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Bill Orton
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January 13, 2003

by Bill Orton

With the President's attention focused obsessively on
Iraq, maybe it is impolite to interrupt in the grand
plans for war.  After all, it takes time to call up
reservists and send them packing to the Persian Gulf.

But there is an epic crisis unfolding on the Korean
peninsula that could flare into a military nightmare so
vast that it could consume many of the 37,000 U.S.
soliders standing guard along the so-called
Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates North and South

A Korean Nuclear Missile Crisis is rapidly unfolding,
yet the ceaseless talk about Iraq requires that we ask
whether our obsession with Saddam may have allowed
North Korea to quietly get the Bomb?


-- Two weeks ago, a New York Times article reported
that the CIA estimates that North Korea already has two
nuclear bombs, and "it could produce five or six
weapons by summer."

-- The North Koreans announced they will withdraw from
the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the agreement that
aims to stop the spread of weapon of mass destruction. 
(It is one of those many documents that the current
Administration has, up until now, spent little energy

-- The North Koreans declared that they may resume
tests of their multi-stage rockets, perhaps allowing
them to improve enough on their rockets so that could
one day hit the United States.

-- North Koreans removed the seals and deactivated the
cameras at the Yongbyon plant and ordered U.N.
observers to leave.  At 5 kilowatts, the electrical
generation capability of the plant is far too small to
be used for any civilian purposes.  Its only reason for
existence is to generate weapons grade nuclear material.

-- Since Christmas, North Korean soldiers moved heavy
machine guns in the DMZ, a direct violation of the 1953
cease fire agreement.

North Koreans may be starving.  The economy may be
prehistoric.  But the government, as it is, retains
absolute control.

And now this irrational, paranoid kleptocracy is the
newest member of the Nuclear Club.

How did we allow the North Koreans to get the Bomb?

Worse yet, will we continue tap dancing while the North
proceeds to build half-a-dozen more nuclear bombs?

Experts agree that when a nation climbs up to seven or
eight bombs, it suddenly possesses enough weapons to
have a "nuclear strategy."  A nation can throw one bomb
here, another there, hide a few in reserve and still be
able to strike at anything that moves.

A "nuclear strategy" makes any nation a potential
threat to the world order, but with 100,000 American
soliders already within reach of North Korean missiles,
the risk to our strategic interests are mind boggling.

"Nuclear strategy" is where North Korea seems to be
headed, and yet the Administration is soft pedaling the

This is the President who ended talks with North Korea
in 2001, went limp on the Agreed Framework and said the
North was not trustworthy.  Pyongyang is now one point
of the "Axis of Evil."

Yet, the President recently declared -- repeatedly --
that, "We have no intention of invading" the North. 
The "day of reckoning" he speaks of applies not to the
nuclear North, but to Saddam.

The North Korean situation is "serious," said Secretary
of State Colin Powell, but it is not a "crisis."

Powell was asked if the United States will take out the
Yongbyon plant if it is reactivated?  Yongbyon's sole
purpose is to generate the material needed for the
"five or six more" bombs that the CIA thinks can be
produced by summer.  Since 1994, Americans have
reserved the right to strike Yongbyon if it is
restarted.  But Mr. Powell said recently: "We don't
have that policy."

Does the President think that only soft words will
soothe the nuclear beast?

Do our leaders believe that North Koreans regard
equivication as anything other than weakness?

Saddam Hussein may be a villainous evil thug who killed
his own people, is a threat to Middle East regional
stability and stands in clear defiance of international
laws and values.

But even the President admitted that Saddam does not
have nuclear weapons.  He might -- one day -- perhaps
in a year or two, if he gets a tennis ball lump of
weapons grade material.

But, says the CIA, North Korea already has the Bomb.

We let them get it.

And, unless we act to stop them, they may soon have
"five or six more" new bombs, enough to actually
constitute a "nuclear strategy."

Mr. President, please stop tap dancing.

We lost 54,000 dead in Korea in a brutal three year
war.  If we ignore the crisis now unfolding in Korea,
those numbers might be dwarfed by the nightmare of a
Second Korean War.

Mr. President, won't you put Saddam aside for just a
moment and concentrate exclusively on a new nuclear
Missile Crisis?

Without your undivided attention and leadership,
thousands of American GIs and millions in Korea and
beyond will live under the growing threat of a nuclear

Bill Orton is a writer and historian living in Long Beach, California.