Sunday, August 17, 2008

Intelligence spin by US sparked North Korean crisis

In circumstances echoing the Iraq war controversy, hardliners in United States President George W Bush’s administration spun intelligence that triggered a nuclear crisis with North Korea and led to Pyongyang testing a bomb, says a new book titled ‘Meltdown: The inside story of the North Korean nuclear crisis’. Written by former senior CNN journalist Mike Chinoy, it says intelligence on a North Korean effort to acquire components for uranium enrichment was politicized to depict the hardline communist state running a full-fledged production facility capable of developing a nuclear bomb.

The book says conservative hardliners bent on ending an ‘agreed framework’ nuclear deal with North Korea forged under President Bill Clinton’s administration seized on the issue to force a confrontation. Then US assistant secretary of state, James Kelly, had been given instructions not to negotiate on his October 2002 trip to Pyongyang, but simply tell the North Koreans that they had to abandon their uranium program before any progress was possible. It was widely reported then that the North Koreans admitted to Kelly they had an uranium program and this led the United States to take a series of retaliatory steps that led to a downward spiral in ties and Pyongyang restarting its nuclear program and testing the bomb in 2006.

But Chinoy, who interviewed most members of Kelly’s delegation, said he could not find any evidence that the North Koreans explicitly admitted having such a programme. “It’s interesting that the transcript remains classified. It appears that a North Korean official … also tabled an offer to negotiate - which Kelly rejected,” he told reporters.


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