Fri, Apr 21, 2017 - Page 9 News List

US facing ‘slow-motion Cuban missile crisis’

The standoff over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is growing increasingly volatile, while Trump is on a learning curve, leaving plenty of opportunities for miscalculations

By David Sanger and William Broad  /  NY Times News Service, WASHINGTON

However, such programs buy time; they are not solutions. Equally worrisome to Washington officials and private analysts is the North’s steady progress over a decade in developing nuclear warheads that are small enough to fit atop long-range missiles.

By definition, the atomic work appears to be far less open to prying eyes and foreign sabotage. The explosive nuclear tests take place in tunnels dug deep beneath a rugged mountain.

“They’ve done five tests in 10 years,” said Siegfried Hecker, a Stanford professor who once directed the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico, a birthplace of the atomic bomb. “You can learn a lot in that time.”

Tempting as the analogies to Cuba may be, Kim is probably thinking of another nuclear negotiation — with Libya, in 2003. Its then-leader, Muammar Qaddafi, agreed to give up his nascent nuclear program in return for promises from the West of economic integration and acceptance.

It never really happened, and as soon as Libya’s populace turned against the dictator during the Arab Spring, the US and its European and Arab allies drove him from power. Ultimately, he was pulled out of a ditch and shot.

Periodically, the North Koreans write about that experience, noting what a sap Qaddafi was to give up the nuclear program that might have saved him.

Kim, it appears, is not planning to make the same mistake.

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