Is The U.S. Taunting North Korea Into Misbehaving?
The current crisis over North Korea's nuclear weapons program is just the latest in a series of stand-offs between Washington and Pyongyang.
In 1968 North Korea seized the USS Pueblo, a U.S. spy ship and held 82 U.S. sailors for almost a year -- one US sailor died.
In 1993, after it first agreed to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) -- North Korea threatened to pull out and forced weapons inspectors to leave, just like Iraq kicked out inspectors in the early 90's.
But months of high-stakes diplomacy -- including a trip to Pyongyang by former president Jimmy Carter -- paid off in October 1994. The North agreed to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for fuel oil and 2 light water nuclear reactors.
By October 2000 the U.S. and North Korea appeared close to a missile deal and normalizing diplomatic relations.
"They wanted two things from the U.S. They wanted them to help launch communications satellites. Secondly, they wanted some benefits," Sherman says.
Last October the U.S. confronted the Stalinist state -- which admitted it had a secret nuclear weapons program.
The U.S. and its allies stopped fuel shipments, and within weeks the North upped the ante, tossed out inspectors, and withdrew from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
"They're rattling the sabre loudly because they know the world understands how catastrophic a war would be. We are focused on Iraq," Sherman says.
North Korea says it wants the U.S. to guarantee its security in writing and to resume shipping oil. The U.S. says the North must end its nuclear weapons program.
But some in the administration suggest that due to the speed with which things are unraveling the North has already made a calculated decision to develop nukes no matter what.
Suspicious and highly critical of Kim Jong Il's brutal dictatorship -- President Bush worked to further isolate the North, calling it part of an "axis of evil" along with Iran and Iraq. It's a mystery why president Bush would come right out and say that North Korea is a part of the axis of evil without having any plans to deal with it. Clearly, North Korea now knows it has been lumped in with Iraq and Iran, and they can see what we are doing in Iraq. It is difficult to imagine that president Bush had no idea Kim Jong would react the way he is, given his past behavior. This leads some people to wonder if Bush deliberately stirred the pot to cause North Korea to behave badly, so the U.N. would have grounds to take action.
During these political gymnastics it is at least possible that North Korea could launch a strike against the western U.S. if it feels threatened. The U.S. government admits it believes North Korea has a missile capabale of carrying a nuclear weapon to the soil of the western United States. A first launch would be the only test that shows whether or not it's missiles are accurate enough to actually hit the united states. Even a slight error could cause such a missile to drift off course and strike western Canada.
So why doesn't Bush seem too concerned about that? Does he know a north korean launch is likely to miss? Is that why he is so relaxed and even sarcastic in his comments about North Korea? Bush knows perfectly well that the world would react badly to any strike against Canada (accidental or not). Is Bush daring North Korea into a launch?
It seems as though it has become commonplace for rogue states to use nuclear prolferation as an extortion tool. This can only escalate as these states develop more advanced weaponry. You can't just sit idley by and allow these violent (mostly non-elected) thugs to attain methods which will only serve to kill all of us. Give a brutal dictator a gun and he'll hold your country for ransom. Give him nuclear weapons and he will destroy the world.
© Arlene Longson March 13/2003