'Giggles' At North Korean Nuclear Threat 'Giggles' At North Korean Nuclear Threat

Fred Kaplan, writing for, suggested Thursday that the United States should ignore any threats that the North Korean regime may pose.  “The North Koreans can be such a pain, so wearying, you wish that you could just ignore them. So let’s do that. Let’s ignore them,” he wrote.

On April 13, the North Koreans tried to launch a missile into space, but the rocket blew up soon after lift-off. Since other attempts have ended in failure, Kaplan argued, we should not take seriously the threats of Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, who bragged of North Korea’s “military superiority.”  Kaplan’s response to Kim Jong-un’s vow not to give in to imperialist pressure? “What should we do about that speech and others like it? Nothing, except maybe giggle.”

Of course he giggles; Kaplan’s view of North Korea is decidedly sanguine and Democrat Party pabulum, based on his reading of historical events. He wrote:

There was a time when Pyongyang could be dealt with. In fact, President Bill Clinton did deal with it. The Agreed Framework, signed in 1994, halted North Korea’s plutonium program–and installed permanent inspectors in its reprocessing plant–for eight years . . . In the opening weeks of George W. Bush’s presidency, Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters that he’d pick up where Clinton left off. Bush came down on Powell hard. To Bush and Dick Cheney, you didn’t negotiate with evil; you defeated it. Pyongyang tried to re-engage through various intermediaries, to no avail. So the North Koreans restarted their nuclear program, built a bomb, and tested it–at which point Bush offered to go back to the negotiating table, ill-prepared and too late.”

Now for the real history: in 1992, as part of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, North Korea said that it had separated abut 100 grams of plutonium from dam- aged fuel rods removed from a 25 megawatt-thermal (MWt) gas-graphite reactor at Yongbyon.  The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigated the claim, and concluded that North Korea had lied; they had separated more plutonium than it had declared to the Agency. In spring 1994, North Korea unloaded the 25 MWt reactor. The spent fuel was estimated at 25±8 kilograms, which, if separated, would be enough for four or five nuclear weapons.

January 1996: an IAEA delegation arrived in Pyongyang to continue talks on North Korea’s suspended nuclear operations. North Korea agreed that the IAEA could conduct routine and ad hoc inspections of its operational nuclear sites.

March 1996: IAEA Director General Hans Blix told the IAEA Board of Governors that North Korea was not cooperating. IAEA inspectors had made many attempts to photograph the nuclear facility since September 1995, but North Korea wasn’t granting visas for IAEA inspectors.

May 1996: North Korean officials refused to let IAEA inspectors measure the plutonium levels in the spent fuel rods.

August 1996: An IAEA safeguards report said that the IAEA was unable to verify North Korea’s initial declaration under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

September 17, 1996: North Korea’s representative states that North Korea “will not give the IAEA any information whatsoever” about spent fuel from its 5MW gas-graphite reactor “until the new reactors are finished and begin operating.”

September 19-27, 1996 The IAEA gives up in attempts to persuade North Korea to comply with its bilateral safeguards agreement.

So the whole Clinton era of “success” only meant that North Korea was continuing its clandestine activity.  And President Bush was right to confront evil.

Thankfully, even head-in-the-sand idiots like Kaplan have their opponents; Michael Green of the International Assessment and Strategy Center said, “I think we will see a nuclear test . . . If I were I betting, I would say they will do it” in the coming months, because there has been digging near a known nuclear facility.  Patrick Cronin of the Center for a New American Security told a House panel that the U.S. and its allies “must move beyond sanction . . . we’re losing leverage over North Korea.”

But for Kaplan and his leftist allies at Slate, giggling at evil is about the only leverage they’re interested in.