Is North Korea next? |

Is North Korea next?

Veronica Whitney

While the Bush administration looks for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it also keeps a vigilant eye in North Korea, says Jim Brooke, Tokyo correspondent for The New York Times.

“North Korea has admitted to making nuclear weapons – they have at least two – and developing long-range missiles capable of hitting California,” says Brooke, who is in the valley to talk about North Korea at a Vail Symposium event today. “But they are probably 10 years away from that missile.”

After 20 years working for The New York Times, Brooke became its Tokyo correspondent in 2001. Previously he served as correspondent to Canada, and before that he was the newspaper’s Rocky Mountain bureau chief in Denver.

Shrinking the bomb

North Korea, which has been under communist rule since 1953, is also working on shrinking the size of the atomic bomb to put it in a missile, Brooke says.

“President Bush has called North Korea, Iraq and Iran the “access of Evil’,” he says. “What they all have in common is they produce weapons of mass destruction that aren’t recognized.”

“Because it lives off contraband, North Korea threatens the peace and economic growth of North East Asia,” Brooke says. “To them, it’s not a big deal to start selling nuclear bombs to Al Qaeda. They have the technology.”

North Korea got rid of the United Nations weapons inspectors in December, and has been telling the United States that they are producing ingredients for nuclear weapons, Brooke says.

“They are probably trying to scare us,” he says. “They want to have bombs. They have said that the reason that the U.S. attacked Iraq was because Saddam didn’t have nuclear weapons, which is probably accurate.”

Brooke describes North Korea as a very unstable country highly militarized with the fifth-largest army in the world.

“North Korea has half the population of South Korea, but its army is 50 percent bigger,” he says. “Although they lost 5 percent of the population to a famine in the 1990s, they keep buying weapons. This is a poor country, and it makes their money by selling illegal stuff.”

Materials for bombs

The United States, Brooke says, is afraid that North Korea will produce raw materials for nuclear bombs – like plutonium and rich uranium.

“There’s a very good chance that the Bush administration may try air strikes on North Korea later this year,” Brooke says.

“North Korean officials have said publicly that they are ready to go to war against the U.S. We can deal with the Chinese, but it’s very difficult to deal with the North Koreans.”

The Japanese, Brooke says, are very scared of North Korea, because it has 100 missiles that could hit Japan.

If the United States would strike North Korea, Brooke says, the North Koreans would likely strike back against Seoul, the capital of South Korea, 37 miles south of the North Korean border.

“North Korea has artillery aimed at Seoul, and that has kept people from attacking North Korea,” Brooke says. “Because they could level Seoul.

“We want peace and stability there,” he says. “If there’s a war, a lot of people will be killed because that’s a small place, so you can kill people fast. From the economic point, it’s important to keep it at peace, too.”

Vail Symposium today

What – “Is North Korea Next?”

Who – Jim Brooke, Tokyo correspondent for the New York Times, addresses this question at a Vail Symposium event.

When – 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.; light refreshments at 6 p.m., presentation and dinner ($35) to follow.

Where – Cordillera Valley Club, Edwards.

Cost – $20 Vail Symposium supporters; $25 all others.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at

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