Monday, September 19, 2005

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A nuclear-free Korea?

CNN reports that the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons programme have produced a breakthrough. The key parts of the joint statement:

1) The six parties unanimously reaffirmed that the goal of the six-party talks is the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning at an early date to the treaty on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons (NPT) and to IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards.

The United States affirmed that it has no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and has no intention to attack or invade the DPRK with nuclear or conventional weapons.

The ROK (South Korea) reaffirmed its commitment not to receive or deploy nuclear weapons in accordance with the 1992 joint declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, while affirming that there exist no nuclear weapons within its territory.

The 1992 joint declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula should be observed and implemented.

The DPRK stated that it has the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

The other parties expressed their respect and agreed to discuss at an appropriate time the subject of the provision of light-water reactor to the DPRK.

2) The six parties undertook, in their relations, to abide by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and recognized norms of international relations.

The DPRK and the United States undertook to respect each other's sovereignty, exist peacefully together and take steps to normalize their relations subject to their respective bilateral policies.

The DPRK and Japan undertook to take steps to normalize their relations in accordance with the (2002) Pyongyang Declaration, on the basis of the settlement of unfortunate past and the outstanding issues of concern.

3) The six parties undertook to promote economic cooperation in the fields of energy, trade and investment, bilaterally and/or multilaterally.

China, Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Russia and the U.S. stated their willingness to provide energy assistance to the DPRK. The ROK reaffirmed its proposal of July 12, 2005, concerning the provision of 2 million kilowatts of electric power to the DPRK.

Even though the Bush administration signed on, U.S. officials are still acting very cautiously -- and rightly so, given the average lifespan of an agreement with North Korea.

CNN's follow-up also highlights this fact:

The World Food Program has said that North Korea is headed toward the worst humanitarian food crisis since the mid 1990s, when an estimated 1 million North Koreans died. WFP says 6.5 million North Koreans desperately need food aid.

Naturally, the Norh Koreans now say they don't need any food aid.

Readers are invited to speculate on how likelihood of the six-party statement being implemented.

posted by Dan on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM


Is there a difference between a "programme" and a program?

posted by: Scott Ferguson on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

This could not have happened at a better time. It increases the pressure on Iran for its nuclear program.

Will it be fully implemented ? The problem is that you're trying to figure out the psyhchology of one man, the Great Leader and no one knows for sure what he'll do.

posted by: erg on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

Wonder if there's any connection between this announcement and Bush meeting Zemin in New York last week? The two events certainly are in close proximity to each other.

posted by: Bob on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

North Korea reasserted its "right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy." What such "peaceful" uses are has yet to be clearly and meaningfully clarified by the six-states participating in the multilateral talks, however.

If the USG, China, Russia, China and Japan allow North Korea to equate "peaceful uses of nuclear energy" with any or all of the following -- (1) uranium enrichment, (2) plutonium separation from reprocessed spent-nuclear fuel, (3) fabrication of HEU- or plutonium-based nuclear fuels --, then any accumulated stocks of plutonium (whether separated or still chemically/mechanically unseparated from spent nuclear fuel) or HEU by North Korea will represent a continuing nuclear proliferation risk -- regardless of any agreements that Pyongyang someday concludes with the IAEA to allow inspection for diversion of fissile material or inspection of suspected undeclared nuclear facilities.

If "peaceful uses of nuclear energy" are allowed to be interpreted so broadly, then it won't be the "materials unaccounted for" (MUF) or the "limits error in the materials unaccounted for" (LEMUF) that would be the lingering proliferation problem with North Korea, but Pyongyang's accumulated "materials accounted for" (MAF) that will pose the main long-term proliferation challenge to the IAEA and the international community.

IMO, the USG and like-minded nations must do much more to challenge the prevailing interpretation that "peaceful" nuclear activities covered under Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) include practically everything short of shaping fissile material in metallic form for insertion into the core of a nuclear explosive -- so long as such activities are declared to the IAEA.

The Iranian government continues to hold fast to this prevailing interpretation. No one should be surprised if the North Korean government does the same in the days and months ahead.

Plus ça change? Time will tell...

posted by: Robert on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

If the deal doesn't collapse in the next 6 months, then I'll consider starting to believe it.

posted by: Mycroft on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

That's what they said last time too. Absent no-notice on-site inspections, the Nork's word is useless. They'll just keep on with their nuke program and lie about it. They did before.

This is just propaganda.

The only way to keep North Korea from developing nuclear weapons is to terminate North Korea. They don't need any help in that, and will collapse no matter how much aid the Chinese offer unless the aid comes with several hundred thousand Chinese fraternal humanitarian aid volunteers to make certain most of it is used as aid rather than being sold in the black market in China. I.e., only Chinese occupation can keep the Norks nominally going.

But the Norks can do a lot of damage selling nukes for cash before they collapse.

I repeat, this is just a sham.

posted by: Tom Holsinger on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

I agree with Tom. This agreement is not worth the paper it is written on. Both history and simple realpolitik tell us that there is no good reason for suspecting that NK has any sincere inclination to abide by it. Nor is there any plausible threat which can force them to. Hence I'd predict an 80% chance that we will be rattling swords at one another again within 9 months (if not 3)

At best, NK may not overtly and explicitly break it, but they will certainly sneak around it, blur the definitions, stall & delay, etc.

It just that from KJI's & his cadre's viewpoint, not only does the current NK regime have everything to gain by perfecting and enlargening their nuke program, but they have little to lose right now by abiding by the agreement.

posted by: jprime on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

"It just that from KJI's & his cadre's viewpoint, not only does the current NK regime have everything to gain by perfecting and enlargening their nuke program, but they have little to lose right now by abiding by the agreement. "

Precisely. Look beyond the words at the motives. NK right now is immune to the sticks and can demands the carrots at its leisure with the threat of exporting nuclear weapons as its trump card. This is exactly the danger of relying on toothless diplomacy negotiating with rogue regimes and nukes, they have no incentive to play ball before they get their arsenal because they know once they get it they will get everything on the table _and_ their weapons. This is just the typical communist posturing we've seen hundreds of times. Tomorrow will see NK announcing that what they 'really meant was X and that requires America to do Y first, and its really America's fault that Z isnt achieved'.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

I like the following contrast -

US gov. :
"2) The six parties undertook, in their relations, to abide by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and recognized norms of international relations."

Daniel W. Drezner:

"What would you do with the UN? > Set up so many democratic-based clubs outside the UN that actually accomplish things that Turtle Bay sinks into obsolescence."

posted by: Dutch on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

Don't forget to consider that the current Uri government in Seoul will be all too willing to abet NK in skirting its obligations...

posted by: John Kneeland on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

Well, trust but verify, to start with. We all know North Korea's record, and extreme caution as to its compliance with any agreement is indicated.

Having said that, we should note also that the virtue of this being a six-party rather than a bilateral statement. North Korea in breaching its terms would inflict a major loss of face on the Chinese leadership as well as on South Korea and Japan. This is one of several reasons why the Bush administration's insistence on six-party talks, so often criticized, was exactly the right position to take.

posted by: Zathras on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

Well, I'm just grateful that John Kerry wasn't elected, or else we would be negotiating with the North Koreans instead of threatening them.

Oh ... wait ...

posted by: Anderson on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

I'm pretty optimistic about the new developments that have emerged from the Six Party Talks. Whie its track history hasn't exactly been the best, North Korea is currently not in a position to focus on its nuclear program. Most of that might have to do with its severe food crisis. I think this has most likely destabilized Pyongyang and will go a long way to getting the DPRK's leadership to come to the negotiation table. There is a recent paper in the American Journal of Political Science that deals with the connection between destabilization and economic coercion. I think it might have something to do with your current research, Dan.

posted by: Wilfred on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

I disagree. North Korea's regime has weathered food crises while lavishing their scare resources on the nuclear program, and I see no reason why they wouldn't try to do so again.

posted by: John Kneeland on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

I'd be much more interested in speculating about why the Bush administration has just done a full back-flip on its North Korea policy over the last few months. What's happening now is just about what I would have expected to see if Kerry had been elected. It's really a continuation of the Clinton policy of engagement and negotiation. If they threw ballistic missile issues into the deal, it would look a lot like what Albright discussed with the Dear Leader back in 2000. What I want to know is whether this just reflects Rice beating Cheney and others in the bureaucratic battle, or if it's pure domestic politics looking for a victory to declare against a grim domestic situation.

posted by: Scott Parrish on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

Will the verification be done by the IAEA? Can they be trusted to do an adequate job? Monitoring should be done by the US, Japan and SK alone.

posted by: Richard Heddleson on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

Should I have said "3 days"?:

(Reuters--Mon Sept 19, 8:15pm) North Korea will not give up its nuclear weapons until the United States gives it civilian atomic reactors, the North Korean Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday in a statement that significantly undermined a deal reached on Monday....

..."The U.S. should not even dream of the issue of the DPRK's dismantlement of its nuclear deterrent before providing LWRs, a physical guarantee for confidence-building," said the North Korean statement, published by the official KCNA news agency.

posted by: jprime on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

1--The fact that this agreement looks a whole lot like the one the Clinton folks were pursuing reveals a) the corner Bush has backed himself into and b) the external constraints that both Administrations faced with respect to NK. Its not like Bush or any of his folks spent any time coming up with and laying political groundwork for a better idea. The key is of course that the alternatives are automatically ruled out-- no one wants war and no one wants NK to proceed with its nuclear program unsupervised. Both are unacceptable, so you have to cut some sort of deal, and all deals with North Korea look pretty much the same.

2--No stick? According to the NY Times write up, China basically presented the text to the NK delegation and said you can take it or go home, and we strongly suggest you don't go home. Sounds like a stick to me. Of course, they did a similar thing to the Americans, and we're not really in a position to say no.

I think that this deal can be implemented *IF* the Administration wants to. Recall that the 94 deal took like 50-some odd negotiating sessions AFTER the initial deal to get rolling. Painful, but ultimately somewhat successful. The North strings everything out-- if the Bush folks are willing to keep this thing up, they can get the deal that Clinton didn't.

I just don't think that this administration has the long-term focus and commitment to pull it off.

posted by: Peter on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

Quoth Scott Ferguson:

Is there a difference between a "programme" and a program?

Yes, in Commonwealth English, from what I gather. One possible example: “I wrote a program that’ll make noise when my favourite TV programmes come on.”

posted by: Nathan Sharfi on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

I must admit, as these talks and treaties evolve over time, it becomes harder & harder to interpret NK's erratic behavior as a form of clever tactics, political realism, or culture.

Rather, can what we are seeing be the public face of some stark factionalism within the NK elite?

If so, then it should come to a head soon right? This elite will likely soon have to make decisions about the survivial of competing goals and values that they must surely hold dear.

posted by: jprime on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

It's a small point, but I believe that Kerry was interested in two-party talks, as opposed to six-party talks.

posted by: Klug on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

Klug is correct, Kerry blasted Bush for opposing 2 party talks. Had Kerry had his way, the Chinese pressure now coming to light would not have been available. Bush's strategy made China an integral player (which she is) instead of an outsider looking in and perfectly happy to allow the US to deal with their own headaches.

I trust this deal only as far as the Chinese pressure actually exists. That is the only thing on the table that might motivate KJI. Everything else bandied about (food shortages, energy, US hostility) has been been a constant for 10 years. All of those things can be addressed with a strong nuclear arsenal so long as they have Chinese support, so why negotiate for them when they could have both given time? This is either a ploy, or China has tightened the screws, or both.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 09.19.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

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