Posted by Alli (188.8.131.52) on January 31, 2002 at 10:33:01:
In Reply to: "Analysis" By ABCnews.com's John K. Cooley posted by Alli on January 31, 2002 at 10:23:06:
"Axis of Evil"
After the Warning, U.S. Eyes Next Steps
ABCNEWS' Terry Moran contributed to this report.
Jan. 31 — With the eyes of the nation — and the world — on him, President Bush this week declared that a new "axis of evil" — Iraq, Iran, and North Korea — pose a deadly and unacceptable threat to the United States.
The statement was a significant expansion of the scope of the war on terror. But his administration apparently has developed no clear plan to achieve this goal.
Questions about what Bush meant by the "axis of evil" and details of how the United States would stand up to those nations are hounding administration officials.
For its part, the State Department seems to be taking a low-key approach.
"At this point, we've offered to discuss these issues, these very serious issues, in a serious manner, at anytime, anyplace, without preconditions," said spokesman Richard Boucher.
At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sent a sterner signal.
"If we decide to initiate things, we'll initiate things, in a manner, in a time and with the choices that fit us. If the world decides to impose choices on us, then we'll make choices."
Rumsfeld says the United States will be watching closely the targeted countries.
"If I were in Iran or North Korea or Iraq and I heard the president of the United States say what he said about weapons of mass destruction and about terrorism ... I don't think there'd be a lot of ambiguity," he said. "Now, what they will do about that is something we'll find out."
Countries Long of Concern to United States
For years, the United States has worked to stop Iraq, Iran, and North Korea from obtaining weapons of mass destruction — to little avail.
The Clinton administration dubbed the countries "rogue states" and tried to block Russia and others from selling them weapons technology — and a former top official from the Clinton years doubts Bush's heated words can accomplish much more.
"We're threatening in a sense to go to war with each of these three countries," says former National Security adviser Sandy Berger. "That's a pretty big battlefield."
The White House played down the possibility of immediate military action.
"The president is not sending a signal that military action is imminent, but it was an expression of how seriously the president takes the issues of protecting our country," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
White House officials have said Bush is considering whether to escalate actions against Iraq beyond the current sanctions and fighter jet patrols, as well as examining ways to stop Iran from funneling arms to terrorists, and to prevent North Korea from developing and selling missiles.
Iraq on Wednesday denounced Bush's "axis of evil" branding as "stupid."
Since U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998, the United States has threatened unspecified consequences for the country unless they were allowed back in. Iraq has so far refused.
U.N. sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 can be lifted only after the United Nations is satisfied Baghdad has dismantled its weapons of mass destruction. Iraq says it has done so.
Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan Ramadan told reporters that Bush's portrayal of Iraq "is a stupid statement and inappropriate of the president of the biggest country."
In Iran, President Mohammad Khatami told his Cabinet that Bush had committed "an insult to the Iranian nation."
Iran condemned the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States and had long opposed Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers, who had harbored the accused masterminds of Sept. 11. Yet while just months ago American officials were suggesting better relations between the United States and Iran, Bush has recently accused Iran of interfering to undermine Afghanistan's new government, and Washington has been angered by an alleged Iranian attempt to smuggle weapons to the Palestinians.
Today China signaled its strong disapproval to the inclusion of its neighbor North Korea in Bush's "axis" remarks.
"The Chinese side does not advocate using this kind of language in international relations," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan.
The comments come three weeks before Bush is due to visit Beijing for talks with President Jiang Zemin, who has backed the U.S.-led war on terrorism.
South Korea and Japan, certainly no friends of North Korea, have also expressed concern over Bush's speech, saying they fear further instability in the region. Both countries are in missile range of North Korea.
Bush is expected to visit Tokyo and Seoul in February.
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