Rumsfeld (cautiously) threatens war against n. Korea, too

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Dec 24 00:58:09 MST 2002


Rumsfeld to N. Korea: U.S. Could Win on Two Fronts (excerpt)
=====================================
Mon Dec 23, 5:10 PM ET
By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld warned North
Korea (news - web sites) on Monday against seizing on Iraq to press a
nuclear weapons program and said Washington could fight and win two wars at
once.

"I have no reason to believe that you're correct that North Korea feels
emboldened because of the world's interest in Iraq," he told a reporter
after Pyongyang took steps over the weekend to unfreeze a nuclear reactor.

"If they do, it would be a mistake," he added at a Pentagon (news - web
sites) briefing, saying the U.S. military was perfectly capable of fighting
two major regional conflicts at once, if necessary.

"We are capable of winning decisively in one and swiftly defeating in the
case of the other," he said. "Let there be no doubt about it."

North Korea said on Sunday it had dismantled U.N. monitoring equipment at a
nuclear reactor it had mothballed under a 1994 non-proliferation deal with
the United States aimed at ending its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Pyongyang said it was reactivating the Yongbyon reactor to generate
electricity. But the International Atomic Energy Agency, a U.N. watchdog,
said the North also had broken U.N. seals on about 8,000 spent fuel rods in
a cooling pond at Yongbyon -- a possible prelude to recovering weapons-grade
plutonium.

The Clinton administration had been prepared to go to war in 1994 to bar the
reclusive communist state from extracting plutonium that could be used to
build as many as five or six nuclear bombs in as little as four or five
months.

Asked if President Bush (news - web sites)'s administration would stick to
such a policy, known as the "red line" beyond which Washington would brook
no North Korean brinksmanship, Rumsfeld said, "The situation today is
somewhat different from then."

Rumsfeld said diplomacy "seems to me a perfectly rational way of
proceeding," drawing a distinction with Iraq, where he said many years of
diplomacy had fallen "flat on its face."

"The situation in North Korea is a fairly recent one," he went on. "The
diplomacy that's under way there is in its early stages with the United
States and the interested neighboring countries."

In Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov accused Bush on Monday of
having goaded North Korea by branding it an "axis of evil" state along with
Iraq and Iran. Bush did so in his State of the Union address in January.

"How should a small country feel when it is told that it is all but part of
forces of evil of biblical proportions and should be fought against until
total annihilation?" Mamedov told the Vremya Novostei daily newspaper.

The State Department dismissed his comments as absurd, noting they
contrasted with the official Foreign Ministry reaction.

North Korea said it was unfreezing Yongbyon after the United States and
other countries halted fuel supplies to sanction a once-secret highly
enriched uranium program acknowledged by Pyongyang in October.

Rumsfeld said the country had no need for the reactor, which was at the
heart of a crisis defused by an oil-for-nuclear compliance deal known as the
1994 Agreed Framework.



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