Sunday, July 15, 2007

Let's See How Long This Lasts...North Korea Shuts Yongbyon Down

I saw this on the New York Times and Washington Post websites.

David Sanger at the NY Times writes:

North Korea told the United States yesterday that it had shut down its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and readmitted a permanent international inspection team, completing its first step toward reversing a four-year-long confrontation with the United States during which the North has made fuel for a small but potent arsenal of nuclear weapons.
Edward Cody of the Washington Post writes:
The closure, if confirmed by U.N. inspectors, would mark the first concrete step in a carefully orchestrated denuclearization schedule that was agreed on in February, with the ultimate goal of dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons program in exchange for fuel and other economic aid, and increased diplomatic recognition.
It will be interesting to see if this holds.

It might as the general theory is the DPRK has been holding out, waiting for a change of the US executive branch. That is, holding out until Bush is out of office. The reality is the North Koreans are experts on playing on the weaknesses of US diplomacy. Bush is out as the US has a two term limit.

The main criticism of the current agreement is it's essence the same as the 1994 US-North Korean Agreed Framework. However, if you look at the 1994 framework there is a critical flaw. There were no clear indicators of who'd do what and when.
The Agreed Framework states that North Korea must fully comply with IAEA safeguards when "a significant portion of the LWR project is completed, but before delivery of key nuclear components."
That's way too vague. Put a number on what a "significant portion" means! It's no wonder that there was a dispute.

The Democrats appear to have much more momentum than the Republicans this time around. As the Democrats have traditionally been more open to negotiation with the DPRK, maybe that gives the North Koreans cause to, at least, appear to cooperate. Plus, with the Bush administration softening its stance by offering incentives like unfreezing assets in Macau and the South Koreans also agreeing to send aid to continue to refuse would have looked very bad for the North.

We'll see how it plays out once the inspectors verify what's going on and then it will be an issue of whether it holds or not.

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