Appeasement Six-Party Talks

All Quid, No Quo: How Agreed Framework 2.0 may soon become immeasurably worse

I declined to do  a posting on Chris Hill’s latest meeting with the North Koreans — the latest in a long series of last chances — because it was pretty clear that North Korea wasn’t going to admit to having a uranium enrichment program or to having engaged in nuclear proliferation to Syria.  Here, I was right.  I had also concluded that lacking any political room to make further concessions to the North Koreans, State wouldn’t agree to water down down North Korea’s disarmament or declaration requirement.   Here, I again made the mistake of underestimating  what our State Department  would pay for beachfront property in South Dakota.  State is now asking the President to approve a deal along the following lines, under terms that are immeasurably worse than what had previously been agreed with the North Koreans:

  • North Korea fully declares its nuclear program, including its past proliferation activities.   We write  their declaration for them and they say “whatever.”  The State Department provides this declaration  to  them in a secret annex, which it may or may not get around to sharing with members of Congress  who will have to fund this,  and which  will never be shared with the rest of us in the hoi-polloi.   Essentially, North Korea admits nothing, and  we all  “sidestep a dispute over how much detail North Korea must provide about any past uranium enrichment-related activities and its involvement in a mysterious Syrian facility.”   Then, North Korea goes to work on  identifying and shooting the people  who told us  what little we actually know. 
  • North Korea hands over its fissile materials and nuclear weapons.   North Korea still doesn’t even  have to  tell us  exactly how much plutonium it has, and we don’t accept their estimate.  Maybe  we’ll discuss that again  this fall, say our ChiCom friends.  Or maybe never.  Is never good for you?  Mark your calendars, then.
  • North Korea fully disables, then dismantles, its nuclear program.   They partially dismantled one worn-out 5-MW reactor.  In the unlikely event they actually need more nuclear weapons, they’ll fire up the nearly complete 50-MW reactor next door or finish up the 200-MW reactor a few miles to the north.
  • We agree to begin the process of removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terror, on an action-for-action basis.   We lift all sanctions now, before North Korea disarms at all.  We also bail them out with aid, which requires Congress to give them a waiver under the Glenn Amendment.
  • We will discuss full diplomatic relations at some appropriate time, contingent on North Korea no longer counterfeiting our money and improving its human rights record.   They’re still counterfeiting our money and they’re  running what may be, on a per capita basis,  the most repressive regime in the history of mankind.  But those are differences we can  live with  “in the context of two states that have diplomatic relations.”

In short, we give up all of our leverage, and they give up nothing that would have been of any use to them by the end of this year anyway.  Well, that certainly seems to solve … absolutely nothing.

I know that some people in Congress will not like this, and I know that others probably will not care because it’s an election year.  There is one person who could scuttle this deal quickly, and that person is  John McCain.


  1. That article about aspects of the new deal being kept secret got my radar sounding big time.

    And like you, I was thinking, “How could I have possibly expected it could get worse? How???”

    There is only one redeeming hope I have:

    I’ve been saying for some time that one possible explanation for the Bush administration’s flipflop is that intel has firmly concluded the North was on the verge of complete collapse.

    Several of us in the K-blogsphere would love to see that happen, but I doubt there are even a handful of people who think that way in the government — whether they despise Pyongyang or not.

    With the signs of desperation in the food situation in Korea you’ve been telling us about —— and this mind-boggling further cave in by the US government in favor of Kim Jong Il’s regime —– I still have a hope that the collapse is coming soon and perhaps is inevitably going to happen soon – no matter how much we backtrack on the regime – as we go from seeking to effectively hem it in to trying to effectively keep it alive.


  2. Unless something changes soon, Bush’s North Korea legacy will be far worse than Clinton’s. And now that there is finally an admin in Seoul that would work with us. Pathetic. Chris Hill is not serving his country by serving Bush, rather the opposite.


  3. Oh, don’t be so quick to pooh pooh Chris Hill. Yes, the nuke talks are a complete sham. But how can we say that Hill doesn’t serve America by serving Bush? What North Korea really needs is a boot up the ass — i.e. let’s fight tonight. That would be best for the North Koreans, and a moral outcome, but disastrous for the United States — especially the United States Army, which is already bogged down in Iraq. The two-and-a-half war strategic posture has been dead since 1993.


  4. Sorry Brendon, but as far as Hill; bullshti. We’ve been down this road before and know it does not work. Noland and Haggard provide enough data to show that the previous strategy was beginning to have effect. Anyone in Hill’s position should resign rather than screw the country.


  5. Perhaps Hill serves America precisely by pretending to do something about North Korea, while doing nothing. What are we supposed to do? Ultimately, diplomacy works when backed by threat of war — is an American threat of war against North Korea credible?


  6. Not screwing the country does not mean going to war. And he’s not really doing nothing; we’re giving away too much. Not dealing with North Korea at all was better than this.


  7. I think in the area of what Brendon is talking about is something I’ve mentioned from time to time: It is acknowledging that — we don’t have to pull the trigger to get caught up in a very short devastating fight with North Korea when it starts to collapse. All a vengeful Pyongyang has to do as it sees collapse taking place and decides all is lost is to give orders to unload the artillery and missiles and maybe any WMDs it has near the border with South Korea.

    That is one of the fears that causes things like Hill “diplomacy”.

    And America does deserve Hill. Half our government and half the society can’t stomach 4,000+ KIA in about 5 years of fighting. It is certainly par for the course for our society today to be unable to contemplate the potential bloodshed should we not cave into Kim Jong Il and try to help him, at least a little, stay in power.

    And honestly, given how damaging an initial strike by a collapsing NK could be, I could possibly be able to go along with the “regime survival” policy goal ——— but for one mega huge fact:

    the regime is going to collapse anyway.

    It is about as broken down as a nation can get.

    The only way we could possibly make a “avoid collapse” policy work is if we pumped in material aid on the scale NK lost when the Soviet Union gave up on Pyongyang (and then imploded itself).

    That is never going to happen. It is politically impossible for any American administration to pump in massive amounts of aid as long as the North Korean regime remains as is.

    So, in the end, all we are getting from Hill diplomacy is the United States closing its eyes and crossing its fingers.

    At best, as in Clinton’s term, the US can say that it delayed bloodshed from a collapse by a decade and counting.

    I’m sure, once collapse comes, if it comes with massive bloodshed (and that is not a given), we’ll all look back and Clinton and Bush and whoever and thank them much for delaying the inevitable rather than facing it.

    I just wonder how many more North Koreans will be dead before that day comes…


  8. My frustration runneth over. First, Chris Hill was supposed to have come up with a “solution” before Dec 2007 and was rumored to be ready for being “retired” if he didn’t come up with something substantive when faced by the North Korean stall-and-conquer technique. That never came about and we still hear the same garbage just for the sake of keeping the six-party process moving.

    Is this six-party process that important? The original agreement was flawed at best but now it has reached the point of being ludicrous. Is this six-party process the only method? Perhaps it would be better to apply the sanctions for real and squeeze the North to death by isolating it from world.

    The Banco Delta fiasco was bad enough where everyone in the State Department pretended things were moving — and only the Treasury Department was playing hardball. The North only knows how to play hardball — and maybe what we need is someone from the Treasury Department to replace Chris Hill as the chief negotiator. Move the negotiators under the ATF as the DPRK counterfeits still cigarettes and money — then squeeze them financially until no one can deal with them. I know I’m being ridiculous.

    However, getting past my frustration, I know that the six-party process is the only game in town when dealing with the North. However, I think it is time for Chris Hill to go. The clash between the State Department and Defense Department over the DPRK has proven that Donald Rumsfeld, though you may not like him, was right. I think Chris Hill needs to go after this latest “breakthrough” — which insults everyone’s intelligence.


  9. Last night, it dawned on me just how successful Pyongyang has been diplomatically — not totally by its own moves or skill or knowledge – but more simply because of how screwed up the other nations are in dealing with it.

    Look at how many fractured relationships have been left in the wake:

    China and the US are not happy with each other because China wouldn’t put the screws on when we wanted screws tightened.

    SK and the US hit lows in our relationship we haven’t seen in decades. Permanent damage was done in a few ways —-

    –Roh’s five years, and some of the events the South Korean people as a whole put forward, will long be remembered by people that count in the US.

    –And in visible, tangible form, the US finally pushed forward the initial stages of USFK reform that have placed it in at least a minor limbo state — which is different from a status quo situation like we had when things were just plans on the drawing board — and that will be a frequent source of ill-will and bickering for years to come.

    —and the US was particularly annoyed by the Roh regime’s dealings with Pyongyang – just as it was with China.

    But now —— and this takes the cake ——- it seems likely that roles are reversing —- with South Korea’s new president doing the tough talk and possibly tough actions – while Uncle Sam is bending over backwards to lick Kim Jong Il’s………well, you get the picture.

    And then there has been most likely lasting damage done to the US-Japan relationship.

    By lasting damage, I don’t mean severe or crippling and so on.

    I simply mean significant damage that is not going to be repaired for some years to come. And Japan was the one ally in the region we could count on more fully than others.

    Kim Jong Il was able to see all of this accomplished simply by being obstinate ——- and letting us be ourselves……




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