WASHINGTON - The United States should be ready to
smash North Korea's Yongbyon reactor if necessary to keep
Pyongyang from trafficking in nuclear weapons, an influential
member of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's advisory panel
said on Wednesday.
"Whether we can effectively mobilize a coalition --
including China, Russia, the South Koreans, the Japanese,
ourselves -- and so isolate them that they will abandon this
program, that remains to be seen," said Richard Perle, an
architect of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
"That's certainly the preferable way to deal with it," he
added in a speech to an Iraqi reconstruction conference
sponsored by King Publishing Group, a Washington-based
"But I don't think anyone can exclude the kind of surgical
strike we saw in 1981," he said, citing Israel's surprise air
attack that destroyed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor near
Baghdad on June 7, 1981. "We should always be prepared to go it
alone, if necessary," he said.
Yongbyon, site of a reactor and a plutonium reprocessing
plant that North Korea has said it has restarted, lies about 60
miles north of Pyongyang.
President Bush has branded North Korea part of an "axis of
evil" with Iran and pre-war Iraq and wants Pyongyang to scrap
its nuclear program.
The latest phase of the crisis erupted last October when
the United States said Pyongyang had admitted to having a
secret uranium enrichment program.
On Monday, North Korea said it wanted nuclear weapons so it
could cut its huge conventional forces and divert funds into an
economy foreign analysts say is close to collapse.
"I think we must assume that if they had a nuclear weapon,
and if al Qaeda wished to purchase a nuclear weapon, it's a
deal that could be done," said Perle, who was assistant
secretary of defense for international security policy under
President Ronald Reagan.
Washington blames Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda group for the
Sept. 11 attacks that killed more than 3,000 people.
Perle resigned on March 27 as chairman of the Defense
Policy Board, an unpaid advisory panel to Rumsfeld, after
critics charged his business activities conflicted with his
work for the board. He remains a board member.
He said the United States could not let Communist North
Korea acquire nuclear weapons. But he did not address U.S.
intelligence assessments that Pyongyang already has one or
perhaps two nuclear weapons using plutonium it produced before
its program was frozen in 1994 in a deal with the United
States. North Korea resumed the program late last year .
Asked whether the United States ultimately might resort to
force, he said: "It is too soon to say whether that's the only
way we can prevent something I think we must prevent."
Perle said the situation in Iran, which Washington accuses
of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the guise of
building power-generating reactors, was very different from
"I think we should be encouraging its failure," he said of
the Iranian government without specifying how he might propose
to do this. He contended that the Iranian government would fall
"because it's despised by the people."
© 2003 Reuters Ltd