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Preview: RealClearPolitics - Articles - Melanie Kirkpatrick

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Melanie Kirkpatrick

Last Build Date: Fri, 19 Jan 2007 00:28:43 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2007

United Nations Dictator's Program

Fri, 19 Jan 2007 00:28:43 -0600

While the precise amount of hard currency supplied through UNDP isn't known, the documents suggest it has run at least to the tens of millions of dollars since 1998 and one source says it could be upward of $100 million. An internal 1999 audit notes a budget of $27.9 million for 29 projects. David Morrison, a UNDP spokesman, says "the overall size of the program" in North Korea has been reduced in recent years. While $22.2 million was budgeted for 2005-2006, the agency spent only $3.2 million last year and $2.1 million in 2005, he says. Programs fall into four areas: humanitarian assistance, public health, environment and agriculture, and the economy. The stakes are nonetheless very high because, unlike Saddam's Iraq, North Korea has already succeeded in testing its nuclear bomb. The hard currency supplied by the UNDP almost certainly goes into one big pot marked "Dear Leader," which Kim can use for whatever he wants, including his weapons programs. This may not violate the letter of Security Council Resolution 1718, which restricts trade in anything having to do with North Korea's nuclear or missile programs, but it certainly violates its spirit. Unlike Oil for Food, there's no evidence to date that corrupt UNDP officials are in on the game--though given the U.N.'s record of late, it would be unwise to rule that out before a full investigation. There is, however, plenty of evidence of willful blindness on the part of the UNDP, which let myriad rules be broken and allowed itself to become a large source of hard currency for the regime. Nor did it bring these irregularities to the attention of its governing body, the 36-member executive board. Consider staffing. The UNDP's Pyongyang office is dominated by government employees selected by North Korea. According to a redacted version of a 2004 internal audit, "The government provides only one candidate for each post and does not provide detailed qualifications, work experience or personal details to the office." The auditors recommended that the UNDP recruit its own staff. A status update, dated Dec. 15, 2006, dryly notes that "the Government is not yet ready to consider such a shift at present." In addition to appointing the UNDP's staff, the North Korean government requires that UNDP pay their salaries to the government, which presumably takes its cut. That's the way it works for North Korean workers who labor abroad or who work for South Korean companies in the Kaesong Industrial Complex north of the DMZ. In yet another violation of the rules, UNDP gives local staff a cash "meal stipend" of $120 a month, which is another hard currency contribution. Speaking of cash, the UNDP also accedes to Pyongyang's demands that it pay cash to local government vendors. That's another violation of U.N. rules, as is placing North Korean staffers in jobs that give them control of financial records, personnel actions, and equipment and supplies. To cite just one example of abuse, the 1999 internal audit found that the UNDP checkbook was not kept in a secure location and no check register was maintained reflecting checks written. But who needs a checkbook? According to the same audit, cash is the only means of payment that the government accepts. The UNDP does not use purchase orders in North Korea and local purchases--including those over $1,000--are made in cash. That includes local office costs, which are typically provided in kind by the host country. North Korea even charges rent, to the tune of $2 million a year, according to one source who has looked at the program. Meanwhile, there is little if any oversight of the UNDP's projects in North Korea, which, according to a U.N. document, numbered 30 last year. UNDP regulations require one official, on-site visit a year but since Pyongyang prohibits foreigners from visiting some of the project sites, that's another rule that's out the window. Audits of individual projects are spotty at best and in the case of "nationally executed" or "NEX" projects--that is, those run by the North Korean government with funds provided by the UNDP-[...]

Star Warrior

Sat, 26 Aug 2006 00:42:41 -0600

Years ago an American general, asked a similar question, would have had a one-word answer: "No." Until 2004, when the ground-based missile-defense system went partially online in Alaska--with the aim of intercepting an intercontinental missile coming from North Korea or the Middle East--the U.S. was wholly undefended against attack by ICBMs. This ground-based system, as it is called, is still only intermittent, and works only against long-range missiles. Moreover, the U.S. has no defenses deployed against what many consider to be a more immediate threat--a short- or medium-range missile, say a Scud, launched from a vessel off the coast of the U.S. So it's perhaps no surprise that when Gen. Obering and I sit down in his L-shaped office at the Pentagon's immense Navy Annex--an office whose window has a bird's-eye view of the newly rebuilt portion of the Pentagon destroyed on 9/11--he gives the impression of being a man in a hurry. He discusses the emerging threat--"there are thousands of missiles" out there and "they've become more accurate . . . more militarily effective." He talks about the current capabilities of the U.S. antimissile program--they're "limited." He lists future requirements--"sea-based" and "space-based." And, inevitably, he brings up budgets--perhaps recalling the fight in Congress this spring over funding for his agency's programs: "If you look at all of the money that's been spent on missile defense since Ronald Reagan started the program in 1983--adding in the 2006 budget--it's approaching about $100 billion, $90-something billion dollars. If you look at the damage costs from 9/11 alone just in New York City, based on a GAO report of 2002, it was $83 billion. That means if we can prevent just one attack against one major U.S. city, we almost would have paid for the entire program for the last 24 years." But first, the here-and-now. That word "limited" (to describe our antimissile program) is a little disconcerting, especially as North Korea is threatening to test more missiles and Iran, which reportedly had a representative on site in North Korea on July 4, is rushing ahead with its own missile program. Just how "limited" is the current defense? In keeping with the Missile Defense Agency's unorthodox practice of fielding new systems concurrently with testing--the classic approach is to test, then field--the unfinished ground-based system is already in use. "We've actually taken the system from what we call a developmental and test status to operational status many times over the past two or three years," Gen. Obering says. "I can't talk about any one particular day, whether we're on or off or whatever, but suffice it to say that for the foreseeable future we will continue to cycle back and forth between the operational state and the developmental state." The interceptor missiles are housed in silos at Fort Greely, Alaska and at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. By the end of the year the aim is to have 13 interceptors in Alaska and two in California. This provides minimal coverage for the U.S. and none for Europe--"We can't defend Europe from California or Alaska." Protecting U.S. allies is one reason the U.S. is negotiating to locate 10 interceptors in Europe--probably in Poland or the Czech Republic--but the other is "redundancy," one of the general's favorite words. The U.S. wants the ability to take more than one shot at an incoming ICBM. If ground is broken next year, as planned, a European site could be up and running by 2011. What about defenses against short- or medium-range missiles? "We can defend against that sort of threat with some of the programs we have today," Gen. Obering says. He mentions the ship-based Aegis system, which Japan is buying for protection against North Korean missiles, and the Patriot PAC-3 antimissile system, which was used in the Iraq war. "So we have the assets, but"--here comes the catch--"we don't have enough of them yet and we don't have them deployed" to protect the homeland. Gen. Obering mentions other systems that are[...]