Former U.S. intelligence officials are sounding alarm bells as North Korea inches closer to having a nuclear missile capable of reaching Hawaii or the West Coast of the United States.
Bruce Klingner, a former CIA deputy division chief for Korea, told Fox News the rogue regime in Pyongyang is closer than people realize to adding operational ICBM missiles to its arsenal — large-range weapons capable of carrying a nuclear payload that could cross the ocean and strike America.
“The North Korean deal of 1994 is the prototype for why open societies should not negotiate arms control agreements with rogue regimes.”
“We can expect an [intercontinental ballistic missile] test this year with full capability within the next few years,” Klingner said.
North Korea recently fired ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan in violation of the United Nations Security Council.
An ICBM from a rookie nuclear-league nation in the Pacific Rim could at least hit Hawaii or Los Angeles. Pyongyang is apparently reacting to its feeling of being surrounded by mortal foes: South Korea, Japan, and the United States.
At least one foreign-policy expert said he traces North Korea’s current saber-rattling to a nuclear deal made two decades ago by President Bill Clinton.
On Oct. 18, 1994, Clinton approved a plan to arrange more than $4 billion in energy aid to North Korea over the course of a decade, in return for a commitment from the country’s Communist leadership to freeze and gradually dismantle its nuclear weapons development program, according to The New York Times.
The “complex” deal was to de-escalate the situation on the Korean peninsula, where the two Korean nations never negotiated a peace treaty after the Korean War ended in armistice in 1953.
“This agreement is good for the United States, good for our allies, and good for the safety of the entire world,” said Clinton in 1994. “It’s a crucial step toward drawing North Korea into the global community.”
The drawing-in never happened. North Korea has become more isolated and dangerous. And after years of furtive activity in North Korea, attempts to placate the Communist state seem to have only encouraged its dangerous leaders.
“The North Korean deal of 1994 is the prototype for why open societies should not negotiate arms control agreements with rogue regimes,” said Robert Kaufman, professor of public policy at Pepperdine University. “The North Koreans duped Jimmy Carter — an emissary of Clinton — and the Clinton administration to subsidize the North Korean nuclear program in exchange for the counterfeit promise that North Korea would limit itself to civilian nuclear power.”
Kaufman said the agreement tranquilized the West while the North Koreans proceeded to cross the nuclear threshold, which they announced in 2002 after pocketing billions from the West.
But nuclear weapons are far less a threat without the capability to deliver them to another continent. That the North Koreans could have an ICBM means they could soon threaten most nations on the planet. It would force a higher level of negotiation from nations reluctant to negotiate with the tyrannical regime.
And it could mean a greater degree of “blackmail.” North Korea is a cash-poor nation that often takes money from its enemies. An ICBM could allow the nation to begin arranging all kinds of new agreements meant to extort South Korea, Japan, the United States, and others for cash.
But it could just be talk. On Jan. 2, President Donald Trump said North Korea's threats were aimed at improving its power and negotiating position.
"North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S.," Trump tweeted. "It won't happen!"
But over time, it's likely the North Koreans will test and test until they can gather the technology to build an ICBM with a nuclear weapon.
Kaufman says the 1994 deal shows the folly of nuclear talks with rogue states. The 1994 deal appears to be the same mistake former President Obama made with Iran before his tenure expired.
"[President] Obama's feckless nuclear deal [with Iran] is the sequel," said Kaufman. "We have lifted sanctions on Iran, infusing that tottering economy with much-needed cash, in exchange for an agreement that enables Iran to cross the nuclear threshold — even in the unlikely event the Iranians abide by it. Worse, we can [not] verify Iranian compliance reliably. Nor can we enforce the agreement even if we detect unambiguous violation because enforcement depends on the U.N. Security Council."
Kaufman said the United States should have never bet on North Korea and Iran disarming.
"Arms control works best when needed least — when both sides wish to disarm," said Kaufman. "Arms control with rogue regimes is, on the contrary, a triumph of hope over experience."