North Korea Framework

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Even most Bush critics are conceding that North Korea proliferated WMD -- buying nuclear weapons technology, and selling ballistic weapons technology, with Pakistan -- while under Clinton's bilateral agreement with them. And yet they have no idea of what to do about North Korea except to return to the same failed policy.

Similarly, they say the current U.S. policy is a failure, but the only real evidence they cite is unverifiable: that North Korea has reprocessed pluotnium. North Korea has, in fact, refused to prove it has reprocessed plutonium:

MARGARET WARNER: So then, go to the next step: did you see convincing evidence that they had reprocessed that plutonium, those fuel rods that came out of a nuclear reactor, into actually weapons grade material?

SIEGFRIED HECKER: That's a little more difficult to answer definitively. What they did to try to convince us of that -- they took us through the reprocessing facility. They call it the radio chemical laboratory. And what they showed us were the facility equipment. They answered all of our technical questions. They certainly had the capacity, capability and technical expertise to reprocess but they said they finished the reprocessing at the end of June 2003. And so when they said to me, well, look, we obviously reprocessed, I said, well, I'm not convinced. At that point, they said, would you like to see the product?


SIEGFRIED HECKER: And I said, well, yes, we would like to see the product -- the product being plutonium of some form, and the most important part of that was are they able to reprocess the plutonium and make plutonium metal? So they brought in a box that contained a couple of glass jars, sort of jelly jars to speak, and in those jars they had some plutonium powder. It's called oxalate. It's a powder that goes into the process along to making plutonium metal. The other jar contained plutonium metal, they said.

MARGARET WARNER: And, I mean, could you determine that it really was?

SIEGFRIED HECKER: I have seen much plutonium metal in my time, and what I can tell you, was that everything we saw and the things I was able to do without instrumentation was consistent with that being plutonium, however, I had to tell my host that without additional more sophisticated measurements I'm not able to say 100 percent certain that this is actually plutonium metal.

They also refuse to prove they have any nuclear weapons capabilities, even if they do have plutonium:

MARGARET WARNER: All right. So Mr. Hecker, let's say this metal you saw really was plutonium. Did they show you in addition that showed they had taken it to the next stage which was making it into something that we might call a weapon?

SIEGFRIED HECKER: Indeed. That's where they use the fuzzy concept of deterrence and they said look, you can understand we have a deterrent. I said wait a minute, that's much more complicated than that.

I view at least having to have three pieces for a deterrent. The first one is you have got to make the metal. That's not simple, and I think they demonstrated the capability although there's still this question of whether what they showed me was actually metal. The second piece -- you got to take that metal to a nuclear device much you'd have to take steel to a final automobile that you can drive out. And then the third piece -- you have to take the nuclear device and put it on something, a delivery system. I told them very specifically that I never saw anything or never talked to anyone that would convince me that they actually have taken the next step.

MARGARET WARNER: Made it into a device..

SIEGFRIED HECKER: So we saw nothing that we could say yes, convinced us they made it into a nuclear device.

MARGARET WARNER: Did you ask to see one?

JACK PRITCHARD: In fact they said, are you suggesting you would like to see one? And, of course Dr. Hecker said, yes, we would. And then they then said we have run out of the time. We couldn't arrange that. We certainly didn't expect them to show us a device.

SIEGFRIED HECKER: And I had actually told them when I made this comment that you really haven't shown me the deterrent. They said would you like to see our arsenal and I said well, yes but when they said that would be difficult, I said I would be happy to talk to the people who know how to design a nuclear device or have the capabilities for that next step. But in all fairness, that was the last day and they there went enough time to get the authority to be able talk to the right people.

Hecker to me sounds a bit too apologetic. "Would you like to see the actual bomb?" "Yes." "Great! Let's ... oops, we're out of time, so sorry."

Of course, for practical purposes, we need to take their claims seriously, but we can't assume they are true, either. This is not unlike the Iraq WMD claims: we had some evidence, but nothing remotely resembling proof.

But let's assume they do have plutonium and a weapon. Bush's critics would have you believe none of this was going on during the last few years of the Clinton agreement, that it only started when North Korea pulled out of that agreement (or, at earliest, some months before, when North Korea decided to leave that agreement because of Bush). How do they know this? There's no evidence of it. We know that North Korea violated that agreement by procuring nuclear weapons technology, and we are supposed to believe they did not put that technology to use until Bush's Axis of Evil speech, based merely on their word?

As far as I am concerned, the bilateral framework was utterly useless, and I see no evidence that North Korea was being contained by it, in any substantive way. The multilateral framework -- where Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea will all have vested interests in holding North Korea to its word -- are the only hope for a diplomatic solution at the present time. Bilateralism is a proven failure, and any success we think it was -- partial containment -- is, at best, unproven.

Well, one thing's for sure: we don't really have to worry about Pakistan's ballistic missiles.

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