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South Korea, China, Japan and Russia are firmly convinced North Korea would be more dangerous breaking up than as the world's 9th nuclear power. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Arnaud De Borchgrave
UPI Editor at Large
Washington (UPI) Oct 18, 2006
Neither Stalin nor Mao nor Hitler came close to George Orwell's blueprint for a hierarchical world tyranny. The gold medalist in Orwell's "1984" Hades-on-earth sweepstakes, beyond Stalin's wildest excesses, is diminutive Kim Jong-il whose Mao suits, elevator shoes and Elvis-style bouffant hair only enhance his wicked gnome-like figure.

Judging by the crates of French cognac and Scotch whisky that are shipped in via Japan, and Mercedes sedans with smoked windows, a handful of high-ranking Kim rogues live high on a starving hog. They had no compunction letting two million of their people starve to death in the 1990s.

Back in 1983, Kim Il-sung, picked personally by Stalin after World War II to rule the new Soviet puppet state, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, assigned his son Kim Jong-il to organize the liquidation of the South Korean government. The plot fell a little short of the objective. The terrorist bomb he organized to explode at Rangoon's Martyr's Mausoleum murdered only five South Korean ministers on a state visit to Burma and 15 of a lesser rank. President Chun Doo Hwan survived.

In Aug. 1976, North Korean soldiers, armed with pipes and axes, bludgeoned and hacked to death two American officers supervising the pruning of a 100-foot poplar tree in the Joint Security Area along the Demilitarized Zone. The "Ax Murder Incident" triggered the largest military build-up on the Korean peninsula by the United States since the end of the Korean War in 1953. The USS Midway was deployed and fighter jets and bombers moved to South Korean bases from Okinawa.

Three days later, the U.S. retaliated with combat engineers, flanked by a company of infantrymen, and protected by AH-1 Cobra gunships, B-52 and F-111 bombers, who went in and cut the tree down. Suffering from acute paranoia about non-existent U.S. plans for regime change, Pyongyang is prone to quickly escalate minor incidents.

For four years (1994-98), from two to three million North Koreans died of starvation and hunger related illnesses. Those caught attempting to escape across the Yalu River into China were executed at first and later confined to a Korean gulag for re-education. South Korea's "sunshine policy" of aid and limited investment clearly failed to prevent, or even slow down, the North's nuclear weapons and missile delivery effort, culminating in a nuclear test.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to a South Korean executive who met for over two hours late last year with Kim Jong-il, convinced the little dictator that only a crash program to test a nuclear device would deter the United States from invading a charter member of president Bush's "axis of evil."

South Korea, China, Japan and Russia are firmly convinced North Korea would be more dangerous breaking up than as the world's 9th nuclear power. Their principal fear is a total collapse of the regime, like Ceaucescu's Romania in 1989, that would touch off a stampede of millions heading south across the DMZ and north across the Yalu River. Reunification of the Korean peninsula would easily outrun the staggering $1 trillion cost of German reunification.

East Germany, unlike North Korea, had the infrastructure of a modern industrial state, albeit inferior to West Germany's. The leftovers of Kim Jong-il's totalitarian prison would be a wasteland with no infrastructure. Everything would have to be built from scratch.

It's the vision of such a North Korean meltdown that makes China and South Korea reluctant to tighten the U.N.-approved sanctions screws. Seoul is groping for a hard to find balance between preserving key parts of its "Sunshine Policy" and accommodating U.S. pressure for pain that will be felt in Pyongyang.

Kim Jong-il's description of sanctions as "tantamount to a declaration of war" is designed to cause divisions in the U.N. Security Council's united front. While China has opted to simply glance at the contents of hundreds of trucks heading over the bridge into North Korea to make sure no military equipment is being smuggled. There was no proper search.

Pyongyang's riposte to the U.N. resolution was to hasten preparations for a second nuclear explosion. U.S. plans to search North Korean ships on the high seas could easily lead to North Korea lobbing a few artillery shells or short-range missiles over the DMZ into South Korea. It could also cause widespread sabotage as it maintains sleeper cells all over South Korea. Direct U.S. retaliation with a few bombs dropped on North Korea's nuclear facilities would probably be the next step.

Air strikes against North Korea, like air strikes against Iran's nuclear installations, could quickly escalate into regional upheavals. Pyongyang has 11,000 artillery tubes and missile launchers just north of the DMZ capable of turning large sections of Seoul into rubble. China, whose army fought alongside North Korea's against the United States half a century ago, is still Pyongyang's only foreign friend. Verbally at least, China would most probably side with the North while sitting out the fireworks.

As North Korea doubtless assesses the geopolitical equation, a 2nd nuclear test would accelerate the diplomatic track that brings the Bush administration to conclude that direct talks with Pyongyang would be the better part of valor. But those favoring a hard-line in Washington do not agree. They believe sanctions will bite. But what will they achieve? The world's 9th nuclear power is not about to give it all up and return to the non-proliferation treaty.

Iran, soon to become the 10th nuclear power, is unlikely to jettison 20 years of secret efforts for a package of Western carrots. So either we learn to live with a North Korean and Iranian bomb -- or we turn to preemptive air strikes to retard both programs by five to ten years. In the light of what is rapidly becoming an Iraqi disaster, military options would seem to be few and far between.

earlier related report
Second Test Would Show North Korea Has The Bomb
by Laurent Barthelemy
Paris (AFP) Oct 18 - North Korea is eager to conduct a second atom bomb test to erase any doubts after a first attempt on October 9 that it truly is capable of producing nuclear weapons, western arms experts say. A new test could be imminent simply "because the first one failed," argues Joseph Bermudez, a researcher at Jane's Defence Weekly in Britain.

Many experts worldwide have suggested that the underground explosion that took place earlier this month was too small to have been a successful nuclear explosion.

Which is why, Bermudez said, "it is likely that the North Korean scientific community wants" to try again, he said.

"If you look at what Pakistan did in 1998, the initial explosion had failed," Bermudez said by way of precedent. "It didn't get to full yield -- it didn't have full explosive power -- so they ... carried on a series of follow-up tests validating their design."

North Korea, he said, could be facing a similar situation. "Until you actually test it -- using your manufacturing capabilities, your equipment, and your fissile material -- you can never know if the design was good or if the computer models you used were good," Bermudez said.

Whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il will be discouraged from conducting such a test for political reasons, he added, is another matter.

Japanese and South Korean officials Tuesday cited information of possible preparations for a second test, triggering warnings from around the world and an immediate call for restraint from China, Pyongyang's closest ally.

Russia joined in Wednesday, its foreign ministry urging North Korea to heed concerns and take a "rational decision" that would lead to talks.

Therese Delpech, director of strategic affairs at the French Atomic Energy Commission agrees that something did not go as planned during North Korea's first attempt to detonate an atomic device: "If the explosion on October 9 was nuclear test, then it was a failure," yielding a force of less than one kiloton, she said.

The mid-air blast that devastated Hiroshima at the end of World War II was between 12 and 16 kilotons, according to most estimates.

While North Korea has not yet proven its ability to make and detonate an atom bomb, the isolated and impoverished East Asian nation is certainly close to that goal, according the Francois Gere, director of the French Institute for Strategic Analysis.

"They are in the process of conducting experiments that will allow them to produce a real atomic weapon within three months, perhaps six," he said. It would probably not, he added, be more sophisticated than the plutonium bomb dropped over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

The test North Korea conducted earlier this month might, in fact, be a "very advanced form of laboratory experiment" designed to test the fuses and the explosive material used to trigger the nuclear reaction.

Technically speaking, "they are moving in the right direction, but until we have the results of the test and we know exactly what they wanted to test," Gere said, "we cannot know whether it was a failure or not."

From a strategic standpoint, "if North Korea really wants to show the world that it has a nuclear weapon, and to improve its program," opined Pascal Boniface, director of the Institute of International and Strategic Relations, "one can understand that it would conduct several tests." "One can say with certainty that North Korea has a nuclear capacity, but we don't know its degree of sophistication or to what extent it has been perfected," he added.

North Korea on Tuesday slammed the threat of sanctions as akin to a "declaration of war" and vowed to deliver "merciless blows" to any countries that impinged on its sovereignty.

South Korea stepped up its monitoring Wednesday, although a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff told AFP there were no signs yet of a second test.

But experts said Pyongyang's announcement indicated the North was ready for a further trial.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Source: United Press International

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Nukes Could Spread If North Korea Not Stopped Says Rumsfeld
Washington (AFP) Oct 18, 2006
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned that more countries are likely to go nuclear unless the international community acts cohesively to stop them, as the US confirms that China has sent an envoy to Pyongyang. "There is at least a reasonable likelihood that some other countries will decide that they need to have nuclear weapons," Rumsfeld said in a speech to a military audience at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

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