News and opinion by: Whymrhymer

The Bush administration is being accused of using harsh rhetoric against Korea but being, in effect, a paper tiger.

During the Clinton administration, the U.S amassed troops near North Korea and threatened to bomb North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor unless the North Korean government shut down its plutonium processing program — a threat that may or may not have been carried out but a threat that brought North Korea to the bargaining table and forced it into an agreement that was called the Agreed framework. Under the Agreed Framework, North Korea had to shut down it’s reactor and stop it’s efforts to process plutonium. The agreement did, however, allow North Korea to build two “light-water” reactors (reactors that are not particularly useful for creating nuclear weapons) that would be paid for by south Korea and have their fuel supplied by the U.S..

North Korea did not, of course, stop its quest for a nuclear weapon, they just turned it into a secret program — a program that was discovered some years later, during the Bush administration. The Bush administration has, as a result, attempted to find a diplomatic solution. The U.S. has made threats, has applied economic sanctions and has attempted to get North Korea back to the “six-nation talks” but it has not put a military option on the table as Clinton did. That could be because the U.S. is just too invested in the Middle-eastern situation right now or it may just be a well-thought out choice . . . an option that was ruled out until no other options are available.

The one major demand North Korea has made since it withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 was to have one-on-one talks with the U.S.. The Bush administration has refused that. Perhaps those closest to the Bush administration had a logical reason to refuse those one-on-one talks in the early stages of what has possibly become a critical situation. Now, we have missed the window of opportunity for those talks; at this stage, to agree to North Korea’s demands (as an apparent result of it’s sabre-rattling) would make the U.S. appear weak and frightened .. an unacceptable choice, especially now with our enemies getting bolder.

That is not to say that there are not secret one-on-one talks going on right now between the U.S. and North Korea. It would be foolish to imagine that this entire episode was being played out in public. One can almost bet, in fact, that whenever the Bush administration is involved in something at least half of that something is out of public view. That is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when we are talking about a situation as grave and as delicate as the North Korea situation could be. Granted, the thought of anything going on in secret will drive the political pundits and the media elite crazy but that is a small price to pay for a possible peaceful solution to the North Korea problem.

One question that remains however is: how wise would it be if Bush were to get to the point where he felt that our only option was a strike against North Korea’s military installations and nuclear facilities — do, in other words, what Clinton threatened to do? This seems to be what the political pundits and media are urging him to do but, in the end, it is very unlikely to happen. The Bush administration knows very well that such a strike could tear Asia apart and could initiate a war with terrible consequences. Two possibilities it is unlikely to toy with.

Another interesting question is: How would such a move (a military action against North Korea) be viewed; how fast would those who now criticize Bush for his “inaction” change their rhetoric to epithets such as “war monger,” “dangerously reckless” and “unfit to govern?” The answer to this second question is easy: about one day.

At this stage, all the speculation about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities is just that . . . speculation. This may be the dawning of a new nuclear arms race or it may be a hoax perpetrated by Kim Jong-il to celebrate his anniversary as North Korea’s leader.

News Links:

The opinions of a Secretary of Defense under Clinton: In Search of a North Korea Policy

N. Korea Wants U.S. to End ‘Hostile Attitude’

N. Korea links next move to U.S. policy

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