Saturday, February 12, 2005

Well, that worked

North Korea has announced it has "manufactured nukes for self-defence". I think that about shows the effectiveness of the US's tough, all stick, no carrot, demand-total-surrender-before-negotiations-begin approach.

Unfortunately for the world, the US has adopted the same approach towards Iran, refusing to join the EU in negotiations with Iran unless the latter gives up the very thing those negotiations are supposed to be about. And without a major change in policy, I don't really expect the result there to be any different.


Your blame the US approach has become rather boorish. You overlook a number of factors. Firstly, NK reneged on a deal brokered under Clinton of swapping its nuclear weapons ambitions for economic aid. The carrot did not work.

Secondly, Bush has attempted to engage NK in multi-lateral talks involving not just the US but surrounding courtiers such as China and Japan. NK has walked away from this. Again, negotiations have not worked.

Thirdly, NK is one vast prison ruled by despots - they don't play by the rules. Whatever your views on Bush it is hardly productive to ignore the realties of the NK regime.

If you wish to criticize Bush over NK then at least provide some realistic alternative. Given that NK has refused various carrots and negotiations I'd be interested to see what you have in mind.

A simliar case can be made with Iran. The current negotiations with the Europeans aren't going anywhere fast.

Posted by Sock Thief : 2/12/2005 01:15:00 PM

Frankly that NK has nuclear weapons only proves your own strategies fail, both isolation ANd economic packages. that and if you have a bligerant despot with a nuclear program on the verge of starting he is not every likely to stop for anything.

Posted by Genius : 2/12/2005 09:45:00 PM

The US is playing the waiting game, hoping that some spy or general launches a coup in North Korea or theres a popular revolution in Iran. Without massive airstrikes, theres not much they can do.

Posted by Antarctic Lemur : 2/13/2005 01:24:00 PM

Basically, having actual nukes that go bang gives you a "get out of jail free" card as far as the US is concerned.

Over a million troops lined up on the inter-Korean border helps as well, of course.

Posted by Rich : 2/14/2005 09:09:00 AM

Rich: the reason the Bush Administration moved on Saddam was because they knew he DIDNT have big WMDs. Theres simply too much risk involved in attacking a nuke-armed hierarchy, unless you can be assured the nukes will be removed from the equation early on.

Saddam had proven expansionist ambitions in his wars with Iran and Kuwait. NK is no longer run by the man who attacked South Korea, and Iran under the mullahs has never threatened its neighbours with invasion (though of course it sponsors various terrorist groups).

Posted by Antarctic Lemur : 2/14/2005 05:10:00 PM

The Slate article at provides a pretty good summary of how badly the Bush Administration has bungled North Korea. Obviously the true fault of the situation lies with Kim Jong-Il, but Bush has made a right hash of containing that threat, preferring to concentrate on the relatively harmless Saddam regime. The consequences of that prioritising will reverberate for a long time.

Posted by Ranald : 2/14/2005 05:41:00 PM


Kaplan incorrectly states that plutonium is preferred to enriched Uranium for nuclear weapons. He is wrong. Kaplan also states NK could have produced enough plutonium "for 50 nuclear weapons". This number seems plucked from the air. Both of these claims lead the reader to inevitably conclude that Clinton "saved the day" in the 90's by continuing negotiations with North Korea.

NK first declared it had nuclear weapons in 2002. If this claim is true, then obviously the regime continued a secret nuke programme through-out the 1990's. It is most likely based on enriched Uranium, which anyone can produce from natural Uranium given the correct machinery and some Uranium ore. Thus the locked-up plutonium is irrelevant, and a bit of a red herring by Kaplan.

Who knows where they get natural Uranium from, but its not that rare.

Getting free Light Water Reactors off Clinton would have made the "negotiations" much sweeter to the NK regime, as such designs require enriched Uranium. Their existing Heavy Water Reactors only require natural Uranium. Getting two LWR's would give them a legitimate excuse to enrich natural Uranium.

Kaplan is falsifying (or selectively choosing) his facts to make Clinton look good, Bush look bad. What a surprise... move on.

Appeasement, sorry I mean "negotiations" with tyrants never works, they just stab you in the back.

Posted by Antarctic Lemur : 2/14/2005 07:56:00 PM

Actually, that was my point - Saddam would still be in power if he had real, as opposed to imaginary, nukes. The lesson for dictators is to get your own A-bomb, and quickly.

The "machinery" to enrich uranium typically involves a factory the size of Ericsson Stadium with power requirements similar to all of Auckland. Once you've made some enriched uranium, making a bomb is indeed much easier than with plutonium, as you can use a "simple" gun design (the uranium device dropped on Hiroshima was not pre-tested, unlike the Pu device used on Nagasaki, which was similar to that fired at Trinity).

It is quite fortunate that U235 is hard to make and Pu is hard to make bombs out of - otherwise there would be a lot more nukes around.

Posted by Rich : 2/15/2005 12:04:00 PM

> The lesson for dictators is to get your own A-bomb, and quickly.

Your point here must be that the USA should be more agressive and attack countries that try to get A-bombs quickly right?

Otherwise your argument makes no sense.

Posted by Genius : 2/15/2005 01:00:00 PM

Rich: you are talking about gaseous diffusion enrichment for the commercial light water reactor industry, which I understand is the only enrichment process currently used in the USA. There are only two plants of the size you describe in the US, which supply that country's entire LWR industry.

Any country can enrich Uranium on a smaller scale using the same process, after all they're only looking for a couple of nukes.

Alternatively they could use the more energy efficient gaseous centrifuge process, as used in Europe.

Gaseous centrifuge plants use around the 100th the energy of a gaseous diffusion plant for the same enriched Uranium output.

In 1998, NK obtained one gas centrifuge off Pakistan:

This page states NK is only just beginning construction of a large gas centrifuge plant:

I've got no idea if you can enrich enough Uranium for a nuke from just one gas centrifuge. Lets hope not...


Posted by Antarctic Lemur : 2/15/2005 11:13:00 PM

Yah, we'd all be so much better off if the U.S. had met NK at the negotiating table as an equal partner, perhaps giving up tens of millions in humanitarian and economic incentives that Kim Jong Il could roll straight into his nuke program.

Negotiation rests on the fundamental assumption of good faith on both sides of the table. Where one party has repeatedly demonstrated a complete lack of same—as even you, Idiot, must admit North Korea has—what, precisely, is the point of negotiation?

Jason G. Williscroft
The Dead Hand

Posted by Jason G. Williscroft : 2/21/2005 08:34:00 AM