The Rising East


Sunday, December 2, 2001

Targeting the next
terrorists: North Korea
most dangerous

With the end to the campaign against terror in sight in Afghanistan, President Bush and his strategists have turned their attention to terrorists in three more countries, the Philippines, Iraq, and North Korea. Of these, the North Koreans may be the most dangerous because they are the most likely to miscalculate the mood of the Americans.

A couple of weeks ago, President Bush promised President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines $100 million in security assistance to fight the Abu Sayyaf, the Muslim terrorists operating in Mindanao and other islands in the country's southwest. American military advisers have visited the nation, a C-130 transport plane arrived this week, and eight helicopters, 100 trucks, and 30,000 rifles are on the way.

Iraq is the next target favored by hardliners in the Bush administration, led by the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz. Last week, President Bush warned the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, to let United Nations inspectors in to determine whether nuclear weapons are under development -- or suffer unstated consequences.

Similarly, the president demanded that North Korea open its doors to inspectors, as it has agreed to several times, to look at its weapons programs. That was promptly rejected by a spokesman in Pyongyang who accused the United States of an "ever more undisguised hostile attitude."

The stance of the president, who has long been skeptical of the prospects of negotiating anything substantive with North Korea, appears to have ended the policy of accommodation left by President Clinton. What will take its place, and how firm President Bush intends to become, remains to be defined.

In Korea itself, the "Sunshine Policy" of President Kim Dae Jung appears to have run its course. The policy was intended to fashion some sort of reconciliation on the peninsula in which trade, travel, and economic development of the North would be encouraged.

The high point of the Sunshine Policy was President Kim's visit to Pyongyang in June, 2000, to meet with the "Dear Leader" of North Korea, Kim Jong Il. The northern Kim was supposed to have made a return visit to Seoul sometime this year but hasn't.

Meantime, minor skirmishes have resumed along the 150-mile demilitarized zone dividing the peninsula, as have intrusions of North Korean vessels at sea. Exchanges of Korean relatives between North and South have been put off, trade has gone nowhere, and South-North negotations are stalled.

President Kim's Sunshine Policy was a noble effort and worth the try but it must now be seen as a failure through no fault of his. Just as President Bush appears to be hardening American policy toward North Korea, so President Kim may be reassessing his legacy since he has only a year more in office.

In the north has appeared evidence that Kim Jong Il has revived the ambition of his late father, the "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung, to reunify Korea under Communist control -- if, indeed, the younger Kim ever gave it up. With North Korea in economic depths and its armed forces severely crimped in recent years, that ambition was temporarily set aside.

Even so, the Federation of American Scientists, a private but politically active foundation, has compiled what appears to be a thorough dossier on North Korea nuclear, biological, and especially chemical weapons that President Bush has called weapons of terror. It is that arsenal that the president wants opened before new negotiations with Pyongyang.

in addition, Kim Jong Il has just launched a drive whose goal is to construct "a people's paradise on this land at an early date." The Dear Leader has called on North Koreans "to effect a fresh leap" and "to build a powerful nation in the new century." He has named the movement "Ranam," after a machinery company that allegedly increased production despite shortages of food, electricity and materials.

With that comes the suggestion that Kim Jong Il will resume what L. Gordon Flake, a specialist on Korea, has called "its traditional practice of bluster, threaten, demand." Flake, who is executive director of the Mansfield Center for Pacific Affairs in Washington, also noted that "the U.S. is clearly no longer in a 'courting' mood toward the North."

Altogether, the makings of a new collision between the United States and North Korea, once thought to have receded, have once again climbed well above the horizon.

Richard Halloran is editorial director of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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