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Thursday 24 Aug 2017 | 04:00 | SYDNEY

A big North Korea story?

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COMMENTS

2 April 2008 15:34

It's been three days since this was published, but I see that a major Western news organisation has now picked up on what is a potentially important development in a big nuclear proliferation story.

According to the Japanese daily, Asahi Shimbun, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his Japanese counterpart, Yasuo Fukuda, that the air raid Israel conducted against Syria in September last year was against a suspected nuclear facility being built with assistance from North Korea. Israel has never publicly confirmed anything about the nature of the target. 

The story is anonymously sourced, so best to withhold judgment about its accuracy. And even if the story is true, we shouldn't take Olmert's word for it: arms control scholars like this guy and this guy have doubts that the facility was nuclear-weapon related.  

It's surprising that opponents of the Bush Administration's current approach to North Korea have yet to seize on the story. The Administration has largely abandoned its previously aggressive tone toward Pyongyang in favour of engagement, an approach which appears to be making some progress.

But there are some in Washington who oppose this course, and a story like this would strengthen their case that Pyongyang cannot be trusted and that negotiation is the wrong policy. Still, the State Department confirmed the North Korea link to Syria last  year, and it seemed to cause barely a ripple in the negotiations. Which suggests the Bush Administration is pretty determined to close a deal with Pyongyang, and that it is not listening to those who oppose their approach.

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