Lotsa harm, but no foul?

By Gordon Prather

Early this month we accused the North Koreans of enriching uranium, clandestinely, and to our great surprise they admitted it. Why did they admit it? Well, why not?

The principal obstacle facing a nuke-wannabe is obtaining the necessary fissile material. The United Nations can impose sanctions on any non-nuke signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty admitting to a clandestine uranium enrichment program.

But North Korea is no longer a NPT signatory.


Well, someone must have helped them. Maybe the U.N. can “sanction” whoever that was. Article 3 of the NPT plainly says;

    Each State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to provide: (a) source or special fissionable material, or (b) equipment or material especially designed or prepared for the processing, use or production of special fissionable material, to any non-nuclear-weapon State for peaceful purposes, unless the source or special fissionable material shall be subject to the safeguards required by this Article.

Each NPT signatory possessing fissile material is required to establish a national “special fissionable” – fissile – material control and accounting system. The U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency is responsible for verifying through its Article 3 “safeguards” system that fissile material isn’t diverted to clandestine nuke programs in NPT signatory states.

But recall that India – which was not an NPT State – detonated a nuke back in 1974. The Indians had misused the nuclear reactors provided to them by NPT signatories, making weapons-grade plutonium, clandestinely.

Obviously, controlling the international transfer of Article 3 items between NPT states wasn’t enough. Transfers even to non-NPT states also had to be controlled.

But how?

Enter – in 1975 – the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Although not officially connected to the IAEA or NPT, the NSG – comprising 34 nations – developed guidelines by which member nations could consistently control – through law – their exports of all items referred to in Article 3. Nothing on the NSG “Trigger List” was to be exported to any state, NPT signatory or not, unless it was subjected by the recipient state to the IAEA-NPT safeguards regime.

Then, in 1991, the Iraqi clandestine nuke program was exposed. The Iraqis had imported and exploited equipment, materials and technology not even referred to in Article 3 of the NPT.

So, in 1992, the NSG developed a second set of guidelines. The NSG Dual-use List contains everything a rogue might need to develop, test, and produce a nuke. Nothing on the NSG Dual-use List was to be transferred to any state for use in a nuclear fuel cycle activity not safeguarded by the IAEA.

So how could North Korea have acquired uranium enrichment equipment not subject to the IAEA-NPT regime? Well, for one thing, NSG membership is voluntary. China, Israel, Pakistan and India are not NSG members.

Pakistan, Israel and India are not even NPT signatories.

North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 1993. It seems that, as soon as the IAEA discovered what had been going on in Iraq before the Gulf War, the IAEA rushed to North Korea and began turning over rocks, there, too. The IAEA soon suspected the North Koreans had been making more weapons-grade plutonium in their IAEA-safeguarded research reactors than they admitted. The North Koreans denied it, the IAEA invoked sanctions, and North Korea quit the NPT.

Clinton promptly had a cow! His universal nuke disarmament scheme – “required” by Article 6 of the NPT – was based upon universal membership in the NPT and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Here he’s desperately trying to get Pakistan and India to sign on to the NPT and CTBT, and North Korea bails out on him. So, in 1994, Clinton offered North Korea a multibillion dollar bribe – the so-called US-IAEA-DPRK Agreed Framework – to rejoin the NPT.

In accepting the bribe, the North Koreans did agree to stop producing weapons-grade plutonium, and to eventually subject Agreed Framework activities to the IAEA-NPT regime. But, they didn’t promise not to enrich uranium. So, they did. Technically, as far as the Agreed Framework is concerned, the North Koreans don’t seem to have committed a foul.

So why has Dubya had a cow? Well, no one really believes Saddam has the fissile material he needs for nukes. And no one even suggests that Saddam has ICBMs. But Kim Jong-il has both.

How can Dubya have – as his highest priority – invading and occupying Iraq, now that you West Coast soccer-moms realize that Kim Jong-il is a bigger threat to you and yours than Saddam Hussein?