North Korea Deal Seen as Starting Point Only
by Jim Lobe
week's six-party agreement on the principles for denuclearizing
the Korean peninsula is being greeted somewhat warily here, with
most experts stressing that the accord marks only the beginning
of what is likely to be a protracted negotiating process that could
take years, rather than months, to achieve.
The deal reached
by the two Koreas, Japan, Russia, the U.S., and China nonetheless
sets out a comprehensive framework. If successfully implemented,
it would not only defuse a three-year-old crisis over Pyongyang's
nuclear intentions, but also ensure that nuclear weapons are effectively
banned from one of the world's most militarized hotspots and bolster
the badly battered Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).
Korea returns to the treaty, it will bind every country in the world
save India, Pakistan, and Israel," noted the New York Times,
which praised U.S. President George W. Bush, who personally signed
off on the deal, for having "rediscovered the safeguards and
rewards of peaceful international diplomacy and this vital treaty
precise details of verification, inspection, and the sequencing
of specific actions and rewards remain to be worked out in future
rounds of talks, the first of which is now set for early November.
The longer these details take to be worked out, the easier it will
be for hardliners, who had resisted any engagement with North Korea,
to attack the accord.
is a good statement of principles, but it does not and was never
intended to solve all of the problems," according to Alan Romberg,
a Korea specialist and former senior State Department official at
the Henry L. Stimson Center.
ever thought that the next steps would be easy," he told IPS.
"In fact, everyone knew that these details will be very, very
difficult to work out."
In a reflection
of unhappiness by hawks within the Bush administration, notably
Vice President Dick Cheney's office, the accord is already being
denounced by some as a sellout of the administration's previous
insistence that Pyongyang should receive no gains until it completely
and verifiably dismantles all of its nuclear programs and surrenders
the two or eight weapons that Washington believes it has already
produced. The former includes a uranium enrichment program whose
existence has been denied by North Korea.
or otherwise," wrote Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise
Institute in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, "the U.S.
negotiating team has executed an apparent cave-in embracing
precepts crucial to North Korean objectives but inimical to Washington's
along with administration hardliners, has promoted a policy of "regime
change" in North Korea. He was particularly scornful of Washington's
agreement in the Sept. 19 "Joint Statement" issued from
Beijing to discuss as part of the negotiation process the delivery
of a light-water reactor to Pyongyang, a provision that recalls
the 1994 "Agreed Framework" reached between the North
and the administration of former President Bill Clinton.
was deemed so politically sensitive that the State Department and
its top negotiator, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian
and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill, sent it all the way up to
Bush for final approval before the agreement was announced by Beijing,
which has chaired the talks.
has now witnessed a new administration in Washington purportedly
cognizant of all the earlier U.S. mistakes make those mistakes
all over again," Eberstadt wrote.
provides that North Korea will give up all of its nuclear weapons
and programs, return "at an early date" to the NPT, from
which it abruptly withdrew three years ago, and submit to inspections
and safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
South Korea and the United States will pledge not to deploy nuclear
weapons on the peninsula, and Washington will affirm that it has
no intention of attacking or invading North Korea. In addition,
both Pyongyang and Washington pledge to respect each other's sovereignty
and work to establish normal relations.
Russia, South Korea, and the U.S. agreed to provide North Korea
with energy assistance, including electricity from the South. In
addition, all six nations agreed to discuss "at an appropriate
time" the construction in North Korea of a light-water nuclear
This last point
was particularly contentious, as indicated by the issuance by each
party of a unilateral statement of its interpretation. In an indication
of many of the challenges to come, the U.S. statement declared it
would oppose the provision of a LWR to Pyongyang until the North
had complied with all of its obligations, prompting a statement
by North Korea's foreign ministry that it would not return to the
NPT until the U.S. agrees to provide the LWR.
statement was seized on by hawks here as evidence that North Korea
was not acting in good faith, Hill vowed not to get "hung up
on" these kinds of details at this point in the process.
that Chris Hill and the State Department, as well as the North Koreans
themselves, face is how to sell the agreement to their domestic
audiences," said Karin Lee, a Korea specialist at the Friends
Committee on National Legislation, a lobby group here. "These
kinds of statements can be seen as directed as much as for the home
audience as for the opposing side."
was particularly welcome to Lee, who stressed that if the parties
focus on their disagreements, as opposed to building on areas of
potential agreement, such as how verification and monitoring of
North Korea's compliance will be carried out, the accord could quickly
sequencing about the LWR becomes the key topic in November, then
I would lose hope in the process," she said.
and the State Department are interested in results, not in playing
'gotcha' with the North Koreans," said Romberg, who welcomed
their success in getting an agreement. "The first thing you
have to do is to test [the North Koreans] in a serious way with
a serious negotiation, and that has been lacking until recently."
Hill wanted to do was to establish agreement on the end state
a denuclearized Korean peninsula and new sets of relationships between
the other five parties. Having done that, you now go back to the
terribly difficult task of how you get there," he said.
who criticizes it misses the point that this is a very important
and necessary although not sufficient first step,
although it does not guarantee that you'll have success at the end
of the day."
Lobe [send him mail]
is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2005 Inter Press Service