It’s North Korea, Stupid!

by Bill Press
Tribune Media Services

In London, Berlin, Paris, New York and Melbourne, over 2 million people marched in protest. At the United Nations, over 50 countries spoke out against an invasion of Iraq. But, in the end, it won’t make any difference.

No matter how many millions protest, and no matter what the United Nations decides, President Bush is going to war. But is it the right war, in the right place, at the right time?

There is growing evidence, in fact, that the president has the wrong target in the crosshairs. Yes, there is a madman with nuclear weapons who poses an imminent threat to the United States. But it’s not Saddam Hussein of Iraq. It’s Kim Jong Il of North Korea.

Consider: We know, because they’ve bragged about it, that North Korea has at least two nuclear weapons, and has begun building more. Iraq has none. We know, because they’ve tested it, that North Korea has a missile capable of delivering a nuclear bomb to the West Coast of the United States. Iraq has none. We know, because we saw them leave, that North Korea expelled its U.N. weapons inspectors. Iraq invited them back in.

And now the latest, as reported by Bill Gertz in the Washington Times: The same ship intercepted, last December, carrying Scud missiles from North Korea to Yemen was recently discovered with a much more deadly cargo. U.S. intelligence officials spotted the Sosan as it arrived in North Korea earlier this month from Germany, carrying a shipment of sodium cyanide, a chemical compound that can be used for making nerve gas.

Sodium cyanide is actually a dual-use chemical, used to make the nerve gas sarin or in the manufacture of pesticides or plastics. As such, it is controlled by the 34-nation Australia Group, whose members agreed not to sell the compound to untrustworthy, hostile nations like North Korea. Germany obviously violated that agreement.

But the implication of the delivery is ominous. It means that North Korea not only has an active nuclear weapons program, but is producing, or already has, an arsenal of biological and chemical weapons as well. And there is no reason to trust them to reserve those weapons for defensive purposes. North Korean president Kim Jong Il - the only man alive who could make Saddam Hussein seem almost sane by comparison - has already declared that if preemptive strikes are OK for the United States, they’re OK for North Korea, too.

Add it up. North Korea has nuclear weapons. They probably have biological and chemical weapons, too. They can strike South Korea, Japan, China, Hawaii, Alaska and maybe even the West Coast of the continent. And, with one of the world’s poorest economies, they could, and would readily, sell either weapons or weapon technology to any terrorist organization willing to pay the price.

Clearly, North Korea is a much more serious threat to the United States than Iraq. And an immediate threat to 37,000 American troops guarding the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

Yet, notice the difference. To deal with Iraq, President Bush is urging war. With North Korea, he is preaching diplomacy and containment. As New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd noted, that conflicting strategy sends a clear message to rogue nations around the world: Go nuclear fast. If you possess nuclear weapons, the United States will send you a fruit basket. If not, you’ll get a Tomahawk missile.

Which is not to argue for war against North Korea, too. Just the opposite. Instead of treating North Korea like Iraq, we should treat Iraq like North Korea. If, as President Bush insists, containment, or the threat of massive retaliation, works to prevent North Korea from using its weapons of mass destruction, that same policy will work against Iraq, too.

After all, Stalin was every bit as evil as Saddam Hussein. He had thousands of nuclear-armed missiles aimed at the United States. But we never invaded his country. For 50 years, containment worked against the Soviet Union.

And for the last 11 years, it has worked against Iraq, too. Ever since Desert Storm, Saddam Hussein has not made one false move. Why? Because he knows that, were he to do so, Iraq would be a parking lot overnight.

Bottom line: President Bush has the right strategy toward North Korea. He should apply the same strategy to Iraq. Containment, not war, is the answer.

Press is co-host of MSNBC’s “Buchanan and Press.” His book, “Spin This!”, is now available in paperback. His e-mail address is: