I take some comfort in the fact that while I can’t believe a damned thing they say, neither can the North Koreans:
Nuclear-armed North Korea cannot be removed from a list of state sponsors of terrorism unless it agrees to a comprehensive protocol verifying its atomic program, US officials say.
There appeared to be a perception that Pyongyang would be automatically de-listed on August 11 after President George W. Bush announced on June 26 that he had notified Congress of his intent to de-list North Korea in 45 days.
“The president made very clear that he would use this 45-day period to assess the DPRK’s (North Korea’s) cooperation, including on reaching agreement on a verification protocol, and respond accordingly,” top US nuclear envoy Christopher Hill told a congressional hearing Thursday.
He said the 45 days was only a “minimum” notification period, indicating that August 11 was not a deadline for the hardline communist state to agree to a verification protocol.
Dennis Wilder, National Security Council senior director for Asian affairs, said on Wednesday there was “a little more than 10 days left before the first opportunity for the president to open that window and de-list the North” but reminded Pyongyang it had to agree to the verification mechanism first.
“I will say that without this action, which we hope the North will take, the de-listing will not occur on that time line,” he said. [AFP, P. Parameswaran]
The interesting thing here is, the North Koreans have recently been (a) telling us that that they’re not going to disarm, period, and (b) hinting that they won’t proceed with the disabling of the 5-MW Yongbyon reactor unless the administration de-lists them first.
In an indication that Washington was pushing for a stiff verification regime, Wilder said removal from the terrorism list would require Pyongyang to “agree to a verification protocol that included the plutonium program, the highly enriched uranium activities, and the proliferation efforts.”
A protocol covering the three key areas “sort of re-raises the bar,” said Bruce Klingner, a North Korea expert at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation.
“If verification must cover the three big issues, that certainly makes it more difficult than if you only focus on plutonium,” he said.
I’m sure State is furiously cabling Pyongyang to clarify both this and Chris Hill’s mention — under duress — of North Korea’s concentration camps. I eagerly await the reaction from KNCA.
For its part, State wouldn’t be saying this if their deal wasn’t in trouble, although with Congress about to go into recess, you wonder how big a condition that will really be in practice.
All of this is enough to make you wonder what else caused State to backtrack. One line of speculation is that just as Sen. Brownback made demands for concessions on human rights, other members of Congress demanded this.
There is an interesting extension to that line of speculation. It begins with the premise that it’s John McCain who loses most if Bush appeases North Korea. He’d like to accuse Barack Obama of the very same thing — unconditional meetings and all that — but it won’t work if Obama can use G.W. Bush as a shield. Agreed Framework 2.0 becomes an even greater liability for McCain as a consensus forms that it will probably be safe for us to get most of our troops out of Iraq within the next two years. McCain can’t very well lever against Obama on national security issues — his strength — when a president of his own party is fellating every whooping loony with a seat on the General Assembly. Sure, I’m speculating, but I can offer some circumstantial evidence to support this theory.
Meanwhile, have we all forgotten what this list made for?