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North Korea's Nuclear Program Threatens Regional, Global Stability

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

SINGAPORE, May 31, 2003 – There's no greater threat to peace and stability facing Asian - and other - nations today than North Korea's nuclear program, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said here May 31.

In his remarks to attendees at the second annual Asia Security Conference in Singapore, Wolfowitz observed that the spirit of multilateral cooperation embodied by such conferences holds "important promise for enabling countries in the region to resolve problems peacefully." The conference is sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

And, he asserted, "nowhere is that challenge greater than in confronting the problem posed by North Korea's nuclear program."

North Korea's behavior over the past year, in both its public declarations and actions, "threatens regional and global stability," Wolfowitz maintained.

For example, in October North Korea declared that it had violated and would continue to violate its promise not to proceed with its uranium-enrichment program, he pointed out.

And earlier this year, Wolfowitz continued, the North Koreans announced that they were reactivating their plutonium production program.

Also, just two weeks ago the North Koreans characterized the 1992 North-South Korean denuclearization agreement they had signed as "a worthless piece of white paper," Wolfowitz noted.

It's evident that North Korea is "a state that has little regard for the commitments it undertakes," Wolfowitz observed, "or for the delicate nature of the northeast Asia security environment."

The deputy secretary also responded to North Korea's desire to deal exclusively with America in discussing its nuclear program: "This is not and cannot be a bilateral issue, as Pyongyang would like it - limited to a two-way dialogue between North Korea and the United States," he declared.

North Korea's nuclear program "affects the whole region," Wolfowitz observed, noting the issue therefore "requires a multilateral approach."

If North Korea continues with its uranium-enrichment and plutonium-processing programs, Wolfowitz noted, "it could export fissile material - and even entire (nuclear) weapons systems."

Due to its past track record, there's little likelihood that "North Korea would restrain itself from selling nuclear materials and technology to the highest bidder," Wolfowitz pointed out.

In view of this "real and immediate danger," the deputy defense secretary urged that "all responsible countries in the region - indeed in the world - must step up to the challenge."

The only way the North Korean nuclear weapons problem can be solved peacefully, Wolfowitz declared, "is through a carefully managed, multilateral approach to Pyongyang."

If responsible nations band together to confront North Korea's nuclear weapons program, its missile exports and its drug sales, "we at least have a chance" of solving the issue peacefully," Wolfowitz remarked.

North Korea is "heading down a blind alley," regarding its pursuit of nuclear and other weapons, he said. The United States, Japan, South Korea, China and Russia, he emphasized, all strongly oppose nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.

By misspending its treasure in acquiring costly weapons systems and maintaining a vast military it doesn't need, North Korea faces collapse "from the total failure of its system," Wolfowitz observed.

The diversion of North Korea's scarce resources to nuclear weapons and other military programs, Wolfowitz pointed out, "only exacerbates the weaknesses of North Korea's underlying system."

The deputy defense secretary noted that North Korea should follow the example set by China 25 years ago.

"China pointed the way for how a failed communist system can undertake a process of reform - without collapsing," Wolfowitz remarked.

"That is the course North Korea needs to pursue if it is to avoid the kind of collapse that is viewed with apprehension throughout the region," he noted.

If North Korea ceases its belligerent ways and stops wasting money on military capabilities "it does not need and cannot afford," Wolfowitz declared, then "it will find the door open to all kinds of fruitful cooperation with the countries of the Asian-Pacific region."

Wolfowitz is on the third day of a trip that will take him next to South Korea and Japan. He is slated to return to Washington June 3.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNorth Korea's behavior "threatens regional and global stability," U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, featured on the big screen, remarked May 31 to Asia Security Conference attendees in Singapore. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.   
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