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President Clinton indirectly confirmed this week that North Korea is
continuing to secretly develop nuclear weapons. The confirmation
appeared in a presidential memorandum authorizing $15 million for Korean
Peninsula Energy Development Organization. KEDO was set up under the
1994 Agreed Framework that supposedly “froze” North Korea’s nuclear
program in exchange for two new nuclear power-generating reactors.

The presidential memorandum was published quietly in the Federal
Register Wednesday. It said Mr. Clinton will send KEDO the money even
though he cannot legally certify that Pyongyang has stopped acquiring
uranium-enrichment technology. He also could not declare that North
Korea is not illegally diverting U.S.-supplied fuel oil.

The memorandum supports critics who say the Clinton administration is
more interested in signing questionable arms agreements than in making
sure they are followed.

A secret U.S. intelligence report disclosed by The Washington Times
last year said North Korea was buying uranium-enrichment gear in Japan
and could build a system for producing nuclear weapons fuel in six
years.

Before releasing KEDO funds, the law requires Mr. Clinton to certify
that North Korea “is not seeking to develop or acquire the capability
to enrich uranium, or any additional capability to reprocess spent
nuclear fuel.” It also requires certification that no U.S. assistance
is “diverted”
improperly.

Both provisions were waived by Mr. Clinton, who said supplying the
$15 million to KEDO is “vital” to U.S. national security.

The president has certified that North Korea is following a 1991
denuclearization accord requiring inspections, and is engaged in a
dialogue with South Korea. Analysts said these declarations were
questionable.

The versatile Guard

The Army National Guard’s importance is growing within the armed
forces and it’s not just because of all the peacekeeping around the
world.

The Pentagon already has announced that Guard divisions will carry
out the Bosnian peace enforcement missions in the years ahead. Now, the
Pentagon is looking at Guardsmen to man what promises to be one of the
most-watched military jobs: national missile defense.

The department is close to announcing a plan to assign 200 to 350
active Guard troops to operate the single NMD site tentatively scheduled
to go operational in 2005, most likely in Alaska near Fairbanks.

They would operate 20 to 100 interceptor launchers, depending on the
threat assessment at the time. The 2005 date is driven by expectations
that by then North Korea may have missiles capable of reaching U.S.
soil.

Congress must first approve the Guard force, which would come under
the control of U.S. Space Command. President Clinton is expected to pick
a site and a deployment date this summer.

A Pentagon source said the Guard is being considered because such
troops are already stationed in Alaska.

Members of Congress this year beat back an effort by the Army to cut
Guard and Army Reserve troops. Lawmakers argued that the reduction was
recommended before part-time soldiers began to play a critical
peacekeeping role. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen agreed to put off
the downsizing.

China wars (continued)

Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Kurt Campbell, the Pentagon’s top
Asia expert, is not leaving his post on May 1 as previously announced.
Pentagon officials said Mr. Campbell will stay on one or two months
longer to help with the transition to a new deputy assistant, after one
is found. Mr. Campbell was set to become the vice president of Center
for Strategic and International Studies on May Day.

His temporary replacement is Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Wallace Gregson,
a Campbell deputy who will leave for a new post this summer.

Mr. Campbell’s departure has renewed the effort by officials at the
White House and State Department to find a pro-Beijing replacement,
something senior Pentagon officials are resisting. Pentagon sources said
these officials are demanding that the replacement be an Asia expert who
is not a China specialist.

The big loser in the hunt for the top Pentagon Asia policy-making
slot is said to be David Shambaugh, the George Washington University
academic. Mr. Shambaugh had been the pro-China officials’ candidate for
the Pentagon post until we disclosed the scheme in this space. Mr.
Shambaugh’s prospects were further diminished after the publication of a
favorable article in the
People’s Liberation Army newspaper. The article praised Mr. Shambaugh
for providing a visiting PLA colonel with background information on
Americans.

The political maneuvering for Mr. Campbell’s post is another sign of
disarray within the administration over China issues. Comments last week
by Undersecretary of Defense Walter Slocombe that China faces
“incalculable consequences” for any attack on Taiwan angered the
pro-China faction.

And Pentagon officials were upset by comments made by Susan Shirk,
Mr. Campbell’s counterpart at the State Department. She sent an
unofficial e-mail message to a group of California academics stating –
too categorically for some officials — that the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft
carrier now exercising off Japan would not be called into duty to defend
Taiwan.

Mrs. Shirk’s comments were compared by some U.S. officials to the
careless diplomatic exchange between U.S. ambassador to Baghdad April
Glaspie and Saddam Hussein. Miss Glaspie told the Iraqi dictator in July
1990 that the United States had “no opinion” about Baghdad’s border
dispute with Kuwait. Iraq invaded less than a month later.

Meanwhile, the National Defense University again has nominated Ronald
Montaperto to be “interim” head of a special center at the university
on the Chinese military. This despite his earlier rejection by Pentagon
officials, who said he was unqualified. Congressional aides have
threatened to cut all funds for the center if Mr. Montaperto, who is
regarded as stridently pro-Beijing, gets the post.

Bend in the road

The Army’s drive to convert to wheeled armored vehicles has hit a
big speed bump.

A preliminary tryout was given in January to a variety of wheeled and
tracked vehicles. Much to the surprise of senior officers pushing a
transformation of the Army, the tracked equipment did as well, or
better, than the wheeled.

On another front, defense contractors have complained that the
bidding process was initially confined to wheels-only. The Army was
forced to open the competition.

But what’s more troubling to Pentagon observers is the belief that,
after the demonstration at Fort Knox, Ky., the Army lowered weapons
requirements to ensure the wheels will win.

For example, the armored-gun system was supposed to be able to shoot
on the run. Now, it doesn’t have to. The infantry carrier now only has
to hold nine soldiers instead of 10. And it, like the gun system,
doesn’t have to shoot on the move.

Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, is going full-throttle
to convert his large land force into a lighter, more mobile outfit, able
to get overseas in days, not weeks. He favors wheels, Army sources say,
on the belief the vehicles will deliver quicker mobility.

Army Secretary Louis Caldera estimates the full transformation will
cost $70 billion over 14 years. Army budgeteers are cutting back weapons
systems to generate cash and have recommended slicing in half the buy of
about 1,200 futuristic Comanche helicopters.

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