Inscrutable Koreans?
Jude Wanniski
April 28, 2003


Memo To: Bill Richardson, New Mexico Governor
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A Nuclear Confucius

Congratulations on fending off Tim Russert’s attempts on Meet the Press to get you to say we should not trust Pyongyang no matter what, cut to the chase, and start bombing. There is probably no American political person who has done more to understand the perspective of the North Koreans than you have, Bill, and I thoroughly agree with you that the current “crisis” over its seeming intent to acquire nuclear weapons could be easily resolved if Kim Jong-il had formal assurances the United States would get back on the State Department’s diplomatic track instead of the Pentagon’s continued threatening of another unilateral, pre-emptive military strike. Any objective reading of the record of who is at fault on this dispute, I think, would have to conclude that North Korea acted out of complete frustration with American behavior.

Russert kept insisting that we could never trust Pyongyang because they broke agreements they made with us in 1994. Much of this has to do with confusion on who said what, when. It’s my suspicion – having been tangentially involved in the 1994 Agreement – that we never thought we would have to live up to our end of the bargain, and have for years stalled on delivering our promise to build them two light-water reactors. While Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld has provoked tensions every chance he has gotten, Secretary of State Colin Powell seems to believe all they really want is the electricity they counted on from those reactors. It is still not even clear that North Korea has ever acknowledged it has one or two nuclear weapons, although it is now playing its cards as if it might, in order to get satisfaction in these negotiations. I believe you are absolutely right that they would agree to the status quo ante as far as inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency are concerned, if they had no assurance we were going to live up to our promises and also are confident they will not be targeted by the warhawks at the Pentagon.

Here is the weekend column by Dr. Gordon Prather, who I believe you know by reputation. As a matter of fact, he worked as a nuclear weapons designer at the laboratories in New Mexico years ago and served as the army’s chief scientist in the Reagan years. Prather, by the way, does not believe North Korea has any nukes, but is deeply concerned that if the Pentagon continues to disrupt diplomatic efforts by State, they will attempt to acquire them and so will the other countries in the region. Rumsfeld likes to say “Weakness is provocative,” but he never seems to understand that “Provocation is provocative.”

* * * * *

“Inscrutable Koreans?”
by Gordon Prather

The media elite assume that the North Koreans never mean what they say, even when they say it in English. So the media elite take it upon themselves to ‘translate’ the Korean statements, to tell you what the Koreans really mean.

Take, for example, this statement issued by the state-run Korean News Service of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea on April 6th:

"The United States is gravely encroaching upon the sovereignty of Iraq for the purpose of removing the present leadership of Iraq in defiance of even the elementary international code of conduct and, furthermore, putting the Mideast region under its control.

"The present Iraqi crisis teaches a serious lesson that the imperialists' inspection of weapons in sovereign states leads to disarming, it spills into a war and any concession and compromise with the imperialists allow the sovereignty and interests of countries and nations to be encroached upon and, in the long run, they will fall victim to imperialism.

"The U.S. intends to force the DPRK to disarm itself. The Iraqi war shows that to allow disarming through [UN] inspection does not help avert a war but rather sparks it. Neither international public opinion nor the UN Charter could prevent the U.S. from mounting an attack on Iraq.

"Only the physical deterrent force, tremendous military deterrent force powerful enough to decisively beat back an attack supported by any ultra-modern weapons, can avert a war and protect the security of the country and the nation. This is a lesson drawn from the Iraqi war.

"The U.S is seriously mistaken if it thinks that the DPRK will accept the demand for disarming while watching one of the three countries the U.S. listed as part of an "axis of evil" already subject to the barbarous military attack."

Not to worry. The media elite assured us the Koreans didn’t really mean a word of that statement, or any of a dozen similar statements issued previously.

But, Kim Jong-il really had concluded that by designating North Korea part of the ‘axis of evil’, President Bush signaled his intention to invade North Korea and depose him. Therefore, Jong-il had abrogated the US-DPRK Agreed Framework, withdrawn from the multilateral Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and abrogated his bilateral Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. He ejected the IAEA ‘verifiers’ of Safeguards compliance, ripped the IAEA seals off his plutonium-producing reactor and associated plutonium recovery plant, and restarted them.

The IAEA estimated Jong-il will have recovered enough weapons-grade plutonium by the end of June 2003 to make six to ten nukes.

Not to worry. The UN Security Council convened on April 9 to defuse the nuke mini-crisis in North Korea. We sought a Security Council resolution similar to the one we obtained for Iraq, imposing sanctions if North Korea did not immediately dismantle its nuke program.

But the Koreans – and Security Council members Russia, China and Pakistan – reckoned that the similar resolution, imposed on Iraq at US insistence, had been misused. So, North Korea announced it would consider the imposition of sanctions by the Security Council tantamount to a declaration of war by the US.

Not to worry. The warhawks and their media sycophants assured us that sanctions would not be needed. Our ‘shock and awe’ assault on Iraq to ‘disarm’ Saddam Hussein had a salutary effect on Jong-il. When the US and DPRK met this week in Beijing, Jong-il would drop his demand that the US swear on a stack of bibles to never invade the DPRK, especially on the pretext of enforcing a US-sponsored Security Council resolution or any other multi-lateral agreement, such as the US-DPRK Agreed Framework.

So it must have been a surprise to the warhawks when the talks broke off almost before they began. The Associated Press, citing a senior American official, reported that North Korea’s lead delegate, Ri Gun, acknowledged to a U.S. envoy that his country already has – and may test, export or use – nukes, depending on U.S. actions.

The Korean News Service statement that day said, in part;

"The Iraqi war launched by the U.S. despite the international community's unanimous opposition teaches all the sovereign states the lesson that there should be only a strong physical deterrent force to protect the sovereignty of the country and the nation. The inspection and disarmament forced by the U.S. upon an independent state in violation of its sovereignty and its right to existence without any proper reason and ground are only aimed to justify and legalize aggression and war."

Translation, please?