GOOD Guide: to North Korea, Nuclear Ambitions Realized (sec. 6 of 10)
In July 1950, President Truman authorized 10 nuclear-configured B-52 bombers to be deployed within striking range of the North to take "whatever steps are necessary" to prevent the triumph of Northern forces. In the winter of 1950, General Douglas MacArthur sought permission to drop "between 30 and 50 atomic bombs" on the North, which would have laid a belt of radioactivity across the peninsula. Fortunately, this never happened. But as the war ended, Kim Il Sung ordered work to start on a nuclear-weapons program, feeling he needed "equivalence" with America should hostilities resume.Kim forged relationships with nuclear scientists in both the U.S.S.R. and China. The nuclear facility at Yongbyon (60 miles north of Pyongyang), which has attracted so much interest of late, was originally established in 1964. Reports of the early days of the North's nuclear program are sketchy at best, although defectors have reported many deaths from radiation sickness among the physicists who worked at Yongbyon. By the late 1980s, Western intelligence agencies believed that the D.P.R.K. had advanced to reprocessing plutonium, turning it into weapons-grade material. At the same time, Pyongyang's missile technology was improving. The notion that the D.P.R.K. could build a bomb and devise a delivery technology seemed close to reality.In 1994 the United States and North Korea reached the Agreed Framework, whereby Pyongyang would decommission its nuclear program and allow weapons inspections in return for civilian use of reactors to generate power and aid in the form of oil. The situation seemed stable. Then, in October 2002, James Kelly, America's assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, was told in a whisper from a North Korean official that the country was in breach of the 1994 Framework and was again refining plutonium in service of its nuclear ambitions. North Korea swiftly moved back up the American political agenda-though not quite as high as Iraq and Afghanistan. Beijing brokered Six-Party Talks featuring China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan as well as the United States, and the D.P.R.K. Though several years of talks followed, few tangible results were achieved.Then, in October 2006, the four-year game of show-and-tell ended with the dramatic detonation of a warhead-North Korea had joined the nuclear club. The initial response was a sanctions package proposed by Washington and supported by the U.N. targeting a slightly bizarre range of luxury goods including Segways, crystal ornaments, silk scarves, and rare stamps. The aim was to isolate and economically strangle the North's "elite." But a larger question loomed over the sanctions package-how do you isolate a regime that has effectively spent the last half-century isolating itself?February of 2007 saw a breakthrough. A road map of sorts was agreed upon, similar to that of the 1994 Agreed Framework. Pyongyang desperately needs the fuel aid, and Washington certainly doesn't need a conflict in Korea.