2002 December 21 Saturday
US Getting No Help From China On North Korea

After the North Koreans put an end to IAEA monitoring of a nuclear reactor the US government is calling on the North Korean regime to stop its nuclear weapons development programs.

"We urge the DTRK not to restart its frozen nuclear facilities including the five-megawatt reactor," U.S. State Department spokesman Lou Fintor said Saturday, adding that to do so would "fly in the face of international consensus."

...

"We call on the DTRK to respond to repeated requests by the IAEA to consult on arrangements for safeguarding the frozen nuclear facilities at Nyongbyong and allow the IAEA to replace or restore the seals and cameras that the North damaged," Fintor said.

The US State Department is just going thru the motions of establishing that it has demanded that North Korea stop and desist. This will have no effect at all on what the North Korea regime does but this sort of rhetoric is necessary for reasons of diplomacy.

Bill Gertz reports on Chinese shipments to North Korea of a chemical used in nuclear weapons production.

U.S. intelligence officials told The Times that North Korea earlier this month received a shipment of 20 tons of a specialty chemical known as tributyl phosphate, or TBP, from China.

The chemical has both commercial and military applications and U.S. intelligence officials believe the TBP will be used to extract material for nuclear bombs from North Korea's stockpile of spent nuclear-reactor fuel.

Bill Gertz reports that China is demonstrating its unwillingness to pressure North Korea to stop its weapons of mass destruction development.

The transfer itself is an indication that China's government, contrary to some public statements, is unwilling to support U.S. efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem, said administration security officials.

...

However, senior administration officials said China continues to export nuclear, chemical and biological weapons material and missile goods, despite claims of curbing exports by Chinese companies to rogue states or unstable regions.

China is not only unwilling to join in pressuring North Korea to stop WMD development but is also continuing to help North Korea pursue its ambitions. The US is faced with the choice of either trying to apply pressure to China to get it to change its position or to pursue other ways to make life more difficult for the North Korean regime.

It is possible that the US government will signal to the Chinese government that the US will launch airstrikes against North Korean nuclear facilities unless China agrees to stop selling supplies that North Korea needs for its WMD programs. The Chinese leaders might be swayed by this threat. However, even if China agreed to cut off the supplies it could still cheat. The fact that the Chinese regime does not see an interest in cracking down on North Korean behavior is paramount here. They have clearly demonstrated their intentions and to attempt to pursue a real change in the position of the Chinese regime is not only futile but would waste time.

The US is left with the choice of either tolerating continued North Korean development of WMD and sales of WMD technology or some form of military action against the North Korean regime. One possibility short of the removal the North Korean regime is to launch B-2 airstrikes against North Korean WMD facilities. B-2 bomber crews train for missions against North Korea. The US military has been working on developing the ability to more rapidly plan and execute bomber missions against North Korea.

Since 1994, the military has continued to improve its adaptive planning capabilities for nuclear forces. Other documents released under FOIA illustrate just how rapid the planners envision nuclear targeting to be in regional scenarios. When the first B-2 bombers replaced the B-1 in the SIOP-98 war plan in October 1997, it took planners “well over” 24 hours to complete the planning and processing of a single SIOP sortie. One year later, in November 1998, Stratcom ordered an update of the B-2 planning documents to reflect shorter timelines for planning new nuclear strike missions, calling for:

• Deliberate planned missions with a timeline of no more than 24 hours, including executable war plans, prepared in advance, for anticipated contingencies. (An example of this is OPLAN 5027, mentioned at the beginning of this article.)

• Adaptive planned missions (directed planning options or theater nuclear options) with a timeline of no more than eight hours.

Under these guidelines, planning for new limited strikes in smaller regional scenarios involving only one or a few nuclear weapons could be carried out in less time than it takes for a B-2 to fly from home base at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to North Korea. On the way, the crew would be able to reconfigure existing sorties or build entirely new strike options with the bombs in their payload, revolutionizing the flexibility of nuclear-bomber strike planning.

This planning ability could equally well be used for a conventional weapons strike against North Korean nuclear facilities. The biggest question mark over the idea of conducting such a strike is whether the US knows where North Korea stores any existing nuclear weapons it might have in its arsenal and whether the US could destroy those weapons with a conventional strike using highly accurate guided weapons. Its a fair guess that the information needed to answer that question is highly classified.

The United States needs a workable and effective plan for how to deal with the North Korean regime. So far it does not have one and it is hard to imagine just what a workable plan would look like. Of all the regimes on the Axis Of Evil list how to deal with North Korea is surely the most problematic.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 December 21 11:56 PM  Axis Of Evil


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