Rumsfeld adviser: Bomb N. Korea if necessary
WASHINGTON -- Richard Perle, the former Pentagon official and an architect of the Bush administration's strategy to topple Saddam Hussein, said President Bush should consider bombing North Korea's nuclear production facilities if diplomatic efforts fail to convince Pyongyang to disarm.
A chief adviser to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Perle said the preferable approach to the current nuclear standoff with North Korea would be to isolate the Stalinist regime so completely that it buckles and forswears atomic weapons. Whether such a tactic would work, Perle said, remains to be seen."
"But I don't think anyone can exclude a kind of surgical strike that we saw in 1981 when the Israelis destroyed the Osirik reactor, because they knew that if that reactor went unmolested it would eventually produce nuclear weapons," he told a conference here on Iraq reconstruction efforts.
The attack by Israeli jets on the Iraqi reactor destroyed what Israeli intelligence services said was a nascent nuclear weapons production line. While many countries condemned the strike, it is now widely credited with setting back Saddam Hussein's nuclear ambitions for over a decade.
Perle is a former chairman and current member of the Defense Policy Board, a group of experts from outside the Pentagon who advise Rumsfeld on military matters. He was an assistant defense secretary in the Reagan administration.
Crippled by an ailing economy and increasing economic isolation, North Korea has turned to weapons sales as one of its principal means of obtaining hard currency. Perle suggested that Pyongyang might seek to sell atomic bombs to the highest bidder.
"We must assume that if (North Korea) had a nuclear weapon and al-Qaida wished to purchase a nuclear weapon, that a deal that could be done. So we can't allow them to acquire nuclear weapons," Perle said.
"It is necessary to prevent the North Koreans from becoming the nuclear breadbasket of the world," he added.
Bush has said that he wants to solve the North Korea crisis via diplomacy.
The North Korean government maintains that Bush is preparing a military strike. In a recent editorial in a government newspaper, the regime of Kim Jong Il said that "the U.S. imperialists have already worked out a scenario for a preemptive attack in a bid to implement their war strategy against (North Korea)."
The CIA believes that North Korea possesses up to two nuclear weapons. But in recent talks with a visiting U.S. congressional delegation, Pyongyang officials claimed to have reprocessed about 8,000 nuclear fuel rods, enough for six to eight additional atomic bombs.
The recent standoff between the U.S. and North Korea began last October, when Assistant Secretary of States James Kelly flew to Pyongyang and confronted the North Koreans with evidence that they were in violation of a 1994 agreement in which they agreed to forego nuclear weapons development.
The Clinton administration, which negotiated the settlement, had weighed a possible preemptive strike against North Korea's nuclear facilities but decided not to pursue such an option.
North Korea has the fifth-largest active duty military in the world, the third-largest ground force, and the largest commando force -- with many troops poised on hair-trigger status. In contrast to Iraq's greatly diminished military following its defeat in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, North Korea has vast inventories of artillery, surface-to-surface missiles, medium-range missiles that can strike Japan and suspected stores of chemical and biological warheads.