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The North Korean Nuclear Threat Essay

1274 words - 5 pages

Since its origin in 1948, North Korea has been isolated and heavily armed, with hostile relations with South Korea and Western countries. It has developed a capability to produce short- and medium-range missiles, chemical weapons, and possibly biological and nuclear weapons. In December 2002, Pyongyang lifted the freeze on its plutonium-based nuclear weapons program and expelled IAEA inspectors who had been monitoring the freeze under the Agreed Framework of October 1994. As the Bush administration was arguing its case at the United Nations for disarming Iraq, the world has been hit with alarming news of a more menacing threat: North Korea has an advanced nuclear weapons program that, U.S. officials believe, has already produced one or two nuclear bombs. As the most recent standoff with North Korea over nuclear missile-testing approaches the decompression point, the United States needs to own up to a central truth: The region of Northeast Asia will never be fully secure until the communist dictatorship of North Korea passes from the scene. After threatening to test a new, long-range missile, Pyongyang says it is willing to negotiate with "the hostile nations" opposing it. But whether the North will actually forgo its test launch is anyone's guess. North Korea first became embroiled with nuclear politics during the Korean War. Although nuclear weapons were never used in Korea, American political leaders and military commanders threatened to use nuclear weapons to end the Korean War on terms favorable to the United States. In 1958, the United States deployed nuclear weapons to South Korea for the first time, and the weapons remained there until President George Bush ordered their withdrawal in 1991. North Korean government statements and media reports often cite a “nuclear threat from the United States,” and continue to claim that the United States has about 1,000 nuclear weapons deployed in South Korea. There is no reason, however, to believe that this allegation is true. North Korea established a nuclear energy research complex at Yongbyon in 1964 and set up a Soviet research reactor at the site in 1965. North Korea subsequently expanded the complex and built a number of new facilities, including a large plutonium reprocessing plant (Radiochemistry Laboratory). North Korea signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1985 but did not submit to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections until May 1992. Discrepancies between North Korean declarations and IAEA inspection findings indicate that North Korea might have reprocessed enough plutonium for one or two nuclear weapons. According to a December 2001 National Intelligence Council report, the U.S. intelligence community ascertained in the mid-1990s that North Korea had produced one, possibly two, nuclear weapons. In mid-2002, U.S. intelligence discovered that North Korea had been receiving materials from Pakistan for a highly enriched uranium production...

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