- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 25, 2000

Highly problematic negotiations that the Clinton administration has been conducting with communist North Korea have just become much more so.
On Saturday, as the latest round of those talks got under way in Berlin, a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Pyongyang announced that last week's test by the United States of an anti-missile defense system "compelled the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to take our moratorium [on ballistic missile testing] into serious consideration." Translation: North Korea may resume its preparation of a long-range Taepo Dong 2 missile that could deliver weapons of mass destruction to U.S. shores unless Washington refrains from further developing and forgoing deployment of protection against such a threat.
The Clinton-Gore administration is inclined to downplay this sort of pronouncement by one of the world's most dangerous regimes. Not to worry, we are assured, this is simply the sort of posturing the North engages in to try to secure American concessions.
Let us call it what it is: Blackmail. And why shouldn't the Korean communists brandish their deadly weapons for such shakedowns? Indeed, Pyongyang has been rewarded time and again by the Clinton-Gore administration for this sort of behavior.
For example, the North Koreans have ably exploited the threat of prospective nuclear capabilities to secure for their bankrupt nation whose people are starving to death by the millions international standing and even diplomatic recognition from the West. It is but a matter of time before the Clinton team follows Italy and Japan in exchanging ambassadors.
The North has also parlayed American and allied concerns about Pyongyang's atomic bomb-building program into billions of dollars worth of food, oil and nuclear technology, the last in the form of two modern power reactors a U.S.-Japanese-South Korean consortium is building gratis for the North. A little-noted but profoundly troubling (not to say absurd) upshot of this transaction is the fact these reactors will be capable of providing far more weapons-usable plutonium than the two older plants they are supposed to replace.
Most recently, Pyongyang got paid for promising not to conduct further tests of its Taepo Dong missile as long as the U.S. was negotiating with it read, as long as Washington made such "restraint" worthwhile. In return, President Clinton started shredding the U.S. embargo against the North, allowing access to certain U.S. imports and an opening of America's markets to exports from North Korea.
As it happens, North Korea's most recent shakedown effort coincides with the arrival in Washington of a man who is a past master at the art of missile blackmail: the deputy chief of the People's Liberation Army, Gen. Xiong Guangkai. As head of the PLA's intelligence services, Gen. Xiong is arguably one of the most dangerous men in the Chinese hierarchy. He is credited with: penetrating highly sensitive American defense facilities and stolen this country's nuclear secrets; funneling illegal campaign contributions to the Clinton-Gore re-election effort in 1996; and executing a series of provocation operations against the students in Tiananmen Square in 1989 (e.g., planting weapons on them to secure a pretext for the regime's massacre).
Interestingly, Gen. Xiong also plays a leading role in the PRC's patron-client relationship with North Korea, which he has described as close as "lips and teeth." The general is intimately familiar with the technical and material assistance China (and Russia) are giving to the North's ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction programs.
Of even more immediate relevance, it was Gen. Xiong who served notice in 1995 that one of this country's largest population centers risked nuclear attack if the United States interfered with China's plans to bring Taiwan to heel. "American leaders care more about Los Angeles than they do about Taiwan," he said. While Congress forced President Clinton the next year to send two carrier battle groups into the region as Chinese missiles were launched into the ocean off Taiwan's major ports, the North Koreans and every other malevolent regime on the planet could not have helped but be impressed by the potency of China's missile-backed blackmail.
After all, the Clinton-Gore administration subsequently: eased controls on militarily relevant technology; dropped complaints about Beijing's abuse of human rights and proliferation; snubbed Japan and other regional allies during the president's last visit to China; and, in the course of that trip, embraced the PRC line on Taiwan. It is astounding that the administration would fete a man like Gen. Xiong who has inflicted such ignominy on this country. By doing so, it can only further reinforce an ominous message: It pays to blackmail the U.S.A.
Worse yet, Mr. Clinton is actually enabling such blackmail. His determination for seven years to resist deploying a national defense against ballistic missile attack has made it possible for even crazed, destitute countries like North Korea to try to dictate to "the world's only superpower what security policies and programs the United States will pursue. The latest incident reinforces the obvious point: Further delaying a decision to make such a deployment as quickly as technologically possible as required by law will only invite more blackmail as potential adversaries insist the United States remain vulnerable to their attack and U.S. allies, for their own benighted reasons, keen and wail that we must remain as defenseless as they are.
All these considerations demand action on missile defense, now. With the requisite leadership, the United States could begin to defend its people as well as its forces and allies overseas far faster, more fully and at significantly less cost than the very limited, ground-based anti-missile system President Clinton might decide sometime next summer to field by the latter part of this decade (assuming, that is, the Russians, Chinese and perhaps the North Koreans permit us to do so).
If President Clinton will not direct the immediate adaptation of some of the Navy's 55 AEGIS air defense cruisers and destroyers currently protecting our fleets all over the world so as to enable them to begin defending us against ballistic missile attack, the Republican Congress must once again take the initiative. George W. Bush, John McCain and Steve Forbes have all explicitly endorsed getting started with a sea-based defense.
Since the vast majority of the needed infrastructure for such an effective, global anti-missile defense is already bought, paid for and in place, the nation inevitably will use these Navy assets for this purpose. If we start doing so right away, we may just have the needed defensive capabilities in place before an adversary decides to use deadly ballistic missiles not just to blackmail America, but to do her incalculable harm.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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