Friday, April 13, 2007

The Diplomat's calling: process not results

The North Korea paradigm. The US will release $25,000,000 in hard currency in NoKor accounts in Macau banks, frozen at the Treasury Department's request late in 2005, in exchange for . . . nothing other than North Korea's agreement to continue negotiating its nuclear program. About half the money is the result of illegal narcotics trafficking.

The WSJ notes:

The Bush Administration is selling this dirty-money deal as a requirement of diplomatic realism and a price that must be paid for the larger strategic goal of getting North Korea to cooperate. But it's also true that the U.S. is allowing Kim to get away with his ill-gotten gains. Only weeks after the Treasury laid out a detailed rap sheet, the U.S. says never mind.

The bigger issue is the message this sends about the "arms control" process now under way. Under the February deal, Kim is obliged to shut down the nuclear facility at Yongbyon and disclose all of his nuclear programs and weapons. He is also obliged to open all of those to international inspection before the U.S. and other countries give him any more aid or money. But Pyongyang's pattern has long been to admit as little as possible every step of the way, and then insist that the U.S. must make further concessions at every instance. By caving on the $25 million, the U.S. is telling Kim he can keep playing this game.

Japan has the better idea. This week it extended its sanctions for another six months--no imports of North Korean products, no port visits by North Korean ships. Last month it testified at the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs about the North's illegal trade in amphetamines. Under the February nuclear deal, it is refusing aid to the North until Pyongyang provides information on the Japanese citizens it abducted and may still be holding.

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