U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld served on the board of a Swiss company that in 2000 sold light water nuclear reactors to the government of North Korea, which critics, including Pentagon hardliners, say could be used to produce nuclear weapons.
Rumsfeld’s involvement in the $200 million deal with the Zurich-based engineering company ABB is seen as an embarrassment to the Bush administration, which vehemently opposed the deal during the 2000 presidential campaign, reports the London-based Guardian. “One could draw the conclusion that economic and personal interests took precedent over non-proliferation,” said Steve LaMontagne of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
Rumsfeld sat on the ABB board from 1990 to 2001, earning $190,000 a year. He left to join the Bush administration. Asked about the reactor deal, the defense secretary told theGuardian that he “did not recall it being brought before the board at any time.”
But an ABB spokesman said that “board members were informed about the project which would deliver systems and equipment for light water reactors,” and the Guardian noted that at the time of the deal, ABB’s chief executive Goran Lindahl made a high-profile trip to Pyongyang to announce a “wide-ranging, long-term cooperation agreement” with the North Korean government.
The ABB deal was part of the Clinton administration’s policy of stabilizing the region by offering North Korea oil and light water reactors in exchange for access by inspectors to the government’s atomic facilities. The policy was vehemently opposed by George W. Bush and his foreign policy advisors, including Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, who argued that the light water reactors could produce weapons-grade plutonium.
And despite placing North Korea in its “Axis of Evil,” the Bush administration apparently has fewer concerns about ABB’s reactors now that Rummy’s running things at the Pentagon. In January, the president authorized $3.5 million to keep the project going.