response to Bush's diplomatic efforts unsurprising.
In addition, Bush's unilateral, first-strike policy sets a catastrophic standard that encourages anti-American sentiment, terrorist recruitment, arms races, and heightened tension in hotspots around the globe. But this article isn't about unilateral preemptive action. It's about how that policy has driven North Korea to the edge of nuclear conflict.
So let's get moving...
97 Steps to a Bush-Created Nuclear North Korea
The Bush Administration seems tireless in its efforts to bring America's relationship with North Korea to complete collapse. Each step seems meticulously planned, building upon the last...all leading to an unspeakable conclusion.
What could possibly be the administration's motive? There's no oil in North Korea... but such a conflict would generate great interest in one of the administration's pet projects -- a missile defense shield - a project currently in `pipe dream' status sucking multi-billions of dollars from government coffers and into the hands of Eisenhower's military industrial complex.
In any event, either by purposeful and deliberate planning or by arrogance, ignorance, and sheer incompetence, the Bush administration has brought us to this point of unprecedented risk on the Korean peninsula.
Tensions have increased. Stakes have risen. Obviously the North Koreans aren't going to be cowed by the Administration's inflammatory policies. So what happens next?
Well, in order to speculate, we should know how we got into this mess in the first place.
Let's step back in time to March of 2001. Bush was recently inaugurated and ready to roll...
Step 1) - 03/11/2001
Wasting not a moment (After all, this wasn't NOLA):
"Bush told President Kim Dae Jung of South Korea today that he would not resume missile talks with North Korea anytime soon." In so doing, Bush has struck a dissonant chord in the otherwise improving relations between North and South Korea.
Step 2) - 03/14/2001
In response to Bush's statement that he would delay missile reduction talks with North Korea, North Korean leaders cancelled peace talks with the South Korean cabinet. Bush's policy announcement flew in the face of Secretary of State Colin Powell, who favored the missile reduction talks. North Korea denounced the policy, saying the US "only intends to step up its hostile policy to isolate and stifle" North Korea.
Step 3) - 03/20/2001
Bush told South Korea's President Kim Dae Jung that the US would not be pursuing missile reduction talks with North Korea. Now the North Korean news service has "cited reports that conservative U.S. lawmaker Jesse Helms was urging the abandonment of the agreement, under which Pyongyang agreed to freeze its nuclear program in return for two light-water reactors and annual supplies of fuel oil." The North Korea broadcast stated "If this is the attitude of the United States, we will have to adopt an extreme hard-line stance. If the U.S. imperialists demand war, we will respond a thousand-fold."
Step 4) - 04/03/2001
The Bush administration announced that it will release $95m to North Korea as part of an agreement to replace North Korea's own nuclear program, despite the fact that the US suspected Pyongyang of misusing the program.
"Under the 1994 Agreed Framework an international consortium is building two proliferation-proof nuclear reactors and providing fuel oil for North Korea while the reactors are being built. In releasing the funding, George W Bush waived the Framework's requirement that North Korea allow inspectors to ensure it has not hidden away any weapons-grade plutonium from the original reactors. Bush argued that the decision was 'vital to the national security interests of the United States.'"
It's not clear why the administration cleared these funds despite the fact that they "long deemed the North Korean regime as untrustworthy".
Step 5) - 05/17/2001
North Korea gave the U.S. notice that it was ready to dissolve the 1994 nuclear freeze deal it made with the US, citing the Bush Administration's refusal to honor its nuclear treaty obligations with the country.
Step 6) - 06/01/2001
Bush discovered that North Korea received nuclear weapons technology (probably centrifuges) from Pakistan.
Step 7) - 11/01/2001
"In November 2001... the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory... concluded that North Korea had begun construction of a plant to enrich uranium that could be used in nuclear weapons... The findings meant that North Korea was secretly circumventing a 1994 agreement with the US in which it promised to freeze a nuclear weapons program... Although the report was hand-delivered to senior Bush administration officials, 'no one focused on it because of 9/11' ... These findings were confirmed in a June 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, a major assessment by the CIA and all other intelligence agencies. These reports are part of a complex and hidden trail of intelligence about the North Korean effort that has raised questions about why the Bush administration waited until early October 2002 to confront officials in the capital, Pyongyang, with the intelligence - and to go public several weeks later - when details had been accumulating for more than two years."
Step 8) - 01/29/2002
In a strategic attempt to align his legacy with that of Ronald Reagan (who coined the phrase "Evil Empire"), Bush refers to the combination of North Korea, Iraq and Iran as the "Axis of Evil" in his State of the Union address.
Step 9) - 04/28/2002
Seeking reason in the depths of chaos:
"North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has invited former U.S. President Bill Clinton to visit Pyongyang to play a mediating role and to cool the rhetoric from Washington, a North Korean official said on Monday. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to specify whether the reclusive Kim had issued the invitation to Clinton before or after President George W. Bush's speech in January in which he branded North Korea part of an 'axis of evil' along with Iraq and Iran. 'The plan of the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il is that Mr. Clinton should end the rhetoric,' the official said."
Step 10) - 06/01/2002
In his June 1st speech to West Point's graduating class, the president outlined a doctrine of "preemptive action when necessary" in the "war on terror." This would involve military strikes, without warning or congressional approval. The first target of that doctrine was Saddam Hussein.
Step 11) - 08/16/2002
In case it wasn't clear prior to this, Bush reiterated that he doesn't recognize the congressional role in committing the United States to another war. Regarding congress, Bush said:
"I'll continue to consult," he told reporters on August 16th. "Listen, it's a healthy debate for people to express their opinion.... But America needs to know, I'll be making up my mind based upon the latest intelligence and how best to protect our own country plus our friends and allies."
Fortunately, the Constitution says that decision is not Bush's to make. The question remains whether or not Bush will be held accountable to the decrees of the constitution.
Step 12) - 10/17/2002
Bush's policy backfires -- North Korea reveals a secret nuclear development program:
"North Korean officials have made the bombshell admission to U.S. diplomats that their country for years has continued a nuclear development program in secret, even though this was in clear contravention of its 1994 commitments to the United States... Why did they make such an admission at all? And above all, why did they make it now? ... North Korean leaders have made the calculation that only the fear that they already possess nuclear weapons will deter Bush from taking major military action against them at some point soon. Indeed, they may well already be convinced that Bush has already made up his mind to launch U.S. armed forces against them after Iraq is conquered. If that is the case, it would follow that only indicating obliquely but still clearly that they may already possess a nuclear deterrent will be sufficient to keep Bush off their backs."
Step 13) - 10/17/2002
From Oct. 3 to 5, Bush sent an envoy to North Korea for "security talks" - the first since Bush took office. There are now allegations that the envoy, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, made provocative comments.
"He made very arrogant and threatening remarks that if North Korea did not take any action first to solve the concerns about security, there would be neither dialogue nor improved relations."
Step 14) - 10/26/2002
Reports show that Bush ignored the North Korean Nuke intelligence much as he had the pre-911 terrorist intelligence.
"The Bush administration had detailed knowledge for more than a year about North Korea's program to covertly make uranium fuel for an atom bomb...North Korea's admission that the country's secretive, authoritarian government was pursuing a new route to nuclear weapons sparked international alarm last week. But interviews with experts and former Clinton administration officials, and a review of little-noticed statements by Bush officials, raise questions about why the administration waited so long to deal with this threat, now the subject of intense diplomatic efforts."
Step 15) - 11/15/2002
As of November 14, with the Korean winter settling in, Bush decided to "punish" North Korea for having a nukes program he has known about for years by refusing to provide the country with oil.
Step 16) - 12/13/2002
The Carlyle Group's (employer of George H. W. Bush and other high ranking Republicans) biggest acquisition ever - at $750 million - is its Korean office, obtained about the time George W. Bush launched his run for president. According to Peter Eisner, managing director at the Center for Public Integrity:
"We are clearly aware that former President Bush has weighed in on policy toward South Korea and we note that U.S. policy changed after those communications."
Step 17) - 12/23/2002
Sending a warning to North Korea, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld asserted that U.S. forces can simultaneously fight North Korea and Iraq. A Pentagon policy statement, known as the Quadrennial Defense Review, states that the military today is funded and structured to fight and occupy one enemy nation, while defeating another foe. Once again fanning the flames of war...
"We're capable of winning decisively in one and swiftly defeating in the case of the other," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "Let there be no doubt about it."
Step 18) - 12/24/2002
North Korea warned of an 'uncontrollable catastrophe' unless the U.S. agreed to a negotiated solution to a standoff over its nuclear energy and weapons programs.
"'There is no need for any third party to meddle in the nuclear issue on the peninsula,' said North Korea's ruling-party newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun... 'The issue should be settled between [N. Korea] and the U.S., the parties responsible for it. If the U.S. persistently tries to internationalize the pending issue between [N. Korea] and the U.S. in a bid to flee from its responsibility, it will push the situation to an uncontrollable catastrophe.'"
Step 19) - 12/29/2002
Bush adopts a plan called "Tailored Containment," to increase financial and political pressure on North Korea in lieu of continuing the policy of negotiation instituted by Clinton. This "tailored containment", although recently coined, has actually been the Administration's policy for the last two years, one that has failed miserably.
Step 20) - 12/29/2002
Secretary of State Colin Powell officially rejected North Korea's demand for direct negotiations, by offering only indirect negotiations - which North Korea has already rejected.
"North Korea has said it would address U.S. concerns about its nuclear program if Washington signs a nonaggression pact. But the Bush administration has ruled out talks unless Pyongyang first gives up its nuclear ambitions." But Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Bush was wrong to have cut off talks with North Korea when he took office. "We should not be afraid to talk," Levin said on ABC. Powell, however, said North Korea had restarted its nuclear weapons program during the Clinton administration, which the US learned about in October 2001. What Powell fails to address is the fact that North Korea's nuclear program began under Bush I, when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or that the high profile Bush supporter, Sun Myung Moon gave billions to North Korea's leadership in the face of US directions.
Step 21) - 01/08/2003
New leadership in South Korea, that favors open dialogue with its northern counterpart, presents new difficulties for Bush administration members who wish to eliminate communication and isolate the north.
"The victory of the liberal Roh Moo-Hyun in the December 19th South Korean presidential elections has been presented in the western media as a source of future tension in South Korean-U.S. relations. Roh, a long-time liberal and human rights advocate, when compared to his more conservative opponent, Lee Hoi-Chang, does represent a more challenging partner for future South Korean-U.S. relations. Roh's stated aims include continuing the 'Sunshine Policy' of engagement with North Korea, renegotiating the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) for the 37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea, and maintaining a more independent foreign policy in international and regional affairs. However, it is difficult to argue that anything Roh does could place more tension on the South Korea-U.S. relationship than the Bush administration's unilateral foreign policy."
Step 22) - 01/10/2003
North Korea announced today that it was withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty:
"In a statement carried by its official news agency and monitored here, North Korea said it was acting in self-defense because it was 'most seriously threatened' by the United States... At the United Nations this morning, North Korea's ambassador said that Pyongyang would consider any attempt by the Security Council to impose sanctions on North Korea over the nuclear crisis would be a 'declaration of war.'"
Step 23) - 01/11/2003
It takes someone outside the Bush administration to gain any headway in easing tensions with Pyongyang.
"[Democrat, New Mexico] Gov. Bill Richardson, concluding three days of unofficial talks with two North Korean envoys, said today that the discussions had 'eased tensions a bit' between North Korea and the United States. Speaking just hours after a North Korean diplomat in China warned that his country might resume missile tests, Mr. Richardson called on the Bush administration to engage in its own direct talks with the North. 'I think what now needs to happen is that the governments need to talk to each other,' Mr. Richardson said." The Administration declined.
Step 24) - 01/15/2003
The Bush Administration insists they discovered North Korea's secret centrifuge uranium-enrichment program in 2002, before Asst. Sec. of State Jim Kelly visited the country. But, according to the Clinton administration, the Bush administration knew of the information long before that.
"Former Clinton Administration officials are saying this was known about in 1999 and 2000 and that they briefed the incoming Bush administration officials on this in January 2001... The administration's claim seems even more strained given the fact that this unclassified (i.e., public) CIA report to Congress, covering the second half of 2001, states... 'During this time frame, Pyongyang has continued attempts to procure technology worldwide that could have applications in its nuclear program. The North has been seeking centrifuge-related materials in large quantities to support a uranium enrichment program. It also obtained equipment suitable for use in uranium feed and withdrawal systems.'"
Step 25) - 01/26/2003
Only one year after President Bush labeled Iraq, Iran and North Korea the 'axis of evil', the Bush administration is contemplating the unspeakable -- It is preparing for the possible use of nuclear weapons against Iraq.
"...the Bush administration's decision to actively plan for possible preemptive use of such weapons, ... represents a significant lowering of the nuclear threshold. It rewrites the ground rules of nuclear combat... If that happens, the world will have become infinitely more dangerous than it was two years ago."
Step 26) - 02/05/2003
North Korea said it had restarted and put on a 'normal footing' the atomic facilities at the center of its suspected nuclear weapons program.
"The move raises the stakes in a crisis Pyongyang said the US had triggered by threatening the isolated communist state... North Korea's latest defiant move came as international attention was focused on Secretary of State Colin Powell address to the U.N. Security Council designed to persuade the council and world opinion that U.N. weapons inspectors cannot disarm Iraq and that war may be the only resort. The late-night statement was issued five days after U.S. officials said American satellite surveillance had shown North Korea was moving fuel rods around the reactor complex at Yongbyon, including possibly some of the 8,000 spent fuel rods that experts consider a key step in building bombs."
Step 27) - 02/06/2003
Pyongyang's foreign ministry announced that North Korea is entitled to launch a pre-preemptive strike against the US rather than wait until the American military has finished with Iraq.
" Warning that the current nuclear crisis is worse than that in 1994, when the peninsula stood on the brink of oblivion, a ministry spokesman called on Britain to use its influence with Washington to avert war. 'The US says that after Iraq, we are next', said the deputy director Ri Pyong-gap, 'but we have our own countermeasures. Pre-preemptive attacks are not the exclusive right of the US.' His comments came on a day when tension was apparent in Pyongyang, with an air-raid drill that cleared the city's streets and the North's announcement that it has begun full-scale operations at the Yongbyon nuclear plant, the suspected site of weapons-grade plutonium production. Anxiety in North Korea has been rising since Washington announced plans to beef up its military strength in the area."
Step 28) - 02/07/2003
North Korea warned of 'total war' with the US, predicting it would develop into the horror scenario of a nuclear conflict.
"Marking a further deterioration in the crisis, the chairman of the North's army joint chiefs of staff, Kim Yong-chun, has also warned his generals to prepare for a 'final showdown' with the US... The stepping up of the North Korean warnings is in response to the news that the Pentagon is prepared to deploy 24 B-52 and B-1 long-range bombers to the US air base at Guam... This latest rhetoric has a new intensity and comes amid reports from Pyongyang that the regime is preparing its people for war, this week staging air raid drills. The threat of a nuclear war was raised by the official North Korean newspaper, [which] said the build-up of US forces meant that 'a new war will inevitably break out on the Korean peninsula and it will develop to be a nuclear war'.
Step 29) - 02/12/2003
CIA's George Tenet revealed that North Korea has an untested ballistic missile capable of hitting the U.S.
"Moments earlier Tenet said it was likely that North Korea had been able to produce as many as two plutonium-based nuclear weapons." And the IAEA just referred North Korea to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions; "North Korea has said such a move would amount to a declaration of war."
Step 30) - 02/15/2003
Japan said it is prepared to launch a pre-preemptive strike on North Korea if it believes Pyongyang is preparing a missile attack against it.
"In Tokyo's toughest military stand since the end of World War II, the Defense Minister, Shigeru Ishiba, said Japan would make the strike if it detected that North Korea was fueling missiles for an attack. 'It is too late if [a missile] flies towards Japan,' he said in an interview with Reuters. 'Our nation will use military force as a self-defense measure if [North Korea] starts to resort to arms against Japan.' Mr Ishiba, a hawk who was appointed defense chief last September, was at pains to portray such a strike as an act of self-defense, in line with Japan's postwar constitution, which forbids military aggression."
Step 31) - 02/20/2002
A North Korean MiG-19 fighter intrudes into South Korean airspace over the Yellow Sea, but is chased away by South Korean jets.
Step 32) - 02/23/2002
U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton said that he has no doubt America will attack Iraq, and that it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran and North Korea afterwards. Ironically, Bolton, who is undersecretary for arms control and international security as well as a member of an administration that has advocated the use of 'bunker buster' nukes in Iraq, is in Israel for meetings about preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
Step 33) - 02/25/03
North Korea test-fired a short-range missile into the sea Monday in what was seen as an attempt to raise tension further in the standoff over its nuclear programs and pressure the United States into negotiations.
"Colin Powell ended his lightning Asia trip having made little public progress in his efforts to rally support for U.S. strategy on North Korea or Iraq... He failed to win any visible pledges in South Korea, China or Japan to bolster Washington's hard line strategy with North Korea, or to support the administration's plans to invade Iraq... In South Korea, where he attended the inauguration of Roh, attention on Powell's message was further disrupted by news that North Korea had fired a short-range missile into the sea Monday."
Step 34) - 02/26/2003
Further decreasing the Administration's credibility on the issue of North Korea, it was revealed that the Swiss-based company, ABB said that [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld was involved with the company in early 2000, when it netted a $200 million contract with Pyongyang.
"The ABB contract was to deliver equipment and services for two nuclear power stations at Kumho, on North Korea's East Coast. Rumsfeld...was a member of ABB's board between 1990 and February 2001, when he left to take up his current post. Wolfram Eberhardt, a spokesman for ABB, told Swissinfo that Rumsfeld 'was at nearly all the board meetings' during his decade-long involvement with the company... Rumsfeld's position at ABB could prove embarrassing for the Bush administration since while he was a director he was also active on issues of weapons proliferation, chairing the 1998 congressional Ballistic Missile Threat commission. The commission suggested the Clinton-era deal with Pyongyang gave too much away because 'North Korea maintains an active weapons of mass destruction program, including a nuclear weapons program'."
Step 35) - 03/03/2003
Four North Korean fighter jets intercepted an unarmed United States Air Force spy plane on a surveillance mission over the Sea of Japan on Saturday, and came within 50 feet of the American aircraft, military officials said today. The fighters shadowed the spy plane, an RC-135S Cobra Ball, for 22 minutes in international airspace about 150 miles off the North Korean coast, said Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. No shots were fired, officials said. Military officials said they had no indication that United States fighter jets were scrambled to protect the routine flight by the reconnaissance plane before it broke off its mission and returned safely to its home base at Kadena Air Base in Japan.
Step 36) - 03/10/2003
An 'Unofficial Spokesman' claimed that North Korea would launch a ballistic missile attack on the United States if Washington made a pre-preemptive strike against the North's nuclear facility.
"Kim Myong-chol, who has links to the Stalinist regime, told reporters in Tokyo that a US strike on the nuclear facility at Yongbyon 'means nuclear war'. 'If American forces carry out a pre-preemptive strike on the Yongbyon facility, North Korea will immediately target, carry the war to the US mainland,' he said, adding that New York, Washington and Chicago would be 'aflame'... Mr Kim, who has written a text studied by North Korean military leaders, predicted North Korea would restart its reprocessing plant to make weapons-grade plutonium this month. A nuclear weapon would be produced by the end of next month, with another five by the end of the year, he said. This was on top of a suspected nuclear arsenal of 100 weapons."
Step 37) - 03/16/2003
Japan, the only country ever to have been struck with nuclear weapons, prepared to launch spy satellites, accelerate development of missile defenses, build commando forces and expand the range of its air force in response to what it sees as a growing threat from North Korea. In addition, a handful of hawkish politicians suggest that Japan build nuclear weapons to counter North Korea's aggressive moves.
Step 38) - 03/23/2003
In a further act of provocation, the US and South Korea conducted military exercises off the peninsula. The North met this escalation with outrage:
"North Korea warned that the situation on the Korean Peninsula was deteriorating to the 'brink of a nuclear war' because of US-South Korean war games. NK called military exercises being conducted by [the US and the South] a grave encroachment upon sovereignty', and accused the US of planning to attack NK once it had defeated Iraq."
They then called the Administration on their tactics:
"'The violation of Iraq's sovereignty started with demanding disarmament by inspection and gradually led to war,' a spokesman at North Korea's foreign ministry told KCNA, the official news agency. The spokesman said the US-led war in Iraq should 'compel [NK] to do all it can to defend itself'. Separately, NK criticized Seoul's decision to put its military on heightened alert as 'an undisguised challenge and intolerable hostility'. South Korea said [on the prior] Friday its military had stepped up its readiness to guard against possible NK moves to use the war in Iraq to spike tensions on the Korean Peninsula."
Step 39) - 03/30/2003
Citing the path to Iraq's destruction, North Korea rejects nuclear inspections and disarmament. Officials there vowed to resist all international demands to allow weapons inspections or agree to disarm, saying Iraq had made this mistake and was now paying the price.
"[North Korea] would have already met the same miserable fate as Iraq's had it compromised its revolutionary principle and accepted the demand raised by the imperialists and its followers for 'nuclear inspection' and disarmament."
Step 40) - 04/01/2003
The provocative rhetoric continued as Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton gave an unambiguous warning to North Korea and other "target" nations:
"In the aftermath of Iraq, dealing with the Iranian nuclear weapons program will be of equal importance as dealing with the North Korean nuclear weapons program." "Bolton then said U.S. officials hope that a decisive toppling of Saddam may give pause to other nations with secret weapons programs and 'that some of these states will back off.'"
Step 41) - 04/01/2003
Japanese officials contradicted each other and their allies over reports that [North Korea] had test-fired a missile. "One needs not think for too long before realizing the dangers of falsely reporting missile launches. Novelists and others have repeatedly painted scenarios where misinterpretations or system glitches have produced erroneous reports of a nuclear strike, setting off a genuine strike in retaliation and resulting in global catastrophe."
"The confusion came just days after Japan put its first spy satellites into orbit as part of a billion-dollar program aimed at monitoring moves by North Korea to develop missiles or nuclear weapons. North Korea denounced the satellite launch as a hostile act and hinted it might test-fire a missile in response. Early [last week] Japanese military and government officials announced that North Korea had launched a shore-to-ship missile from its west coast into the Yellow Sea. The U.S. Defense Department confirmed the report...But South Korea said it had no evidence of a launch, and hours later officials in Tokyo weren't so sure themselves. A senior Defense Agency official issued a retraction Tuesday evening...A military analyst said the information probably came from U.S. officials."
Step 42) - 04/05/2003
North Korea said it would not recognize any ruling made by the U.N. Security Council on Pyongyang's nuclear standoff with the United States. They claimed it was ridiculous for the Council to talk about the crisis noting that the UN had "lost its mandate for failing to stop the U.S.-led war in Iraq." North Korea has said it will be the next U.S. target, insisting that the crisis was started by the United States and that the Council should "indict and punish Washington."
Step 43) - 04/09/2003
North Korea made clear that the lessons they learned from the Iraq invasion were the exact opposite of those on which the Administration was planning:
"The Iraqi war teaches a lesson that in order to prevent a war and defend the security of a country and the sovereignty of a nation, it is necessary to have a powerful physical deterrent force only."
Wendy Sherman, the Clinton administration's policy coordinator for North Korea, called that comment:
"...more ominous than they're usual negotiating tactics... I think instead of the North Koreans having blinked by the use of our force in Iraq, they have in fact decided the only way to deter the United States from going to war against North Korea is to have nuclear weapons -- and that is not a good sign." This is a key example of the re-proliferation mentality that the Bush Administration has instilled in the global community. First there was the "First Strike" policy. Now this. So what's next?
Step 44) - 04/21/2003
In another blow to U.S. credibility, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld released a classified memo that suggested the United States "team up with China to press for the removal of North Korea's leadership.
"Prior to this, the Administration offered North Korea assurances that the US is not trying to undermine its Government. "Details of the document have emerged only days before the US and China are due to meet North Korea to try to convince it to abandon its nuclear weapons program. It argues that Washington's goal should be the collapse of Kim Jong Il's Government, but this seems at odds with the US State Department's approach of convincing Kim, in the words of one senior administration official, 'that we're not trying to take him out'. Hardliners in the Pentagon - and some at the White House - say the US should use its speedy victory in Iraq to drive home to North Korea that it could meet the same fate if it ignores President George Bush's demands: that it dismantle its nuclear weapons program, ship its spent nuclear fuel out of the country and open up to intrusive inspections."
Step 45) - 04/23/2003
Even as the Administration attempts to strong-arm North Korea, demanding that they abandon their nuclear ambitions, they announce that we in the US are reinstating ours. Once again, Bush sets the precedent for nuclear re-proliferation. In addition, the extreme hypocrisy of his actions erode any remnants of credibility remaining post-Iraq-invasion.
"The United States says it has regained the capability to make nuclear weapons for the first time in 14 years and has resumed production of plutonium parts for bombs. The Energy Department's announcement on Tuesday marks a symbolic and operational milestone in rebuilding America's nuclear weapons complex, which began a long retrenchment in the late 1980s as the Cold War ended and the toll of environmental damage from bomb production became known. Under a Bush Administration plan, the Energy Department will begin limited production of plutonium parts for the country's stockpile of nuclear weapons and begin laying plans for a new factory that could produce parts for hundreds of weapons a year."
Step 46) - 04/23/2003
North Korea warns that "war may break out at any moment":
"North Korea is sticking by its demand that Washington end its "hostile policy" towards Pyongyang, saying that in the present situation war may break out at "any moment" on the Korean Peninsula. In its statement carried Thursday on the North Korean state news agency, Pyongyang said that the U.S.-led war in Iraq has shown that the only way for a country to protect itself was to have a powerful deterrent. "In actuality, the situation on the Korean Peninsula is so tense that a war may break out any moment due to the U.S. moves."
Step 47) - 04/24/2003
North Korea admits having nuclear weapons:
"North Korea's representative Li Gun pulled aside U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly on Wednesday and told him "blatantly and boldly" that the country has at least one nuclear weapon, one official said. Gun asked, "Now what are you going to do about it?" the official said. Gun said his country would "prove" it has the weapon "soon," implying that North Korea may test a nuclear bomb, though he did not explicitly threaten that, a source said. Gun said it was up to the United States to determine whether there is a "physical demonstration" of such a weapon, said a senior administration official."
This revelation brought an abrupt halt to trilateral talks between China, North Korea and the US regarding the nuclear weapons issue.
It is important to note that this "North Korean Nuclear Crisis" was based entirely on an unsubstantiated statement allegedly heard by James A. Kelly in casual conversation. One problem is that Kelly lacks any credibility with a proven track record as a troublemaker with a willingness to commit serious crimes and buy influence. Just last October, Kelly was promoting the same sort of inflammatory and unsubstantiated rhetoric about North Korea.
The obvious parallel here is that we were thrust into the invasion of Iraq based on such unsubstantiated claims. It is thus documented that such actions lie well within the character of the Bush Administration and should be regarded with great skepticism.
Step 48) - 04/28/2003
Chinese and North Korean officials refuted the claims made by Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly that Korea already had atomic bombs and could make more because it had reprocessed thousands of spent nuclear fuel rods.
In fact, the Chinese Foreign Ministry painted an entirely different picture of the April 23-25 talks... [The Chinese Diplomats] said they were told North Korean negotiator Li Gun did not make any threats about 'selling, testing or possessing nuclear weapons'.
In addition, North Korea offered to scrap its nuclear program if Washington dropped its hostile attitude. Pyongyang also offered to suspend ballistic missile tests and stop missile exports.
Step 49) - 04/30/2003
The Bush Administration promptly rejected North Korea's weapons offer. The UK Guardian reports:
"The White House ruled out making broad economic concessions yesterday in return for a promise by North Korea to abandon its nuclear program, sharply reducing prospects for a quick end to the crisis. Ari Fleischer, the president's spokesman, said Pyongyang would not be rewarded 'for bad behavior'. He said: 'What we seek is North Korea's irrevocable and verifiable dismantlement of its nuclear weapons program. We will not provide them with inducements for doing what they always said they were going to do.'"
Note that the Administration has since 'rewarded' Libya 'for bad behavior'. No problems there. It was simply a bribe to give the illusion that the invasion of Iraq has actually 'shown the way' to various would-be terrorist-harboring nations thus vindicating Bush's foreign policies.
Step 50) - 05/09/2003
The administration withheld information from congress regarding dealings with Iraq and North Korea, according to Bush administration sources.
"When the U.S. was notified, through formal diplomatic channels, that North Korea had nuclear technology, Congress was in the midst of discussing the Iraqi war resolution. Rove counseled the president to keep that information from Congress for 12 days, until the debate was finished, so it would not affect the vote."
As you could probably guess, such information would most likely have given pause to the members of congress and caused at least those on the fence to reconsider the issue and its inevitable future implications. There is a good chance that congress would not have given Bush the 'blank check' that they did had they been aware of the situation brewing on the Peninsula.
From here on, we along with the rest of the world might wonder what else the administration is withholding from congress -- a voice of relative moderation and a check to the executive branch -- while awaiting a more favorable and less conspicuous timeline for presentation.
Step 51) - 05/20/2003
North Korea threatened South Korea with 'unspeakable disaster' if Seoul backs Bush's hard-line approach to the nuclear crisis. This was the first official response to the prior week's summit between South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and US President George W Bush, which saw an apparent hardening of South Korean policy towards the North. 'Seoul and Washington threatened at the Washington meeting to take 'further steps' against Pyongyang, if it continued to escalate tensions on the peninsula.'
Step 52) - 05/24/2003
Pyongyang warned the US of 'tougher military counteraction' if the administration decided to use force to resolve a dispute over Pyongyang's suspected development of nuclear weapons.
Step 53) - 06/04/2003
The Bush administration is said to be developing new plans for a war in North Korea that would bypass the demilitarized zone dividing the two Koreas and target the leadership in Pyongyang.
"The plan is based on the success of US-led forces in Iraq in quickly reaching the capital, Baghdad. US officials quoted by Reuters said the plan would involve the consolidation of the US and South Korean forces in two areas away from the demilitarized zone. If war broke out, the forces would skirt the demilitarized zone and head for Pyongyang."
Step 54) - 06/04/2003
Under Secretary of State John Bolton steamed forward on the provocation train, doing his best to malign North Korea in lieu of actually engaging them diplomatically.
Bolton threatened to 'use force' in order to 'roll back' the proliferation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in 'Rogue State' North Korea and the world.
Step 55) - 06/11/2003
According to Richard Perle, an influential member of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's advisory panel and an architect of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the U.S. cannot rule out a strike on North Korea.
"The United States should be prepared to destroy North Korea's Yongbyon reactor if necessary to keep Pyongyang from trafficking in nuclear weapons, said on Wednesday. 'Whether we can effectively mobilize a coalition -- including China, Russia, the South Koreans, the Japanese, ourselves -- and so isolate them that they will abandon this program, that remains to be seen,' said Richard Perle,... Asked whether the United States ultimately might resort to force, he said: 'It is too soon to say whether that's the only way we can prevent something I think we must prevent.' Perle said the situation in Iran, which Washington accuses of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the guise of building power-generating reactors, was very different from North Korea's. 'I think we should be encouraging its failure,' he said of the Iranian government."
In the defense of our nation, it is true, nothing can be ruled out. However, broadcasting that fact serves only to provoke the perceived enemy - mitigating any hope of a peaceful conclusion.
Step 56) - 07/13/2003
North Korean officials tell U.S. officials in New York that they had completed reprocessing all 8,000 spent fuel rods containing enough plutonium for 5-6 weapons.
Step 57) - 07/19/2003
Tensions flared as gunfire is exchanged at the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the Korean peninsula. In addition:
North Korea informed the Bush administration that they now have the nuclear fuel to make six nuclear bombs (in addition, assumedly, to the one or two that they are already believed to possess); the Chinese, evidently increasingly anxious about lack of diplomatic progress, have redoubled their efforts to kick-start talks that, within a multinational context, would allow the U.S. and North Korea to face each other one-on-one at the negotiating table; and the Washington Post has reported that William Perry, former defense secretary from the Clinton era, now publicly fears that the U.S. and North Korea are drifting towards war, possibly by the end of the year."
Thankfully. Perry's prediction failed to come to fruition, but the level of tension necessary to provoke such a prophecy from a former defense secretary is unimaginable.
Step 58) - 08/04/2003
North Korea Calls John Bolton 'Scum' and forbids him from attending multilateral talks.
"The North Korean government, which last week agreed to hold talks with the United States and four other countries over its nuclear programs, Sunday denounced a senior U.S. official in highly personal and florid terms and said he could not be part of any U.S. delegation to the talks. John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control, last week delivered a tough speech in Seoul that focused on North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his grip on the nation. The speech, titled 'A Dictatorship at the Crossroads,' described life in North Korea as 'a hellish nightmare' and called Kim a 'tyrannical rogue'.
"We know that there are several hawks within the present U.S. administration but have not yet found out such rude human scum as Bolton. What he uttered is no more than rubbish which can be let loose only by a beastly man bereft of reason.'"
Step 59) - 08/11/2003
Woolsey... "has given details of a war strategy for invading North Korea and toppling its regime within 30 to 60 days, adding muscle to a lobbying campaign by U.S. hawks urging a pre-emptive military strike against Pyongyang's nuclear facilities. Less than four months after the end of the Iraq war, the war drums in Washington have begun pounding again. A growing number of influential U.S. leaders are talking openly of military action against North Korea to destroy its nuclear-weapons program, and even those who prefer negotiations are warning of the mounting danger of war."
Step 60) - 08/16/2003
The Bush Administration shows its indecision and internal conflict, projecting weakness to North Korea and the world.
"U.S. Asst. Secretary of State James Kelly will lead the U.S. team at six-party talks in Beijing this month designed to persuade N. Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions... U.S., Japanese and S. Korean officials wrapped up two days of talks in D.C. on Thurs. to coordinate their positions ahead of the Beijing talks, something that appears particularly difficult given the conflict within the Bush administration over what stance to take. Some U.S. officials, believed to be chiefly at the State Dept., have floated the idea of offering incentives for N. Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions while others, notably at the White House, are resisting the idea."
Step 61) - 08/23/2003
The Bush Administration undermines its own limited credibility by proposing a four billion dollar Nuclear facility that would produce in a single year as many 'plutonium pits' used in 'weapons of mass destruction' as China has in its entire nuclear arsenal.
"Such bomb-making abilities don't just knock the moral-political props out from under efforts to stem bomb programs in North Korea, Iran, India, and Pakistan. They're a felonious frontal assault on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty itself. 33 years after that treaty's entry into force, U.S. conventional and nuclear forces vastly outstrip those of any other nation, and there is simply no way to reconcile a 17-year plan to build a 50-year nuclear bomb factory with the obligation to negotiate 'in good faith' on the 'cessation of the arms race' and 'nuclear disarmament.' Instead, the Bush team wants such nuclear superiority that, in Rumsfeld's words, 'would-be peer competitors' will realize 'the futility of trying to sprint toward parity with us.'"
Step 62) - 08/26/2003
The Bush Administration makes yet another foreign policy decision via process of elimination.
One of the few moderate Bush administration voices regarding North Korea resigned. Jack Pritchard, a top State Department expert on North Korea, advocated a policy of incentives as well as penalties to persuade the nation to abandon its quest for nuclear weapons. Pritchard served as a special envoy for negotiations with North Korea. He left only days before six-nation talks began in China to pressure North Korea to drop its efforts to reprocess spent fuel rods for weapons.
"Mr. Pritchard's departure...points to a division in the administration over how best to handle the isolated, unpredictable and highly militarized government of Kim Jong Il.... North Korea experts said Pritchard was known to be uncomfortable with the evolving American policy. A 28 year veteran of the Army, Pritchard was a driving force behind President Clinton's trip to Vietnam in 2000, and he accompanied Madeleine Albright to North Korea for meetings with Kim Jong Il that year."
KEYWORDS: North Korea, Kim Jong Il, Bush Administration, Nuclear Proliferation, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Bill Clinton, Unilateral Preemption, DPRK, Nuclear Club
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