If North Korea Not Pressured To Surrender Nukes, Bomb Reactor: Perry
A nuclear-armed North Korea is unlikely to be pressured by China and South Korea to surrender its nukes, and thus the United States may be left to strike militarily at a North Korean nuclear reactor that when finished could produce 10 nuclear weapons annually, former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry told Congress.
Perry, a senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and James R. Lilley, a senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and former ambassador, testified on the threat posed by North Korea in a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Separately, a group of atomic scientists said the nuclear threat posed by North Korea, Iran and others means the world is slipping closer to atomic annihilation.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists released its annual assessment as to odds of a nuclear holocaust erupting, saying that its symbolic Doomsday Clock has ticked two minutes closer to the figurative midnight of nuclear Armageddon, now indicating it is five minutes to midnight.
“North Korea’s recent test of a nuclear weapon, Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” and the continued presence of 26,000 nuclear weapons in U.S. and Russian arsenals “are symptomatic of a failure to solve the problems posed by the most destructive technology on Earth,” according to the scientists. They also see a threat to civilization in global warming and ecological problems.
Senior members of the committee also see a rising threat in North Korea, including Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), the committee chairman, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the ranking Republican on the committee.
Those warnings of the danger posed by North Korea developing missiles and nuclear weapons came as the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) continues attempting to forge a multi-layered shield against enemy ballistic missiles, including nuclear-tipped weapons, aimed at the United States, its forces, its allies or its interests.
President Bush on Feb. 5 will unveil his federal budget plan for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2008, including funding proposed for MDA and the various ballistic missile defense programs. He may give hints of budget details when he delivers his nationally-televised State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at 9 p.m. ET tomorrow.
In his testimony, Perry said it is doubtful that North Korea will fire intercontinental ballistic missiles carrying nuclear weapons toward the United States or its allies, because such weapons would be traced back to North Korea, eliciting a torrent of U.S. nuclear missiles raining down on the isolated peninsular country.
But, Perry stressed, that in no way means that North Korea is no threat. Rather, he said, North Korea poses a severe and growing threat, in that it may sell nuclear weapons to other rogue regimes or to terrorists groups that would smuggle them into the United States and obliterate one or more cities.
“To deal with the danger of selling nuclear material, the United States should issue a statement warning North Korea of the grave consequences to North Korea if a North Korean bomb is detonated in the United States, Japan, or South Korea, whether the bomb is delivered by North Korea or a third party,” Perry advised.
Beyond dealing swiftly on that point, the United States in the longer term must ensure that the isolated Korean regime is blocked from continuing to crank out ever more nukes that might wind up in dangerous hands, Perry said.
“The second danger is that North Korea will finish work on their large reactor, which would give them the capability of making about 10 nuclear bombs a year,” he warned. “We should be prepared to take coercive actions to keep that from happening.”
In other words, U.S. military forces must stand read to blast that reactor into oblivion. But first, he said, the United States should try, yet again, to discuss the issue with North Korea, though he held out little hope of an easy solution here.