Clinton: We Drew Up Plans To Destroy N. Korean Nuclear Reactor

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:12 PM EDT

Pacific Rim Bureau ( - The U.S. threatened to destroy North Korea's nuclear facilities back in 1994 unless it agreed to halt its attempts to produce nuclear weapons, former President Clinton said Sunday.

Addressing 1,500 paying guests at a dinner in the Netherlands, Clinton said Pyongyang at the time had been planning to build six to eight weapons a year with plutonium from the program.

"We actually drew up plans to attack North Korea and to destroy their reactors and we told them we would attack unless they ended their nuclear program," he said.

Pyongyang subsequently reached an agreement with the U.S. to freeze a small reactor at Yongbyon, stop construction work on two larger and as-yet incomplete reactors, and mothball a storage facility for used fuel rods.

In return, the U.S. and its Asian allies would provide alternative and safe energy supplies.

Last week, however, North Korea announced its intention to resume the nuclear program, in violation of that deal, the Agreed Framework.

Clinton said Sunday the U.S. should together with China, Japan and other countries persuade or force the North Koreans to stop.

While Pyongyang was more likely to use the situation to bargain for more aid rather than to sell nuclear weapons, he said, "you do not want North Korea making bombs and selling them to the highest bidder because they cannot feed themselves through the winter."

A CNN report in 1999 cited former Pentagon officials as saying Washington had drawn up plans to send cruise missiles and F-117 stealth fighters to destroy the reactor at Yongbyon.

A 1997 book by former Washington Post reporter Don Oberdorfer described a June 1994 White House meeting at which various military options were being discussed in light of the crisis precipitated by North Korea's threat to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The briefing was interrupted by a call from former President Carter, calling from Pyongyang to say President Kim Il Sung had agreed to a deal, he wrote.

Several months later, the Agreed Framework was signed.

Clinton administration figures have been censured recently for what critics called a policy of "appeasement," and a deal they said placed too much reliance on Pyongyang's word, while inviting its continued aggressive behavior.

Last October the U.S. received confirmation that the North Koreans had been contravening the Agreed Framework with a separate, uranium-based program.

Last week's announcement of the intended reactivating of the frozen facilities deepened the standoff with the U.S.

In a bid to deny Saddam Hussein a nuclear weapons capacity, Israel in 1981 destroyed a nuclear reactor being built at Osirak, Iraq. The strike was widely criticized at the time by the international community, the U.S. included.

Ten years later, then Defense Secretary Richard Cheney said publicly that thanks to Israel's foresight a decade earlier, the U.S. had not faced a nuclear-armed Iraq during the recently-ended Gulf War.

See also:
South Korea Voters Warned of Nuclear War (Dec. 16, 2002)

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow