Science/Environment

What Really Happened With North Korea?

By  | 

John McCain is already piling on Bill Clinton for getting us into the North Korea situation, but Jimmy Carter does remind us of his North Korea timeline.

From the NY Times:

Responding to an invitation from President Kim Il-sung of North Korea, and with the approval of President Bill Clinton, I went to Pyongyang and negotiated an agreement under which North Korea would cease its nuclear program at Yongbyon and permit inspectors from the atomic agency to return to the site to assure that the spent fuel was not reprocessed. It was also agreed that direct talks would be held between the two Koreas.

The spent fuel (estimated to be adequate for a half-dozen bombs) continued to be monitored, and extensive bilateral discussions were held. The United States assured the North Koreans that there would be no military threat to them, that it would supply fuel oil to replace the lost nuclear power and that it would help build two modern atomic power plants, with their fuel rods and operation to be monitored by international inspectors. The summit talks resulted in South Korean President Kim Dae-jung earning the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for his successful efforts to ease tensions on the peninsula.

But beginning in 2002, the United States branded North Korea as part of an axis of evil, threatened military action, ended the shipments of fuel oil and the construction of nuclear power plants and refused to consider further bilateral talks. In their discussions with me at this time, North Korean spokesmen seemed convinced that the American positions posed a serious danger to their country and to its political regime.

Responding in its ill-advised but predictable way, Pyongyang withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, expelled atomic energy agency inspectors, resumed processing fuel rods and began developing nuclear explosive devices.

Now, obviously a lot of blogs are disputing Carter’s claim, so take a look at this post from Q&O, which points to NoKo’s secret uranium enrichment program that they said dated back to 1995.

The Bush Administration disclosed on October 16, 2002, that North Korea had revealed to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kellyin Pyongyang that it was conducting a secret nuclear weapons program based on the process of uranium enrichment. North Korea admitted the program in response to U.S. evidence presented by Kelly.

The program is based on the process of uranium enrichment, in contrast to North Korea’s pre-1995 nuclear program based on plutonium reprocessing. North Korea began a secret uranium enrichment program after 1995 reportedly with the assistance of Pakistan. North Korea provided Pakistan with intermediate range ballistic missiles in the late1990s. The Central Intelligence Agency issued a statement in December 2002 that North Korea likely could produce an atomic bomb through uranium enrichment in 2004.

Now, does this mean they were maintaining this program after the talks with Carter? We don’t know that. They could have shut it off, and after January of 2002’s Axis of Evil speech, restarted it. And that obviously begs the question…how long does it take to start an enrichment program back up? Well, it apparently depends on multiple factors, and here’s a calculator that shows us what the realities would be. I have no idea how to calculate any of this, but if you do, leave your results below in the comments section.

However, there’s this info from the Center for Defense Information:

An unclassified CIA report from early 2002 reported that “[North Korea] has been seeking centrifuge-related materials in large quantities to support a uranium enrichment program. It also obtained equipment suitable for use in uranium feed and withdrawal systems.”

In the end, will we ever get a realistic, non-partisan timeline that we can point back to? Does anybody know of any that exist out there?