Keeping Our Promise
to North Korea

Jude Wanniski
September 21, 1998


Memo To:Rep. Bob Livingston [R LA]
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: North Koreaís nuke plant

Your appearance on CNNís "Evans&Novak" this weekend was encouraging in one respect, discouraging in another. As chairman of House Appropriations, you are in a good position to assess the potential of a budget conflict in the next month. So it was greatly encouraging to hear you say you thought there would not be a shutdown of the government. I understood you to say that the appropriation bills would be sent to the President in timely fashion and any disagreements will be worked out with a continuing resolution in time to allow all members to go home by October 9 for a month of political campaigning. It was especially encouraging to hear that you believed the President will accept the modest tax cuts that will be part of this process -- and infer that we can expect more aggressive tax cuts in the next Congress.

What discouraged me, Bob, was your hard-nosed position on the administrationís request for funds to help complete the nuclear power plant in North Korea. You indicated you did not believe the United States should be providing such funds, on the grounds that it would assist an unfriendly country in its ability to threaten our national security. You mentioned the ďmissileĒ that Pyongyang recently fired across Japanese air space as evidence that we should stiff-arm its complaints that we are welsching on our promise on the nuclear power plant.

It is my distinct recollection that the offer to assist North Korea came from our government in return for its agreement to dismantle the nuclear power plant we feared was producing material that could be used to construct a nuclear weapon. There is even a small chance I had something to do with this, Bob, as I was an unofficial advisor to Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole when the offer was made. Sitting alone with Dole in his Capitol office sometime late in 1993 or early 1994, I recall discussing North Korea with him and recommending that instead of going to war with North Korea over the nuclear issue we propose that the plant we worried about be replaced by one that would allow us to feel secure. Dole asked me who would pay for it, and I said the cost should be shared by all those who now would feel threatened by the old power plantís ability to produce -- I mentioned Japan, China, South Korea, and of course the United States. It would be much cheaper, I suggested, than mountaing a military operation against North Korea. I never asked Dole if he advanced the idea, but it did surface as policy of the Clinton administration.

Whatever the background to the decision, it was made, and it was a sound decision. For you and the 105th Congress to now tell the President that you ainít gonna give him the money to hold up our part of the deal is just plain not right. At a time when the Presidentís moral authority to lead the nation is being questioned, I wonder how you could justify a decision at this late date to pull the plug on the North Korea initiative. It seems of a piece of our governmentís behavior in several areas of the world that assume we can act without principle. We bombed Iraq in 1996 without justification, with Republicans covering up the Presidentís violation of the War Powers Act. We continue to punish the people of Iraq for several years in a hidden agenda to depose the Hussein regime, the policy having cost the lives of 1.5 million Iraqis. We bomb the Sudan without justification and then fabricate after-the-fact justifications. We sell Pakistan $650 million in F-16s, then refuse to deliver them or to return the money. The only justification is that we are the Boss. What kind of example are we setting for our children when we conduct ourselves in such triumphal fashion? I found myself thinking today that at least the Presidentís sins and evasions with Miss Lewinsky have not spilled any blood. If I were you, Iíd reconsider the money for North Korea, or you will only invite more international terrorism. You will then find yourself as chairman of House Appropriations presiding over mammoth supplementals to cover the costs of more and more military reprisals.