Former President Bill Clinton thought he saved the world from a nuclear North Korea more than two decades ago, but he was wrong.
North Korea now has an intercontinental ballistic missile that can range most of the continental U.S., and a new Defense Intelligence Agency assessment suggests that North Korea has successfully miniaturized nuclear warheads for its missiles. The North is, according to a recent defense intelligence report, expected to be able to field a reliable, nuclear-armed ICBM as early as next year.
In the early 1990s, Clinton faced a growing nuclear threat from North Korea, but he ultimately chose diplomacy and deals over the application of military force.
“I was determined to prevent North Korea from developing a nuclear arsenal, even at the risk of war,” Clinton wrote in his memoirs. He decided to change course after receiving “a sobering estimate of the staggering losses both sides would suffer if war broke out.”
Before North Korea had nuclear weapons, the anticipated casualty count in the event of a renewed conflict on the peninsula was in the hundreds of thousands. Instead of war, Clinton chose the Agreed Framework, promising billions of dollars in aid for a North Korean nuclear freeze.
“This is a good deal for the United States,” he said at the time. “North Korea will freeze and then dismantle its nuclear program. South Korea and our other allies will be better protected. The entire world will be safer as we slow the spread of nuclear weapons.”
NKorea Flashback: Bill Clinton on his deal with North Korea "The world will be safer." Whoops. pic.twitter.com/HDf86yqbEq
— Mark Dice (@MarkDice) August 8, 2017
The North Koreans negotiated in bad faith, however, offering false promises to convince the U.S. to unwittingly subsidize their nuclear program. The country began enriching nuclear material, and North Korea conducted its first nuclear test a little over a decade later. North Korea has since continued its steady march to becoming a fully-armed nuclear power. Evidence suggests that North Korea will achieve its nuclear weapons goals much sooner than analysts and experts previously expected.
North Korea advanced its program throughout the Bush and Obama administrations, bringing the U.S. to the risky situation it now faces.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Donald Trump declared to the White House press pool Tuesday. “They will be met with the fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said, they will be met with the fire and fury and, frankly, power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
While the casualty count in a North Korean crisis might have been high in the 1990s, the cost of a conflict now that North Korea has nuclear weapons would be in the millions.