Senate Democrats


Failed Administration policy has allowed North Korea nuclear threat to quadruple

Washington, DC — With President Bush focusing on North Korea today during a meeting with South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid issued the following statement, calling on President Bush to change the course of a North Korea policy that has made America less safe. Democrats are fighting to take America’s security in a new direction. A fact check on the failure of President Bush’s North Korea policy follows below.

“On President Bush’s watch, and with the Rubberstamp Republican Congress in tow, North Korea’s nuclear threat has quadrupled. Though Bush Republicans have allowed North Korea’s plutonium stockpile to increase, Democrats are fighting to provide the real security Americans deserve. I urge President Bush to appoint the new North Korea policy coordinator recently called for in the Defense Authorization Bill. With South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun in Washington today, the President has an opportunity to change course from failed policies that have made America less safe.”


North Korean Nuclear Capabilities Have Increased Under Bush

North Korea Has Dramatically Increased Its Weapons Material Stockpile under the Bush Administration. When President Bush took office in 2000, Pyongyang had enough fissile material to manufacture 1-2 nuclear weapons. Today, experts believe that North Korea possesses material sufficient to build between 4 and 13 nuclear weapons and, unless an agreement is reached to stop the country’s program, it is estimated that Pyongyang will have enough material to manufacture between 8 and 17 nuclear weapons by 2008. [Institute for Science and International Security, 6/26/06]

Assistant Secretary of State For East Asia, Christopher Hill, Confirms Estimate That North Korea Has Material for Six to Eight Nuclear Weapons. In response to questioning by Senator Dodd that he had “heard the report they’d have enough material to produce six or eight” nuclear weapons, Hill responded, “You talk to analysts, and you’ll get different points of view, but in that order of magnitude, yes.” [Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on US Policy Toward North Korea, Congressional Transcripts: 07/20/2006]

North Korea Today Is Significantly More Dangerous Than When Bush Took Office. “How significant is the difference between the nuclear threat posed by North Korea when the Bush administration entered office, and the threat we face today? A state with two untested nuclear weapons faces an array of uncertainties. Will the weapons work? If it conducts a test, even if successful, at that point it would have only one nuclear bomb. With one or two nuclear weapons, the possibility that it would sell or transfer one of the weapons is extremely low. Contrast this with North Korea today, which has enough plutonium for eight to 13 nuclear bombs and is producing an additional two bombs’ worth of plutonium a year. Could such a state contemplate selling a bomb to another state or to a terrorist like Bin Laden?” [Graham Allison, op-ed, Los Angeles Times, 7/9/06 ]

North Korea Could Give Nuclear Material to Terrorists

North Korea is a Brazen Proliferator. “North Korea may be the world’s leading exporter of ballistic missiles and technology…the country has sold its missiles, components, and expertise to Egypt, Iran, Libya, Pakistan, Syria, and perhaps others.” [Deadly Arsenals, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 2005]

Chance of Pyongyang Selling Nuclear Material to Terrorists Plausible, Former Diplomat Warns. According to former Assistant Secretary of State Robert Galluci, Pyongyang “might figure that selling fissile material to a terrorist group would be relatively safe and profitable.” [Time, 7/17/06]

Bush Policies Have Exacerbated the Problem

Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich Chides the Administration for Its Approach. “The United States said that there would be terrible consequences for Korea–North Korea if they fired their missiles. They fired their missiles. We then threatened that the Chinese would come visit them. The Chinese went and visited them, nothing happened. We then said we’ll go to the U.N., and on your show last week, we were told there was going to be a Chapter Seven very tough resolution. The Chinese said they’d veto it if it was tough. They passed a weak resolution, and within 45 minutes the North Koreans had repudiated the resolution. So there’s no consequence. Meanwhile, the Iranians are watching. These two countries are watching. The, the Iranians watched the, the North Koreans basically stand us down. The North Koreans watched the Iranians basically get face-to- face talks. And these two dictatorships are playing us like a ping-pong game.” [Meet the Press, 7/16/06]

Conservative Nicholas Eberstadt Says the Bush Administration’s Empty Rhetoric and Lack of Strategy Have Allowed Pyongyang to Achieve “Strategic Successes.” “Although the Bush administration’s rhetoric about Kim Jong Il and his regime has sometimes been ferocious (‘loathsome dwarf,’ ‘axis of evil,’ etc.), North Korea’s leaders seem to have concluded that the Bush North Korea policy consists mainly of empty words–and that oft-repeated admonitions and warnings need not be taken terribly seriously. By more than one criterion, indeed, Pyongyang’s strategic successes on the Bush watch outshine those from its brinkmanship during the Clinton years. Apparently unwilling to move against North Korea’s nuclear challenges by itself, and evidently incapable of fashioning a practical response involving allies and others, the Bush administration’s response to Pyongyang’s atomic provocations is today principally characterized by renewed calls for additional rounds of toothless conference diplomacy.” [Wall Street Journal, 7/6/06]

Bush Administration Undermined Itself with Two-Pronged Approach. “[T]he problem that killed off the last round of negotiations when one part of the U.S. government decided it was more important to punish Pyongyang for counterfeiting dollar bills than getting rid of a nuclear threat. That step undercut the progress made by skilled U.S. diplomats and illustrated that the Bush Administration has no coherent policy on handling Pyongyang.” [Peter Beck, ABC news Online, 7/7/06]

Fluctuating Bush Policies Have Not Produced Results. “The Bush administration has tried to ignore North Korea, then, reluctantly, to engage it, and then to squeeze its bankers in a manner intended to make the country’s leader, Kim Jong Il, personally feel the pinch. Yet none of these steps in the past six years has worked. So now, after a barrage of missile launchings by North Korea, President Bush and his national security advisers found themselves on Wednesday facing what one close aide described as an array of ‘familiar bad choices.'” [New York Times, 7/6/06]

Bush Administration’s Focus on Iraq and Lack of Engagement with North Korea Have Emboldened Kim Jong, Il. “[T]he question goes to the heart of the new argument over pre-emption: whether Mr. Bush, in focusing on Iraq in 2003, missed his chance. It was in January of that year, as American forces were flowing toward the Middle East, that North Korea threw out the international inspectors who had been watching over its stockpile of nuclear fuel, and withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.” [New York Times, 7/10/06]

Assistant Secretary of State Hill Claims the North Koreans Know “the Real Issues on the Table,” Because They are Watching U.S. Policy toward Iran. “Well, I think the North Koreans are watching that policy. They’ve watched our India policy, for example. They do read the newspapers. And so I think what we have done in Iran we’ve already done in North Korea. We have a multilateral approach in North Korea where we’re prepared to deal with them bilaterally in the multilateral approach, and so I’m not sure there’s anything there that’s happening in Iran that they feel that they — that the North Koreans feel they don’t already have. The only other issue is, they seem to have this notion that, because they are further along in developing weapons of mass destruction, that somehow they should get more from us, and I’m not sure we can really buy into that logic. So while the situation — while it does come up, I think they understand what the real issues are on the table.” [Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on US Policy Toward North Korea, Congressional Transcripts: 07/20/2006]

Diplomats Suspect U.S. Financial Pressures on North Korea Led to Missile Launch. “For the past year the Treasury Department has put intense pressure on international banks doing business with North Korea…Some diplomats in Beijing, in fact, suspect that the financial pressure the US has been applying was the main reason for Pyongyang’s defiant missile launch.” [Time, 7/17/06]

Lack of U.S. Engagement Hinders Progress

Assistant Secretary of State For East Asia, Christopher Hill Says He Does Not Know What the U.S. Would Talk to North Korea About: “[T]hey’ve said they support the six-party talks. So the fact they’re not going there means that they’re not interested in fulfilling the things that we want to be fulfilled, so I’m not sure what it is we’re supposed to talk to them about.” [Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on US Policy Toward North Korea, Congressional Transcripts: 07/20/2006]

Hill Explained That the Administration Values Six-Party Talks because the U.S. Interacts with North Korea the Least. Six-party talks are important for the US because “if you look at all of the partners in the six-party process, we have less interaction with North Korea that any of the other partners.” [Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on US Policy Toward North Korea, Congressional Transcripts: 07/20/2006]

Hill Highlighted Fact That Bush Administration Policy Is All Talk, No Results. “I think that we need to make it clear that, when we say that it’s unacceptable to be a nuclear power, that we really mean it.” [Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on US Policy Toward North Korea, Congressional Transcripts: 07/20/2006]