- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that the United States has the military might to counter the threat of two "axis of evil" states North Korea and Iraq simultaneously.
His assurances that U.S. armed forces are not stretched too thin came as Pyongyang announced an aggressive move toward building nuclear weapons.
"I have no reason to believe that North Korea feels emboldened because of the world's interest in Iraq," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "If they do, it would be a mistake. We are perfectly capable of doing that which is necessary."
North Korea said yesterday that it is removing monitoring equipment set up by international inspectors to safeguard weapons-grade plutonium at its Yongbyon nuclear reactor.
The announcement sets up the possibility that, while fighting a war in Iraq this winter, the United States also might have to divert valuable military assets to thwart North Korea's nuclear ambitions. One U.S. military option, though not actively being considered, is to bomb North Korea's nuclear facilities to prevent Pyongyang from quickly assembling two to three atomic weapons.
President Bush has threatened Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein with military strikes if he does not disarm. Mr. Rumsfeld, at a Pentagon press conference yesterday where he discussed the twin problems of North Korea and Iraq, said a buildup of American forces in the Persian Gulf continues even as a second crisis is forming in North Korea.
There are about 60,000 U.S. troops near Iraq, with 50,000 more slated to be deployed in January. Mr. Rumsfeld said he is alerting Reserve units that might be called up to round out active combat forces, such as heavy Army armored divisions, in the event of war with Iraq.
Baghdad yesterday shot down an unmanned Predator spy plane over southern Iraq. An Iraqi fighter jet apparently violated an allied no-fly zone in the south to fire at the drone before retreating north.
Allied aircraft typically retaliate against Iraqi ground fire by dropping precision-guided bombs on anti-aircraft batteries and command posts.
U.S. Central Command, which runs military operations in the Persian Gulf, said the Predator went down at 7:30 a.m. EST.
"They got a lucky shot today, and they brought down the Predator," Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs chairman, said at the Pentagon press conference.
But Mr. Rumsfeld quickly said, "It is not a fact. We do not know for sure that it was shot down."
It was the third Predator drone shot down over southern Iraq. Iraq repeatedly has tried to knock down manned allied jets enforcing the northern and southern exclusion zones, which severely restrict the activities of Iraq's military.
North Korea has picked this time to make provocative statements about a nuclear-arms program it was supposed to freeze under a 1994 agreement with President Clinton.
Confronted with evidence to the contrary by the Bush administration, North Korea admitted during the summer that it has systematically violated the accord by acquiring bomb-making components. Mr. Bush has labeled North Korea, Iraq and Iran as an "axis of evil" that threatens world peace.
The communist regime in Pyongyang intensified its rhetoric yesterday by announcing that it was removing plutonium-monitoring equipment. Analysts say North Korea is likely to have sufficient nuclear-grade plutonium to make two or three weapons.
North Korea's official newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said in an editorial that Washington could settle the issue by agreeing to a nonaggression pact. The United States rejects such a treaty with North Korea, which is one of the world's last communist police states.
South Korea, whose president-elect, Roh Moo-hyun, favors closer ties with the North, condemned Pyongyang's recent moves.
"Despite repeated warnings from our government and the international community, North Korea took further actions to unfreeze its nuclear activities, raising regional tension and amplifying international concerns over nuclear proliferation," Seoul said in a foreign ministry statement.
China, an ally of North Korea, recently broke with Pyongyang by saying the Korean Peninsula should be free of nuclear weapons.
The U.S. military's 1.4 million active-duty force is structured based on requirements in a policy statement called the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). Under the most recent QDR approved by Mr. Rumsfeld, the military is required to be able to defeat and occupy a foreign power while nearly simultaneously winning a war against a second foe.
Most analysts interpret the requirement as winning a war in the Persian Gulf against Iraq or Iran while repelling an invasion by the North into South Korea.
Mr. Rumsfeld yesterday forcefully asserted that his commanders today can carry out the QDR.
"We're capable of winning decisively in one and swiftly defeating in the case of the other," he said. "Let there be no doubt about it."
As he contemplates the timing for sending more men and women to the Gulf, Mr. Rumsfeld criticized the way the military's "total force" concept operates. To deploy heavy-combat units to war, the Pentagon must first perform the time-consuming practice of activating Reserve and National Guard units that support those divisions.
The defense secretary has ordered his staff to study whether some of those jobs cannot be permanently shifted to the active force so deployments go faster.
"You cannot do the things you normally would do with active forces to prepare ports and prepare airfields and to train people and to begin that process of being able to respond without activating Reserve and Guard," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "It's a shame that we're organized that way, and we intend to see that we're no longer organized that way in the future."


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