Now is the time to deal with North Korea
In late September, North Korea admitted to the world that it possessed nuclear weapons. To many, this was no surprise. There is still debate as to whether or not North Korea has truly completed a nuclear weapon, but nonetheless it is perilously close if not there already. Foreign policy experts, diplomats and international relations majors have known for years that the government of Kim Jong-Il has been attempting to weaponize uranium. North Korea lied to the Clinton administration a number of times in order to bide time, keep its nuclear reactors and hide its weapons program. There was optimism, though, that North Korea would turn an eye to the East and realize that rogue states, determined to acquire weapons of mass destruction and flouting international law and regimes, would meet the same fate as Iraq. I am no supporter of the Iraq war, but one thing it did accomplish was keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of a tyrant. North Korea has ignored the example set by the United States in Iraq and finally weaponized enough uranium to create, what some experts think, might amount to six to eight nuclear weapons. Whose fault is this?
President Bush, in his famous State of the Union address, named North Korea as part of the axis of evil. The National Security Strategy of the United States promises that America will do all in its power militarily, politically, economically and diplomatically to ensure that rogue states and terrorist groups do not acquire weapons of mass destruction. Why has the Bush administration failed in its self-stated objective? The United States chose to make Iraq the prime target because of specious evidence about connections to Sept. 11 and because of Iraq's proximity to the Middle East: where all of America's terrorist fears originate. These are not valid reasons to ignore a potentially disastrous problem like a nuclear-armed North Korea. The Bush administration did not focus enough attention on North Korea because of its obsession with Iraq. The Iraqi threat was minimal compared to the amount of damage the North Korean government could do to South Korea, Japan, China or, if it sells its nuclear weapons to anti-American terrorist groups, to the United States.
I do not blame North Korea for acquiring nuclear weapons. Its government has a rational fear of invasion. North Korea has been made an international pariah. In order to guarantee its own security and the security of its people, the DPRK acquired a deterrent to invasion. The DPRK repeatedly said that it would lay its arms down with a written promise of no invasion from the United States. The American-led coalition invasion of Iraq may actually have given the North Koreans a sense of urgency. They may have sped up their weapons program in order to gain a nuclear deterrent before the American-dominated coalition could regroup and come after them.
North Korea repeatedly announced to the world that it was in active pursuit of nuclear weapons. Iraq claimed for years that its weapons program was defunct and that it no longer sought weapons of mass destruction. The United States chose to make the removal of Saddam Hussein a foreign-policy goal while leaving Kim Jong-Il relatively alone. Iraq said it had no weapons, and reality has born this truth out, while North Korea claimed it wanted weapons and now has them. Why did the United States allow North Korea to continue with its nuclear weapons program even in the face of certain evidence that it was nearing success? Shame on the Bush administration for distorting the war on terror and failing in its responsibility to protect the American people, and the world at large, from a nuclear-armed rogue state.
Anthony Elmo is a senior in the School of International Service.