North Korea is bluffing about its claim to possess nuclear weapons, says a leading intelligence expert, and the Bush administration won’t take the threat seriously until Pyongyang can prove its contention.

On his website, To the Point, geopolitical expert Dr. Jack Wheeler points out administration officials have been nonplussed about the trumpeted announcement last week.

Writes Wheeler: “As Donald Rumsfeld put it when queried at NATO meeting in France, yes, the North Korean announcement was a cause for concern, ‘if you believe them that they have nuclear weapons.’

“North Korea has been trying to jerk the world’s chain for years now over its alleged nukes because nobody would pay any attention to them otherwise. What most drives them crazy is that George Bush won’t pay attention to them. So now they figure to force him to by claiming they have ‘manufactured nukes for self-defense to cope with the Bush administration’s evermore undisguised policy to isolate and stifle the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).'”

On his site, dubbed “the oasis for rational conservatives,” Wheeler writes that Bush advisers have recommended the U.S. give North Korea a two-word response to the nuke claim: “Prove it. Declare that North Korea has to prove its claim of possessing nuclear weapons with a demonstration, and until then its claim will not be taken seriously.”

Wheeler’s subscribers-only piece goes on to explain that an underground nuke test witnessed by the International Atomic Energy Agency is the only way dictator Kim Jong-Il can prove his bravado.

“After the test,” Wheeler writes, “IAEA scientists get to drill into the shot cavity to examine the radioactive debris for fission fragments, which they can tell came from a genuine nuclear explosion rather than a fake one of radioactive power plant waste mixed with high explosives, because there will be a different spectrum of isotopes.”

Concludes Wheeler: “Kim Jong-Il’s extortion racket depends on the West believing he has them. How much more money would he be able to extort with a test proving he does? That he hasn’t is pretty strong evidence he’s bluffing.

“The North Koreans have got to be told: Put up or shut up. There is no downside to making this demand. If the nukes are for real and the test works, then they will have to be taken more seriously, which is what they want. If they refuse to conduct the test, then they become the laughingstock of the world, losing so much face that Kim Jong-Il will be known as No Face Kim. A guy with a nickname like that doesn’t stay in power in Asia for long.”

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