Welcome to the American Revolution II

Welcome to the American Revolution II
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
"We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose and insidious in method..." and warned about what he saw as unjustified government spending proposals and continued with a warning that "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex... The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist... Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."Dwight D. Eisenhower

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

North Korea's nuclear program

WASHINGTON -- Signs of growth in North Korea's nuclear program and the country's increasing isolation are renewing fears about Pyongyang's ability and need to smuggle weapons of mass destruction around the world, said U.S. and United Nations officials.

North Korea's arms trade has focused on Iran and Syria, countries Washington views as state sponsors of terrorism, as well as Libya. Officials say North Korean arms have also been sold to nations allied with the U.S., such as Egypt and Pakistan, and to the military regime in Myanmar.

The concerns about North Korean weapons proliferation were heightened this week with Pyongyang's underground test of a nuclear weapon and several short-range missile launches. Sales of short- and medium-range missile systems remain among North Korea's largest export earners, part of an arms trade that generates $1.5 billion annually for Pyongyang, say North Korea analysts.

With the international community looking to punish the regime for the nuclear test, U.S. and U.N. officials say Pyongyang could try to increase exports of its nuclear and missile technologies as it gradually loses its ability to obtain hard currency from foreign aid and exports to markets such as Japan and South Korea.

Even if Pyongyang doesn't seek to sell weapons-grade materials such as reprocessed plutonium, Pentagon officials say just the possibility it might sell nuclear-weapons designs poses a security challenge to the U.S.

"The concern is not just that they have a nuclear weapon; it's what they're going to do with the technology and where it's going to go," said a senior U.S. defense official. "It's very difficult to have perfect knowledge about who they're talking to or where they're sending stuff," the official said.

Since the nuclear test, President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Adviser James Jones have publicly voiced concerns about the threat posed by Pyongyang's proliferation activities.

North Korea's mission to the U.N. in New York declined to respond to questions about its weapons program.

The country's weapons industry has played a crucial role in the spread of ballistic-missile capabilities across the Middle East in recent decades, said U.S. and Middle East officials.

U.S. officials say North Korea doesn't yet have the technology to use its missiles to deliver nuclear weapons, but say intelligence about the secretive nation's weapons program is incomplete.

Pyongyang used missile technologies passed on by the former Soviet Union during the Cold War to build a single-stage rocket, the Nodong, as well as the longer-range Taepodong missile system. In April, North Korea tested a multistage Taepodong-2 missile that crashed into the Pacific Ocean, in what Pyongyang said was a satellite launch.

Iran and Pakistan have already used North Korean materials to develop domestic ballistic missiles. Syria, Yemen, Libya and Egypt have also purchased North Korean missile components in recent years, U.S. officials say.

An Iranian diplomat in New York denied North Korea has helped Tehran develop long-range missiles, declining to comment further. A spokesman at Syria's Washington embassy declined to comment on military cooperation with Pyongyang. A diplomat at the Yemeni Embassy in Washington said Yemen's former government purchased Scud missiles from North Korea in the 1990s, but said there is no more military cooperation with Pyongyang. A Libyan diplomat declined to comment. Egyptian diplomats didn't respond to requests to comment.

"The North Koreans are involved in developing virtually every missile system in the region," said a senior Israeli counterproliferation official. "All of them."

U.S. and Asian counterproliferation officials say Pyongyang has developed sophisticated smuggling networks in the Middle East and Asia in recent years. North Korea has worked with Asian criminal gangs to move narcotics and counterfeit currency globally, it ships contraband using Cypriot and Cambodian flagged carriers, and falsifies export documents, the officials say.

In August, the U.S. worked with India to block a North Korean Air Koryo jet from flying to Iran from Myanmar on the belief it was carrying missile components; the intercepted jet flew back to Pyongyang. A diplomat at Myanmar's U.N. mission declined to comment Wednesday. Iran has in the past declined to discuss any allegations of arms deals with North Korea. The U.S. also blocked a Syrian cargo plane from landing in Pyongyang in 2007, due to similar concerns.

"How do you consistently detect North Korea's proliferation activities and stop it? It's very hard," said David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector who heads the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington think tank.

In 2007, Israeli jets bombed a Syrian industrial facility on the Euphrates River that U.S. intelligence officials subsequently described as a nascent nuclear reactor being built by North Koreans. The U.N.'s atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has reported that soil samples taken at the site showed large traces of processed uranium. Syria denied it is developing a nuclear program.

A North Korean state-owned company, Nomchongang Trading Co., was the principal facilitator for the Syrian project, according to former U.S. officials. The company's chief, Yun Ho Jin, worked during the 1990s as a senior diplomat at North Korea's mission at the IAEA, where he developed an understanding of the global procurement system, according to U.S. and U.N. officials. Mr. Yun and Nomchongang couldn't be reached to comment.

Nomchongang had offices in Syria, according to the former U.S. officials. "Nomchongang was the operating interest in the Syrian sale," said Dennis Wilder, who served as President George W. Bush's top Asia adviser until January. "It was the arm of the North Korean government dealing with nuclear issues."

U.S. and Asian officials said Nomchongang was also detected selling equipment to Myanmar that could be used for a nuclear program. Exchanges between senior North Korean and Myanmar military officers have increased, these officials say. Myanmar may be seeking to replicate North Korea's weapons development as a deterrent to Western pressure, the officials say.

—Peter Spiege

SEOUL -- North Korea's military said in a statement Wednesday that it would respond with "immediate, strong military measures" if South Korea actually stops and searches any of the North's ships under a U.S.-led effort to halt nuclear-weapons trafficking.

North Korea Threatens Southern Neighbor

North Korea threatened a military strike against the South Wednesday, a day after Seoul joined a U.S.-led initiative to intercept shipments suspected to be weapons of mass destruction. Video courtesy of Reuters.

In the new statement, North Korea reiterated an earlier one in which it said the South's active participation in the effort would be a declaration of war and went on to add that it no longer considers itself bound by the armistice that ended the Korean War of the 1950s. The new statement was issued by the North's Korean Central News Agency.

South Korea on Tuesday had lashed back at the North's latest weapons tests by announcing full participation in the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative. After South Korea's move, North Korea test-fired three short-range missiles, a spokesman for the South Korean military's Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Wednesday.


North Korean soldiers Tuesday celebrate what Pyongyang called a successful second nuclear test, in a picture from the country's official news agency.North Korean soldiers Tuesday celebrate what Pyongyang called a successful second nuclear test, in a picture from the country's official news agency.

The North on Monday tested a nuclear device for the second time ever, as well as two short-range missiles. South Korean officials previously said the North tested three missiles on Monday, but they subsequently corrected the number.

South Korea's full entry into the PSI means that it will play a bigger role in enforcement to prevent the North from selling weapons and related technology to other countries or terror groups.

The PSI issue has been at the center of diplomatic jockeying between the two Koreas since the North began preparing in February for its latest round of weapons tests. South Korean officials publicly discussed upgrading the country's status in PSI from "observer" to "full participant" in March, saying it would take the step if the North followed through on its threats at the time to test a long-range missile.

North Korea responded on March 29 with a statement deriding PSI as a "mechanism for aggression set up by the U.S. and its followers to apply sanctions and stifle those countries incurring their displeasure." It added it would consider South Korea's participation in it "a declaration of war and take a resolute countermeasure against it."

South Korean officials formally decided to take the step a few days after North Korea's April 5 test of a multistage missile. Just as they were to make a formal announcement, Pyongyang offered to hold the first inter-Korean talks in nearly a year.

The inter-Korean meeting, held on April 21, lasted just 20 minutes as North Korean officials demanded more money for a joint industrial complex in the border city of Kaesong and refused to discuss other matters.

After North Korea tested a nuclear device on Monday, South Korean officials decided to wait no longer, an official in the South's foreign ministry said. He acknowledged Pyongyang's meeting maneuver had delayed it earlier but declined to discuss specifics.

Aggressive Turn

North Korea's second nuclear test on Monday is the latest sign the country's military may be growing in power since the illness of dictator Kim Jong Il last August.

Just before Seoul announced the move, President Barack Obama thanked South Korean President Lee Myung-bak by phone. The two presidents also discussed further ways to encourage North Korea to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons, according to a U.S. official.

South Korea's participation may help the U.S. and other countries slow some of North Korea's arms dealing. Weapons sales provide North Korea with about $1.5 billion in foreign income annually, according to a recent estimate by the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, an independent think tank in Cambridge, Mass. Its major customers for missiles, weapons and related technology have been Syria, Iran and Myanmar and groups such as Hezbollah and the Tamil Tigers.

—SungHa Park contributed to this article.

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