A former defense secretary has warned the White House that minimizing
Pyongyang's nuclear threat could encourage North Korea to continue its export of nuclear
components and technology to its clients in the Middle East.
Former Defense Secretary William Perry said the absence of an
administration war strategy involving North Korea has suggested Washington is not concerned
about the resumption of North Korea's nuclear production
A major component of the North Korean economy involves the sale of missile and nuclear technology, primarily to rogue states in the Mideast.
Perry, who led U.S. efforts to stop Pyongyang's nuclear program in
1994, said any administration strategy must stress the threat of North
Korea's nuclear weapons to U.S. security.
"Indeed, I believe that any strategy for dealing with this difficult
problem must be based on the understanding that allowing North Korea to
undertake the production of fissile material and nuclear bombs would be a
major setback for American security, for regional security, and for
international security," Perry said.
"Given North Korea's record as proliferators of ballistic missiles and given their desperate economic
condition, we must assume that some of the products of this nuclear program
would be for sale to the highest bidders, not excluding terrorist groups."
In a Jan. 24 address to the Brookings Institution, Perry said any
impression that the administration has become resigned to North Korea's
nuclear program would lead to weaken U.S. deterrence and lead to a
conclusion by Pyongyang that Washington is unwilling to defend its interests
in East Asia. He also warned that North Korea's nuclear program might begin
a domino effect of proliferation in East Asia, prompting South Korea, Japan
and Taiwan to question their own non-nuclear status.
"For all of these reasons, the North Korean nuclear program poses an
unacceptable security risk," Perry said. "United States strategy should be
designed to ensure that the present activities at Yongbyon do not reach the
production stage. Clearly to achieve this objective without war will take an
aggressive and a creative diplomatic strategy."
The former defense secretary warned that in a matter of weeks North
Korea could use its fuel rods to produce enough weapons-grade plutonium for
five bombs. Once the plutonium is reprocessed, Perry said, it could be moved
anywhere, making it much more difficult subsequently to find and destroy. He
said North Korea probably has two nuclear weapons, based on nuclear fuel
concealed from the International Atomic Energy Agency in the early 1990s.