End Clinton's Aid to North Korea

After September 11, when President Bush publicly proclaimed North Korea’s status as part of the "axis of evil," those paying close attention wondered why the Bush Administration nonetheless continued to observe the Clinton-era policy of providing massive U.S. taxpayer funding to the Pyongyang dictatorship.

But following North Korea’s now-public admission to U.S. diplomat James Kelly earlier this month that it deliberately broke its formal pledges to freeze its nuclear weapons program, even the most credulous are convinced that the emperor has no clothes. The bankrupt U.S. policy of keeping the world’s most hideous Stalinist dictatorship on the dole must come to an immediate end.

From its inception, the Clinton Administration policy of hugging North Korea and sending it aid in the form of fuel oil-and even nuclear technology-was bizarre. In 1994, in return for Kim Jong Il’s empty promise that he would stop developing nuclear weapons (by then he already had a suspected two plutonium bombs), Bill Clinton offered foreign aid. Breaking with 40 years of bipartisan U.S. policy, he took Pyongyang from zero American dollars to being the No. 1 recipient of U.S. foreign aid in the Asia-Pacific region.

That this could ever have happened in the first place is a study in gullibility.

It was eight years ago, in Geneva, Oct. 21, 1994, that the Clinton-Gore Administration agreed to give U.S. nuclear technology and huge amounts of heavy fuel oil to the North Korean government. In return, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea pledged that it would "take steps to implement the North-South Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

The North Korean promise, however, was actually an admission that it could not be trusted to keep its word. For two years earlier, on Jan. 20, 1992, that representatives of North and South Korea had executed the "Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

The Joint Declaration declared that "South and North Korea shall not test, manufacture, produce, receive, process, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons," and that "South and North Korea shall not possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities."

Furthermore, when the 1994 agreement with North Korea was signed, the Clinton Administration knew that North Korea had also violated its commitments in the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it signed in 1985.

In 1994, therefore, it was well known that the United States was pledging to compensate North Korea for doing what it had already twice falsely promised to do. North Korea was now promising anew to live up to its original broken promises-but this time for additional valuable consideration in the form of unprecedented U.S. aid.

It is basic law that a promise to do what one is already obligated to do is insufficient to create a binding agreement. For this embarrassing reason, our Secretary of State and National Security Advisor were always careful to refer to the 1994 "Agreed Framework" as a "political agreement"-not an "accord" or a "treaty." Thus, the Clinton Administration had committed itself not only to give away nuclear technology, but also to abandon a fundamental building block of civilization: enforceable agreements.

Nor did North Korea’s violations of its agreements stop there.

On Dec. 15, 1995, North Korea signed yet another agreement with the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), a New York-based organization created in March 1995 by the U.S., Japan, and South Korea to carry out the "Agreed Framework." In the 1995 agreement, North Korea promised to permit "ad hoc and routine inspections [by] the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] with respect to facilities not subject to the freeze" in the previous year’s Agreed Framework. But North Korea deceived the IAEA inspectors about the uranium enrichment program that it finally admitted this month.

Even today, the only hard information we have about North Korea’s uranium enrichment program comes not from inspections, but from our intelligence agencies.

Now, finally, North Korea’s repeated lies have earned national front-page attention. With its boast that not only is it working to enrich uranium, but also it has nuclear weapons-and, most ominously, that it has "more powerful things as well"-the Kim Jong Il dictatorship has more than justified its charter membership in the "axis of evil."

As a result of the Clinton Administration’s radical departure from common sense, North Korea earned what has amounted to an eight-year respite from international pressure-during which time it continued to develop not only nuclear weapons, but also long-range missiles, and its entire arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

Throughout these eight years, however, I and a steadily growing number of my colleagues-Republicans and many Democrats-argued that sending North Korea more nuclear technology would only make it a bigger threat. We said so repeatedly and publicly.

On Dec. 4, 1998, these repeated concerns drew a stern rebuke from North Korea’s Defense Ministry, which said through its official state run news agency:

"Now, the U.S. conservative hard-liners are clamoring [about North Korea’s] underground nuclear facility . . . .

"The U.S. attempt to subdue us with threats and blackmail is foolish. Our People’s Army is replete with the spirit of resolutely safeguarding the leader, the spirit of human bombs, and the spirit of suicidal attack . . . .

"[O]ur heroic armed forces will mercilessly annihilate the aggressors with the ideological strength built up for scores of years …

"The target of our strike is not only the U.S. imperialist aggression forces, but also the South Koreans who are willing to serve as their bullet-shield, and Japanese reactionaries and all others that support them behind the scenes."

And posted on the official North Korean government website was the threat to "plunge the damned U.S. territory into a sea of flame."

It should have been obvious even to those in the State Department who were the architects of the 1994 Agreed Framework that our new policy of unilateral kindness and massive foreign aid was not having the desired effect.

And if it wasn’t obvious from such hostile rhetoric, it should certainly have been clear from a Department of Energy intelligence report widely available within the administration, which was first reported publicly by the Washington Times on March 11, 1999. "North Korea is working on uranium enrichment techniques" for nuclear weapons, reporter Bill Gertz plainly stated.

Alarmed by the potential consequences of the Clinton Administration’s willful blindness toward such evidence, House Speaker Dennis Hastert personally commissioned a senior group of House leaders and committee chairmen to thoroughly evaluate U.S. policy toward North Korea. The Speaker’s Advisory Group on North Korea, on which I served, concluded in its November 1999 report that "North Korea’s WMD [weapons of mass destruction] programs pose a major threat to the United States and its allies. . . . There is significant evidence that undeclared nuclear weapons development activity continues, including efforts to acquire uranium enrichment technologies and recent nuclear-related high explosive tests."

Even this public, top-level congressional report-backed with evidence from the Clinton Administration’s own intelligence officials-was insufficient to cause reconsideration of the sanity of rewarding the Stalinist government of North Korea for such illegal behavior with ever-increasing U.S. aid. Instead, the administration launched a covert effort, first uncovered by the Los Angeles Times, to make it even easier for North Korea to get nuclear technology.

General Electric, which builds nuclear reactor components of the sort the Clinton Administration had promised to North Korea, was understandably concerned about its legal liability for supplying nuclear technology to Kim Jong Il’s government. Therefore, the Clinton Administration sought to stretch U.S. law beyond recognition to make U.S. taxpayers liable for any nuclear accidents in North Korea. Not surprisingly, a large bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives condemned the Clinton Administration’s conduct in 2000, voting 334 to 85 for my amendment to outlaw its indemnification plan. [See HUMAN EVENTS rollcall, June 3, 2000, page 23.]

Upon taking office in 2001, the Bush Administration-though obstructed by the authors of the Clinton policy who remained at the State Department-resolutely began the process of recovering from the prior administration’s dangerous mistakes.

First, the Department of Energy testified to Congress that the United States would no longer attempt to make U.S. taxpayers liable for North Korean nuclear accidents.

Second, while consulting with our allies, the Bush Administration began to extend private assurances that it would end Clinton’s 1994 agreement once and for all.

Third, this month the Bush Administration confronted North Korea with incontrovertible intelligence evidence that Pyongyang was violating the 1994 agreement. It was in the face of this that North Korea admitted that it had been violating its promises to its neighbors and to the United States all along.

It is ironic that despite U.S. intelligence assessments which for years have warned of North Korea’s nuclear weapons efforts, only the recent word of the North Korean government was considered by apologists for the Clinton policy to be sufficiently trustworthy evidence that their cherished Agreed Framework has always been a delusion.

But at least this surprising admission has resulted in widespread agreement that it’s high time to cut off aid and nuclear technology to Kim Jong Il. There remain only a bitter few who even now want to continue taxpayer subsidies of the world’s most complete police state. North Korea’s admission, the argument runs, is merely an attempt to reach out, to negotiate. But if America were to provide the additional money that Pyongyang is now seeking in return for still more promises, then there would be no limit to the future violations that could be committed merely to up the ante. This sort of nuclear blackmail must be halted now.

In matters of national security, accepting the promises of a dictator who opposes us without verifying his conduct is both foolish and dangerous. Had the Clinton Administration remembered three simple words from the ’80s, the world would be a much safer place today: Trust, but verify.

That policy, and action to back it up, destroyed the Evil Empire. North Korea is not the Soviet Union, which is precisely why that policy will work more swiftly and effectively now.

Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of our lives.