Can’t Exclude Strike On North Korea, Perle Says

WASHINGTON—The United States should be prepared to destroy North Korea’s Yongbyon reactor if necessary to keep the country from trafficking in nuclear weapons, an influential member of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s advisory panel said yesterday.

“Whether we can effectively mobilize a coalition — including China, Russia, the South Koreans, the Japanese, ourselves — and so isolate them that they will abandon this program, that remains to be seen,” said Richard Perle, an architect of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

“That’s certainly the preferable way to deal with it,” he added in a speech to a conference on Iraqi reconstruction.

“But I don’t think anyone can exclude the kind of surgical strike we saw in 1981,” he said, referring to Israel’s surprise air attack that destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad on June 7, 1981. “We should always be prepared to go it alone, if necessary.”

Yongbyon, site of a reactor and a plutonium reprocessing plant that North Korea has said it has restarted, lies about 100 kilometres north of Pyongyang.

The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has branded North Korea part of “an axis of evil” with Iran and pre-war Iraq and wants Pyongyang to ditch its nuclear program. Perle said the situation in Iran, which Washington accuses of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the guise of building power-generating reactors, was very different from North Korea’s.

The nuclear dispute erupted last October when the United States said Pyongyang had admitted to having a covert program. On Monday, North Korea said it wanted nuclear weapons so it could cut its conventional forces and divert funds into its economy.