- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 24, 2002

While U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors search Iraq for an 'undeclared' nuke, North Korea's dictator Kim Jong-il has provided President Bush a real causis belli. Mr. Kim has just told IAEA inspectors to get out of North Korea and never return.
Iraq, Iran and North Korea are all signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and are, therefore, subject to the IAEA-NPT safeguards and physical security regime.
Iraq came close to developing nukes by exploiting the NPT. Nuke-useable items such as highly enriched uranium have to be 'declared' by NPT signatories and are subject to annual IAEA-NPT inspections.
But, in return for a promise to not develop nukes, NPT signatories are encouraged to import 'dual-use' items such as gas centrifuges. The 40-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was originally formed to control at the source the export of nuke-usable items. In Iraq's 1996 classified report to the IAEA, Iraq says it bought dual use items for use in its nuke program from virtually every NSG member, including Germany, Britain, the United States, Switzerland, France, Japan, Italy, Sweden and Brazil.
Truly alarmed by the way Iraq had managed to 'game' the NPT system, the NSG decided to henceforth control 'dual use' items as well. Since 1996, NSG members have required the recipient nation NPT signatory or not to subject all its NSG imports to the IAEA-NPT regime. In effect, the NSG has become the export 'enforcer' and the IAEA the import 'enforcer' for preventing nuke proliferation, transcending the NPT, itself.
The U.N. Security Council can impose sanctions for NPT violations and may if it can be shown that the violations result in immediate danger to other nations authorize the use of force.
The Security Council merely imposed economic sanctions on Iraq in 1991 for NPT violations and ordered Iraq to destroy its clandestine nuke program. If Iraq is now discovered to have resumed nuke development, the Security Council may well authorize President Bush to invade Iraq and occupy it indefinitely.
Meanwhile, on the basis of what it discovered in Iraq, IAEA-NPT-NSG attention turned anew to other NPT states, such as North Korea. A pitifully poor country, North Korea had nevertheless acquired one gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor ostensibly to produce 5 megawatts of electricity and were building similar 20 megawatt and 200 megawatt plants.
Gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactors can make weapons-useable plutonium, whereas water-cooled, water-moderated reactors can't. Ominously, North Korea had already built and was operating a plant to recover the weapons-useable plutonium produced. All of these facilities were, of course, subject to the IAEA-NPT regime.
The amount of weapons-useable plutonium actually produced depends upon the way the reactor is operated. IAEA inspectors suspected that the North Koreans had produced and recovered more weapons-useable plutonium from the 5-megawatt reactor than they reported.
When the IAEA director-general couldn't get the North Koreans to allow him to assay the spent fuel to prove or disprove North Korea's claims, he got U.N. sanctions imposed. North Korea promptly asked the IAEA to leave and announced it was withdrawing from the NPT.
Enter Clinton-Carter and their multi-billion-dollar bribe of 1994: two free 1000-megawatt nuclear power plants and all the free fuel oil needed to tide North Korea over until the power plants were producing electricity. In return, North Korea agreed to cease producing and recovering weapons-useable plutonium and to keep all North Korea nuclear facilities subject to the IAEA-NPT regime.
But recently, North Korea admitted importing "dual-use" items such as gas centrifuges from non-NSG members, such as Pakistan, and not" declaring" it. Then, citing delinquent payment of the Clinton-Carter bribe, Mr. Kim cancelled the deal and announced North Korea is withdrawing from the NPT.
Seceding from the NPT is, of course, North Korea's right. But seceding from the Union was South Carolina's right, too.
President Lincoln believed saving the Union justified the use of force, and most Americans probably agree that he was right. President Bush believes preventing nuke terrorism justifies the use of force. Not only do most Americans agree, but so apparently does the Security Council.
However, IAEA Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei reckons that North Korea not Iraq is the greater nuke danger. Contrary to what you've heard, Saddam Hussein has never prevented IAEA inspectors from annually entering Iraq and inspecting all 'declared' sites. It is Kim Jong-il not Saddam Hussein who has just fired the first shot at Fort Sumter.
What would Lincoln have done? What will Bush do?

Gordon Prather was a nuclear physicist at Sandia National Laboratory, national security adviser to Sen. Henry Bellmon, and Reagan appointee in the Pentagon.

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