Courtesy Reuters

Red-Handed

DEAD TO RIGHTS

Mitchell B. Reiss and Robert L. Gallucci

As individuals who have negotiated with North Korea and are well versed in the development of Pyongyang's nuclear programs through our service in the Clinton and Bush administrations, we feel compelled to comment on Selig Harrison's "Did North Korea Cheat?" (January/February 2005) in order to clarify a number of the misstatements and misunderstandings in Harrison's article. The most serious of his allegations are that the Bush administration has politicized the question of North Korea's uranium-enrichment program; that U.S. allies and partners in the six-party talks do not share Washington's assessment of that program; and that the enrichment program is somehow not central to resolving the nuclear challenge Pyongyang poses to its neighbors and the world.

The United States, for a number of years, has had well-founded suspicions that North Korea has been working on the enrichment of uranium. Indeed, in both 1999 and 2000, the Clinton administration was unable to certify to Congress that North Korea was not pursuing a uranium-enrichment capability. (This fact alone should dispel claims of partisanship on this point.) In mid-2002, the Bush administration obtained clear evidence that North Korea had acquired material and equipment for a centrifuge facility that, when complete, could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for two or more nuclear weapons per year.

Harrison asserts that North Korea could not have financially afforded such items. He is mistaken. North Korea has more than enough funds; indeed, the revenue Pyongyang gets from its illicit activities (currency counterfeiting, narcotics smuggling, and cigarette pirating) alone nets it hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

Although there is a great deal of information in the public domain about North Korea's enrichment activities, two points are particularly worth noting. First, as the news media have reported, Abdul Qadeer Khan (who ran a black-market nuclear supply ring from Pakistan) has confessed to providing North Korea with centrifuge prototypes and blueprints, which enabled Pyongyang to begin its centrifuge enrichment program. North Korea's decision,

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