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In the face of North Korea’s test of nuclear weapons, the world is focussed on Washington’s response. But who are the key players in the US Administration bending the President’s ear? The following is a quick run-down of senior Bush Administration Officials and some of their most recent comments regarding this crisis with North Korea.
National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley
In the run-up to the test of the nuclear bomb, North Korean officials contacted their counterparts in China, who quickly alerted the US via its embassy in Beijing. Hadley notified President Bush that a test was imminent around 10pm last night.
At a press briefing in June, Hadley stated “We've been concerned for a long time about North Korea's development of ballistic missiles and their willingness to sell them. There is, of course, a missile technology control regime that is out that we are supportive of, as is most of the international community, that is trying to stop the trade in longer-range ballistic missiles. So we've been concerned about the North Korean program for some time. We've expressed those concerns to the North Koreans.”
Stephen Hadley is close to Vice President Cheney and to the neoconservative camp. Replacing Condoleezza Rice as National Security Adviser to the president in mid-November 2004, Hadley formed part of a loosely constituted group of foreign policy advisers known as the Vulcans who advised candidate Bush in 2000 and were at the core of the presidential transition team following Bush’s election. Among the other Vulcans who later moved into the first Bush administration were Rice, Colin Powell, Cheney, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz (currently President of the World Bank).
During President George W. Bush's first term, Mr. Hadley served as the Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor. Mr. Hadley served as a senior foreign and defense policy advisor to then-Governor Bush during the 2000 Presidential Campaign and worked in the Bush-Cheney Transition on the National Security Council.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
"It would be a very provocative act by the North Koreans," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday. "A North Korean nuclear test ... would create a qualitatively different situation on the Korean peninsula. I think that you would see that a number of states in the region would need to reassess where they are now with North Korea."
In a statement released by the State Department following the resumption of diplomatic relations with Libya in May of this year, Dr Rice suggested that “just as 2003 marked a turning point for the Libyan people so too could 2006 mark turning points for the peoples of Iran and North Korea. Libya is an important model as nations around the world press for changes in behavior by the Iranian and North Korean regimes -- changes that could be vital to international peace and security. We urge the leadership of Iran and North Korea to make similar strategic decisions that would benefit their citizens.” The option to pursue these ‘strategic decisions’ has now swiftly been eliminated by North Korea, and one can assume that the US will not be solely relying on soft diplomatic tactics in its response to this blatant disregard for international consensus.
Since Condoleezza Rice took over as Secretary of State from Colin Powell in 2005, she has been encouraged by the administration to attempt to repair relations with key allies in Europe and elsewhere, particularly pursuing multilateral diplomatic tactics following North Korea’s missile tests in July of this year.
Rice's own position on foreign policy has shifted and developed since her time in the Bush Administration. Prior to Bush's election in 2000, she advocated a more restrained foreign policy that would be strictly tied to U.S. national interests. However, Rice has quickly adapted to the expansive neoconservative agendas of both Vice President Cheney and President Bush. As Secretary of State the realist side of Dr. Rice has once again become more apparent. It would appear likely that she will support aggressive, multilateral action to punish the North Koreans. Although Dr. Rice supported the invasion of Iraq, it is doubtful she will push for such an option in this conflict. She will understand the implications of military action on the region and will counsel the president to keep a restrained policy vis-à-vis North Korea for the immediate future.
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Christopher Hill
Described as the U.S. State Department's point man on the North Korean nuclear issue, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, said last week that if North Korea conducted a nuclear test, "We would have no choice but to act and act resolutely to make sure (North Korea) understood, and make sure every other country in the world understands, that this is a very bad mistake." Ambassador Hill also added elucidated that the US “will not accept a nuclear state.’’
In a speech last week (27 September) at the Center for International Security Studies Hill said the U.S. could not live with a nuclear test. During a recent congressional hearing, Hill also warned North Korea again against conducting a nuclear weapon test, stating “all parties have made it clear that this would be a very, very serious step”. Hill also added that “it is a very small piece of the world. … It is frankly speaking, rather shocking that anyone would even think of exploding a nuclear weapon on the Korean Peninsula.”
Ambassador Hill is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service whose most recent assignment was as Ambassador to the Republic of Korea. On February 14, 2005, he was named as the Head of the U.S. delegation to the Six-Party Talks on the North Korean nuclear issue. Previously he has served as U.S. Ambassador to Poland (2000-2004), Ambassador to the Republic of Macedonia (1996-1999) and Special Envoy to Kosovo (1998-1999). He also served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Southeast European Affairs in the National Security Council.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said last week that a successful North Korean nuclear weapon test would show weakness on the part of the international community, "And that failure ... is something that the international community would have to register and ask itself how comfortable are we being that ineffective in this situation."
Rumsfeld also said that a successful North Korean test could prompt other countries to pursue nuclear weapons: ‘‘Because of the ineffectiveness, and the lack of cohesion and the inability to marshal sufficient leverage to prevent North Korea from proceeding toward a nuclear program ... it will kind of lower the threshold, and other countries will step forward with it.’’ This means that should North Korea’s actions remain unpunished by the US and the international community, other nuclear powers including India and China could resume their own nuclear testing—resulting in a greater risk of nuclear proliferation. He added that depending on whether the test is above or below ground, the United States has as good a capability of detecting it as any country.
However, Secretary Rumsfeld is not confirming whether or not it would trigger any U.S. military action: ‘‘I wouldn’t be the person who would make a decision like that. That’s a decision for the country, and a decision for president,’’ Rumsfeld said. The question of military action remains to be seen, particularly as the US Government has yet to independently confirm a successful weapons test in North Korea.
Donald Rumsfeld was sworn in as the 21st Secretary of Defense on January 20, 2001. Before assuming his present post, the former Navy pilot had also served as the 13th Secretary of Defense, White House Chief of Staff, U.S. Ambassador to NATO, U.S. Congressman and chief executive officer of two Fortune 500 companies.
Pentagon Advisor Richard Perle
Pentagon Advisor Richard Perle said last week that the U.S. should be prepared to unilaterally and preemptively attack North Korea to destroy its nuclear facilities. Perle, added, "We should always be prepared to go it alone, if necessary.” Perle also suggested North Korea may attempt to help Al Qaeda. He said: "I think we must assume that if they had a nuclear weapon, and if al Qaeda wished to purchase a nuclear weapon, it's a deal that could be done.” Perle has been a frequent critic of the UN as well as a constant supporter of US pre-emptive action as a means of US self-defense. It comes as little surprise, therefore, that Mr Perle strongly advocates ‘going it alone’.
Richard Perle had long been an advocate of regime change in Iraq. He was a signatory of the January 26, 1998 PNAC Letter sent to US President Bill Clinton, which called for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime using both diplomatic and military means. Perle came into further prominance due to his role in backing the 2003 invasion, and continues to support the military presence there.
In July 2001, Perle became chairman of the 30-member Defense Policy Board, which meets regularly with Rumsfeld. The board's meetings are classified and members are allowed access to top-secret intelligence reports.
Perle, who worked at the Pentagon during the Reagan years, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute think tank and directed its Commission on Future Defenses. He has also advised members of Congress and is frequently called to testify at defense hearings on Capitol Hill. There is little evidence to suggest the Mr. Perle would hesitate to advice the President to use military force in this situation.
Some Concluding Thoughts
President Bush is clearly surrounded by an array of advisers that will not all necessarily advocate the same line of action. It seems at the moment that he is pursuing a multilateral course of action, having announced this afternoon that he and the leaders of South Korea, Russia, China and Japan have agreed that there should be an "immediate response by the United Nations Security Council." President Bush stated that North Korea's claim that it has tested a nuclear weapon is a threat to international peace and said the world "will respond." For the moment, anyway, the likely advice from advisers such as Mr Perle, Mr Hadley and Secretary Rumsfeld will give way to the diplomatic pursuit urged by Dr Rice and Ambassador Hill.
Kate Clouston, Transatlantic Security Programme Research Associate