Update: Woohoo! They agreed to full disclosure again, for the second time in six months! Thanks to the brilliant diplomacy of our State Department, we can actually bask in the afterglow of the same breakthrough twice a year! It’s twice the feelgood for the price! At least, until someone leaks that we had to pay another price ….
[Hill] said he and Kim had discussed a range of issues in their two days of talks at the U.S. and North Korean missions to U.N. offices in Geneva. Kim said one of those was North Korea’s demand to be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. “In return for this we will receive political and economic compensation,” he said. “We wouldn’t be an enemy country anymore.”
Chris Hill puts the best spin on this by saying that North Korea agreed to a timeline for dislosure and disablement — by the end of the year, they promise — for the first time. Of course, that’s because they’ve refused to agree to one before, and because after they miss this one, Bush’s term will have just one year left, meaning a graceful exit is assured for all except the North Korean people. I was there when Hill went to sell this deal to Congress last February, and even then, he implied that this was all supposed to happen by the end of the year (Hill estimated that the 1 million tons of fuel oil we were offering would last as long, and that this was on a pay-for-play basis). So I’m skeptical about the novelty of this achievement, skeptical about the value of the declaration, and above all, skeptical about the truth of anything the North Koreans say:
Hill declined to say whether the agreement would include more than the plutonium-producing nuclear reactor in, which North Korea shut down in July. “We have to work out some of the details on that,” Hill told reporters.
And we haven’t even touched the issue of inspection and verification. For just some of the questions that will raise, follow the link to John Bolton’s piece below.
Original Post: Chris Hill is ducking questions about what North Korea is agreeing to disclose and disable this week as he shuttles off to Switzerland, probably in an effort to paper over the latest eruption of North Korean reality: mendacity is the only constant. To the extent that we have really reached an agreement with the North Koreans at all, I don’t think North Korea is “interpreting” those terms the same way our State Department interprets them. I don’t think careful observers will be deceived about that, but most of the news media will continue to fail to report it, so it won’t matter.
But assume we did agree on the terms of the deal, and that North Korea decided to stop stalling and hand over its disclosure. John Bolton, in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, raises the ultimate question of what that disclosure would really be worth:
Consider a possible North Korean “declaration,” perhaps drafted with State’s coaching, which would say something like this: “We manufactured two nuclear devices, one of which we detonated last October. We detonated the other earlier, but you didn’t recognize it as a nuclear explosion. We currently have no nuclear devices. Our plutonium reprocessing efforts were not very successful, which explains why we only had two devices, neither of which produced large yields. We ultimately disposed of our limited remaining plutonium to others, and we have no idea where it now is. We currently have no plutonium. On uranium enrichment, we purchased some UF6 and a small number of centrifuges for a test cascade from A.Q. Khan, but we could not progress due to inadequate funds. Accordingly, we long ago sold all but a small amount of the UF6 and the centrifuges to third-parties. We will produce what little we have at Yongbyon shortly. That’s it. Are we done now?”
Many will fall for this pretense of “full disclosure,” especially those needing a diplomatic “success” to justify long years of faith in the Six-Party Talks. [Wall Street Journal]
Stated differently, who in his right mind would believe these guys? I don’t think anything could possibly convince me that North Korea had disarmed itself of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons as long as the country is led by Kim Jong Il, or whatever junta follows the unexpected broadcast that he’s resting comfortably in a sanitorium until he recovers his health. You’ve got to be delusional to trust these people. You have to be ignorant of the regime’s nature and characteristics to underestimate their determination and their ability to conceal.
So if no knowledgeable, rational person can possibly believe the North Koreans, what is the value of an agreement with them? Does anyone who knows the first thing about North Korea believe that we’re significantly closer to the end of our problems with that regime? Wouldn’t we get more by provoking them to test a few more of those bombs? Or, better yet, by accelerating the financial pressure that had done so much to weaken this regime?
* So am I officially blocked in China yet?
* Have you heard about the latest round of protests in Burma?
Anti-government protests in Burma are spreading outside the former capital Rangoon, with hundreds of Buddhist monks taking to the streets in the western port city of Sittwe and a leading activist fleeing to safety after government-backed thugs attacked her demonstration.
Local sources in Sittwe, in Arakan state about 310 miles (500 kms) northwest of Rangoon, said several hundred monks protested there for the first time since demonstrations erupted last week over a rise in fuel prices in the impoverished country. [Radio Free Asia]
The protests began over fuel prices, but may be taking up other topics. Burma’s military regime is one of the world’s most ruthless, as well as being a close collaborator with North Korea’s.