WASHINGTON – The U.S. is preparing for war in Iraq – mobilizing for the biggest military action in more than a decade, calling up reserves, securing bases of operation with allies.
But it’s not just Baghdad pledging to deal defeat to the U.S. It’s not just Iraq running programs for the development of weapons of mass destruction to be used against the U.S. and its friends.
This week, the anti-American rhetoric emanating from Iran and North Korea – two countries much further advanced in nuclear weapons technology than Iraq – hit a fever pitch.
Furthermore, two of the three countries dubbed an ”Axis of Evil” by President Bush may be going nuclear, U.S. officials fear.
North Korea said it would resume its nuclear program the same week U.S. officials lent credence to recent reports that Iraq and Iran are actively seeking the fissile material ? enriched uranium or plutonium ? that has until now kept them out of the nuclear club.
In answer to the widespread international condemnation of its pursuit of nuclear weapons, North Korea said it is ready to deal ”bitter defeat and death” to a threatening United States.
North Korea raised the ante Thursday in a nuclear dispute with the U.S. when it said it would restart a nuclear reactor idled under a 1994 agreement that averted a nuclear crisis.
The declaration fueled concern over a secret uranium enrichment program the U.S. said in October the North Koreans had admitted operating in violation of the 1994 agreement. Yesterday, a commentary in the ruling communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said North Korea ”remains unfazed as it has made full preparations to cope with the confrontation and clash with the Yankees.”
”The army and people with burning hatred for the Yankees are in full readiness to fight a death-defying battle,” it said.
With more than one in 20 of its 23 million people in military uniform, North Korea is the Earth’s most militarized country.
President Bush and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung have put new pressure on North Korea over its nuclear ambitions.
The nuclear-arms race has taken another disturbing turn with secret Iranian facilities discovered by a U.S. satellite.
U.S. officials said Iran is building two large nuclear facilities. Until now, the only known Iranian nuclear facility was in Bushehr. U.S. officials, who spoke yesterday on condition of anonymity, said a nuclear facility near the Iranian town of Natanz and one near the town of Arak were seen in commercial satellite photographs taken in September.
The facilities are of a type that suggest Iran could be using them to build a nuclear weapon, the officials said.
Tehran has been developing a medium-range ballistic missile that experts say would be capable of hitting Israel. The U.S. also has been at odds with Russia over its assistance to Iran in building the nuclear power plant at Bushehr on the Gulf coast. The plant includes two reactors, which are due to go online next year.