Gee, That’s A Surprise

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Not. A former Clinton official, William Perry, Secretary of Defense from 1994 to 1997 argues Bush dropped the ball on North Korea. He dismisses the fact that North Korea was cheating on the "agreed framework" while Clinton was in office in one sentence. As for the rest, it's all Bush, all the time. Not a word about the Clinton administration paying to have all the North Korean spent fuel rods stabilized. So they would be all ready for reprocessing when the time came.

The most important such limit would have been on reprocessing spent fuel from North Korea's reactor to make plutonium. The Clinton administration declared in 1994 that if North Korea reprocessed, it would be crossing a "red line," and it threatened military action if that line was crossed. The North Koreans responded to that pressure and began negotiations that led to the Agreed Framework. The Agreed Framework did not end North Korea's aspirations for nuclear weapons, but it did result in a major delay. For more than eight years, under the Agreed Framework, the spent fuel was kept in a storage pond under international supervision.

Then in 2002, the Bush administration discovered the existence of a covert program in uranium, evidently an attempt to evade the Agreed Framework. This program, while potentially serious, would have led to a bomb at a very slow rate, compared with the more mature plutonium program. Nevertheless, the administration unwisely stopped compliance with the Agreed Framework. In response the North Koreans sent the inspectors home and announced their intention to reprocess. The administration deplored the action but set no "red line." North Korea made the plutonium. (Ed Note: The plutonium was "made" long before Bush took office. It was extracted later, after the Clinton administration paid to stabilize it, under IAEA supervision).

The administration also said early this summer that a North Korean test of long-range missiles was unacceptable. North Korea conducted a multiple-launch test of missiles on July 4. Most recently, the administration said a North Korean test of a nuclear bomb would be unacceptable. A week later North Korea conducted its first test.

It appears that the administration is deeply divided on how to deal with North Korea, with some favoring negotiation and others economic and political pressure to force a regime change. As a result, while the administration was willing to send a representative to the six-party talks organized by the Chinese in 2003, it had no apparent strategy for dealing with North Korea there or for providing leadership to the other parties. In the meantime, it increased economic pressure on Pyongyang. Certainly an argument can be made for such pressure, but it would be naive to think it could succeed without the support of the Chinese and South Korean governments, neither of which backs such action. North Korea, sensing the administration's paralysis, has moved ahead with an aggressive and dangerous nuclear program.

With North Korea, Bush tried what the left insisted he had to try, talks, talks and more talks. The administration got all the regional players involved. And they talked. Just what Clinton did. The only thing Bush didn't do was send Madeline Albright to drink champaign with the minimum leader. But Perry knows all that – he presided over the fiasco. The only red line here is the spin Perry is imparting. It's hitting the red line on the tach.

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One Response to Gee, That’s A Surprise

  1. Bill Franklin says:

    April, 2002:

    The US Government has announced that it will release $95m to North Korea as part of an agreement to replace the Stalinist country’s own nuclear programme, which the US suspected was being misused.

    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, President 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.


    Yep, it’s all Clinton’s fault.

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