Published on Friday, December 10, 2004 by the Agence France Presse
Bush Manipulated NKorea Intelligence Like He Did in Iraq: US Expert
BEIJING - The United States manipulated intelligence on North Korea's nuclear program in a similar fashion to its use of weapons of mass destruction to justify the war on Iraq, a US foreign policy expert said in an article.
"Relying on sketchy data, the Bush administration presented a worst-case scenario as an incontrovertible truth and distorted its intelligence on North Korea (much as it did in Iraq), seriously exaggerating the danger that Pyongyang is secretly making uranium-based nuclear weapons," Selig Harrison said in Foreign Affairs magazine.
Harrison, from the Washington-based Center for International Policy, chairs the Task Force on Korean Policy, a grouping of former senior US military officials, diplomats and Korean specialists.
The Task Force, which includes a former joint chiefs of staff head and ex-US ambassadors, on Friday issued a report calling on the US immediately to back down on its insistence that North Korea come clean on its alleged uranium program.
Instead, they should first negotiate the dismantling of Pyongyang's plutonium facilities, it said.
Harrison said his claims were based on South Korean and Japanese intelligence sources who participated with the Central Intelligence Agency on the issue.
He blames the US insistence on a uranium program for the stalling of six-party talks while Pyongyang moves closer to producing an atomic bomb with its plutonium program.
The intelligence was manipulated for "political purposes," he said in the magazine's December 17 issue.
This was largely to waylay South Korean and Japanese efforts at reconciliation with the North and ostensibly to keep open the option of "regime change" as in the case of Iraq, Harrison claimed.
In late 2002 the Bush administration cited North Korea's alleged uranium program to pull out of the Agreed Framework. That deal had frozen Pyongyang's nuclear program since 1994 in exchange for energy aid and the construction of two billion dollar semi-proliferation-proof light water nuclear reactors.
No concrete evidence of a uranium program has been presented publicly.
In retaliation, Pyongyang kicked out international nuclear inspectors and resumed plutonium reprocessing at its Yongbyon facility.
It is now believed to have reprocessed enough plutonium for four to six nuclear bombs, experts say.
"The danger posed by North Korea's extant plutonium program has grown since the United States announced it was no longer bound by the Agreed Framework, and it is much greater than the hypothetical threat posed by a suspected uranium enrichment program about which little is known," said Harrison.
Harrison said the claim of a uranium capability was largely based on several failed attempts by Pyongyang to buy enrichment technology, including electrical-frequency converters and aluminum tubing to make centrifuges.
The US also cites a 2002 conversation in Pyongyang between US Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun, in which Washington maintains Paek admitted his country had a uranium enrichment program.
Pyongyang, however, insists Paek only said North Korea was "entitled" to have such a program, possibly referring to the processing of low-enriched uranium for nuclear energy.
This is allowed by the rules of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Pyongyang also pulled out of in late 2002.
"Unless conclusive new evidence comes to light, the entire uranium issue should be deferred so that the parties can focus on the more immediate threat: North Korea's known plutonium reprocessing capabilities," said Harrison.
"By scuttling the 1994 agreement on the basis of uncertain data that it presented with absolute certitude ... the Bush administration has blocked action on the one present threat that North Korea is known to pose: the threat represented by reprocessed plutonium."
© Copyright 2004 AFP