Korea and the Bush Administration’s
Proliferation Folly: Nuclear Admission
Demonstrates Militarism is not a Solution
by Devon Chaffee*, October 21, 2002
The Bush administration’s recent announcement
of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK)
admission to developing a nuclear weapons program has thrust the
fact that Iraq is not an isolated nuclear weapons proliferator
into the center of the war debate. The announcement highlights
startling questions as to the administration’s lack of a
consistent and comprehensive nonproliferation strategy and has
evoked serious accusations as to why Congress was not told about
the DPRK’s admission prior to voting on the resolution authorizing
the use of force against Iraq.
The parallels between the DPRK and Iraq’s
nuclear weapons program are undeniable. Both countries are known
to have had programs to develop nuclear weapons and have been
designated as members of the “axis of evil” by the
Bush administration. The United States even came close to war
with North Korea over their nuclear weapons program in 1994.
In fact the DPRK’s weapons program may
be far more advanced than Iraq’s. North Korea has enough
plutonium to construct an estimated six nuclear weapons within
six months, is pursuing technology to enrich uranium, and has
consistently resisted the International Atomic Energy Agency’s
(IAEA’s) push for full inspections. Iraq, on the other hand,
is not thought to have the materials necessary to build a nuclear
weapon, and has stated that it will allow United Nations lead
Yet the administration has made clear its commitment
to find a diplomatic solution to crisis with North Korea and to
pursue the option to use force against Iraq, without providing
convincing answers as to why its response to the two nations should
differ so greatly.
This glaring inconsistency puts a spot light
on the fact that the Bush administration’s Iraq policy does
not provide a comprehensive, long-term solution to the proliferation
of weapons of mass destruction. If we must wage war on Iraq because
of the threat of nuclear weapons, why not Israel, which is thought
to possess approximately 200 nuclear weapons? Why not Pakistan,
which is nuclear capable and is thought to have provided North
Korea with enrichment technology? Why not China which provided
Pakistan with that technology in the first place? It is clear
the United States cannot and should not take pre-emptive military
action against each of these proliferators.
On the other hand, if the Bush Administration
is confident that diplomacy is the correct option for North Korea,
Israel, India, Pakistan and other potential proliferators, why
not Iraq? The very fact that the United States is treating Iraq
differently from other proliferators is infuriating many countries,
particularly Arab ones, and threatening US interests in the region.
This was made very clear in the recent Security Council emergency
session on Iraq where country after country condemned Iraq’s
violation of disarmament obligations, but also opposed the US
push for authorization for the use of force against Iraq.
Though the administration claims that its militant
Iraqi policy proves that it is hard on proliferation, the White
House has, in fact, impeded effective arms control not only by
thwarting multilateral treaties such as the CTBT and the protocol
to the Biological weapons convention and but also by providing
insufficient funds for efforts to control nuclear materials. The
administration’s expectation that other nations will embrace
disarmament and nonproliferation principles while the United States
continues to disengage from multilateral solutions and advance
its nuclear weapons technology seems clearly unreasonable.
Congress Kept in the Dark
Democrats in Congress have, through their aids,
voiced criticism that they were not told of North Korea’s
admission to its nuclear weapons program while they were considering
the resolution authorizing the administration to use force against
Iraq. The Washington Post quoted one aid as stating, “Senators
are concerned and troubled by it…This cloud of secrecy raises
questions about whether there are other pieces to this puzzle
they don’t know about” (October 19, 2002).
Informing Congress about the DPRK’s admission
could have delayed the vote on the war resolution to allow further
consideration of the precedent that would be set in Iraq and how
that could affect US policy towards proliferators such as the
DPRK. Congress would have been forced to address the Iraq situation
in the broader context of global proliferation through the concrete
example of North Korea.
The White House’s explanation for the delay
is that analysts were still considering a response to the DPRK.
Yet when the announcement was eventually made no planned response
was released, and the administration is clearly still in the process
of consulting other nations.
Though Congress had been briefed on evidence
of North Korea’s nuclear weapons effort, the outright admission
by the DPRK significantly increases pressure on the United States
to deal with the program in a timely manner. Keeping such clearly
relevant information from Congress during a debate on whether
the United States should go to war is likely to damage even further
the credibility of the administration’s intelligence claims.
Solution Remains Unclear
Exactly what the DPRK hoped to get out of the
admission that it has an active nuclear weapons program is still
far from clear. It may be that the Kim John Il felt he had little
left to lose in relations with the United States besides nuclear
power reactors its deteriorated electrical grid cannot accommodate
and heating fuel shipments which make up less than five percent
of the country’s yearly energy needs.
North Korea has responded to criticism by pointing
out that, by neglecting for years its commitment through the 1994
Agreed Framework to make significant efforts to end hostile relations
and normalize diplomatic and economic ties, it was the United
States that first violated the bilateral pact.
Some analysts suggest that North Korea made the
announcement in preparation to make significant concessions in
dismantling its nuclear weapons program. Such negotiations will
depend on the commitment of both the Kim regime and the Bush administration
to finding a peaceful resolution to this looming conflict, and
the ability of Bush administration to navigate diplomatic avenues
without relying on military action.
*Devon Chaffee is
the Research and Advocacy Coordinator at the Nuclear Age Peace