Carter correct on North Korea

Dr. Paul Kengor’s recent editorial, “Duped again on North Korea,” presented a rather bizarre interpretation of former President Jimmy Carter’s success in negotiating with North Korea and his portrayal of Carter as unaware of the poverty and starvation in the country is completely false. I personally track North Korea and write weekly reports for him detailing the harsh conditions in the country.

Far from Dr. Kengor’s characterization of Carter having an incredibly gullible appraisal of conditions in the country during the recent famine, the Carter Center closely monitored the situation and was repeatedly denied permission to enter the country and implement the agricultural programs that the Center has been successful with in 29 African countries.

In 1989, the CIA discovered the North Koreans were building a reprocessing facility near their nuclear reactor at Yongbyon for the purpose of converting the fuel rods into weapons-grade plutonium.

After the North Koreans withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty, removed the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors from the reactor facility and began moving the fuel rods, President Clinton had the Department of Defense draw up plans to send an additional 50,000 troops along with 400 combat aircraft, 50 ships, battalions of Apache helicopters, Bradley tanks, multiple-launch rockets and Patriot missiles into the region.

Under an agreement with the Clinton administration, former President Jimmy Carter went to North Korea and negotiated the 1994 Agreed Framework under the terms of which the North Koreans agreed to abide by the terms of the NPT, lock up the fuel rods again and allow the IAEA inspectors back in to monitor the nuclear reactor facility. This agreement held for eight years.

By September of 2002, the CIA became convinced that the North Koreans had begun acquiring centrifuges for enriching uranium. It is debatable as to whether this violated the 1994 Agreed Framework which dealt with the Yongbyon reactor fuel rods and the reprocessing of plutonium, but it was a clear violation of the NPT.

Although the development of nuclear weapons from enriching uranium is far more complex than reprocessing the plutonium in the reactor fuel rods and even though analysts thought the North Koreans were decades away from production of nuclear weapons using enriching uranium, on Oct. 20, 2002, the Bush administration, with the hearty approval of Donald Rumsfeld and John Bolton, announced that the United States was abrogating the 1994 Agreed Framework. Dr. Kengor undoubtedly approved.

The North Koreans responded by expelling the IAEA inspectors, restarting the reactor at Yongbyon, and unlocking the fuel rods. In January of 2003, the North Koreans withdrew from the NPT.

In February 2005, the North Korean government announced that they had produced nuclear weapons. Traces of the fallout from the weapon detonated by the North Koreans in October of 2006 proved that it was indisputably produced from the plutonium reprocessed from the Yongbyon reactor fuel rods. Fuel rods that had the 1994 Agreed Framework been followed would have been removed from North Korea.

The next time Dr. Kengor is at his office at the Center for Strategic & International Studies he might pick up the CSIS PakNet 52 Bulletin “Assessing Blame” which discusses the North Korean development of nuclear weapons and reports, “Clinton did all he could and enjoyed some success; the Agreed Framework did freeze Pyongyang’s known plutonium assets for a significant period of time. Otherwise, North Korea could have stockpiled perhaps 10 times as much plutonium as it is currently believed to possess.”

Had the incredibly naive policies Dr. Kengor advocates been followed during the Clinton administration, North Korea might now have up to 80 nuclear weapons.

Dr. Kengor laments that delusion has exacerbated an already complex situation. He is right but he is the one who has been duped by the delusion that these types of situations can simply be wished away by empty posturing and threats.

He embraces the neoconservative’s foreign policy philosophy of no diplomatic engagement with rogue regimes despite the repeated failure of their implementation of those policies in the real world with not a single success.

Once the other side decides to ignore their blustering, they have no other options and are completely befuddled as to how to proceed; reflected in Dr. Kengor’s admission that he has no answers to the North Korean problem.

Of course he doesn’t.

The failure in North Korea is not Jimmy Carter’s. The development of nuclear weapons by the North is a direct result of rejecting the Agreed Framework Carter negotiated and of following the impotent policies championed by Dr. Kengor.

Jeff Carter

Peachtree City, Ga.

[Jeff Carter most recently traveled with his father, former President Jimmy Carter, to North Korea in August 2010, according to the Carter Center in Atlanta (]