In an amazing development, two Clinton-era defense officials have called on President Bush to strike the North Korean missile on its launchpad should Pyongyang persist in its determination to fire the device. Excerpts from a signed article in the Washington Post by Ashton B. Carter and William Perry.
A year later North Korea agreed to a moratorium on further launches, which it upheld -- until now. But there is a critical difference between now and 1998. Today North Korea openly boasts of its nuclear deterrent, has obtained six to eight bombs' worth of plutonium since 2003 and is plunging ahead to make more in its Yongbyon reactor. The six-party talks aimed at containing North Korea's weapons of mass destruction have collapsed. ...
Should the United States allow a country openly hostile to it and armed with nuclear weapons to perfect an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear weapons to U.S. soil? We believe not. The Bush administration has unwisely ballyhooed the doctrine of "preemption," which all previous presidents have sustained as an option rather than a dogma. It has applied the doctrine to Iraq, where the intelligence pointed to a threat from weapons of mass destruction that was much smaller than the risk North Korea poses. (The actual threat from Saddam Hussein was, we now know, even smaller than believed at the time of the invasion.) But intervening before mortal threats to U.S. security can develop is surely a prudent policy.
Therefore, if North Korea persists in its launch preparations, the United States should immediately make clear its intention to strike and destroy the North Korean Taepodong missile before it can be launched. This could be accomplished, for example, by a cruise missile launched from a submarine carrying a high-explosive warhead. The blast would be similar to the one that killed terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq.
There's one difference between Zarqawi and Kim Jong Il which will doubtless not have escaped William Perry. Kim Jong Il is a sitting head of state and, should the Taepodong be blown up in his face, can patiently devote his time to discovering how to revenge himself given he "has obtained six to eight bombs' worth of plutonium since 2003 and is plunging ahead to make more in its Yongbyon reactor". If Kim remains defiant, what do we do for an encore? Everyone knows the answer, but they ought to spell it out now, lest people say they didn't know the facts before they signed up for the ride.