Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
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The Bush administration has concluded that it probably cannot prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and is focusing on managing the geopolitical fallout, informed Capitol Hill sources said Tuesday.
In closed briefings and private conversations with members of Congress over the last several weeks, administration officials have indicated that they expect North Korea to begin reprocessing its plutonium stockpiles soon, perhaps within a few weeks, the sources said. Once reprocessing begins, North Korea will be able to produce enough plutonium for one nuclear weapon a month.
A Senate staff member who is privy to the briefings said the administration was "preparing people up here for a de facto, if not declared, North Korean nuclear state and saying that this is something we can deal with through isolation, sanctions, deterrence and national missile defense."
Resigned to the likelihood that North Korea may soon be making weapons-grade plutonium, officials "are trying to prevent Congress from leaping in alarm and either calling for preemptive military actions, which they don't think offers them good options, or criticizing them for being surprised by the North becoming a nuclear power on their watch," the staff member said. "They want to appear witting."
That last line is a bit disingenuous. Most intelligence reports say that Kim has at least one nuclear weapon already and we don't know when that became an operational fact. But, I am not happy to hear that the Administration plans on just accepting the fact as a reality and get on with it.
Reached for comment on the reports, a senior official said the administration is planning for the possibility that North Korea will acquire more nuclear weapons. But he said the U.S. has in no way accepted this as an inevitable outcome.
"Resigned? Throwing up our hands? Working out how to accept them as a nuclear power? No, that's not what we're doing," the official insisted.
Let's hope so.
No senator would confirm or deny the reports by the Capitol Hill sources. But in a statement responding to questions from The Times, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said the reports, if true, are "disturbing."
"I'm amazed that we would sit back and let North Korea become a plutonium factory churning out the world's most dangerous material and possibly selling it to the highest bidder," Biden said. "We need to treat this problem for what it is — a crisis — and listen to our allies who say we can still head it off if we just sit down and talk" to the regime in Pyongyang, he said.
Note to Joe. They've been refining plutonium since 1994. Where were you for the past 8 years?
Sit down and talk? Just like Jimmy did in 1994? Get them to sign a worthless piece of paper, send them a few billion dollars, build them a couple of reactors, congratulate ourselves dance a jig and go home happy?
Joel S. Wit, a former State Department expert on North Korea, said that by ruling out bilateral talks, the White House had in effect torpedoed diplomacy even before Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's five-day swing through Asia last month.
The Administration did not 'rule-out' bilateral negotiations. They maintain that until Kim ceases his nuclear ambitions we will not have bilateral negotiations. While Kim stands there shouting about a 'Sea of Fire' while demanding to be paid off we will not give in to his demands. Before mouthing off about the strategy the Administration is taking now perhaps these people should honestly consider the history of negotiations with North Korea.
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