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North Korea test was plutonium: produced under Bush I or Bush II, not Clinton

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The official word on North Korea's nuclear test is that the detonation was a nuclear event with a sub-kilo explosion, which matches what you've been reading on this site since the day after the test. Atmospheric sampling detected radiological emissions, confirming that the test was not an elaborate fake, but rather a semi-failed nuclear explosion.

The tests also showed that the bomb was made with plutonium and not uranium. For everybody unfamiliar with the arcane details of nuclear weapons, this is another nail in the coffin of the "Clinton's fault!" meme.

The New York Times explains:

The intelligence agencies' finding that the weapon was based on plutonium strongly suggested that the country's second path to a nuclear bomb — one using uranium — was not yet ready. [...] As president, Mr. Clinton negotiated a deal that froze the production and weaponization of North Korea's plutonium, but intelligence agencies later determined that North Korea began its secret uranium program under his watch. The plutonium that North Korea exploded was produced, according to intelligence estimates, either during the administration of the first President Bush or after 2003, when the North Koreans threw out international inspectors and began reprocessing spent nuclear fuel the inspectors had kept under seal.
I'm shocked -- shocked! -- that the bomb's nuclear fuel was created not under Clinton, as hyperventilating conservatives alleged, but either before or, more likely, after his term.

Also keep in mind that in 1994 the Clinton administration threatened to destroy North Korea's fuel and nuclear reprocessing facilities if it tried to make weapons with any plutonium it might have had. President Bush took no such stand, and three years after the administration's inept diplomacy caused North Korea to resume work with plutonium, we have another nuclear-armed state. This is oversimplifying things, but basically, back in 2003, the administration so insisted on Being Tough, and was ostensibly so concerned about a uranium bomb, that . . . it allowed North Korea to restart work with plutonium, work that had ceased under the Agreed Framework negotiated under Clinton/Carter/Albright.

From Fred Kaplan:
On Jan. 10, 2003, they [North Korea] withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, they also said they would reverse their actions and retract their declarations if the United States resumed its obligations under the Agreed Framework and signed a non-aggression pledge.
The Bush administration refused to negotiate, then made a bunch of empty threats, and then failed to respond when North Korea called the bluff. Why such atrocious foreign policy? Wait for it . . .
What explains Bush's inaction before North Korea crossed the red line--and its weak response afterward? Historians will surely debate that question for decades. Part of the answer probably lies in the administration's all-consuming focus on Iraq. [...] In January, a senior administration official told The New York Times, "President Bush does not want to distract international attention from Iraq."
The short version of the news? North Korea has a nuclear bomb because . . . President Bush was more worried about Iraq than competent foreign policy. Perhaps we need to add another very, very big strategic debacle to the list of harmful Iraq effects.

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