WITH NORTH KOREA, STRATEGIC SAVVY, NOT STRATEGIC PATIENCE!
We are Crazy, so Waltz Me Around Again Willy!
Jiri Valenta with Leni Friedman Valenta
Updated, April 30, 2017
Unafraid, Bi-partisan, Uphold U.S. and Freedom
A few weeks ago, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson proclaimed the ending of the doctrine of strategic patience with rogue regimes like nuclear North Korea. At the U.N., however, he seemed to be suggesting we can seek a resolution of the crisis through economic pressure and diplomacy. In response, the North Korean regime fired a ballistic missile. It exploded but the response tells all about the North Korean willingness to find any meaningful compromise. We’ve tried such solutions for a few decades. They have not worked.
The basic theme of North Korean response can be posited as “We are crazy, so, Waltz me around again Willie.” The dictators, father and son, only used our diplomacy as a respite to advance their nuclear and ballistic missiles programs. In our view, more negotiation will be interpreted by both North Korea and Iran as more of Obama’s strategic patience.
Yes, this time China is more helpful. Donald, Secretary of Defense Mattis and NSA H.R. McMaster deserve credit for using the attack on the Syrian airport in the midst of dinner with the Chinese president to change Chinese perceptions. They do have economic clout with North Korea. Although we are not convinced Beijing wants to replace the friendly communist regime on its borders with another South Korean-type one, they are already convinced them that freezing North Korea’s testing of nuclear weapons is in their interests.
Don´t we know the steps of this U.S. - North Korean waltz by now? Menacing threats against democratic U.S. allies, South Korea and/or Japan, while testing WMD or its delivery system. “We are crazy,” is the implicit message, “and you better send a high level person to mollify us and give our starving country (above all its nomenclature and military) economic aid.”
President Clinton fell into the trap after sending special envoy Jimmy Carter to Pyongyang in 1994. In October 2000, he sent Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Her successor, Condi Rice, described Albright’s mission rather unkindly as her “… somewhat infamous visit…” complete with a stadium presentation of more than 100,000 North Koreans in a “cultural performance…” intended to invoke a presidential visit. But the intended goal of verifying U.N. inspections of nuclear development and turning over spent fuel rods was not achieved.
In October 2008, before the presidential election, the North Korean dictator tried to lure another high envoy into his hermit kingdom. President Bush initially rejected that option. “No! That would really legitimize him!”
But Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, nevertheless dittoed Madeleine’s mistake. She drew criticism from Vice President Dick Cheney on how she tried to reach a nuclear weapons agreement with North Korea. He recorded Rice saying to Bush, ‘“Mr. President, this is just the way diplomacy works sometimes. You don´t always get a written agreement.”’ Calling Rice´s advice on this issue “utterly misleading,” Cheney further complained that she made "... concession after concession to North Korea and turned a blind eye to their misdeeds.”
Sadly, some of her proposals were approved by Bush. North Korea was removed by Rice from the State Department´s list of terrorist-sponsoring states! “It was a sad moment,” commented Cheney, reversal of so much of what we had accomplished in the area of non-proliferation in the first term.”. Recalled Bush’s defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, “Rice and Ambassador Christopher Hill, [the diplomat who convinced Condi to appease North Korea and is now pontificating on American TV], seemed to believe they could obtain North Korea’s agreement to end its WMD programs.”
In 2014, President Obama sent DNI James Clapper on a secret, mission to North Korea, ostensibly to secure the release of two hostages, which he did. But we still don´t know all the details of the presidential message. What was he negotiating about? Was it once again waltz me around again Willy?
Rex Tillerson must not repeat the mistake of the other two secretaries of state. Rather than giving in to their usual pattern of blackmail, hostage-taking, promises, withdrawal from negotiations, U.S. high level visits, resumption of negotiations, more lies and more threats. Trump and his top team are surely looking at options, while they sit out this dance. We hope they are drafting other options -- something similar to what Bill Clinton seriously considered before he sent Madeleine Albright to waltz with Willy.
Our chosen option must be framed by strategic savvy, rather than going back to strategic patience. Besides strong economic measures in combination with China, we have only three options. One is to dismantle the North Korean nuclear program in a single, massive surprise strike. . However this option is extremely dangerous and very costly.
A second one is to freeze North Korea’s nuclear testing by preventive cyber warfare or other very limited, military means such as a strike on the launching pad and hope they get the message. This is unlikely to provoke an attack on Seoul. The young dictator likes his power, big parades, his wife, the food that his skinny people never get, and killing an occasional relative now and then. He doesn’t want to die and he knows if he attacks Seoul, he will.
The third option is bankrupt --strategic patience.If we simply engage in in negotiation with North Korea before showing we mean business, they will cheat, and will also continue aiding Iran in their own development of nuclear weapons and deliveries systems. The decision to negotiate will be surely interpreted by foes and friends as continuation of Obama ‘s strategic patience. Strategic savvy dictates we must not allow North Korea to continue their nuclear testing.
NO MORE WALTZES PLEASE, WILLY!
Iran Is Progressing Towards Nuclear Weapons Via North Korea
By Lt. Col. (ret.) Dr. Refael Ofek and Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham
February 28, 2017
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 415
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: This analysis argues that Iran is steadily making progress towards a nuclear weapon and is doing so via North Korea. Iran is unwilling to submit to a years-long freeze of its military nuclear program as stipulated by the July 2015 Vienna Nuclear Deal. North Korea is ready and able to provide a clandestine means of circumventing the deal, which would allow the Iranians to covertly advance that nuclear program. At the same time, Iran is likely assisting in the upgrading of certain North Korean strategic capacities.
While the Vienna Nuclear Deal (VND) is focused on preventing (or at least postponing) the development of nuclear weapons (NW) in Iran, its restrictions are looser with regard to related delivery systems (particularly nuclear-capable ballistic missiles) as well as to the transfer of nuclear technology by Iran to other countries. Moreover, almost no limits have been placed on the enhancement of Tehran's military nuclear program outside Iran. North Korea (NK) arguably constitutes the ideal such location for Iran.
The nuclear and ballistic interfaces between the two countries are long-lasting, unique, and intriguing. The principal difference between the countries is that while NK probably already possesses NW, Iran aspires to acquire them but is subject to the VND. Iran has the ability, however, to contribute significantly to NK’s nuclear program, in terms of both technology (i.e., by upgrading gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment) and finance (and there is an irony in this, as it is thanks to its VND-spurred economic recovery that Iran is able to afford it).
This kind of strategic, military-technological collaboration is more than merely plausible. It is entirely possible, indeed likely, that such a collaboration is already underway.
This presumption assumes that Iran is unwilling to lose years to the freeze on its military nuclear program. It further assumes that NK is ready and able to furnish a route by which Iran can clandestinely circumvent the VND, thus allowing it to make concrete progress on its NW program. And finally, it assumes that the ongoing, rather vague interface between the two countries reflects Iranian advances towards NW. The following components and vectors comprise that interface.
From the 1990s onward, dozens – perhaps hundreds – of NK scientists and technicians apparently worked in Iran in nuclear and ballistic facilities. Ballistic missile field tests were held in Iran, for instance near Qom, where the NK missiles Hwasong-6 (originally the Soviet Scud-C, which is designated in Iran as Shehab-2) and Nodong-1 (designated in Iran as Shehab-3) were tested. Moreover, in the mid-2000s, the Shehab-3 was tentatively adjusted by Kamran Daneshjoo, a top Iranian scientist, to carry a nuclear warhead.
Furthermore, calculations were made that were aimed at miniaturizing a nuclear implosion device in order to fit its dimensions and weight to the specifications of the Shehab-3 re-entry vehicle. These, together with benchmark tests, were conducted in the highly classified facility of Parchin. Even more significantly, Iranian experts were present at Punggye-ri, the NK nuclear test site, when such tests were carried out in the 2000s.
Syria served concurrently as another important platform for Iran – until the destruction by Israel of the plutonium-based nuclear reactor that had been constructed in Syria by NK. According to some reports, not only were the Iranians fully aware of that project in real time, but the project was heavily financed by Tehran. Considering Iranian interests, it was probably intended as a backup for the heavy water plutonium production reactor of Iran’s military nuclear program, and possibly as an alternative to the Iranian uranium enrichment plant in Natanz in the event that it is dismantled.
While the Iranian heavy water plutonium production reactor differed from the NK gas-graphite reactor, the uranium enrichment routes of both countries are based on the gas centrifuge technique. In that respect, Iran seems to be ahead of NK, particularly in developing and manufacturing advanced centrifuges of carbon fiber rotors.
A meaningful event took place in September 2012, when Daneshjoo, then the Iranian Minister of Science and Technology, signed an agreement with NK establishing formal cooperation. The agreement formally addressed such civil applications as “information technology, energy, environment, agriculture and food”. However, the memorandum of the agreement was ratified by Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei has since clarified that the agreement is an "outcome of the fact that Iran and NK have common enemies, because the arrogant powers do not accept independent states." It is reasonable to infer that the agreement went far beyond its alleged civilian sphere.
The September 2012 agreement was probably intended to mask an evolving Iranian-NK cryptic interface, intended by Iran to compensate technologically for the following development. About two months earlier, President Obama had sent this secret message to Iran's leaders: "We are prepared to open a direct channel to resolve the nuclear agreement if you are prepared to do the same thing and authorize it at the highest levels and engage in a serious discussion on these issues." This message paved the way towards talks that started in Kazakhstan in February 2013, continued through the November 2013 Geneva and March 2015 Lausanne interim “Framework” agreements, and culminated in the VND. The final agreement involved freezing substantial portions of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for largely decreased economic sanctions on Iran.
In tandem with the 2012-13 events, a permanent offshoot of Iranian missile experts was established in NK that supported the successful field test of a long-range ballistic missile in December 2012. Ballistic, or ballistic together with nuclear warhead capabilities, are presumably included in the Iranian-NK missile cooperation. Iran and NK upgraded the Shehab-3/Nodong-1 liquid-fueled motor missiles in a quite similar (though not identical) fashion, with Iran producing the Ghadr (range 1600 km) and Emad (range 1700 km) derivatives. In addition, components of the liquid-fueled motor missile Musudan (also called the BM-25), which has a range of 2,500-4,000 km and was successfully field-tested in NK in 2016, have been supplied to Iran in the past by NK. The more advanced solid-fueled motor technology, which included the NK KN-11 submarine-launched ballistic missile and the Iranian Sajjil missile (range 2,000 km), was apparently developed collaboratively by the two countries. Also, a new NK ballistic missile test site was revealed in 2016 in Guemchang-ri – and it closely resembles the Iranian ballistic missile test site near Tabriz.
A delegation of Iranian nuclear experts headed by Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, director of the Iranian NW project, was covertly present at the third NK nuclear test in February 2013. This test was apparently based – unlike the previous plutonium-core-based field tests – on an HEU (highly enriched uranium) core nuclear device (as, presumably, were the fourth and fifth nuclear tests, which took place in 2016). In 2015, information exchanges and reciprocal delegation visits reportedly took place that were aimed at the planning of nuclear warheads. These include four NK delegations that visited Iran up until June 2015, one month before the VND was completed. It may be noted that in August 2015, a new gas centrifuge hall apparently became operational in the NK main uranium enrichment facility.
Finally, in April 2016, a remarkable clash arose between Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) during a US House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. They locked horns over planes that fly between Iran and NK, which should land and be rigorously inspected in China so as to ensure the prevention of NK proliferation of nuclear and missile technology, let alone actual nuclear weapons, to Iran. Sherman charged that this had not been handled with sufficient care by the Obama administration.
All in all, a major consequence of the VND is that the Obama administration shot the US in the foot. It is expected that the terms of the VND and the abundance of money transacted as a result with Iran – about US$150 billion – will substantially facilitate the advancement of the NW and ballistic missile programs of both Iran and NK.
The chronology, contents, and features of the overt interface between Iran and NK mark an ongoing evolutionary process in terms of weapons technologies at the highest strategic level. The two countries have followed fairly similar nuclear and ballistic courses, with considerable, largely intended, reciprocal technological complementarity. The numerous technological common denominators that underlie the NW and ballistic missile programs of Iran and NK cannot be regarded as coincidental. Rather, they likely indicate – in conjunction with geopolitical and economic drives –a much broader degree of undisclosed interaction between Tehran and Pyongyang.
The current Iranian-NK interface, which appears to be fully active, presumably serves as a productive substitute for the Iranian activities prohibited by the VND. It enables Iran, in other words, to continue its pursuit of NW. If not strictly monitored by the western intelligence communities, this cooperation might take the shape of conveyance from NK to Iran of weapons-grade fissile material, weaponry components, or, in a worst-case scenario, completed NW. To an appreciable degree, Iran is simultaneously assisting in the upgrading of NK strategic capacities as well. The Trump administration would be well advised to meticulously and rigidly ascertain that such developments do not take place.
Lt. Col. (ret.) Dr. Refael Ofek is an expert in the field of nuclear physics and technology, who served as a senior analyst in the Israeli intelligence community.
Lt. Col. (ret.) Dr. Dany Shoham is an expert in the field of weapons of mass destruction, who served as a senior intelligence analyst in the Israel Defense Forces.
BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family
U.S. MISTAKES ON NORTH KOREA PROVIDE LESSONS FOR DEALING WITH IRAN
Jiri Valenta and Leni Friedman Valenta
Fool us twice? Shame on us. Secretary of State John Kerry has just followed the Ayatollah´s Pied Piper, Hassan Rohani, into Iranian quicksand.
Doesn´t Mr. Kerry realizes that some of his predecessors, first Democrats, then Republicans, engaged in similar kinds of negotiations with duplicitous North Korea? Here´s the record; Jimmy Carter was sent as Clinton´s envoy to North Korea in 1994 to execute an “Agreed Framework.” It specified that America would provide oil and food and build two light water reactors for North Korea, in return for Pyongyang ending plutonium production, halting its nuclear program and returning spent fuel rods. However, during the negotiations, Carter dropped two key demands that U.N., on-site inspections resume.
President Bill Clinton asked Kim Jong II to resume inspections. Despite Kim´s refusal, the U.S. sent North Korea 600,000 tons of grain. In October 2000, Clinton´s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, conducted further negotiations with Pyongyang. She quaffed 12 hours of their lies and deceptions along with the wine and delicacies, but what did she achieve? The North Koreans again permitted the U.N. inspections dropped by Carter, but the agreement was not verifiable. The agreement to turn over spent fuel rods was dropped. The North Koreans reprocessed and used them.
Albright deserves great credit for her dealings with the former Yugoslav crisis. I know a lot about Albright as her father, leading scholar Josef Korbel, was my friend, mentor and employer for a year. Madeleine convinced President Clinton that war was the only recourse to prevent even larger killing fields in Yugoslavia. Sadly, she knew the Far East far less. The only truth the North Koreans appear to have told her was that their country was in dire straits.
Condoleezza Rice was clearly just as naïve as indicated by both Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in their memoirs. I know Condi too. She wrote her first academic essay, ¨The Czechoslovak Army¨ in Communist Armies in Politics, with me. More on my relationships with these women is in my forthcoming memoir.
In dealing with the Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, being built with help from North Korea. Condi recommended taking the issue to the U.N. Wrote Cheney, “I strongly recommended that we ought to take it (the reactor) out.” He further summed up that “Condi was on the wrong side of all of these (nuclear) issues.” She also recommended and achieved the removal of North Korea from a list of state sponsored terrorists. Neither can I forgive her that as National Security Advisor she ignored the vital pre-911 memo warning that Al Qaeda might hi-jack planes to attack America. One of the problems with American politics and Condi is that the time required for self-promotion subtracts from the time required to research and do the job. From what they wrote, Dick and Donald agree.
So what should we do? As with Carter, Albright and Rice, the present Kerry deal falls short of removing from Iran its potential to make nuclear weapons. Already there is disagreement over the agreement. Rouhani, known to be a strong supporter of Iran´s nuclear program, is already crowing that the agreement gives them the right to enrich uranium. Kerry is saying it doesn´t. The agreement says Iran can do it up to 5%. There should be NO enrichment! The only thing we may have bought is a little time.
Albright recently indicated in an RIAC blog with former Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov that we should work with Russia, which has its own stake in Iranian behavior. It´s an idea we have been promoting. Can America, with Russia´s help, prevent the making of a Middle East North Korea? This may well be one of the most serious issues our President, the U.S. Congress and the America and people face.
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The Kim-Trump Summit: “Do We Do Pearl Harbors?”
By Dr. Jiri and Leni Valenta
May 4, 2018
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 823, May 4, 2018
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: It is too soon to declare that peace is at hand in Korea. Donald Trump must exercise caution. He must study relevant history, his adversary’s negotiation pattern of deception, and the past follies of American leaders. It is essential that he maintain a viable military option and economic sanctions until strictly verifiable denuclearization has been accomplished.
UPDATE, 6 May 2018: It appears Kim has just released three American citizens being held hostage in North Korea, showing his eagerness to negotiate with Trump.
On April 18, 2007, Israel’s Mossad briefed the Bush White House about North Korea’s secret building of a nuclear reactor in Syria. The Israelis wanted to take it out, but the NSC was divided. Should the US join the Israelis? Stop them? Do it alone? Use diplomacy? Defense Secretary Robert Gates recalled President Reagan’s condemnation of Israel’s June 7, 1981 bombing of the French-built Osirak reactor in Iraq. “I am aware of no precedent for American surprise attacks against a sovereign state…We don’t do Pearl Harbors,” he argued.
Gates missed the mark a bit. Reagan condemned Israel’s 1981 surprise attack in public, but when his NSA, Richard Allen, gave him the news, he quipped, “Boys will be boys.”
1983: Reagan’s “Urgent Fury”
North Korea’s Kim Il-sung had no doubt that Washington had plotted the Osirak bombing with Israel. To him, Reagan was the most dangerous president since Harry Truman, whose 1950 military intervention had prevented Kim’s war from unifying the Korean peninsula under communist rule. Kim’s brinksmanship brought Chinese infantry and Russian pilots into the conflict and almost pushed the world to the abyss of nuclear war. Fortunately, Truman refused to use nuclear weapons.
When in October 1983 the US invaded the tiny communist Caribbean island of Grenada, a trove of unearthed documents revealed Pyongyang’s top-secret agreement to provide free and robust economic and military aid ($35 million) to Grenada – larger than Cuba’s and second only to Russia’s. Yasser Arafat also planned to send his PLO operatives there, as he had to Nicaragua.
If Reagan had bothered with tiny Grenada, who might be next? Scholar Benjamin Young shows that a paranoid Kim, well aware that 27,000 American troops were still deployed in South Korea, feared the US might turn its attentions to North Korea. To Kim, only nuclear weapons could keep the Americans at bay. Young demonstrates that Reagan’s “Operation Urgent Fury” in Grenada was a factor in Kim’s 1985 decision to establish a Ministry of Atomic Energy [MAE].While playing Russia against China, Kim was able to convince the Kremlin to provide his regime with a small nuclear reactor.
1994: Bill Clinton’s and America‘s missed chance
In 1994, President Bill Clinton learned that Pyongyang had withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT] barring non-nuclear states from acquiring nuclear weapons and was reprocessing the North Korean reactor’s fuel rods into plutonium for nuclear weapons. “I was determined to prevent North Korea from developing a nuclear arsenal, even at the risk of war,” Clinton recalled.
Much as Trump was to do 23 years later, Clinton first used economic sanctions, the deployment of two naval carrier groups, joint US-South Korean military exercises, and the deployment of Patriot missiles in South Korea to encourage Kim’s nuclear divestment. US Defense Secretary William Perry urged military force, but Clinton held back on the basis of “a sobering estimate” of the staggering losses on both sides if war broke out. Thus, America missed an opportunity to deal with the North Korean menace when it was still relatively small.
Instead, Clinton sent a special envoy to Pyongyang – Jimmy Carter. Champagne corks likely popped in Pyongyang at that appointment, as Carter had proposed during his 1976 presidential campaign that the US withdraw its combat forces from South Korea. Smiling and grandfatherly, Kim labored hard to dispel the image of a Stalinist maniac whose war had cost 54,260 American lives and who sadistically quelled dissent in his Orwellian realm.
Kim died of a heart attack on July 8, 1994. It was left to his son, Kim Jong-il, to follow his father’s path to a negotiated “Agreed Framework” with Clinton. Plutonium production was to cease in return for an easing of US sanctions and provision to North Korea of 500,000 tons per year of fuel oil. Only years later did US intelligence discover that Pyongyang had secretly begun enriching uranium.
In Clinton’s second term, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s department dominated the decision-making process vis-à-vis North Korea. Before the presidential elections, Clinton sent Albright to Pyongyang to meet with Kim. When she admonished the dictator for proliferating missile technology to Syria and Iran, Kim was frank, admitting his country’s desperate need for foreign currency. “Since we export to get money, if you guarantee compensation, it will be suspended,” he said.
Kim turned Albright’s visit into a means of legitimizing his regime. At a stadium packed with nomenklatura, Kim and Albright attended a spectacular cultural performance, the highlight of which was a display of a 1998 Taepo Dong Missile launch over Japan. As the crowd thundered, Kim assured the Secretary of State, “That was our first missile launch – and our last.”
Albright returned home without a written agreement, but she had Kim’s word. If Clinton went to Pyongyang, she believed, “We could make the missile agreement.” Clinton’s excuse for not going? “[We] simply couldn’t risk being half way around the world when we were so close to peace in the Middle East … Arafat had implored me not to go.”
Peace did not break out in the Middle East. Clinton gave up a military option against North Korea and abandoned tough sanctions, thereby allowing Pyongyang to build two nuclear bombs.
2003: Bush’s invasion of Iraq and the “Qaddafi moment”
In 2003, President George W. Bush invaded Iraq based on half-baked evidence that Saddam Hussein had WMD, which, as it turns out, he didn’t. Meanwhile, the US ignored Kim Jong-il, who did. Bush’s quick Iraq victory had an impact, however. As then US VP Dick Cheney recalls, “Intelligence had indicated the regimes in Syria, Iran and North Korea were nervous since Saddam’s regime had been toppled in just three weeks.”
Six days after Saddam’s capture, Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi underwent what Bush called “a Qaddafi moment.” The Libyan dictator realized he might be next and decided to turn over all his WMD to the US. At the same time, worried North Korean officials rushed Kim to an impregnable bunker inside a mountain.
North Korea becomes State Department’s exclusive turf
This was the time to do what Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had earlier proposed: transfer authority to the Iraqis, quickly withdraw US forces, and focus on the real threats to American national security, specifically North Korea and Iran. Bush’s diplomacy would have had a far greater chance of success if the North Koreans and Iranians had understood that they faced military action if diplomacy failed. But the president, advised by NSA Condoleezza Rice, opted instead for democratic nation-building. Rice, advancing to the position of Secretary of State, insisted North Korea should be Foggy Bottom’s exclusive bailiwick.
Bush’s innovation was sporadic Six Party Talks – North Korea, the US, China, Japan, South Korea, and Russia – that ultimately proved useless. America, still fighting in Afghanistan, also became bogged down in Iraq’s Sunni-Shiite civil war, just as Rumsfeld had feared. Pyongyang soon realized that Bush had given up on the military option for North Korea. Thus, in October 2006, Kim fearlessly exploded one of six previously hidden nuclear bombs.
Once again, the State Department’s action plan led to accepting phased steps toward denuclearization. Rightly objecting to this approach were Vice President Cheney and then third Undersecretary of State John Bolton, Trump’s present NSA.
2007: Israel’s Operation Orchard
In April 2007 came the NSC debate mentioned earlier – what to do about Israel’s proposed bombing of the North Korean nuclear reactor being built in Syria. As noted, Gates objected to an attack on the reactor. Cheney, however, supported by Bolton, argued that a US “military strike on the reactor would send an important message not only to the Syrians and North Koreans, but also to the Iranians.”
Israel “hadn’t asked for a green light,” wrote Bush, “and I hadn’t given one.” But neither had he given a red one. On September 6, 2007, the Israelis destroyed the Syrian reactor. Damascus kept quiet about it and so did Washington, which went public only seven months later. There were no repercussions.
On October 4, 2007, Kim agreed to a “specific timetable” to disclose and disable all his nuclear facilities, for which concession Pyongyang received 950,000 metric tons of oil. But he also wanted North Korea to be removed from the heavily sanctioned list of terrorist states. With the 2008 presidential election looming, Bush acceded to Rice’s meeting with Kim’s foreign minister. Thereafter, Cheney complained about Rice’s “concession after concession to North Korea.”
Defending herself and State Department official Christopher Hill to Bush, Rice argued that an oral agreement was a first step. “Mr. President, this is just the way diplomacy works sometimes,” she said. “You don’t always get a written agreement.” Cheney later wrote, “We were supposed to be reassured because the other side had whispered an admission of the declaration’s falsehood in Chris Hill’s ear.” Then, to top it off, Rice convinced Bush to take North Korea off the terrorist list.
2011: Forestalling a “Qaddafi moment” in North Korea
President Barack Obama was elected on November 8, 2008. On December 9, 2009, he, as President Clinton did earlier, sent an envoy, Stephen Bosworth, to Kim. The result was a written agreement, riddled with holes, which Pyongyang proceeded to break after receiving US economic aid.
In 2011, the US participated in the “humanitarian” NATO intervention in Libya, which culminated in the murder of the country’s long-reigning dictator by NATO-backed Libyan rebels. The murder quashed any possibility of a “Qaddafi moment” for Kim in North Korea. If anything, it stiffened his resolve never to give up his WMD – the guarantee of the regime’s survival. Two months later, on December 17, 2011, Kim Jong-il died of a heart attack and the baton passed to his son, Kim Jong-un.
Obama adviser: “Shoot down Israeli planes”
As revealed by Charles Gati in a collection of essays, Obama adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski viewed Israel as holding “apartheid” policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians. Gati does not mention, however, that Brzezinski chaired a US committee (on the board of which Gati served) supporting Islamists in Chechnya. Nor does he report Brzezinski’s alleged advice to Obama to shoot down IAF planes if Israel proceeded with planned bombings of nuclear sites in Iran. “They [Israeli planes] have to fly over our airspace in Iraq,” Brzezinski reportedly said. “Are we just going to sit there and watch?”
On July 14, 2015, Hillary Clinton’s successor, John Kerry, concluded a multilateral Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] with North Korea’s ally, Iran. The deal involved, among other American concessions, Obama’s releasing of billions of sanctioned dollars to Tehran up front. Trump may expect Kim to propose a similar deal.
Trump must be fully prepared for the summit
Kim’s back is against the wall. Reversing Obama’s doctrine of “strategic patience,” Trump has, in concert with Tokyo and Seoul, given the Korean dictator a taste of his own medicine – bellicose rhetoric coupled with an unprecedented military buildup and economic coercion. Using trade incentives, he has even managed to involve Beijing in his coercive diplomacy. Most importantly, Trump’s two surgical strikes on Syria demonstrate that he is willing to enforce red lines on WMD use by rogue regimes.
On April 27, 2018, Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in pledged “no more war” and “complete denuclearization”, the ceasing of “all hostile acts” and the transforming of “the demilitarized zone into a peace zone”.
But before heralding “a new era of peace,” Trump must understand that the Korean War has not yet ended. Given the historical record, Trump must first test Kim’s intentions by analyzing his dynasty’s well-established pattern of deception. As described by Cheney,
They would make an agreement about their nuclear sites, pocket the benefits and then continue on with their weapons programs. They are masters of brinksmanship [and deception] – creating problems, threatening their neighbors, and expecting to be bribed back into cooperation.
Pyongyang played China off against Russia for decades. It will now use the same technique to play South Korea against America and Japan by insisting on three-party negotiations including Seoul, which would in turn require the inclusion of Tokyo. Trump should insist on one-to-one negotiations.
To some, Kim’s pre-summit dealings with Trump have already involved deception. Kim made much, for example, of his own good will in closing the Punggye-ri site, where six nuclear tests took place – but that site had become unusable in any case due to a collapse after the last nuclear blast.
The North Korean-US negotiation must not lead to any phased, tit-for-tat arrangement. Trump must make Kim aware that the military option may yet be used if negotiations fail or if he does not live up to a concluded agreement. There should be no economic relief other than food and medicine delivered directly to the people – no money to the communist elite.
“During every administration, Republican and Democrat,” wrote Cheney, there is often a State Department inclination “to make preemptive concessions to bad actors in the hope their behavior will change.” It won’t. Nor can national security decision-making be effective if monopolized by one government department.
Trump must bring up the issue of Pyongyang’s nuclear cooperation with Tehran and insist that the shipping of conventional weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists and WMD (nerve gas) through Iran must cease.
War with Iran is not inevitable. With a strong reining in of North Korea, Tehran might eventually have a “Qaddafi moment”. On May 12, Trump should not tear up the JCPOA but try to negotiate substantial revisions to it. In dealing with North Korea, Trump should – if possible – avoid the Bush and Obama follies of getting embroiled in another war in the Middle East in Iran or Syria.
Trump should also launch a robust public diplomacy campaign explaining the need for nonproliferation in both the Far East and the Middle East. The American people know that war with North Korea would be horrendous. They must also understand that if the West does not succeed in getting Pyongyang, and thereafter Tehran, to give up nuclear weapons, the world will live under a perpetual nuclear sword of Damocles by rogue regimes. An anarchic world order will arise, with the metastasis of nuclear power not just in the Middle East and northeast Asia, but eventually also the Southern Cone of South America.
America cannot hide behind Israel. It must enforce non-proliferation in cooperation with it. Nor can the president exclude Pearl Harbors when agreements are violated, if that phrase is meant to connote a surgical strike to prevent far greater and more tragic consequences.
Jiri Valenta, Phd., Ing., is a Non-Resident Senior Research Associate with BESA. A graduate of the Industrial School of Nuclear Techniques in Prague, he worked as a technician at the first Czech nuclear reactor in 1963-64 and is author and editor of several books, including Grenada and Soviet Cuban Policy, Internal Crisis and US/OECS Intervention. Leni Friedman Valenta is CEO of Institute of Post-Communist Studies and Terrorism (jvlv.net) in Miami.
BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler FamilyType your paragraph here.