Sunday, November 24, 2002

Pakistan and North Korea--Nukes for Missiles?

Very interesting story in todays NYT detailing the role Pakistan has played in North Korean nuclear proliferation and almost a tacit acknowledgement that the U.S. knew it was going on, but if course could not publicly do anything as condemnation could endanger the American War on Terror. I am not sure if terrorism is worse than nuclear proliferation, especially in North Korea, but the scary thing is, I am not so sure Bush does either. I don't think the United States should let so much stuff slide, because the tradeoff, especially in this instance, is still quite dangerous.

"Last July, American intelligence agencies tracked a Pakistani cargo aircraft as it landed at a North Korean airfield and took on a secret payload: ballistic missile parts, the chief export of North Korea's military.
The shipment was brazen enough, in full view of American spy satellites. But intelligence officials who described the incident say even the mode of transport seemed a subtle slap at Washington: the Pakistani plane was an American-built C-130.
It was part of the military force that President Pervez Musharraf had told President Bush last year would be devoted to hunting down the terrorists of Al Qaeda, one reason the administration was hailing its new cooperation with a country that only a year before it had labeled a rogue state."

I remember reading that Musharraf, when first confronted by the Americans, stated that Pakistan was not involved in North Korea's capability, especially after Pakistan allied with the U.S. after September 11. "General Musharraf, after first denying Pakistani involvement in North Korea's nuclear effort, has assured Secretary of State Colin L. Powell that no such trade will occur in the future." He now says, "`Four hundred percent assurance that there is no such interchange taking place now,' " Secretary Powell said in a briefing late last month. Pressed about Pakistan's contributions to the nuclear program that North Korea admitted to last month, Secretary Powell smiled tightly and said, "We didn't talk about the past." Since the past often is repeated, as it seems it has in this case, maybe the U.S. should. Pakistan often said they only gave diplomatic and political support to the Taliban. That is the same line they offerred when asked about the insurgency in Kashmir. And now, Musharraf has indicated that the trading relationship has stopped with North Korea. I wonder if the U.S. should trust him. So too does Bush's close friend, Vladimir Putin, who is apparently questioning the United States alliance with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

What is also interesting is, U.S. law requires sanctions to be placed on governments who assist other countries in proliferation. One would think that any country helping a rogue, "axis of evil" country in getting nuclear weapons would indeed have sanctions placed upon them. A State Department spokesman, Philip Reeker, said, "We are aware of the allegations" about Pakistan, though he would not comment on the substance. "This adminsitration will abide by the law," he said.

So far, the White House has ignored federal statutes that require President Bush to impose stiff economic penalties on any country involved in nuclear proliferation or, alternatively, to issue a public waiver of those penalties in the interest of national security. Mr. Bush last year removed penalties that were imposed on Pakistan after it set off a series of nuclear tests in 1998. The key question is obviously what would sanctions placed on Pakistan accomplish?

Would it make Pakistan change course and stop support of the War on Terror? Wuld they again allow al-Qaeda to operate from within its soil? Would they trade more nuclear secrets to al-Qaeda, other terrorist groups, or other rogue states? Would it again support the insurgency in Kashmir? Or would Pakistan be punitively forced to change their behavior, which might perhaps lead to discussion between India and Pakistan (which really need to begin)? The key, I think is to see what would make Pakistan change their behavior.

This nuclear "bartering" between Pakistan and North Korea is going to be an interesting issue to watch unfold.


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