Another disastrous deal by a feckless president negotiating with the totalitarian state of North Korea. That's James Robbins' take on the deal announced yesterday for North Korea to "dismantle" its nuclear weapons capability. Like Robbins, The Monk has no illusions about NoKor's willingness to do so -- I expect that this agreement could well have been printed on toilet tissue because that way it would actually serve some purpose.
The terms sound suspiciously like the Clinton-era Agreed Framework. The North Koreans wanted light-water nuclear reactors and shipments of heavy oil for heat and power generation. They agreed to move towards normalization of relations and settling outstanding issues. And they agreed to allow nuclear inspectors to make sure they were keeping to the terms of the deal. Same now as 13 years ago. Proponents of the current approach observe that the 1994 agreement only sought to freeze North Korea’s nuclear program, not dismantle it. Of course, back then North Korea did not have as much to dismantle.
Simply making a deal with North Korea guarantees nothing. For example the Agreed Framework provided the cover for North Korea to secretly begin to develop its nuclear capability. By 2002 it was clear that the DPRK was not adhering to the spirit of the bargain. Pyongyang took umbrage when Washington accused the regime of illegally processing uranium — while also saying they had a right to nuclear weapons and blaming us for forcing them to pursue the program. They pulled out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and kicked out the verification teams.
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. . . all we sought to do was “force North Korea back to the negotiating table.” This is ironic because that is exactly where they want to be. So long as they are negotiating they know they are safe. And they have long cultivated the notion among our diplomats that simply getting them to agree to talk represents a victory for our side; it must amuse them to see us high-fiving when they “give in.” Compounding our retreat is the fact that the deal was struck in bilateral negotiations, held last January in Berlin. We had previously resisted this on principle, because bilateral talks would elevate North Korea’s international status. But that principle has gone by the wayside.
It will be interesting to see if this deal lasts any longer than the 2005 agreement; or does as much damage as the 1994 framework. Regardless, we have already been bested. Our failure to follow up on the momentum we acquired in the wake of the North Korean nuclear test was a strategic blunder. We have lost sight of the fact that the only way substantive and permanent change will come to the Korean peninsula is with the end of Kim Jong Il’s regime. Any agreement we reach with Pyongyang only serves to push that date further into the future. . .