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Oppresive leader poses WMD threat


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The North Korean Uranium Challenge

By DAVID E. SANGER

 

Published: May 24, 2004

 

WASHINGTON, May 23 - The discovery that North Korea may have supplied uranium to Libya poses an immediate challenge to the White House: while President Bush is preoccupied on the other side of the world, an economically desperate nation may be engaging in exactly the kind of nuclear proliferation that the president says he went to war in Iraq to halt.

 

Yet to listen to many in the White House, concern about North Korea's nuclear program brings little of the urgency that surrounded the decision 14 months ago to oust Saddam Hussein. When Mr. Bush has been asked about North Korea in recent months, he has emphasized his patience. He does not refer to the intelligence estimates that North Korea has at least two nuclear weapons, or to the debate within the American intelligence community about whether North Korea has spent the past 18 months building more.

 

Instead, he lauds the progress he says the United States has made in organizing China, Russia, Japan and South Korea to negotiate as one with the North Koreans - even though those talks have resulted in no progress so far in ending either of North Korea's two major nuclear programs.

 

Just last week, the Pentagon even announced it was removing a brigade of troops that had been securing South Korea's border with the North, and sending it to provide additional forces for the Iraqi occupation.

 

With international inspectors recently reporting that North Korea may have shipped uranium, already processed into a gas that can be fed into centrifuges for enrichment into bomb fuel, the White House has been silent. On Sunday, a White House spokesman declined to talk about the reports, other than to issue a statement at the president's ranch in Texas that the news proves the need for "the United States policy for North Korea to disarm in a complete, verifiable and irreversible fashion."

 

"I admit there appears to be more than a little irony here," said one senior administration official, when asked what he thought Mr. Bush might have said in public if Saddam Hussein - instead of Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader - had been suspected of shipping the raw material for nuclear weapons to a country like Libya. "But Iraq was a different problem, in a different place, and we had viable military options," he continued. In North Korea, he said, Mr. Bush has virtually none. Indeed, the problems and the threats are different, even though Mr. Hussein's Iraq was lumped together with North Korea as part of the "axis of evil" that President Bush cited in 2002.

 

Even the North Korea hawks within the administration - a group led by Vice President Dick Cheney, who said on a trip to Asia last month that "time is not necessarily on our side" in the North Korean situation - concede there is not a major risk that North Korea will lash out at its neighbors or the United States.

 

The country is broke; American military officials say it can barely afford the jet fuel to give its fighter pilots time to train. Iraq, too, was in desperate economic straits, but it at least had oil revenue, skimmed from the United Nations oil-for-food program, and active trade. North Korea is literally starving; millions have died of malnutrition.

 

But the same poverty that makes North Korea less of a military threat makes it a potent proliferation threat. For years, the North's main export has been missiles. It has sold them to Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, Syria, Libya and others, often sending its engineers abroad to fabricate custom designs. The new reports of probable uranium sales to Libya have created the chilling possibility that the North has now found a new and profitable product - and that Libya may not have been the only customer. "We don't have any solid evidence now that they have, for example, helped Iran in nuclear technology," said one senior administration official. "But it is clearly something we have to pursue."

 

It was this fear that Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage expressed to Congress last year, when he warned that North Korea would not have to develop complete nuclear weapons to become a serious threat; it could sell the ingredients.

 

In short, if the North's sales to Libya are confirmed, the nightmare that Mr. Bush discussed so often last year - the sale of "the world's worst weapons to the world's most dangerous dictators" - may be happening at the other end of the axis. Iraq, it turns out, had little or nothing to sell.

 

Mr. Bush has addressed the issue chiefly through an agreement among a growing number of nations to intercept suspected shipments of illegal weapons, nuclear parts, or chemical precursors. The United States, Germany and Italy stopped a shipment of nuclear equipment to Libya last year, apparently convincing Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to give up his nuclear program.

 

Beyond the interception strategy, there is a widespread sense in Washington that neither the Bush administration nor North Korea has much incentive to confront the nuclear issue this year. Mr. Bush, notes Don Oberdorfer, the author of "The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History," is not "prepared to do anything about North Korea because he is overcommitted in Iraq and has a great loathing of dealing with the North Koreans directly." The result, argues Mr. Oberdorfer, is that the United States is not "making the kind of preliminary compromises that would be necessary to get a negotiation going. And if you are not prepared to take any steps to deal with it, you are not prepared to highlight that problem."

 

Administration officials disagree, saying that North Korea should not be rewarded for cheating on its past nuclear agreements and must begin dismantling weapons before it sees any economic benefits.

 

So far this has been a prescription for stalemate. But many in the administration agree that Mr. Kim has his own reasons for not seeking a deal this year: the North Korean leader is presumed to be rooting for Mr. Bush's defeat in November, in hopes he will face a more willing negotiating partner in John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee.

 

The risk is that by the time the two countries re-engage, North Korea could have six or eight more weapons, according to the most dire estimates in the C.I.A. and the Defense Intelligence Agency, a view that more cautious intelligence analysts say is based more on conjecture about the North's engineering skills than any real intelligence. Such a number could let the North keep one or two for its own use, and have more to sell, in whole or parts, which is a very different position.

 

 

 

 

Before the war in Iraq, dissenters often asked hawks why we should invade Iraq when North Korea was a larger threat. The typical response I remember was a terse "they're next." Well sources say N. Korea may have supplied Libya with nuclear material. N. Korea poses a threat in its willingness to spread its known WMDs via sales to terrorist groups. But there is little talk from the right about the danger that Kim Jong Il poses. Nor is there much banter about how evil he is(and boy is he evil: knowingly lets his people starve, experiments on them, kidnapping and has actually engaged in terrorist activity via bombing S. Korean airline). This is why common sense has the Bush dissenters to wonder what other motives lay within the administration and the right besides the rehashed bad guy and immiment threat stuff.

 

 

Does Charlie Daniels have an open letter about this?

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Its a double standard.

 

 

 

Iraq was easier to invade and bully around.

 

However, North Korea has posed the bigger threat, always has for over a decade now.

 

 

yet we goto Iraq....and people wonder why others think there were other motives in going to Iraq aside from 'liberating' the people.

 

 

North Korea doesnt have what Bush wants.

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NK is China's Beeotch.

 

The last thing China wants is NK yanking the US's chain and getting the US more involved.

 

Remember that over 90 percent of all domestic and military foodstuffs that NK consumes comes from CHina.

 

If Kim Pisses off China his army starves in less than two weeks.

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Guest Moneyball

seriously, though i think the united states should have gone after iran and n. korea before they did in iraq. the situation in asia in very troubling, now that the n.koreans are selling uranium to loser countries makes it even a higher priority. if s. korea hadn't been right next door i bet the u.s. would have gone in there alot sooner. this could be the next germany. i would go in now because in a couple of years they will have the capability of nuking just about anywhere. Diplomacy for now is what i would use, but if it gets worse, the united states should use there shiny sword with help from the UN.

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Do you all think this situation could get out of hand? Seems like if China cooperates then NK will cooperate, so they arn't even the issue. With China becoming heavilty tied economically with the US I don't see them causing trouble. But then again, I'm far from any sort of expert on Asia.

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Iraq is easier to bully around.... that's just a typical ludicrous anti-Bush liberal answer.

 

Iraq would have been ready to launch some serious attacks against Israel and the United States within the next decade. That would have never changed if we had left them alone. No matter what we do/don't do, they will want to attack us because we're American and supposedly a "Christian" country... :shifty

 

North Korea is most likely going to stand back. Even more so since 9/11, when the world saw that the USA will bite back. :thumbup

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Iraq would have been ready to launch some serious attacks against Israel and the United States within the next decade. That would have never changed if we had left them alone. No matter what we do/don't do, they will want to attack us because we're American and supposedly a "Christian" country... :shifty

 

North Korea is most likely going to stand back. Even more so since 9/11, when the world saw that the USA will bite back. :thumbup

Another refutation of the "they are all the same" policy-Iraq was secular under Hussein. They heavily regulated the religious Shiites which was why he was hated so much by them.

 

And if you think Al-Queda attacked the US because they see us a Christian country then I have a bridge to sell you.

 

And the point of the article wasnt necessarily that NK was a threat to launch a missle. They supply their WMD technology at will and they still have after Iraq or when the US "bite back." You and Charlie Daniels can spin the administration and neo-con inconsitency all you want but you gotta do a little better than that.

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From a military standpoint, attacking North Korea is a no-win scenario. As soon as they're attacked, they could send nukes at South Korea or Japan, and they will likely launch an invasion of South Korea. The other problem with an attack is that the North Koreans have the largest standing army on earth.

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Iraq would have been ready to launch some serious attacks against Israel and the United States within the next decade.? That would have never changed if we had left them alone.? No matter what we do/don't do, they will want to attack us because we're American and supposedly a "Christian" country...? :shifty

 

North Korea is most likely going to stand back.? Even more so since 9/11, when the world saw that the USA will bite back.? :thumbup

Another refutation of the "they are all the same" policy-Iraq was secular under Hussein. They heavily regulated the religious Shiites which was why he was hated so much by them.

 

And if you think Al-Queda attacked the US because they see us a Christian country then I have a bridge to sell you.

 

And the point of the article wasnt necessarily that NK was a threat to launch a missle. They supply their WMD technology at will and they still have after Iraq or when the US "bite back." You and Charlie Daniels can spin the administration and neo-con inconsitency all you want but you gotta do a little better than that. Why did Al Qaeda attack us then? Enlighten me. :mischief2

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israel is yet another example of our stupidity.

no, no it is not. We give 3 billion dollars a year to israel. We give about the same amount to palestine and egypt combined, who openly oppose israel.

 

Wouldn't it be easier to give no one any money?

 

Don't make broad statements without backing them up. That's like me saying "The palestinians are always wrong" and leaving it at that.

 

Iraq would have been ready to launch some serious attacks against Israel and the United States within the next decade. That would have never changed if we had left them alone.

With what delivery system. Oh yeah! North Korea actually has nuclear weapons program and delivery systems for weapons!!! Iraq is more threatening though, yeah right.

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Why didn't Sadaam use his WMD to attack us when we invaded? Did he really have them? Then why didn't he use them? Question. So many unanswered questions.

Why didn't he use them in the 1st gulf war? We know he had them then.

 

Bunk arguement. You know why he didn't use them.... He didn't calculate the war as an end sum game, so he didn't want ot aliennate the rest of the Arab world and lose any possible support they would of gave him.

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