Magazine article Insight on the News

Can Senators Save Clinton-Kim Deal?

Magazine article Insight on the News

Can Senators Save Clinton-Kim Deal?

Article excerpt

President Clinton's deal with North Korea is straightforward: Up front, the United States pays North Korea $4 billion and provides free oil, technology and diplomatic recognition that the world's nastiest regime could not otherwise obtain. In return, Kim Jong-il permits us to believe that North Korea has given up the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

To prevent a creeping catastrophe in the Pacific as a result of Clinton's deal, the Senate ought to force Clinton to submit it for ratification as a treaty, defeat it and lay out guidelines for a policy of solidarity with our traditional allies in the region.

The stakes are high. North Korea and its Chinese patrons are showing Japan and South Korea that America no longer is a reliable source of security against even the tiniest nuclear power. Hence these countries will seek security elsewhere, and the Pax Americana that has reigned over the Pacific Rim as a result of World War II will end. But because the Clinton-Kim deal is so full of opportunities to fudge and because the administration will have increasing incentives to put the best face on worsening events, the disaster will take some time to unfold.

Under the Clinton-Kim deal, no one will bother North Korea for an unspecified number of years as it does whatever it likes with its 8,000 reactor fuel rods. The United States will not even be able to ask for -- never mind get -- an intrusive inspection of its current nuclear facilities until the North Koreans take delivery of the final components for new ones (at least five years from now). Hence, North Korea's promise to put the rods in cooling ponds is unenforceable, and it can finish extracting the bomb-grade plutonium from the rods at leisure. Afterward, it can turn over the radioactive rods, and the United States will take care of disposing them. The massive amounts of oil and other aid that will flow into North Korea in the meantime will free up cash to allow it to buy the other components for atomic bombs.

The Clinton administration claims that under the agreement, the North will not restart the reactor that probably has produced fuel for a dozen bombs. But surely North Korea would not do so anyway until it had extracted the bomb materials from the latest batch of fuel rods. By the time inspection comes around, the first eight bombs should be ready to be brandished, either secretly or openly, as a livelier threat in the next round of negotiations. …

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