On February 27th, North Korea restarted a nuclear reactor at its Yongbyon [yong-bee-awn] facility. This action is a flagrant violation of international agreements and begins a process that could enable North Korea to produce more nuclear weapons. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, "North Korea has had a pattern in the past of engaging in activity that they use as blackmail in an effort to obtain rewards from around the world. And that pattern will not be honored. The United States has no intention of rewarding bad behavior."
North Korea's record of aggression goes back more than half a century. In June 1950, North Korean forces invaded South Korea. In three years of fighting, United Nations forces, led by the U.S., drove the aggressors back. In the decades that followed the 1953 armistice, North Korea carried out acts of terrorism against South Korea, including the murder of the wife of South Korean President Park Chung Hee in 1974. In 1983, North Korean agents killed eighteen South Korean officials and wounded many others in an attempt to kill President Chun Doo Hwaan in a bombing in Burma. In 1987, North Korean agents bombed a Korean Airlines jet, killing one-hundred-thirty-five passengers. Nor have Koreans been the only victims. As many as twenty Japanese citizens were kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s.
North Korea's record has been just as bad when it comes to honoring international agreements. In 1994, North Korea signed the Agreed Framework. It pledged to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Instead, it pursued a covert program to produce nuclear weapons. In December 2002, North Korea expelled International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and began recovering nuclear material from a facility it was supposed to have closed. In January, the I-A-E-A reported North Korea's violations of the non-proliferation treaty to the United Nations Security Council. North Korea responded by announcing that it will withdraw from the treaty.
As it has done so often in the past, North Korea has met international criticism with threatening words and actions. On February 25th, it fired a missile into the Sea of Japan. It has threatened the world with what it called “nuclear disasters.” On March 1st, North Korean jet fighters menaced a U.S. reconnaissance plane over the Sea of Japan.
President George W. Bush called on the international community to, as he put it, "join us in convincing North Korea that it is not in their nation's interest to be threatening the United States, or anybody else. . . .with a nuclear weapon."