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
who are they?


Is it really "appeasement" to talk...

i just don't understand why we can't at least TALK with these countries...negotiatations can happen or not, but "talking" is not necessarily negotiating. Diplomacy, i thought was using good manners and good sense and listening and conversing!

kathleen henderson
moncks corner, sc


Bilateral negotiations with the DPRK at this point would be not only pointless, but counterproductive. We have learned that Pyongyang is disinclined to honor commitments made to the US - perhaps NK would follow terms of an agreement made with an assembly of those most effected - the US, China, Japan and the RoK.

Even such a multilateral agreement might not prove workable if the DPRK felt it in its national interest to resume a nuclear weapons program.

I suggest neighboring countries cutting off all aid and letting NK collapse. In the past both the US and RoK felt the resulting refugee problem would be so monumental that collapse was not a viable option - now it may be the least expensive in terms of lives, dollars, and political repercussion.

Douglass Bacon
niceville, fl


Congratulations on maintaining your fine tradition of thought-provoking reporting. This one was topical and it left me with mixed feelings.

For the record, Im a moderate Republican who has felt the administration has been clumsy in the events leading up to its Iraq war. I have long admired Don Rumsfeld and applaud his vision to reshape the organizational principles guiding the U.S. military. I also appreciate Paul Wolfowitz for espousing a bold and arguable point of view on how the U.S. should exercise its strengths in the 21st century. I also believe that its shameful (regrettably, but not a surprise) that George W. Bush echoed rather than tempered their advocacy for a hasty war.

In light of the success thus far (as of 4/10/03) in Iraq, I feel its reasonable to cut the Bush Administration slack. I never doubted the ability of our military to win and have been pleasantly surprised at the results thus farweve overachieved. My validity of my concerns about the legitimacy of our incursion (i.e., Where are the WMDs?, What is the 9/11 link?) into Iraq have yet to be played out.

Tonights Kims Nuclear Gamble program created tension. In light of the apparent success in Iraq, Ill defer, for a while, to the administrations no-talks unless you meet our demands up-front position in the same way Id be willing to bet on a gambler on a hot streak. Its an admirable and defendable position. But Im very concerned about how this gamble might play out.

Tonights program put in sharper focus the grave dangers to people on the Korean peninsula, to our troops and to the region. I pray that the Bush administrations approach yields good results. But if their position is guided by ideology more than savvy, it may meet its Waterloo, and the world will suffer the consequence of a crazy guy (Kim Jong Il) in charge of a totalitarian state confronting a non-clever President who is the front person for unbridled visionaries.

Karl Sjogren
fremont, ca


I am reasonably acquainted with this situation having listened to several experts speak on the subject. There are a couple of things that may be of interest

1. The 'hermit kingdom' is not only politically isolated but also physically. Since the end of the Korean conflict, most critical government institutions are situated underground. This was after the North was the recipent of saturation bombing by the USAF (no B52's yet, but B29's sufficed). The implication is that the North has planned for hostilities ever since the Armistice in 1953.

2. North Korea is armed to the teeth. For a 22 million population it has a standing army of 1.2 million and counting reserves this total exceeds 2 million. The US has a standing army of 1.7 million for a population of 270+ Million

3. The carnage that could face South Korea should the North unleash the 5000, underground, artillery pieces cannot be understated. More bearish estimates are of 250,000+ casualties in Seoul within a week. Seoul is a "kill box" in its' most literal sense.

Given the above, and the North's penchant for strident and shrill rhetoric, it is understandable that this aggressive stance evokes a sharp response from this Administration. I am no fan of Bush, but even the 'liberal apologist', 'cut a deal at all costs' Bill Clinton had an armed intervention option on the table in 1994.

The one piece of information that stunned me was that Kim Jong Il was bribed by South Korea to go along with the "Sunshine Policy". Given that situation, you can see why a 'righteous' GWB would dump direct dialog like a hot potato!

I personally believe that North Korea 'going nuclear' would be a dark day for a civilized and stable world (those rallies were really creepy). And, much as a lot of people might not like it, the US should 'stare down' the threats *AND* honor the agreements it has already made. IMHO the North will back down.

Pajoh Lublewski
san francisco, ca


One viewer responded;

"Someone raised the issue of impeachment (of President Bush)...can we do that before his arrogance and indifference causes WWIII?"

My comment is; Yes we can because that is what our form of government offers. Try to impeach Kim and see what you'll get! Suddenly everything becomes a little bit clearer!

Mike Jablonski
hollister, ca


Before the Iraq war and the subsequent fall of Baghdad I might've been inclined to agree that Bush may be wrong in his approach to dealing with North Korea. After the mid-term elections, the war with Afghanistan, and now the war with Iraq, I'm not so prone to suggest his approach is the wrong one.

I'm no fan of President Bush and I served in the first Gulf War. As I recall, there were mass casualties predicted for that war as well. A prediction which never materialized.

Now, I'm not sure what Kim will do. I do know that bi-lateral talks have been held in the past. And now Kim is pulling out of Armistice talks and developing nuclear weapons.

So far a lot of the predictions about the outcome of President Bush's actions have just plain been wrong.

But, it does seem a lot like brinksmanship and for all that has gone right for President Bush, I can't help feeling that at this pace the other shoe is about to drop.

Now, who am I and what do I know, given what the outcome has been so far?

On the one hand there's his successes. On the other there's:

Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines (supported by the US, now deposed and deceased)

The Shah of Iran (supported by the US, now deposed and deceased)

Osama Bin Laden (trained by the US, whereabouts unknown)

Saddam Hussein (supported by the US, now deposed and presumed dead)

Manuel Noriega (supported by the US, now deposed and jailed)

This is our history. I'm happy that the war has been brief. Few lives have been lost and hopefully American troops will be coming home soon.

But, I am equally mindful of our history, the history leading up to this moment.

And I am not so sure that EVEN IF President Bush's policy regarding North Korea is successful in the near term that we will be better off in the long term given the history I've stated.

I also know that, in spite of having served in the military and in the Persian Gulf, that I am a dove in a sea of hawks and no one who can really make a difference here, who has the President's ear or the President himself, cares or is listening.

This same President who claims Jesus Christ as his hero, when informed that the Pope thinks his policy of preemption is "intrinsically stupid" has agreed to disagree with God's personification on earth.



What chance do I have?

My thoughts.

kent, wa


I quickly noticed that the eMailers giving you a black mark for airing this program, as well as the lunatics in the Bush administration, are living nowhere near the West Coast.

With the hope that the Administration will ignore the situation and not make waves for maybe a coupa more years so that North Korea takes its time to finish th development of a delivery system capable of reaching Washington, I will begin to put my affairs in order under the assumption that I live outside the circle in which everything is turned to glass.

Thank you! (I think)

PS: You have aired, over the years, some very upsetting articles but none, that I can remember, came close to upsetting me as much as this program did tonight. Now I understand why the San Diego Union Tribune did not highline your program in the "tv What's on" column as they have for other "Frontline" broadcasts.

Rudy Cesena
san diego, ca


It is a matter of record that Mr. Bush's opinion of Kim Il Jong is, and I quote: "I have a visceral reaction to him". I'm assuming Frontline has access to Bob Woodward's interviews with the President, and the extraordinarily candid statements made by Mr. Bush regarding his view of Mr. Jong. Mr. Bush never felt anything close to this level of repugnance about Sadaam Hussein.

Unfortunately we will probably hear them later. A Frontline installment #4 on the subject, documenting what the sane hope is not what appears inevitable.

Steven Blackheart
phoenix, az.


It's now abundantly clear that the current Bush Administration is willing to take enormous risks in dealing with the geopoltical problematics now facing the world. Restated: Its willing to accept enormous costs (lives, dollars, historic alliances, etc) in what could be perceived to be our longterm strategic national interests.

When Dick Perle is asked, "What would be the consequences of a strike on Yongbyon." And responds: "Well, I think it's very difficult to answer that. [...] There's so many issues involved that it's simply not possible to say." I simply do not believe him. He knows quite well what the consequences are, as do we all. And yet, given the recent show of not just military prowess but all out overpowering power and a deeply awed, patriotic homefront, one has to fear that just such a scenario is being contemplated at the Defense Policy Board. And that the obvious consequences for South Korea might actually be considered acceptable.

I would like to take Frontline to task for failing to package the issues in a way that make me proud to be an American. For dredging up all the complexities and nuances of issues of national and international concern. For forcing me to think through the many half-cogent perspectives presented from multiple sides for myself. For scaring the bejeezus out of me. And for providing yet more interviews, background, analyses, etc. and, Christ, even a public forum for discussion to engage with!

I was quite contented before with my Fox News -- proud, patriotic, unambivalent. And now you've shot that easy contentedness all to hell. Damn you! Damn you Liberal Media!

Jason Voigt
kohler, wi


I am genuinely interested in knowing why there is so much pressure on the US to hold bilateral talks with N. Korea?

Here is the case for multi-lateral negotiations. 1) China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia all have greater stakes in seeing N. Korea free of nukes than does the US--how did this somehow become "the United States' problem" alone? 2) N. Korea has proven that it can't be trusted in bilateral negotiations--it flaunted the non-proliferation agreement by building uranium enriching facilities and hiding them from UN inspectors. 3) A coalition including China, Japan, Russia, AND the US would be much more difficult for N. Korea to dismiss. 4) Such a coalition could also bring the resources to bear to assist N. Korea to modernize and revamp its failed agriculture and industrial base.

Also, those who feel the Bush administration should have worked through the UN to solve the Iraq situation should note that the administration has sought out the UN and N. Korea's neighbors to take the lead in resolving the situation in N. Korea. So far, little if any leadership has been apparent.

Finally, it should also be noted that throughout the current crisis the Bush administration has continued to send food to the starving people of N. Korea even as Kim Jong Il squanders the nation's resources on weapons of mass destruction.

Jim Butler
roseburg, or


In my opinion your interviewer has not been an honest investigater, but rather clearly a protagonist, favoring "bilateral negotiations", which to my mind would only result in more concessions to the North Korean communist regime, with no confidence that they would honor their side of whatever "agreement" was reached. As your own interview with the defector, Kim Duk Hong, reveals: North Korea started to violate the 1994 agreement made with the Clinton administration "before the ink was dry". So what's the point in making more agreements with a regime whose word is worthless?

I believe Richard Perle is "right on" when he characterizes the 1994 agreement brokered by Jimmy Carter as "appeasement". It calls to mind Neville Chamberlain's infamous 1939 Munich accord with Hitler which he characterized as "peace in our time".

What Kim Il Sung established in North Korea, and which Kim Jong Il perpetuates, is a dictatorship every bit as harsh, inhumane, treacherous and deceitful as those of Hitler and Stalin. Any attempt to negociate directly with such a regime is self-delusional and pure folly. (But "good press", which was what the Clinton administration was all about.)

Those of us familiar with US history proudly recall our first war, following our war of independence, with the Tripolitan pirates. Our motto then was "millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute". It was the right course then, and remains so today.

John Sargent
polson, montana


Do you honestly, in your heart of hearts, believe your presentation was balanced? No where in your report did you state the FACT that North Korea pursued its nuclear program - in violation of its agreement with the Clintion administration - during Clinton's administation. In fact, you scarcely addressed the violation at all! This act alone proved the failure of Clinton's policy with North Korea - which, I'm sure, is why you avoided the issue.

Mark Edgar
norman, ok


My congratulations for tonight's FRONTLINE, "Kims Nuclear Gamble". I am a former journalist and documentary filmmaker. "FRONTLINE" is the present gold standard in investigative and documentary journalism. Not since the days of Fred Friendly and CBS REPORTS has there ever been such a steady flow of quality work, coming from one group like yours, week and week.

I and my family are deeply appreciative of your efforts to keep this country informed on the most pressing issues of our time, which is a very dangerous moment in human history. Thank you and just keep doing what you're doing. Hats off to Martin Smith.

Robert Markowitz
los angeles, ca


Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz are "Intellectual Narcissists". What do I mean by that? They are enraptured with the sound and the images of their ideas, without considering the consequences of those ideas. During the eighties, Perle was known as the "Prince of Darkness" while an employee of the Defense Department, because he opposed missile reduction treaties with the Soviets. Those discussions were bilateral!

I am blown away by the absurdity of the foreign policy of this administration and their lack of foresight. However, I can not blame the administration any longer. It is clearly not their fault! It is America's fault! The administration is only benefitting from America's hysteria and paralysis due to 9/11. I don't think we are able to conduct rational political dialogue anymore in this country due to this ailment.

If anyone does disagree with this administration, like Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker, he is called a terrorist. "You are either with us or against us!" is the rally cry. I never understood how men like Joseph McCarthy were able to be taken seriously. However, now I clearly understand!

Gregory Harshfield
portland, oregon


That was the first news report that I have seen in many, many months that I could ever call true journalism. I watched the program with great interest.

The most revealing moment in the entire broadcast was when Ambassador Thomas Hubbard was shirking off the relevance of President Bush's public use of the term "Axis of Evil." Mr. Smith, thank you for your strength and telling Ambassador Hubbard, "Words are important. You're a diplomat." And Ambassador Hubbard's silence, smile and an almost undetectable giggle. That IS the policy of the United States of America today -- aross the board. NO DIPLOMACY. I couldn't tell if Amb. Hubbard was saying..."yeah, so what?" or "yeah, ya got me there." Regardless, I weep for this country, for what we have become, and have grave fears for where we are heading, both here and abroad.

No diplomacy. Hostile words. I flashed to our future as I watched the amazing display of uniformity and unquestioned feverish adulation of the North Korean leaders Sung and Jung.

I hope that Mr. Smith will have the courage to turn the camera lens toward the USA and the policies that are taking over. It truly IS the story of the new century. Start with the PNAC.....and move forward. The story of the century. Which journalist will have the courage to tell that story? Frontline seems to be the only viable option. But soon enough, we won't have an option to TELL the true story. And as William Perry might say, "we have months, not years" to deal with this.

Thank you, and bless you for giving me some HOPE that accurate, probing and conscious reporting is still possible today.

Robin McBroom
salem, oregon


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