Along the Tracks

Friday, January 31, 2003

Kim wants attention again

I don’t like the sound of this.

Moving those spent fuel rods has long been considered the “red line” which the United States would not let North Korea cross. If the North does so (or is doing so), it would only be a matter of months before Kim has a mini-arsenal of eight or 10 nukes, ready to be strapped on a missile or sold to the highest bidder.

The situation demonstrates both the similarities and the differences between Iraq and North Korea. Iraq has been the greater immediate threat due to its desire and ability to hit us - the United States - through terrorist intermediaries. Any large-scale production of atomic bombs by Kim would elevate North Korea onto the same plain, because the likely buyers for his new commodity would be terrorists and terror-supporting states. After all, who else needs or wants nukes? And that situation - a nuclear bazaar, impossible for the U.S. and its allies to control - would be an unacceptable breach in security.

Kim may be gambling that Bush won’t stop his efforts to produce plutonium while the Iraq war is days away. He may be right, in the short term, but I don’t see how the U.S. can allow the nuclear assembly line to get rolling too far along. So, while it may be weeks away, it would seem that solid evidence that those fuel rods are being moved for processing sets in motion a confrontation with North Korea that will either end in an agreement for freezing of Kim’s nuclear weapons programs with intense inspections or military action.

And people doubted the connections inherent in the “axis of evil” a year ago.

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