Apocalypse Now

Beinart, Peter
March 2003
New Republic;3/17/2003, Vol. 228 Issue 10, p6
Offers observations on an escalating nuclear threat from North Korea during a period in which the United States is engaged in antagonizing Iraq over disarmament. On the subject of North Korea, there are two groups of people in Washington, D.C. today: People who are terrified, and people who aren't paying attention. Unfortunately, the latter category seems to include U.S. President George W. Bush. On February 24, 2003 North Korea greeted the inauguration of South Korea's new president by launching an anti-ship missile into the Sea of Japan. And, on March 1, North Korean MiGs trailed a U.S. spy plane for 22 minutes, the first such incident since 1969. But all this pales before the provocation looming in the distance: Pyongyang's reopening of the Yongbyon nuclear reprocessing plant. Already, hawks inside and outside the Bush administration are tiptoeing in the direction of a preemptive strike to disable these facilities before North Korea can provide weapons to al Qaeda. Bush officials have been denying that North Korea's behavior constitutes a "crisis." The Bush administration says it wants multilateral talks with Pyongyang and a series of other countries, including South Korea, Russia, China, and Japan. But, whether or not such talks avert an international crisis, they would create a domestic political one. If the Bush administration does understand that it will eventually have to sit down with Pyongyang, then its current delay represents the inexcusable privileging of politics over national security.


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