For several years, North Korea has said it had nuclear weapons and the world has generally assumed that it did. With Pyongyang's apparent underground detonation of such a device on Monday, whatever lingering uncertainty there may have been has dissipated. Call it Kim Jong-Il's coming-out party. Now the question of what to do about one of the most dangerous regimes on the planet - a state-sponsor of terror who has expressed a willingness to sell its nuclear technology to those with the cash to buy it - recurs with fresh urgency.
Let's get one thing straight at the outset: The threat North Korea poses today is actually not appreciably different from that the Stalinist regime constituted last week. The difference is that we no longer have the luxury of ignoring it, or dealing with it through feckless "six-party talks," which amounts to the same thing.
Instead, we need to approach the danger posed by a nuclear-armed North Korea as though it constitutes a mortal peril to American strategic interests in Asia and, perhaps, to this country directly, as well. For, indeed, it does. The idea that a regime that has permitted some two million of its own people to starve to death will better treat others - including ours - is untenable and risky in the extreme.
Consequently, we need now to hold accountable those responsible for the North Korean nuclear program. Communist China has been playing a double-game for years. Without Beijing's military technology, to say nothing of its financial support, strategic protection and food and energy life-lines, Kim Jong-Il's regime would have been toast long ago and its people likely reunited with prosperous South Korea. To a lesser degree, the same can be said of the role played by Vladimir Putin's Russia.
Pakistan was the cut-out for much of the nuclear weapons know-how and equipment that flowed from China to Pyongyang. Nukes-r-Us impresario A.Q. Khan appears to have been used in transfers for which the Pakistani regime sought plausible deniability.
More recently, Iran has been an enabler of North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. Call it the oil-for-weapons program. Pyongyang has been trading mass destruction wherewithal and delivery systems to Tehran in exchange for energy supplies and, presumably, cash. The deal has helped lubricate Kim's steady progress towards ever-longer-range missiles and his acquisition of weapons to go on them. It has also greatly shortened the length of time it is taking Iran, the other charter member of the "Axis of Evil," to get up the learning curve in both areas.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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