kim's nuclear gamble
photo of a taepodong missile launchWhat are your thoughts on this report? How should the U.S. handle the current crisis with North Korea?Home
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Dear FRONTLINE,

Foreign policy which first encourages the North Koreans to feel threatened enough to build nuclear weapons and then hobbles them economically so that these weapons (of mass distruction) become there major export will come back to haunt us long after the White House Hawks and Doves have joined the lecture circuit.

I pray that Scott Ritter is wrong and we do not have the nightmare of a nuclear detonation (of a sold North Korean made bomb) on American soil within the next 10 years.

edmonton, canada


Dear FRONTLINE,

Since my prior comment concerning the hypocrisy of China and Russia insisting that we deal with North Korea bilaterally, in contradiction of their stand that we should have dealt with Iraq multilaterally, has been specifically attacked in your Forum, I trust that I will be granted the right of reply!

The attacker states: "The issue at hand . . . is completely the product of the failure of the Bush Administration to address the problem diplomatically. We have effectively cornered a wounded and rabid animal." Not a word about this rabid animal having ON ITS OWN INITIATIVE created a nuclear threat to the world! Not a word about the immediate and ongoing process of their cheating on Clinton's 'diplomatic' - i.e. paying blackmail - approach! The attacker concludes: "It is not Russia, nor China, nor South Korea, nor Japan's problem to solve . . . [even though they] may pay the most severe of consequences." Good luck!!

What his point boils down to is that, as with everything else that goes wrong in the world: "It's all America's fault!"

paul wenger
west hartford, ct


Dear FRONTLINE,

I thought you did a good job putting your show on North Korea together but came up with the wrong conclusions. You seem to favor the North Koreans and try to blame the administration.

You only gave a brief run by of the facts that have come to pass over the last eight years. There is a bundle of evidence to proof that they were still working on developing nuclear weapons. You forgot to mention anything about their 200,000 citizens that sit in concentration camps. Their self imposed isolation really makes their food problems turn into a famine that some think killed around 2,000,000 of their own citizens in 1998. That same problem is recently re-emerging today.

You did not give enough attention to their recent policy. North Korea has only increased their military which is in the top 5 of the world for size. Seventy percent of their Army, over a million strong sits within 30 miles of the DMZ. Recently some reports show they are training harder now than ever before. In 98 the Peace loving North Koreans launched a spy sub which was caught by ROK forces. Inside of that sub was food aid emarked for the North Korean population. The Cox report from the US House said that the US pays around 40% of the North Korean economy from cumulative aid programs. April 02 the North Koreans sank a South Korean patrol boat costing several ROK sailors their lifes. Just a few weeks ago they were seen to buzz air defenses of South Korea to try to seek a whole. You did mention that they tried to emulate the capture of a Navy Recon plane. Their missle testing is not ceasing. There has been 2 recent cruise missle tests in the China Sea by North Korea. They were caught selling missles to Yeman. There public press releases for the past 4 years have constantly threatened war. It has become almost as constant as the Iraqi information minister saying we are not in Bagdad as the tanks go rolling by. The talk never changes no matter what the facts are. These are not the signs of a country who "just wants to talk".

There constant pleas to "negotiate" is not what it seems. If all they to do is talk why all the saber rattling. The South Koreans would love to talk to them. They love it so much they paid $500 million for a two day rap session. After each event the North Koreas say lets "talk". That is code for pay up. When they don't get it they launch another event worse than before.

They aren't serious about real action. Look at their "joint" projects with the South. Everytime it comes to real action they back out or try to extort money out of the South. The industrial/tourist park they are building with Hyundai is working that way. The negotiations for more family reunions is working that way. The famed cross border rail line is the best example. The south has done their part but the North continues to drag their feet. Your show totally ignored those developments showing the true nature of the North.

Who can blame them. Their policy worked in 94. Clinton paid the hush money and they came out pretty well to the tune of billions. However, you pay an extortionist once you never stop paying. They come back again and again. We are paying the price today for the apeasement of Clinton in 94. Now we face a real war by accident. Your show did show the seriousness of the environment over there. What are we to do if one of their blackmail tricks evolves into an incident. What would we have done if they shot down that Navy plane over international waters? Right now even the Clinton crew admits they already have nuclear weapons.

The more history changes the more it stays the same. These calls for "negotiations" with the North sure sounds like Chamberlain's call in 1938 after his summit with Hitler that "we have peace in our time".

Thomas Magee
overland park, ks


Dear FRONTLINE,

Congratulations on your chilling documentary last night.

One under-examined aspect of the Bush Administration's hostile attitude upon assuming office is that before 9/11 one of their top priorities was the construction of a missile defense shield. If you will recall, the #1 rationale for this shield (whose efficacy many scientists were calling into question at the time) was N. Korea. With the thaw in relations between N. and S. Korea, the argument for this missile defense shield became even less persuasive.

Antagonizing N. Korea would insure a realignment back to the old position of hostility and speed approval of a republican pet project. Any thoughts?

san diego, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

I find it remarkable that some on this forum have accused you of a "liberal" bias when a good portion of your piece put the Clinton administration's decision to sign the 1994 Agreed Framework under heavy scrutiny. Indeed, according to the CIA the North Korean government never really stopped their plans to develop nuclear weapons.

I am a Korean-American and my parents remember the Korean War vividly. Regardless of whether it was a good idea or not for Pres. Bush to say it, Kim Jong Il's regime is evil and we should form a policy that will not only disarm his regime of nuclear weapons, but also bring about its downfall.

Unfortunately, the US has been perceived by younger South Koreans as having backed military dictators in South Korea and our continued military presence bruises their sense of national pride. This view, however, fails to remember the 35,000 Americans that died to keep South Korea free from a much worse fate than the resulting two million Korean dead: slavery to a Stalinist regime. In addition, South Korea would not be the economic powerhouse that it is today without the protection of the US military.

On a personal note, I would not even exist and my family would be dead if not for the US intervention. South Koreans should not forget this point and understand the level of sacrifice that America has made and is still willing to make.

This is the heart of the problem with dealing with North Korea. South Korea's government has treated North Korea's recent nuclear revelation as our problem and offered to serve as a mediator. This dangerous approach signals a divide between the US and South Korea and will encourage North Korea to act more aggressively.

In addition, the Roh Administration's approach has given ammunition to foreign policy thinkers in the US that believe the US should only look after our interests in the region. Richard Perle specifically stated so in your program and seemed to suggest that the lives of South Koreans are second priority to the outside chance that North Korea would proliferate nuclear weapons to a group which intended to use it against the US.

The US already has bombers in the region that stayed over from war games with South Korea and there are plans to move US soldiers and bases off the DMZ and out of Seoul to the southern parts of the peninsula. I am worried to say the least.

But unlike some, if the UN Security Council and the US decide that South Korea's weapons program must be stopped by any means necessary, then I would support doing whatever it took. In the end, we cannot continue to let North Korea starve, incarcerate, torture, oppress and brainwash its people. Some action must be taken.

I am a Democrat and I support any effort towards this goal. I believe most of America does too. Over 40 years ago, JFK said those famous words "we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship . . . oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty." Let's live up those words.

Andrew Kang Chicago, IL

Andrew Kang
chicago, il


Dear FRONTLINE,

The failure of the Bush administration to understand different cultures and the thoughts (sane or otherwise) of other countries' leaders will guide America several steps further down the path of destruction or dissolution. The administration, as represented by President Bush, Sec. Rumsfeld, Dep. Sec. Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle, appears to be both isolationist and imperialist. According to them, the US doesn't want anyone telling us what to do and doesn't care about countries without large reserves of natural resources. They also insist the US should force its will, its brand of government, and its economic structure upon any country that piques the administration's interest. Is forcing America's religion and language on subjugated countries (colonies) too far behind?

Is this a way to run a superpower? The Bush administration's lack of tact and diplomacy is responsible for the deaths of US troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and probably soon in N. Korea. Kim Jong Il, in my opinion, is paranoid and meglomaniacal. Pres. Bush and his hawkish advisors refuse to understand that you do not feed a mentally unstable dictator's fears by cutting off diplomatic relations and trying to force him to give concessions without anything in return. You don't "prove" to this isolated Stalinist dictator that the US wants to overthrow the N. Korean government by casually tossing the Christian "evil" label on him.

According to Perle in this episode of Frontline, the Bush administration doesn't care what happens to the South Koreans if Kim launches an offensive. Millions of innocent people are apparently meaningless unless they wave the old red, white, and blue.

Elizabeth Maxwell
houston, texas


Dear FRONTLINE,

I believe that discussions with North Korea should continue, and that George W. Bush's (and his administration's) refusal to engage is irresponsible and dangerous, given the seriousness of the situation. I think that Madeline Albright was exactly right when she said that discussions are appeasement only if you are determined to define appeasement that way.

It is amazing to me that Americans were ready to impeach President Clinton for "poor moral judgement" (or possibly, poor taste in girlfriends!) over his affair with Monica Lewinsky. The country must not have had too much to worry about.

The kind of bad judgement that George W. Bush and his administration has is dangerous and involves invasions, bombing, death of soldiers and civilians, and the desire to destabilize the whole world. His propaganda created a climate where to disagree is unpatriotic, and we're helpless. Our first big mistake was to allow the Supreme Court to disgrace itself and put him in office after that fiasco of an election.

I love my country, it's my government that scares me.

oakland, , ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

After seeing Frontline's special on North Korea, I began to truly understand why we are where we are today. Appeasement. Because of appeasement, 9/11 happened. Because of appeasement, the war with Iraq had to happen. And appeasement has gotten us to the place we are with North Korea. William Perry said it all when he made the statement that talking tough and acting tough will not suit our interests. We appeased Kim Jong Il through the '90s, and he proved how trustworthy he was by beginning the creation of his nuclear arsenal. What exactly would giving in to Kim's demands do for us? Let him know that we'll continue to allow him to do what he's been doing all along? Reagan had as many naysayers during the cold war when he talked tough and acted tough with the Soviet Union. Liberals were on the wrong side of the cold war, terrorism, the freeing of Iraq, and I strongly feel they're on the wrong side of North Korea. The '90s have proven that so far.

Stachia Graham
nashville, tn


Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for airing last night's program and for your attempts to bring the crisis with the DPRK to the forefront. I fear that a great majority of the American population fails to recognize the severity of this situation, the overt (and probably quite rational in a sense of ensuring one's own survival) posturing of Kim Jong Il, and the inherent danger that the Bush Administration's refusal (or petty playground stubborness) to participate in an open dialogue. The rest, I fear, probably don't even know that there is a North and South Korea or where they are in the world. There are too many good points made within this discussion panel already so I will not reiterate those arguments. I must, however, respond to one specific argument. One viewer wrote:

"Although commendable in its quest for balance, your report misses a critical point: No U.S. policy toward North Korea is worth a microgram of plutonium without the GENUINE cooperation of North Korea's neighbors and sponsors, China and Russia.

Yet, the likelihood of such cooperation is rendered extremely dim by their blatant hypocrisy in insisting that we deal BILATERALLY with North Korea while excoriating us for not having dealt MULTILATERALLY with Iraq!"

South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan have not stepped away from the diplomatic table with North Korea. The crisis, as it exists, was not of the creation any of these regional powers. Never did any of these nations identify North Korea as part of the "Axis of Evil." None of these countries have, in turn, invaded and destroyed the first of those three countries while refusing to engage in a dialogue or any sense of diplomacy with the other two. The issue at hand, the standoff, the enforcement of an isolationist strategy is completely the product of the failure of the Bush Administration to address the problem diplomatically. We have effectively cornered a wounded and rabid animal. It will do anything in its power to ensure its own survival. This is a natural instinct. America has the very same instinct but somehow we have determined that it is necessary, that it is our right to ensure that survival through the destruction of other nations, other cultures, and other people.

This is not a regional problem of the creation of the nations which the United States insists must engage in multi-lateral talks with North Korea. Bush has created the crisis through his own stubborness, his failure to understand the realities and the great possibilities presented by diplomacy in the post-Cold War era, and through his treacherous rhetoric and capitalization on the fear of terrorism in the post-9/11 world. It is not Russia, nor China, nor South Korea, nor Japan's problem to solve. Unfortunately, it will be these nations that may pay the most severe of consequences.

I must also echo the applause for the moment when Mr. Smith reminded Ambassador Hubbard that "Words are important. YOU ARE A DIPLOMAT." I thought that brief segment demonstrated thoroughly the inherent failings of this administration which, if left unchecked, may very well lead to the first use of nuclear weapons since World War II. My heart goes out to those residents of Seoul and Tokyo. It brings me great shame to know that my government pursues such a short-sighted, self-interested, and arrogant policy that will cause you to live in fear of a nuclear holocaust on a daily basis. One would have thought the human race would have evolved beyond this by now.

Adam C.
fairfax, va


Dear FRONTLINE,

I thought your show was excellent, but it touched little if at all on the horiffic human rights situation in North Korea. The North Korean government is the most brutal and repressive on Earth. Think about what that means. Kim Jong Il might have a 'great sense of humor' but he is also a murderer.

If anyone is curious about what I mean, please read the stories at these two URLs:

http://ncafe.com/northkorea/SunOkLeeTestimony_w_llus.pdf

http://ncafe.com/northkorea/AnMyong-cholTestimony.pdf

They read like the testimonies of Jews who survived Auschwitz...

We need to figure out a way to overthrow Kim Jong Il's regime (this is absolutely NECESSARY) without war.

Doug Shin is putting together a project to drop a million radios on North Korea, breaking Kims information blockade.

(do some research on the information blockade and Kims use of lies to preserve his regime and you will see his Achilles heel is contact with the outside world..)

This could work.. Why does the Bush administration want a war which could kill millions of Americans?

Chris Beaumont
bay area, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

The interview from a North Korean defector seems to be not only exaggerative but literally defecting in my viewpoint as a Korean-American. A defector is always a defector.

Kim's Nuclear Gamble is not the matter of 'right or wrong', nor 'good or evil', but the matter of survival to North Korea and also the very reaction to Bush's hostility doctrine, which was presumably created to keep US interests in the region.

Conservatively 4 million people got killed during the Korean War and some 22000 Americans were among them. If United States is willing to sacrifice that many American lives just for US interests, I would have no choice but to say 'suit yourself'. However, I would say, at the same time, that the United States has no right to sacrifice 4 million Korean people once again. There are many other ways that peaceful & reunified Korea can positively work with US and the rest of the world.

To my understanding, United States doesn't want North or South Korea to be nuclear nation, because US doesn't want nuclear Japan. Isn't that clear? If so, start talking and then go from there. What I know about Kim Jung IL is that he is not only rational but also trustworthy if hostility is removed.

Young Lee
sandiego, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

Tonight's airing of "Kim's Nuclear Gamble",I thought was a perfect example of compelling television. By the end of the documentary I was left with a nervewracking thought: Where is the vision for the 21 century?

It seems that after the 9/11 tragedy the only way to maintain security for our great nation is to take a tough stance with everybody(Iraq,North Korea,China,France,Russia,Germany,Iran,the entire Arab world for that matter). Is it just me or does the list seem to be getting longer and longer here? Are we really feeling more secure? I certainly don't. It seems like the Bush administration has put us on the war path for the next hundred years. I say let's begin to consider placing an administration in office that's willing to think "out of the box" in terms of how to deal with countries it considers beligerent,"evil",or simply not in line with our agenda. There are other options than the appeaser or hawkish platform in dealing with North Korea. Hopefully we'll discover them before we reach that stupid point of no return.

J.C. Cordova
pico rivera, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

I used to think it would be great if the world had only one superpower, the U.S., and that the world would then be a peaceful place since modern history shows we are by far a peaceful nation.

I failed to take into consideration what would happen if the U.S. had an administration of self-rightous war hawks leading the charge against anyone who does not kowtow to their idea of what is right.

This is the administration that is more than willing to send its soldiers to die and be maimed in beating up some decrepit Third-World country like Iraq while still cozying up to a dictatorship in Pakistan (which traded nukes to N. Korea in the 1990s for long-range missiles).

Kim Jong Il is a monster, no doubt, but his rationale makes perfect sense. If your army is weak, you don't have nukes and the U.S. does'nt like you, the U.S. will destroy you (Iraq). However, if your army is strong, you do have nukes and the U.S. does'nt like you (N. Korea), the U.S. will not be so quick to attack you.

Our little smug, strutting bantam rooster president has done more to promote nuclear proliferation in other countries like Iran and Syria and chart a dangerous course for the world since the Cuban missle crisis than anyone could have imagined. Unfortunately for all of us however, this Cuban missle crisis will only increase. The world will race for nuclear weapons. The die is cast.

Steve C.
salem, or


Dear FRONTLINE,

Since when was cutting off ties considered diplomacy?

The administration's North Koren policy, or lack thereof, is based on one belief: that "appeasement" leads to more aggressive behavior. The administration claims that the North Korean problem can be solved by diplomacy, but their practice of diplomacy is to cut off all ties.

When McCain was asked why he opposed the agreement to build two light reactors and supply fuel oil in return for the elimination of the North Korean nuclear program, he said he opposed it because it would lead to a situation just as we are in now. McCain's argument won. Look at where we are now.

The track record of the present policy of non-engagement is not good. We can't measure the policy of diplomacy because our end of the agreement won by Robert Gallucci was never fulfilled thanks to those who opposed it. Clinton's policy of punitive sanctions did not help either.

Supplying them with some fuel oil, sending some food, and engaging in dialogue sounds much better than being forced to deal militarily with a nuclear North Korea.

This is Kim's nuclear gamble, but its also our nuclear gamble. The administration is betting all their chips (our lives) on the belief that their policy of non-engagement will teach North Korea to shape up. This approach is failing.

Ryan Amundson
springfield, missouri


Dear FRONTLINE,

I enjoyed FrontLine tonight. And was wondering after reading some of the comments........How many of you have ever been to Korea?

Well, I've been unlucky enought to have spent the bigger part of a year in that country and never felt safe until lift off on departure. And then held my breath another 30 minutes just to make sure we weren't returning! As to what we should do? I don't agree with President Bush's approach because talking always produces many avenues of escape. Wondering what's next seems to get lost in over-REACTION.

How about this? Maybe we (America) should sit down and talk with China. N. Korea likes China.......because they know the Chinese have the power to make N. Korea history! And if we could get a smile back on N. Korea's face.....anything just might be possible again!

Daniel Caldwell
asheville, nc

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