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Rumsfeld Says Proliferation Greatest Danger from North Korea

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2006 – The real danger of North Korea having nuclear arms is the danger that the regime will sell those weapons to non-state actors, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld discusses North Korea at an Oct. 11 Pentagon news conference. In the background is a photo of the Korean peninsula that illustrates the contrast in prosperity between North Korea and South Korea. Photo by R.D. Ward

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

During a Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld said the threat from North Korea “would be amplified geometrically should terrorists obtain weapons of mass destruction.”

World leaders have expressed concern over the apparent underground nuclear test in North Korea over the weekend. “And we’ve also seen Iran continue with its nuclear program over the objections of much of the international community,” Rumsfeld said. “Seeing Iran and North Korea on a path toward nuclear weapons brings up several issues of concern.”

The biggest threat is that North Korea and Iran are known proliferators. “They’ve proliferated to other nation states as well as non-state entities,” he said. “We recently saw an example of the latter when Iran supplied Hezbollah with weapons.”

Non-state entities, unlike a nation, cannot be deterred as a nation-state would, “because they don’t have to worry about protecting real estate, population or leadership,” Rumsfeld said.

The secretary said another concern is that other nations might decide they can no longer avoid developing their own nuclear weapons. If this happened, “the nuclear threshold would be lowered in the years ahead,” he said.

Rumsfeld said President Bush is clearly on the right track pursuing a diplomatic solution and enlisting support from other nations. “It's not in the world community's interest to have (North Korea) succeed in threatening the world with nuclear weapons or proliferating those technologies,” he said. “The world has to understand that and see that, and that's why he has been so energetic and diligent in working with other countries recently and within recent days, fashioning a group to work through the United Nations.”

The secretary said the international community can try many non-military strategies to leverage international opinion to get the North Koreans to change their ways. But, he noted, North Korea is a terrible dictatorship with concentration camps, and it is unable to feed its own people.

“Most dictatorial regimes care only about perpetuating themselves in power,” Rumsfeld said. “When they get up in the morning, that's what they worry about. They don't worry about their people. They don't worry about elections. They don't worry about a free press. They don't worry about all the things that people worry about in a democracy.”

International sanctions on the nation will only be successful if all nations cooperate, Rumsfeld said.

“We'll have to see the extent to which the international community decides that they don't want a world with more nuclear powers, they don't want to lower the nuclear threshold, they don't want to run the risk of having weapons of mass destruction find their way into the hands of non-state entities and terrorist groups, and that only by cooperating and a cohesive approach to a problem like this is the world going to be able to deal with it effectively,” he said.

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Donald H. Rumsfeld

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