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North Korea Nukes a US Quandary

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N. Korea nukes a U.S. quandary

BEIJING, Oct. 19 — In a new diplomatic scramble following North Korea’s reported admission that is has continued its nuclear weapons program in violation of an international agreement, top U.S. foreign policy officials were in Beijing on Friday for meetings with the Chinese, long-time allies of North Korea who have significant influence over the insular communist nation. The notion of an ongoing nuclear program in North Korea raises diplomatic and practical problems for the Bush administration.

FOLLOWING WHAT it says was North Korea’s admission of an continuing uranium enrichment program, the White House dispatched envoys to South Korea, China and Russia, all of whom have interests on the Korean peninsula.

In Beijing, Undersecretary of State John Bolton and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs James Kelly launched what the U.S. embassy said was a full slate of meetings.

“A number of issues are on the agenda, including North Korea,” a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said, reading from a statement. She would not give details about any meetings.

China is North Korea’s neighbor and final remaining major communist ally. But over the last two decades, Beijing has reformed its economy and reestablished diplomatic ties with prosperous South Korea. Despite a growing cultural and economic gap with Pyongyang, Beijing still has significant influence there, and analysts say China has played a constructive role in past diplomatic initiatives with the North Koreans.

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported Friday that Washington considers Beijing’s role in the current a “key test” of the Sino-U.S. relationship. Next week, Chinese President Jiang Zemin is slated to meet with President Bush at his Crawford, Texas, ranch.

STRATEGY IN QUESTION

News that North Korea was likely developing nuclear weapons raised difficult questions for White House policy makers.

A nuclear weapons program would violate the 1994 Agreed Framework, under which North Korea agreed to halt its nuclear weapons programs in return for energy aid. The deal is a cornerstone of U.S., South Korean and Japanese dealings with North Korea.

So far, the U.S. has called for suspension of work on the power plants being built as part of the energy aid deal.

But NBC’s Mitchell reports that the Bush administration is handling North Korea with kid gloves — unlike Iraq — despite labeling both as part of an “axis of evil.”

The reason: Because war with North Korea would be a nightmare. Its army, which includes the world’s largest commando force, could quickly overwhelm the 37,000 United States troops along its border. U.S. troops have been posted in South Korea since the cease-fire between north and south in 1953. The agreement ended the fighting but the war, technically, is still on.

The United States sees two main alternatives for dealing with North Korea, a senior U.S. official told Reuters: pursuing a verifiable deal to eliminate its nuclear program or isolation and deterrence.

The Bush administration had questioned how to verify any new agreement with North Korea even before their most recent intelligence suggested the violation of the existing treaty.

“The only way to have a reasonable assurance that they weren’t cheating again is to have highly intrusive inspections, like the kind that we’ve had in Iraq,” the official said, adding that the Iraqi situation had not worked well because of obstructionism by Baghdad.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has had inspectors in North Korea since the early 1990s but they do not have permission from the Communist state to carry out intensive searches needed to uncover hidden programs.

As for the second alternative open to dealing with North Korea, the official said: “The other route is isolation, containment, deterrence.”

Bolton will travel to Russia, Britain and France after leaving China, the embassy said. Kelly will travel to Seoul, South Korea, during the weekend and Tokyo early next week “to confer further with our Asian allies,” the spokeswoman said.

TIMING RAISES QUESTIONS

It was unclear why the North Koreans would admit to a nuclear program, particularly as it was exploring diplomatic initiatives with several neighbors, including South Korea.

It is equally unclear is why the White House waited for several weeks after Pyongyang’s alleged admission before making it public.

Sources told NBC News that the Bush administration kept North Korea’s actions a secret, partly to avoid being accused of a double-standard until after Congress passed the war resolution against Iraq.

The government in Pyongyang has made no official comment on the statements by U.S. officials. However, Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency, one of few foreign news organizations in North Korea, said on Friday officials there believe the United States revealed Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program to put pressure on the North Koreans.

“It is being suggested here that the United States deliberately publicized (North Korea’s) ‘nuclear’ admission ahead of meetings of representatives of North and South Korea,” Tass said in a report from the secretive North Korean capital, where most foreign media are unable to operate.

PAKISTAN LINK

The issue also raises complications and contradictions in U.S. foreign policy.

For instance, The New York Times and others on Friday reported that Pakistan was probably a key supplier of nuclear technology to North Korea.

The broker, sources told NBC News, was probably Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan, known as the “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear program.

The Times, quoting current and former senior U.S. officials, reported that the equipment may have been part of a barter deal in which North Korea supplied Pakistan with missiles to counter India’s nuclear arsenal. A spokesman for the Pakistan Embassy denied the allegation.

Sources said the United States was uncertain whether North Korea had managed to enrich uranium to weapons grade.

So, why was there no American criticism of Pakistan? United States officials said 9/11 changed everything:

“Since September 11th we’ve had a lot of support around the world, very different relationships with many of the countries on whom North Korea’s traditionally relied,” according to State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher.

Pakistan is one of Washington’s most important allies in the war on terrorism. Despite the political risks, President Pervez Musharraf has allowed use of Pakistani bases to root out al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan and topple the extremist Taliban leadership.

DIPLOMACY TO GO FORWARD

Despite North Korea’s possible treaty violation, regional leaders said they would continue with diplomatic missions and keep up dialogue with Pyongyang. A top South Korean negotiator planned to travel Saturday to the communist country, with Seoul anxious to gauge whether North Korea wants dialogue or confrontation over its nuclear weapons program.

Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun was to travel to Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, for talks scheduled well before the revelation that North Korea admitted developing nuclear bombs. Jeong’s original plan was to promote projects to bring peace to the divided Korean peninsula, but those measures now are in jeopardy.

South Korea says dialogue is the best way to deal with concerns about North Korea, including the nuclear issue. But its engagement policy is under severe strain because of a perception the North repeatedly has duped its neighbor over the years.

Although North Korea was silent about its program and the international uproar it triggered, it said Friday it was committed to a key project aimed at reconciling the two Koreas: the relinking of a cross-border railway.

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Originally posted by dnice35

See you are finally starting to come around. theres still hope for you yet :tongue:

So, if I agree with that pitifully weak statement of yours, then I can finally enter the "cool crowd"?

yippee for me...

There is no reason to nuke Korea. Bush is playing with fire and he's going to get burnt one way or another. When one allows personal feelings and emotions to react instead of practicing diplomacy and acting like a true statesman, then the country, if not the world, is going to suffer from this.

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Originally posted by sassa

So, if I agree with that pitifully weak statement of yours, then I can finally enter the "cool crowd"?

yippee for me...

There is no reason to nuke Korea. Bush is playing with fire and he's going to get burnt one way or another. When one allows personal feelings and emotions to react instead of practicing diplomacy and acting like a true statesman, then the country, if not the world, is going to suffer from this.

I think we should grant Korea permission (that being the key word). To proceed with their nuclear program. I mean after all they came out clean, unlike Iraq. But if they get out of line we turn them into sushi.

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Originally posted by dnice35

I think we should grant Korea permission (that being the key word). To proceed with their nuclear program. I mean after all they came out clean, unlike Iraq. But if they get out of line we turn them into sushi.

And you are so sure about this?

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