Report: N. Korea 'has little else
to export' but nuclear weapons

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

North Korea is likely to export nuclear weapons components and fuel to the Middle East in an effort to earn hard currency and there is little the United States can do about it, a panel of experts has concluded.

A report by the Council on Foreign Relations warned that Pyongyang can be expected to use its newly-acquired nuclear weapons capability for sales to North Korea's traditional clients including Iran, Libya and Syria.

"Pyongyang might sell fissile material, nuclear technology, or completed weapons to any state or non-state actor with money," the report, entitled "Meeting the North Korean Nuclear Challenge," said. "It has little else for export."

In 2001, North Korea was reported to have earned nearly $600 million in missile exports, most of them to the Middle East. The four most requested missiles from North Korea have been the medium-range Scud C and D models, the intermediate-range No Dong and the longer-range Taepo Dong-1, according to Middle East Newsline.

The report, drafted by an independent group of former U.S. officials and diplomats, said the United States has limited options in stopping Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. The task force said the United States might have to be resigned with North Korea's nuclear program and focus on stopping nuclear exports.

Among those drafting the report were former U.S. Amb. to Thailand Morton Abramowitz, former U.S. Amb. to South Korea Donald Gregg .

Four members of the task force, including former U.S. Amb. to China Winston Lord and former National Security Advisor Richard Allen, registered disagreements with the conclusions.

"The situation has drifted toward one in which the United States may have little choice but to live with a North Korea with more nuclear weapons and to find ways to prevent it from exporting its fissile material," the report, released on Monday, said. "The task force believes the United States should strenuously try to prevent that outcome."

The report recommends that the United States form a common policy with North Korea's neighbors. Such a policy would promote a settlement to end North Korea's nuclear and missile weapons program in exchange for international aid to and diplomatic relations with Pyongyang as well as assurances that the United States would not attack the North. Washington should also offer to compensate Pyongyang for the end of missile programs and exports.

"Should negotiations fail and North Korea reprocess its spent fuel or test a nuclear weapon, the United States should seek to secure more meaningful sanctions and consider imposing a blockade designed to intercept nuclear exports and other illicit or deadly exports," the report said. "Allied support would be critical."

But several members of the task force dissented and warned that the United States would be unable to maintain a naval blockade of North Korea. At least one member called the idea of a U.S. siege on North Korea a "dangerous delusion."

"For how long, exactly, should the United States maintain this blockade?" Mitchell Reiss, a former U.S. government senior adviser on North Korea, asked. "A few months? Years? Forever? And all the while North Korea continues to add to its nuclear arsenal? In short, a blockade would not prevent the North from increasing its nuclear stockpile and it would not give us any confidence that fissile materials or nuclear weapons were not being exported."

About 90 percent of dual-use systems required for North Korea's strategic programs is said to come from Japan. On Tuesday, Japanese authorities said 10 Japanese companies tried to export to Pyongyang advanced technology products that could have been used for North Korea's weapons of mass destruction.

Reiss warned that many in the U.S. foreign policy community prefer to ignore North Korea's potential for war. He said Pyongyang might be stopped only be military means. "The fact is that North Korea may soon acquire a significant nuclear arsenal with the potential to export bombs around the globe, including to terrorist organizations," Reiss said. "This may well justify our having to change the Kim Jong-Il regime through military means. Before we reach that point, though, it would be useful to learn if we could change the way the regime behaves through diplomatic means."

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