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Posted: 11/24/2002 2:56:11 PM EDT
American and South Korean officials, when speaking anonymously, say the reason is obvious: the Bush administration has determined that Pakistan's cooperation in the search for Al Qaeda is so critical ? especially with new evidence suggesting that Osama bin Laden is still alive, perhaps on Pakistani soil. So far, the White House has ignored federal statutes that require President Bush to impose stiff economic penalties on any country involved in nuclear proliferation or, alternatively, to issue a public waiver of those penalties in the interest of national security. Mr. Bush last year removed penalties that were imposed on Pakistan after it set off a series of nuclear tests in 1998. White House officials would not comment on the record for this article, saying that discussing Pakistan's role could compromise classified intelligence. Instead, they noted that General Musharraf, after first denying Pakistani involvement in North Korea's nuclear effort, has assured Secretary of State Colin L. Powell that no such trade will occur in the future. "He said, `Four hundred percent assurance that there is no such interchange taking place now,' " Secretary Powell said in a briefing late last month. Pressed about Pakistan's contributions to the nuclear program that North Korea admitted to last month, Secretary Powell smiled tightly and said, "We didn't talk about the past." A State Department spokesman, Philip Reeker, said, "We are aware of the allegations" about Pakistan, though he would not comment on the substance. "This adminsitration will abide by the law," he said. Intelligence officials say they have seen no evidence of exchanges since Washington protested the July missile shipment. Even in that incident, they cannot determine if the C-130 that picked up missile parts in North Korea brought nuclear-related goods to North Korea. But American and Asian officials are far from certain that Pakistan has cut off the relationship, or even whether General Musharraf is in control of the transactions. Yet in the words of one American official who has reviewed the intelligence, North Korea's drive in the past year to begin full-scale enrichment of uranium uses technology that "has `Made in Pakistan' stamped all over it." They doubt that North Korea will end its effort even if Pakistan cuts off its supplies. "In Kim Jong Il's view, what's the difference between North Korea and Iraq?" asked one senior American official with long experience dealing with North Korea. "Saddam doesn't have one, and look what's happening to him." A Meeting of Minds in 1993 Pakistan's military ties to North Korea go back to the 1970's. But they took a decisive turn in 1993, just as the United States was forcing the North to open up its huge nuclear reactor facilities at Yongbyon. Yongbyon was clearly a factory for producing bomb-grade plutonium from spent nuclear fuel. When North Korea refused to allow in inspectors headed by Hans Blix, the man now leading the inspections in Iraq, President Bill Clinton went to the United Nations to press penalties and the Pentagon drew up contingency plans for a strike against the plant in case North Korea removed the fuel rods to begin making bomb-grade plutonium. In the midst of that face-off, Benazir Bhutto, then the prime minister of Pakistan, arrived in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. It was the end of December, freezing cold, and yet the North Korean government arranged for tens of thousands of the city's well-trained citizens to greet her on the streets. At a state dinner, Ms. Bhutto complained about the American penalties imposed on her country and North Korea. "Pakistan is committed to nuclear nonproliferation," she said, according to a transcript issued at the time. However, she added, states still have "their right to acquire and develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, geared to their economic and social developments." Ms. Bhutto's delegation left with plans for North Korea's Nodong missile, according to former and current Pakistani officials. The Pakistani military had long coveted the plans, and by April 1998, it successfully tested a version of the Nodong, renamed the Ghauri. Its flight range of about 1,000 miles put much of India within reach of Pakistan's nuclear warheads. A former senior Pakistani official recalled in an interview that the Bhutto government planned to pay North Korea "from the invisible account" for covert programs. But events intervened. Months after Ms. Bhutto's visit, the Clinton administration and North Korea reached a deal that froze all nuclear activity at Yongbyon, where international inspectors still live year-round. In return, the United States and its allies promised North Korea a steady flow of fuel oil and the eventual delivery of two proliferation-resistant nuclear reactors to produce electric power. That was important in a country so lacking in power that, from satellite images taken at night, it appears like a black hole compared to the blazing lights of South Korea. But within three years, Kim Jong Il grew disenchanted with the accord and feared that the nuclear power plants would never be delivered. He never allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency to begin the wide-ranging inspections required before the critical parts of the plants could be delivered. By 1997 or 1998, American intelligence has now concluded, he was searching for an alternative way to build a bomb, without detection. He found part of the answer in Pakistan, which along with Iran, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Egypt was now a regular customer for North Korean missile parts, American military officials said. A. Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, who had years ago stolen the engineering plans for gas centrifuges from the Netherlands, visited North Korea several times. The visits were always cloaked in secrecy. But several things are now clear. Pakistan was running out of hard currency to pay the North Koreans, who were in worse shape. North Korea feared that without a nuclear weapon it would eventually be absorbed by the economic might of the South, or squeezed by the military might of the United States.
Link Posted: 11/24/2002 3:06:16 PM EDT
Any reason, Doctor, why this couldn't be the second post on the other thred you started about this? Scott
Link Posted: 12/12/2002 6:59:11 PM EDT
timely btt
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