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World Opinion Roundup by Jefferson Morley

Nuclear North Korea: Bluff or 'Crisis From Hell' ?

By Jefferson Morley
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Friday, February 11, 2005; 9:15 AM

The Australian calls it the "crisis from hell." Others say it's just a bluff.

North Korea's announcement that it has nuclear weapons and will not return to six-party negotiations over its nuclear program prompts some online commentators to question whether the United States and other countries will take military action.

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The South Korean media, based in Seoul, are pessimistic.

"If the North chooses to go against the unanimous demands of the international community like this, an enormous tragedy is inevitable in the end," says the JoonAng Daily in Seoul.

Dong-A Ilbo says the U.N. Security Council must take action. North Korea "must not forget that there is no single neighboring country, including China that will tolerate its nuclear armament."

Chosun Ilbo says, "North Korea must awaken from the self-induced trance where it believes it can gain something only when it takes on the international community head-on. ...[A]n attachment to the strategies of the past could mean that the situation spirals out of control with Pyongyang itself the ultimate victim."

The Australian sees "three devastating road blocks" to attacking North Korea.

"One, Washington could not be sure it had got all North Korea's nuclear facilities in any attack. Two, the US military is already fully extended in Iraq. Three, North Korea has vast batteries of artillery, deeply embedded in rugged mountainside, all trained on the South Korean capital, Seoul."

Two years ago, the newspaper, owned by conservative media magnate Rupert Murdoch, reported that the U.S. military had "produced detailed plans to bomb North Korea's nuclear plant at Yongbyon, if the communist rogue state went ahead with reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel rods that would yield it enough plutonium for half a dozen nuclear weapons within six months."

"The elaborate Pentagon plan also involves a US strike against North Korean heavy artillery nestled into the hills above the border with South Korea," the Australian reported.

"The artillery directly threatens the giant city of Seoul, as well as about 17,000 US troops stationed just south of the Demilitarised Zone."

Russian military experts are "concerned," according to Moscow News.

Vasiliy Mikheyev, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, points out that North Korea's claim to have nuclear weapons is not backed by any evidence. "The North Korean side has so far not carried out any tests needed to develop production of nuclear weapons. Military experts think that for as long as such tests fail to materialize, there are no weapons to speak of either," he said.

North Korea's statement should not be treated as a bluff, said Alexander Konovalov, the president of the Russian Institute of Strategic Estimations. "Even if they have no nuclear weapons now, they will have [them]."

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