North Korea, Nuclear Power

North Korea has declared itself a nuclear power and now says it will boycott any U.S.-sponsored talks.

To what extent is Bush’s aggressive preemptive policy accountable for this development?

I’m all in favor of getting tough with North Korea (easy for me to say) but it seems pretty clear that Bush’s reckless rhetoric was a pretty significant factor in provoking this crisis. He failed to take Teddy Roosevelt’s advice to speak softly and carry a big stick.

Correct me if I’m wrong here, but didn’t NK start secretly re-activating its nuke program when Clinton was still in office?? And after Clinton pretty much bought them off by bribing them to stop?


I am of the opinion that North Korea would have sought nuclear weapons regardless of who is President. Indeed, it take a long time to develop nukes and North korea has been at it awhile (before Bush).

North Korea may rightly think that if any President is likely to attack them current President Bush is but from a geopolitical standpoint it is highly unlikely.

  • The US has about all it can handle with its military in Iraq right now. To open another front in North Korea would pretty much force the removal of troops from Iraq and that can’t happen yet.

  • The South Koreans have been opposed to military adventurism on the peninsula pretty much since the end of the Korean War. We would have to base out of South Korea to effectively fight and they would not allow that. Remember, it is S. Korea who would get hammered in a war and they aren’t keen on that. IIRC N. Korea has ~10,000 pieces of artillery aimed at Seoul. You do not need nukes with that much artillery. They can put near a nuke’s worth of explosives into the city in a matter of an hour with that.

  • China is still N. Korea’s ally. Even if the US managed to go to war with N. Korea despite all of the above China would go bonkers. Remember we fought the Chinese over Korea once before and it was a bloodbath (precedent has been set). So, a war with N. Korea would likely mean a war with China…a definite nuclear power.

That N. Korea has nukes scares the piss out of me. They are way too flaky a government to be hanging on to those and even if they do not fling them at the US I hold no real hope that they wouldn’t hand some to some terrorist who would. I cannot imagine China is thrilled about this either… but as long as they are “friends” I guess it won’t be much. Bush should phone the Chinese government and tell them to go nuts on N. Korea…take it for theirs and the US will sit on the sidelines (as long as they stay out of S. Korea).

Assuming that this is true, did Bush’s policies help the situation or exacerbate it?

By the way, how is “bribing them to stop” a bad thing? Is it worse than calling them an “axis of evil” or “outpost of tyranny,” and pursuing policies to antagonize and isolate them?

We know that NK has been trying to develop nuclear weapons, but do we know for sure that they have done it? They have never tested one have they?

Perhaps. Then again, appeasing them through bribes and soft words didn’t seem to work too well either so I’m unsure that going this path would have done much either. Basically NK, like all communist nations, is used to strong rhetoric anyway, so I seriously doubt they took Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ speach to seriously. Arguably they DID take the invasions (and the relative ease the US and allies had) of Afghanistan and Iraq more seriously however. But their nuke program was well (back) underway by then anyway so I think that its just an excuse for NK to do what they would have done anyway. Perhaps they were hoping for another round at the appeasment trough…after all they got a lot of money last time, why not again? I think this, more than any real fear of invasion, is whats driving their nuke program…what else do they have after all as a means to bring in massive amounts of foriegn capital?

Or maybe they just don’t see the catch 22 they are in…making nukes makes them a target for the US. Since they are now a target, having nukes is all that (in their minds) prevents the US from invading. Ironic I’d say.


Its not a bad thing…if it works. We tried it…if failed. Had it worked it would have been a good thing…we would have disarmed NK without a shot and relatively cheaply (and gotten Europe to pay part of the bill to boot! Always a good thing :)). If you think about it though, why should NK have stuck with the bargin if they could ‘secretly’ reactivate their program sometime down the road, let it leak out that it had been reactivated, put Kim up with that crazy look in his eye and await the next round of cash from the US and Europe to buy him off again? Rinse and repeat is the name of the game, and we could go on like that indefinitely. I suppose the only other option besides strong rhetoric of our own would be to just ignore NK completely and let them have the damn things. Doubt that would make South Korea or Japan too happy though…or China for that matter.

Again, rhetoric is something that lil’ Kimmy and his merry men are familiar with and pretty much ignore. Hell, THEIR rhetoric towards the US would curdle your ears in comparison to the mild ‘axis of evil’ or ‘outpost of tyranny’ spiel.


There have been deteced tests; so far it is only an assertion. It is nevertheless an assertion people seem to be taking seriously. Also:


One more quote of interest in this debate:

Crap! That should say, “there have been no detected tests.”

I cannot find the cite now but I recall an Indian government official (I think…may have been Pakistani) saying the lesson they took from the United State’s military adventures in Iraq is that the only way to be “safe” from the US is to possess nuclear weapons. In essence, our military did such a good job at kicking our enemy’s ass most every country on the planet (save a few) know that if the US sends its military their way they are toast. Nukes are the only thing that evens the balance in their view.

Common sense suggests that they’ve had the nuke project funded & running at least since the collapse of the Soviet Union, by which time the handwriting would have been, not merely on, but rather all over the wall.

Nitpick, here: My understanding is that this phrase, as used by Teddy Roosevelt, does NOT mean “to emphasize diplomacy and only resort to military force if there are no other options.” Roosevelt certainly did not shy away from the use of military force, since he advocated the sole right of the US to intervene in Latin America to prevent… uh, well, prevent anything the US didn’t like.

What he seemed to mean was that people will pay more attention to what you say if you hold a threat over their head, which appears to be Bush’s (failed) foreign policies in a nutshell. See an interesting comparison here.

Of course, NK re-activated its nuke program before either Afghanistan or Iraq…before 9/11 in fact, if memory serves and even before Bush was in office, so its sort of a retrofitted excuse at best now.

I agree though that the relative ease with which the US (and allies) took both Afghanistan and Iraq was a bit of an eye opener. Not even so much at how effective the US military really is in comparison to an Afghanistan or an Iraq, but that we did anything at all…and especially something so radical as actually invade. There was a perception that the US didn’t have the stomach for such things before which I think is the main thing thats been put to rest by this. Also, there is an element of arbitrary-ness to the US’s actions, especially to outsiders, I think…hell, I live here and it seems that way to me too.

The ‘public’ is a fickle thing, and you really never know WHAT they are going to support or not support, what they are going to demand or not demand…and what they will put up with in the long term or not put up with. I think Iraq especially has been an eye opener around the world. So far the US hasn’t been true to form and tucked tail at the first rough spot and done a Somalia, but so far has pretty much stayed the course, even re-electing the king of all evil, Bush to a second term. The for/against the war still remains pretty evenly divided with as many supporters of continueing in Iraq as detractors. THAT has got to be a pretty rude shock around the world in and of itself. I know its a shock to me.


Actually I think this was said after Desert Storm-I under Bush Sr. Granted that was a coalition army but that did not hide US military prowess at all.

Desert Storm-II of course could only reinforce that notion showing it wasn’t a fluke.

Note…I could be misremembering this…still cannot find a cite so take with a hunk of salt.

Ok, I’ll buy that about US military prowess after GWI. However, during Clintons adminstration the NK’s were bought off of their nuke program through a combination of money and technology/agricultural transfer from the US/EU. After feeding at the trough though they then secretly re-activated their program. Why? If they were afraid of our military prowess then why did they stop in the first place? We didn’t get MORE effective, from a miliatry perspective, under Clinton. And aside from Bosnia, which the US participated in but wasn’t a major factor, the Clinton administration wasn’t exactly threatening NK even tangentially. So, why re-activate the program you had just been bought off to stop? The OP is saying it was the Bush rhetoric, but they re-activated before Bush, before 9/11 and all the rest. A case has been made that they were afraid of our military prowess before that, but to me this doesn’t really answer the question or the timing.

Certainly NOW they have real concerns. They have re-activated their nuke program publically and vocally in during a time that the US is increasingly uneasy about such states possessing such weapons…and a time when the US is no longer asleep at the switch but fully awake and fairly pissed off…and afraid at the same time. Not a good combination. Yet NK is going full speed ahead with its nuke program so they can’t be TOO concerned with the US’s supposed military prowess, or our rhetoric.


North Korea doesn’t have an ample supply of Oil or lubricants to supply its war machine.

Given the fact South Korea has a large economy, twice the population of North Korea and most of the most modern weapondry from the US, I think they can take on the North quite independently.

As I mentioned above I do not think they are really worried about the US military embarking on an adventure over there. South Korea would have fits. Japan would probably have fits (NK has tested missiles that can hit Japan easily). China would have fits. Russia would probably have fits. Not a good environment for our military where pretty much everyone over there would be really pissed off at us. Countries in the Middle East may be pissed at us for Iraq but what can they do? Not much. All the countries listed above are either our current allies with strong economic ties to us or states that do not like us overly much but have dangerous armies of their own not to mention nukes of their own.

NK rhetoric is just that…rhetoric. They are fabricating excuses for their actions and no one really buys any of it…I bet even they know they are full of shit. NK has always done pretty much as it wanted with little regard to the world at large. The government in NK is interested in only one thing…maintaining their power in that miserable country.

True…but the pain for the South would be far greater. NK has made it so any thought of attacking them will simply cost the attacker too much.

NK has twice the number of soldiers under arms compared to SK (1.1 million to 560,000…making NK the fourth largest standing army in the world). They have massive amounts of artillery in place and have chemical weapons and long range missiles. They also have a huge special operations force designed to infiltrate deep behind enemy lines.

NK could not keep up a protracted war except in guerilla mode and couldn’t go toe-to-toe with SK or the US but they could definitely see to it Seoul is a smoking hole before it is over not to mentioon the havoc the spec ops forces could cause all over SK.

So, SK may well win in the end but at a cost they have proven far from willing to accept. SK has consistently pushed back at the US when it comes to antagonizing NK. SK citizens have wanted US troops out of there for awhile now. In the end it would be a very bloody war and likely demolish the SK economy.

And it seems the best way to do that is to have nuclear weapons. I suspect they Bush as somewhat irrational, or at least untrustworthy. Despite all the good reasons not to go into Iraq, he did anyway. Do you think China would go to war to protect North Korea? Not too likely.

The member of the Axis of Evil without a clear deterrent got invaded. The other member is heading for the possession of weapons. What would you do? I don’t see the downside to them having weapons, now, and there is a big upside. If however they became dependent on us and the rest of the world, call it bribes if you like, then there would be a downside.

Bribes work too - one could consider the willingness to let China run up a big trade surplus as a bribe. And the world is a lot safer for it.