US Lets N. Korea Get Nuclear Data
Friday 7 March 2003
Transfer Pact Stays in Effect
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration has not suspended or revoked the authority of Westinghouse Co. to transfer documents related to nuclear technology to North Korea, despite the fact that the Asian nation has admitted that it violated terms of a nonproliferation agreement it signed with Washington in 1994, US Department of Energy documents show.
Some Republicans have blamed the Clinton administration for the nuclear standoff with North Korea, arguing that the 1994 agreement calling for an end to the North's nuclear program in exchange for food and fuel was hopelessly optimistic and naive.
But Department of Energy documents released yesterday to Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Malden, indicate that the Bush administration quietly worked under that agreement and rejected a chance to repudiate it in May 2001, when the Department of Energy extended for five more years the authority for Westinghouse to transfer nuclear technology to North Korea.
''They've engaged in rhetorical hostility, but policy continuity with the Clinton administration's North Korea policy from the very beginning,'' said Markey, who is cochairman of a congressional nonproliferation task force and a member of the Homeland Security Committee.
Former secretary of state James A. Baker III and Senator John S. McCain, Republican of Arizona, have been strongly critical of the Clinton administration's handling of the issue in 1994.
Baker wrote that the agreement, under which the United States would also provide North Korea with two new nuclear reactors that would be used for nonmilitary purposes, was ''a mistake that has made stability on the Korean Peninsula less, not more, likely.''
McCain wrote that ''the Clinton administration's lack of credibility in dealing with North Korea emboldened the regime to defy America.''
McCain did not fault Bush for not stepping away from the agreement when he had a chance to. Yesterday, a source in McCain's office, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: ''The overwhelming responsibility lays at the doorstep at the Clinton administration.''
Markey, however, said the Republicans were trying to have it both ways, quietly working under the agreement and then blaming Clinton for the current situation in North Korea.
In a series of letters and committee meetings, Markey prodded the Bush administration to provide specific information on what nuclear technology transfers had been approved. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, responding on March 4 to a letter Markey sent to him on Oct. 22, told the congressman that more than 3,000 nuclear-related documents have been reviewed by the department and that 300 documents have been transferred to North Korea. The department did not say when those documents were transferred.
The 300 documents include a safety analysis report, training documents, quality assurance documents, and construction documents, Energy Department documents show.
In light of North Korea's admission that is has been pursuing a nuclear weapons program in violation of the 1994 agreement, the Bush administration is ''now considering appropriate courses of action, possibly to include suspension or revocation of the May 2001 authorization,'' Abraham said.
Officials at Westinghouse could not be reached for comment yesterday.
After being confronted with US intelligence on its activities, North Korea admitted last October that it had embarked on a nuclear weapons program. Since that time, North Korea has tested weapons while Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was in the region and intercepted a US reconnaisance flight. The Bush administration has refused to call the situation a crisis and refused to meet with the North Koreans, arguing that doing so would reward Pyongyang's behavior.
Congressional Democrats have been increasingly critical of Bush's approach to North Korea, with many insisting that the threat posed by a nuclear-armed North Korea is far greater than any posed by Iraq.
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)