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Monday, 21 October, 2002, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
Analysis: Dealing with the 'axis'
Still from North Korea TV of what is believed to be a Taepodong -1 missile
North Korea may be willing to do a deal with the US

The admission by North Korea that it has been enriching uranium in violation of an agreement reached in 1994 has opened up a new front in the Bush administration's campaign against the so called "axis of evil".

It has confirmed its view that the president was right to name North Korea as part of the axis.

North Korean troops march in a parade
North Korea has an army of more than one million men

But what has also emerged is that Washington does not have a one-size-fits-all policy.

It is already being made clear that it will deal with North Korea rather differently from Iraq - where war is all but inevitable if Saddam Hussein does not submit to weapons inspections.

President Bush's National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said that American foreign policy did not have a "cookie cutter" with which to apply the same formula to every case.

It would be foolhardy, she said, to do that.

Large army

That identifies one of the major differences between North Korea and Iraq.

North Korea is much stronger. It has an army of more than a million men together with thousands of long-range artillery pieces which could easily hit the South Korean capital, Seoul.

So the incentive for the Bush administration to find a diplomatic solution is very real, especially as right now it is preoccupied with Iraq.

It also feels, or has done to this point, that North Korea is amenable to some sort of deal.

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami
Iran, too, could cause growing US concern

Not that in the end, Washington might not launch a strike on North Korea's nuclear facilities.

It prepared such an operation before the 1994 agreement and would probably do so again, if negotiations fail this time.

The logic of its policy against weapons of mass destruction in the hands of certain states would demand that.

The third member of the axis, Iran, is not an immediate crisis for Washington, though there are rumblings in Israel about the sale by North Korea to Iran of ballistic missiles.

Israel's concerns usually get the attention of Washington's policy makers.

One report from a leading military commentator in Israel even claims that North Korea has been enriching its uranium in Iran.

Such claims by their nature are impossible to verify. But Iran's intentions on the nuclear and missile fronts are likely to grow as an issue for the United States.

Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

See also:

17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
09 May 02 | Americas
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