(CNSNews.com) - Sen. John F. Kerry released a statement on Sunday, saying, "The mere fact that we are even contemplating a nuclear weapons test by North Korea highlights a massive national security failure by President Bush."
Kerry said that during Bush's presidency, North Korea has advanced its nuclear program. "A potential route to a nuclear 9/11 is clearly visible," Kerry said.
"North Korea's nuclear program is well ahead of what Saddam Hussein was even suspected of doing -- yet the president took his eye off the ball, wrongly ignoring this growing danger. What is unfolding in North Korea is exactly the kind of disaster that it is an American president's solemn duty to prevent."
President Bush has identified North Korea as one of three nations comprising an "axis of evil." He has asked other countries in the region to help the U.S. pressure North Korea to disarm. Those "six-party" talks are ongoing.
"I felt it was important to bring other countries into the mix, like China and Japan and South Korea and Russia, so there's now five countries saying to the tyrant in North Korea, disarm, disarm," President Bush said last month on the campaign trail.
Republicans say North Korea kicked its nuclear program into high gear during the Clinton administration, whose 1994 "Agreed Framework" deal with the communist state quickly unraveled.
The deal - in which North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear program in return for U.S. fuel aid and other concessions -- was a farce from the beginning, critics say. In 2002, North Korea admitted reneging on the deal by carrying out a covert uranium-enrichment program.
In a June 1 speech, Sen. Kerry said the United States should continue with the six-party talks with North Korea. But, he added, "We must also be prepared to talk directly with North Korea. This problem is too urgent to allow China, or others at the table, to speak for us. And we must be prepared to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that addresses the full range of issues of concern to us and our allies."
In their "Plan for America," Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards said they would "work toward negotiating a comprehensive agreement with North Korea that will completely, irreversibly, and verifiably end North Korea's nuclear weapons program."
They say they would continue the current six-nation negotiations with North
Korea, "but be prepared to engage in direct U.S. bilateral negotiations with Pyongyang as part of those talks."
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.