2003 February 04 Tuesday
North Korea Working On Nukes In Late 1990s

North Korea did not decide to reactivate its nuclear weapons development program as a reaction to George W. Bush's labelling it a member of the Axis of Evil. North Korea was actively working on nuclear weapons during the hey day of the Clinton and Kim Dae Jung attempts to engage North Korea on friendly terms.

A recent study by the Congressional Research Service noted that "North Korea's secret uranium enrichment program appears to date from 1995 when North Korean and Pakistan reportedly agreed to trade North Korean Nodong missile technology for Pakistan uranium enrichment technology."

"The Clinton Administration reportedly learned of it in 1998 or 1999, and a Department of Energy report of 1999 cited evidence of the program," the study added.

Also, at the National Defense University, a 1999 study group chaired by Richard L. Armitage, now deputy secretary of state, and including Paul D. Wolfowitz, now deputy defense secretary, concluded that the 1994 agreement had frozen "only a portion of [North Korea's] nuclear program" and that Pyongyang was "seeking to develop a covert nuclear weapons program."

In spite of that 1999 Dept. of Energy report a CIA report released in August of 2000 entitled Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, 1 July Through 31 December 1999 made mention of attempts by North Korea to acquire technology useful for its nuclear program. The CIA report did not make it clear whether these technologies were useful for civilian purposes only or also for weapons development purposes. The term "its nuclear program" isn't defined with sufficient precision.

P’yongyang continues to acquire raw materials from out-of-country entities to produce WMD and ballistic missiles. During the reporting period, there were increased reflections of North Korean procurement of raw materials and components for its ballistic missile programs from various foreign sources, especially through firms in China. North Korea produces and is capable of using a wide variety of chemical and possibly biological agents, as well as their delivery means.

During the second half of 1999, Pyongyang sought to procure technology worldwide that could have applications in its nuclear program, but we do not know of any procurement directly linked to the nuclear weapons program. We assess that North Korea has produced enough plutonium for at least one, and possibly two, nuclear weapons. The United States and North Korea are nearing completion on the joint project of canning spent fuel from the Yongbyon complex for long-term storage and ultimate shipment out of the North in accordance with the 1994 Agreed Framework. That reactor fuel contains enough plutonium for several more weapons.

P’yongyang continues to seek conventional weapons via the gray market. In 1999, for example, North Korea acquired MiG-21 fighter aircraft from Kazakhstan.

This is not really new news. Lots of press reports in the late 1990s were reporting evidence of North Korean nuclear weapons development efforts. You can read a large collection of excerpts from late 1990s news reports on North Korean weapons development efforts. For instance:

Toronto Sun 2/7/99 Eric Margolis ".This column has steadily warned for the last five years of the growing threat from North Korea. In mid-January, I reported North Korea was fast acquiring capability to deliver nuclear warheads to North America by means of a new, long-range, three-stage missile. Two weeks later, on Feb. 2, CIA Director George Tenet testified before Congress that North Korea was on the verge of producing long-range missiles that could "deliver large payloads to the continental United States." Tenet said, "I can hardly overstate my concern about North Korea," adding, "the situation there is more volatile and unpredictable." Amen. This column does not have the CIA's $26 billion annual intelligence budget, but it came to the same conclusion, only five years before Langley. Other U.S. intelligence sources confirm North Korea has resumed secret production of nuclear weapons, adding to the two or three devices it already has. It is also improving and expanding delivery systems for its extensive arsenal of chemical and biological weapons..Tenet's dramatic testimony confirms the total failure of President Bill Clinton's Korea policy.

GlobalSecurity.org reports that Pakistan probably supplied North Korea with gas centrifuges for enriching uranium in the late 1990s.

The complex at Hagap was first identified in the press in 1998 citing a classified Defense Intelligence Agency report titled "Outyear Threat Report". The DIA was unable to identify the purpose of the Hagap facility but speculated that it could be used for nuclear production and/or storage. The facility, located three miles north of Hyangsan, P'yongan-Pukto Province, consists of three main areas. The operations area is said to have 30 buildings and 5 additional buildings that are under construction. The location is at the foot of the Myohyangsan mountains that has at least four tunnel entrances and 11 support buildings. Reports indicate that four tunnels connect to dozens of building. This facility is said to be unique as it is the only one of several potential nuclear facilities that has been built underground.

For a number of years, possibly back as far as 1999, there were reports that the US and the South Korean intelligence community had gotten indications that the DPRK was attempting to acquire equipment related to centrifuges, which could be used for uranium enrichment.

According to senior US officials, equipment Pakistan exported to North Korea may have included gas centrifuges used in creating weapons-grade uranium. The shipment took place as part of a barter deal between the two countries in the late 1990s. In return, North Korea provided Pakistan with medium-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Russia and China are also said to have supplied equipment for the North Korean secret nuclear weapons program. Pakistan's assistance to North Korea's covert nuclear weapons program may have continued through the summer of 2002. What was termed "highly suspicious shipping trade" indicated that Pakistan continued to trade nuclear technical knowledge, designs and possibly material in exchange for missile parts.

Some argue that if the US would just tone down its rhetoric and be willing to negotiate then North Korea could be convinced to stop developing nuclear weapons. The problem with that line of argument is that North Korea has probably been breaking that agreement since the day it was signed. The United States has never been successful it getting North Korea to entirely cease its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Diplomacy with North Korea holds no solution. The only country the United States should be bargaining with over North Korea is China.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 February 04 12:33 AM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment

Joe Katzman said at February 4, 2003 9:39 AM:

Trent Telenko has been reporting extensively on this very subject over at Winds of Change.NET. His conclusion is that the Clinton administration knew about all of this at the highest levels, and chose to do nothing.

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