| Ander Nieuws week 46 / nieuwe oorlog 2006 |
November 05, 2006
By Sarah Baxter in Washington
The Pentagon is speeding up plans for possible military strikes on North Korea's nuclear programme as concern mounts that Arab states are also looking to acquire nuclear technology.
US defence officials said detailed planning was under way for precision strikes on nuclear facilities such as the North Korean plutonium reprocessing plant at Yongbyon. The plant is thought to have supplied the plutonium fuel used in an underground nuclear test carried out by Kim Jong-il's pariah regime on October 9.
A Pentagon official said "various military options" for halting North Korea's nuclear programme were under consideration. "Other than nuclear strikes, which are considered excessive, there are several options now in place. Planning has been accelerated," the official told The Washington Times.
According to defence sources, one option includes strikes on Yongbyon by Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from submarines or ships. Precision-guided bombs and missiles could also be delivered by B-52 or B-2 stealth bombers.
Navy Seals and other commandos would be deployed inside North Korea to help blow up facilities such as Yongbyon. It is believed such an operation could set back Kim's nuclear programme by 10 years.
The plans emerged as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed that Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia are seeking to join the nuclear club of nations. Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates were also said to have expressed interest.
The Arab countries claim to be interested in developing civilian nuclear power, which they are entitled to do under international law. But Iran and North Korea have increased concern that assistance with peaceful nuclear know-how can be used to boost covert nuclear weapons programmes.
Michael Rubin, an expert on the Middle East at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington, said: "Iran and North Korea have shown that non-compliance equals reward."
The United Nations Security Council is still wrangling over Russian opposition to mild sanctions against Iran, even though President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is defiantly proceeding with Tehran's nuclear enrichment programme.
The threat of a nuclear- armed Iran is encouraging apprehensive Arab states to reverse their support for a nuclear-free Middle East and develop atomic technology. In oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia, the benefits of a civilian nuclear power programme may be hard to fathom.
David Albright, a nuclear proliferation expert at the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, said: "With Iran moving forward with its nuclear programme, it is difficult for the IAEA to say to other nations, 'No, you can't have it', and the United States is not able to stop it."
According to Rubin, America is partly responsible for the rush to acquire civilian nuclear energy. The US has been encouraging developing nations to embrace nuclear power under the global nuclear energy partnership (GNEP), launched by the State Department in February.
Robert Joseph, US undersecretary for arms control and international security, said the GNEP aimed to promote clean, renewable energy while maintaining strict controls on non-proliferation. "We think that would help us to envision a future where we can bring the benefits of nuclear power to the developing world," he said.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said last week that America had no objection to Egypt's nuclear programme. And President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen also recently announced plans to generate nuclear power in co-operation with America.
But Rubin warned: "The idea that we can keep making concessions to nuclear proliferation and that it won't spread is a fantasy. If you cannot answer the question, 'Who is going to be in charge of these countries in 10 years' time?' it is idiotic to help them develop these programmes."
Once a country acquires nuclear weapons, it becomes difficult to threaten militarily. McCormack said of North Korea "In terms of the military and the Pentagon, planners plan. But the president has made very, very clear that we are committed to finding a diplomatic solution to the current issues before us."
North Korea agreed last week to return to international disarmament negotiations under pressure from China and UN sanctions. But it also called Japanese officials "political imbeciles" for claiming they would not allow Pyongyang to remain a nuclear power.
A senior US defence official said America was committed to protecting South Korea and Japan from North Korean aggression, if necessary by using US nuclear weapons. "We will resort to whatever force levels we need to have," the official said. "That nuclear deterrence is in place."
Copyright 2006 Times Newspapers Ltd.
| Ander Nieuws week 46 / nieuwe oorlog 2006 |