The primary criticism of the new (old) deal with by oft14212

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The Ploughshares Monitor

Spring 2007, volume 28, no. 1

Progress toward denuclearizing the Korean peninsula

By Ernie Regehr

When the six-party talks1 finally produced an agreement on 13 February 2007 to
reaffirm the common goal of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, along
with setting out the specific measures to be taken toward that end, there were
two primary reactions to the deal. Some welcomed it, saying it was far too long in
coming and could have been reached in 2002. Others disparaged it, saying it
rewarded North Korea’s bad behaviour.

It is certainly true that the cooperation of the United States could have secured the current
deal much earlier. Its basic elements go back, not only to 2002, but to 1994 and are really
a slightly paler version of the 1994 Framework Agreement reached by the Clinton
Administration. And what the deal actually rewards is not bad behaviour, but an end to
bad behaviour. This time the deal is linked specifically to the principle of “action for
action”—neither side takes action on the basis of a declaration by the other, but each
party acts on the basis of concrete action by the other.

The agreement requires verified evidence of action in the next 60 days. The DPRK
(North Korea) must shut down production in the one declared facility it has that is
capable of producing fissile materials and must allow it to be placed under the seal and
verification of the International Atomic Energy Agency.2 This clear and unambiguous
action is intended to produce another pretty clear action: an initial shipment of 50,000
tons of heavy fuel oil.

The 2007 agreement is partly new and mostly old because it is intended to implement the
19 September 2005 agreement, which in turn more or less updated the 1994 deal. As
Charles Scanlon (2007) of the BBC put it: “Prominent members of US President George
W Bush’s administration make no secret of their contempt for a previous nuclear deal
signed by the Clinton administration.… Now, after years of confrontation, they have
signed up to something that looks suspiciously similar – a nuclear freeze in return for
economic and diplomatic incentives.”

A primary difference between 1994 and 2007 is that in 1994 it was a bilateral agreement
between the United States and the DPRK, while in 2007 it is a six-party agreement,
giving key neighbours China, South Korea, and Japan a stake in assuring success.
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Success is far from guaranteed. It will be a challenge to procure, as required by the
agreement, “a list of all its nuclear programs” from the DPRK. In 2002 the United States
accused the DPRK of a clandestine uranium enrichment program. Public discussion of
the matter now suggests that the North Koreans did try to acquire enrichment equipment,
contrary to the provisions of the 1994 deal, but there is no evidence of the extent to which
they were successful and Pyongyang continues to deny the program. Washington has
never presented public evidence to back up its accusations, which in turn have become
increasingly vague over time. The DPRK is unlikely to list what it says does not exist,
while Washington and other skeptics are likely to reply that “the absence of evidence is
not evidence of absence.” Ultimately, only extensive cooperation by the DPRK with
IAEA inspectors can build confidence that an enrichment program does not exist.

John O’Sullivan (2007) of Washington’s Hudson Institute claims that the downfall of
earlier deals was due to North Korea’s cheating and that the new deal rewards bad
behaviour. In 2002, however, it was the Bush Administration that cut off the energy
assistance element of the 1994 agreement amidst Washington’s aggressive accusations of
an advanced but hidden weapons program (uranium enrichment). Kim Jong-il responded
predictably, expelling the international inspectors and pulling out of the NPT.

O’Sullivan reflects the views of other critics when he says that the 1994 Clinton
Framework Agreement with North Korea is the reason Kim Jong-il now has “more
nuclear weapons.” In fact, the Clinton deal shut down North Korea’s plutonium
operation, and throughout the deal’s eight-year run not an ounce of weapons material was
produced there. After the Bush Administration’s dispute with Pyongyang in 2002,
Pyongyang resumed production of fissile material and was at least partly successful in
weaponizing it.

A number of elements of the agreement involve bilateral issues – between the DPRK and
the United States, and the DPRK and Japan. Others require unspecified levels of
economic, energy, and humanitarian assistance to the DPRK.

The regime that Washington had labeled part of an Axis of Evil is now to enter into
bilateral talks and normalized relations with the US: “The DPRK and the US will start
bilateral talks aimed at resolving pending bilateral issues and moving toward full
diplomatic relations. The US will begin the process of removing the designation of the
DPRK as a state-sponsor of terrorism and advance the process of terminating the
application of the Trading with the Enemy Act with respect to the DPRK.”

This welcome turnaround by Washington is seen by some as a deliberate decision to go
easy on the DPRK and go hard on Iran. On the other hand, the new approach to North
Korea could also become a model for dealing with Iran – or would that be too much to
expect?

For more information on this topic, see Ernie Regehr 2006, Responding to the North
Korean bomb, Ploughshares Briefing 06/6, October,
http://www.ploughshares.ca/libraries/Briefings/brf066.pdf.
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Notes

1. The six parties are the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North), the Republic of
Korea (South), China, Russia, Japan, and the United States. The joint statement is
available at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/february/80479.htm.

2. The facility in question is the Yongbyon nuclear reactor and accompanying
reprocessing facility. The Joint Statement says that this facility will be “shut down and
seal[ed] for the purpose of eventual abandonment.”


References

O’Sullivan, John. 2007. North Korea comes back for some more. National Review
Online. 23 February.
http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=Y2MwN2RiNDA5YTgyMTJmYzZiMjMzMTFmZj
kwYTYyYTE=.

Scanlon, Charles. 2007. The end of a long confrontation? BBC News, 13 February.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6357853.stm.




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