Did U.S. Write North Korea’s Nuke List?
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI — What is being heralded as a breakthrough with North Korea is also now being questioned. Like a parent doing his indolent child’s homework, critics are suggesting the U.S. ghostwrote North Korea’s declared list of nuclear programs.
Bruce Klingner of the Heritage Foundation said that during April bilateral meetings with North Korea in Singapore, the U.S. tentatively agreed to a “bizarre strategy” in which Washington, rather than Pyongyang, would provide the “requisite data on North Korean nuclear programs.”
Klingner, who served as an analyst on North Korea for both the U.S. CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency, said North Korea only had to “acknowledge Washington’s concerns by not challenging the U.S. information rather than admitting to having violated previous international agreements.”
He also said U.S. officials “acquiesced to North Korean demands to postpone disclosing the number of nuclear weapons it has produced until a later phase of negotiations.”
On June 26, North Korea gave up the long-delayed list of nuclear programs to China, the host of the Six Party Talks. The next day, North Korea blew up its Yongbyon cooling tower, a largely symbolic move that reduced the tower, already in disrepair, to rubble.
In exchange for the list, Washington will take Pyongyang off its list of state sponsors of terrorism and lift U.S. financial sanctions imposed under the Trading With the Enemy Act.
“North Korea’s declaration is certain to be incomplete since this is the arrangement Ambassador [Christopher] Hill negotiated,” said Kenneth Quinones, who served as the U.S. State Department’s North Korean affairs officer in the early 1990s.
“As for the declaration, it should not be taken at face value, something learned back in 1992 when the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] found evidence suggesting that North Korea’s declaration to it was not all-inclusive. This new declaration must be scientifically verified to the fullest extent possible.”
North Korea conducted a small, and perhaps ineffective, nuclear test in October 2006. Sources said Pyongyang can build from six to 10 nuclear weapons, but may not be able to install them aboard a reliable missile.
Too Much for Too Little?
Critics say the White House gave up too much for too little in the hopes of producing a foreign policy success before George W. Bush leaves office in January.
“You have to admire the North Koreans on how they can jerk us around,” said retired Adm. Dennis Blair, former commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.
“They are clever negotiators. I think what they’ve done is take this tactic of being erratic and potentially dangerous and turned it into a way to get real stuff for it. They’ll pop off missiles, shoot one over Japan, say bloodcurdling stuff, and get real stuff for it.”
The Bush administration appears overly eager to strike a deal with North Korea, said Quinones, who once lived at the North Korean Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center and served on the U.S. team that negotiated the 1994 Agreed Framework.
He said this has strained U.S. relations with Japan, its principal ally in East Asia, and reversed the “strategy it pursued from 2001 until early 2007 — i.e. complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of all of North Korea’s nuclear programs prior to engaging in diplomatic negotiations. Instead, the Bush administration has settled for a partial declaration in exchange for major concessions.”
Ralph Cossa, president, Pacific Forum, Center for Strategic and International Studies, said these types of North Korean-U.S. deals do not build confidence with the other members of the Six Party Talks, which include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.
“Washington also seems to not realize the damage that side agreements or secret handshakes have on the other six-party members,” said Cossa, who is a board member of the Council on U.S.-Korean Security Studies.
“We initially refused separate bilaterals because of North Korean divide-and-conquer tactics. Now we are right back to where we began, with North Korea [and the United States] telling different stories to different parties and everyone trying to figure out what really has been promised and what must be delivered when.” But Cossa says it is not clear that the United States got the short end of the stick.
“‘Giving up too much’ is another matter,” Cossa said. “Clearly, the North has managed to ‘renegotiate’ the February and October agreements and will now get their million tons equivalent of aid for disabling Yongbyon alone.” But he called that a relatively small price for keeping the denuclearization process going.
Some say U.S. officials have focused too much on Yongbyon, which has been in disrepair for many years, while failing to hold North Korea to account for its chemical and biological arms, records on the production of highly enriched uranium, data on nuclear cooperation with Iran and Syria, facts on ballistic missile development and human rights abuses.
North Korea has never come clean on its vast biological and chemical warfare inventory, which includes anthrax, botulism, cholera and typhus biological agents and mustard, sarin, tabun and VX chemical agents.
Other issues include the unknown fate of 12 Japanese citizens abducted during the 1970s and 1980s, and Tokyo has said that the number of actual abductions could be in the hundreds. Seoul also says more than 400 missing citizens could be abductees in North Korea.
Japan is demanding as well the return of four members of the Japanese Red Army who have been hiding in North Korea since hijacking a Japan Airlines flight in 1970.