ROTTERDAM, Netherlands – Former President Bill Clinton said Sunday he had warned North Korea in 1994 the United States would destroy its nuclear reactor unless it agreed to freeze its operations.
Now that Pyongyang has said it was reactivating its facilities, Clinton said the North Koreans must be persuaded or forced to stop the weapons program.
"Make no mistake about it, it has to be ended," Clinton said. "You do not want North Korea making bombs and selling them to the highest bidder."
Speaking at a dinner for Dutch businessmen and public figures, Clinton said it was more likely North Korea would use the nuclear issue to bargain for more aid rather than put weapons on the market.
"We had a tense situation with North Korea in my first term," Clinton said. Pyongyang "was planning six to eight" bombs a year.
"We drew up plans to destroy the reactor," Clinton said, and he told Pyongyang the facility would be attacked unless it officials froze it.
Clinton urged President Bush to work with China, Japan and other nations to pressure the North Koreans on the nuclear issue.
The White House said Friday that Bush intended to stick with a diplomatic approach to the crisis and ruled out military action to shut the reactor.
Under the 1994 deal with the Clinton administration, North Korea froze its nuclear program in return for a promise of two safer light-water reactors. It also received a guarantee of 500,000 tons of heavy oil annually until the reactors are built.
Washington halted the oil shipments after U.S. officials said in October that the communist country had acknowledged having a uranium enrichment program to build atomic weapons.
North Korea said last week it will resume operation and construction of its reactors. It said it considered the agreement dead because of delays in the delivery of the reactors, initially planned to be completed by 2003. U.S. officials anticipate at least five years of delay.