- The Washington Times - Monday, December 2, 2002

On taking office in 1993, President Bill Clinton found himself faced with a North Korea developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and selling the latter to anyone. The North was a dangerous dictatorship that just a few years earlier had capped a long record of international terrorism by blowing up a South Korean airliner, killing 115 persons. Mr. Clinton did what came naturally for him he negotiated, and in 1994 cut a deal to pay off the North.
That deal provided for Japan and South Korea to build two light-water nuclear power plants for the North, while the U.S. would supply half a million tons of free oil every year for 10 years. By 2000, the United States was shipping oil worth $270 million a year, making the Stalinist regime the largest recipient of U.S. aid in East Asia. To receive this largesse, all the North had to do was suspend its nuclear program.
But of course it did not and continued secretly developing nuclear weapons. Still, Mr. Clinton accomplished what he wanted to keep North Korea quiet until he was out of office. Now, faced with a much tougher president in the White House, the North admits it never kept its part of the deal. That admission seems to be a stupid attempt to blackmail President Bush into providing more money in exchange for still more worthless promises. But this president won't bite.
Earlier this year, Gen. Thomas Schwartz, commander of U.S. forces in Korea, said the North has 500 Scuds that threaten the entire peninsula. More than 100 Nodongs can reach most of Japan, including U.S. bases there. The North also has large stocks of chemical weapons, ranging from mustard gas to sarin and other nerve agents, and has been working on biological weapons since the 1960s.
But the North's nuclear weapons program has been shrouded in secrecy. It is only since Mr. Clinton left office that intelligence agencies have been willing to state publicly that North Korea "probably has one or two nuclear bombs." The fact is, no one outside that secretive state knows how many it has or can produce.
That makes an article in the December issue of the Japanese magazine Tokyo Gendai especially interesting. The article titled "North Korea Has Completed Arming Itself With Nuclear Weapons" was written by Kenki Aoyama, who was born in Japan to Korean parents in 1939 and returned to North Korea in 1961 to attend Pyongyang's top technology university. On graduation, he was assigned to North Korea's National Academy of Sciences and later worked on the missile program, but many of his colleagues worked in the secret nuclear program started at Yongbyon in 1962.
Mr. Aoyama calls Yongbyon "a gigantic nuclear complex" with about 20,000 researchers and their families living there. He describes the nuclear reactors and plants for reprocessing and enriching uranium. Only a few buildings are above ground, he writes, while "all other facilities lie underground." The purpose of the complex, he says, "was to produce nuclear bombs."
In 1993, Mr. Aoyama writes, a successful underground nuclear test was conducted at Yongbyon, the same year North Korea withdrew from the Non-proliferation Treaty it had signed in 1985. The government then moved its nuclear weapons program to Kumchang-ni, some 35 miles north, to avoid international inspectors. By 1998, the United States had learned of Kumchang-ni and demanded to inspect it. North Korea agreed to admit inspectors in exchange for 600,000 tons of food. But by the time the inspectors arrived, Mr. Aoyami says, another move had been completed and the United States paid a high price to look at empty tunnels. The North has become a master of bait and switch.
Mr. Aoyami defected in 1998 and returned to Japan. He knows first-hand, he says, that the Nodong missiles are hidden in deep tunnels near the Chinese border. He thinks the North's nuclear weapons program is now at Pakchon, not far from Yongbyon, but a recent defector who is a nuclear scientist claims it has been moved farther south to North Hwanghae Province.
Wherever it is, Mr. Aoyami believes the light-water reactors being built under the 1994 agreement will be used to produce more nuclear weapons. Constructing those plants, he says, is suicidal and should be stopped. He asserts that North Korea will never stop producing nuclear weapons as long as the Kim Jong-il dictatorship remains in power.
Fortunately, we now have a president who understands that. The 1994 agreement has been blatantly violated. South Korea's President Kim Dae-jung, who promoted the overly optimistic "sunshine policy" toward the North, will be leaving office in a few weeks. After that, the United States and its Asian allies can end the agreement and pursue a more realistic policy of aggressive containment to isolate North Korea and promote badly needed regime change.

James T. Hackett is a contributing writer to The Washington Times based in San Diego.


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