A Little Joke We Played on Pyongyang
Jude Wanniski
November 6, 2003


Memo To: Democratic Presidential candidates
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Those North Korea Nukes

Now that you folks are beginning to realize the extent of manipulation and deception practiced by the Pentagon warriors in getting President Bush into a totally unnecessary war with Iraq, maybe you should start thinking about North Korea. As far as I can tell, none of you realize the extent of the manipulation and deception the Pentagon warriors have put into that leg of the “Axis of Evil,” with the help of their stooge in the State Department, John Bolton, and the incompetence of the American news media.

What prompts me to say this now was the report in Wednesday’s New York Times by David Sanger, U.S. Persuades Allies to Halt North Korean Atom Project. If you read the story, you will find the Bush administration saying it now opposes the idea of Asians and Europeans helping Pyongyang build two nuclear power reactors to provide electricity for the country. This came as no surprise to Pyongyang, which has been steadily coming to realize the U.S. government was fooling in the first place when, in 1994, we agreed to solicit help from other countries in building these power plants. That’s right, we cut the deal back then in exchange for North Korea halting work on the power plants it was then building, which we believed could too easily be converted into components of nuclear weapons plants. That “Agreed Framework” solved the crisis facing the Clinton administration at the time, but because our government never intended to live up to our part of the agreement, it led to the pretty pass we face today.

That’s right. Back in 1994, the only way the right-wingers in Congress would approve of a deal to provide North Korea with reactors, even if they were “safe,” was to be assured the USA would never have to deliver on the promise. The rationale was that the Cold War was ending in the USSR and China, which meant North Korea’s government would soon collapse and the Agreed Framework would be moot. Back then, Kim il-Jong’s father was close to death, and it was assumed the kid was an incompetent who would be unable to hold the country together as a commie state. Do you see what I mean? If you don’t believe me, you should ring up Robert Gallucci, the fellow who negotiated the Agreed Framework. According to the Times story, he’s now at Georgetown University and seems to think it is a very bad idea to be further provoking North Korea when it is still engaged in the six-party talks that may end the latest “crisis” with diplomacy instead of another pre-emptive war. He's on record, I believe, in saying the purpose of the Agreed Framework was to "buy time," five years he believed would be enough.

The reason I also cite our press corps is that its haplessness has clearly misled Americans in general and you in particular into thinking North Korea may be “an imminent threat.” That's because our newsies continue to report that Pyongyang last year “admitted” it was "enriching uranium" that it has been digging out of its mines, with the intent of building nukes. It never did any such thing, yet it keeps popping up in the newspapers as if it were an actual fact. Today, for example, we find USA TODAY reporting: “A year after North Korea provoked a crisis with the United States by admitting a secret effort to make weapons-grade uranium, U.S. officials say the program appears to be far less advanced than diplomats had feared. Intensive international monitoring and North Korean ineptitude have significantly slowed efforts to build a plant to produce highly enriched uranium, says a State Department official involved in U.S. attempts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.”

Not only has North Korean “ineptitude” slowed efforts to build a plant, folks. It turns out there is no plant at all and never has been. North Korea all along has said it has no interest in building a nuclear weapon, that all it wants is that gosh darned electricity it was promised, to keep its people from freezing their butts off in the wintertime, once again bearing down on the country. (I wrote about this on Feb. 24, in "It Gets Awfully Cold in North Korea”.) Our journalists keep reporting what other reporters have reported and nobody in the government tells them it ain't so. The CIA and DIA have never been able to locate the phantom plant, but never seem to have told the newsies. Once you understand how our little joke has caused miseries to the ordinary folk of North Korea, you might understand why their government is so upset, dropping out of the Non Proliferation Treaty in protest and rattling their plutonium rods as if they just might build a nuke.

If asked nicely, the North Koreans would come back into the NPT, which would mean the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be able to check out any suspicious signs of a nuke program. It now has the technology to do that if given unfettered access. (You should also know the IAEA has never accused North Korea of cheating on the NPT, although you could not tell that by reading the major papers.) By now, though, it is clear to Pyongyang that the warhawks in the Pentagon – and their stooge, John Bolton at State – don’t want compliance and never have. They want a nice little war, or at least a regime change and another puppet government like they have arranged for Iraq. What good did it do Baghdad to persuade the IAEA that it was no threat? The boys want An American Empire! Secretary of States Colin Powell, whose heart is in the right place, has been trying to work things out with Pyongyang, but every time he makes a diplomatic move, his Undersecretary Bolton has a press conference and calls Kim Il-jong a commie rat fink. What can a poor Secretary of State do when his big boss, the President, now and then has a press conference and calls Kim Il-jong a commie rate fink? The General should resign and write some new memoirs, that’s what.

Dear Democratic presidential contenders, I wish you would take some time out of the raging debate over the Confederate Flag and check out North Korea. If you knew what was going on, you would tell the world and the voters that if you make it to the Oval Office, you will see to it that those power plants are built and the North Koreans have electricity and a promise we will not bomb them as long as they keep the IAEA happy. I for one would sleep peacefully if the IAEA was happy. By the way, it does not cost us anything to get those power plants finished. They have been financed by South Korea and Japan, who are the most concerned with having a nuke-free North Korea. If you check with former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, he can tell you this was my idea back when I was advising him on matters of this sort. He passed it on to President Clinton and that was that. Sometimes, not always, I have good ideas.