Monday, September 19, 2005

North Korea abandons nuclear program (update)

More on last night's breaking news.

From the Post:

China announced Monday that negotiators from six nations have reached agreement under which North Korea pledged to dismantle its nuclear arms program in return for recognition and aid from the United States and its Asian allies.

Although it included only general terms, the accord marked the first specific agreement since the six-party negotiations opened under Chinese sponsorship in August 2003. It was designed to serve as the basis for further talks on the timing of the taking down of North Korea's nuclear weapons program and the corresponding provision of economic aid and diplomatic relations and other inducements for the government of Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang...

The agreement was reached on the basis of a compromise proposal put forward by China in an effort to bridge differences between the United States and Pyongyang over a North Korean demand for a light-water nuclear reactor to produce electricity. The compromise suggested that North Korea be accorded the right in principle to peaceful nuclear energy, but only after dismantling its nuclear weapons program and rejoining the U.N. nuclear inspection regime and the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Okay, but where exactly is the agreement? As the Post specifies, the agreement only includes "general terms" -- that is, nothing specific. Furthermore, the agreement will "serve as the basis for further talks" -- when? where? etc. Problems abound: North Korea won't give up its nuclear program unless it receives aid from the U.S. What kind of aid? How much? North Korea maintains the right ("in principle") to pursue nuclear energy. How? And are we prepared to believe that Kim will abandon his other nuclear aspirations? Will Kim actually allow U.N. inspectors to monitor the dismantling of his nuclear program and, then, his development of a light-water reactor?

Or is this yet more hollow diplomacy?

See also this article at CNN, which quotes an extremely sober President Bush:

Five nations in working with North Korea have come up with a formula which we all hope works. Five nations have spoken and said it is not in the world's interests that North Korea have a nuclear weapon.

And now there's a way forward. And part of the way forward is for the North Koreans to understand that we're serious about this and that we expect there to be a verifiable process.

They have said, in principle, that they will abandon their weapons programs. And what we have said is, 'Great. That's a wonderful step forward. But now we've got to verify whether or not that happens.'

The question is, over time, will all parties adhere to the agreement?

I haven't said this much over the past 4+ years, but... he's right.


For more see:

Steve Clemons sums up it quite well at The Washington Note: "There is a great deal that could blow up what we have seen -- and there is a long, long way to go. Given North Korea's erratic behavior -- as well as that of America -- this should be taken as a clear positive step forward but not as anything near an endgame." Although, whatever we may think of Bush's handling of this problem thus far, it's North Korea's erratic behavior that is truly worrisome.


Update: Check out Fred Kaplan's take at Slate. Key passage: "Since the North Koreans have had two and a half years to reprocess their plutonium and—perhaps—convert that plutonium to nuclear weapons, the rest of the world doesn't know how many A-bombs North Korea might possess or where they are. Nor do we know the location of all their A-bomb facilities. In October 2002, U.S. intelligence detected signs of uranium-enrichment, another method of building nuclear weapons. Initially, North Korean diplomats admitted that enrichment was going on. Soon after, they denied it—and still do. So, how is any denuclearization accord going to be verifiable? Today's joint statement is the precondition for serious arms talks. Now begins the hard part."

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  • So what do you think about this,M?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:17 PM  

  • I don't really buy it. Kim is know for his diplomatic brinksmanship, and it doesn't seem to make much sense that he would simply give in. He still wants nuclear power -- and, I suspect, nuclear weapons -- and this may be yet another stalling tactic. Plus, is the U.S. really prepared to send significant aid to arguably the most atrocious regime on the planet?

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 1:05 PM  

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