Wednesday, October 11, 2006

From the Memory Hole, On North Korea

This is from 2002:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hard-liners in the U.S. Bush administration hope a recent decision questioning North Korea's compliance with a 1994 nuclear agreement is a prelude to the accord's demise, according to U.S. officials.

If they are right, it would mark another administration assault on a 30-year-old system of arms control agreements.

"The battle remains to be fought (on North Korea) but that's why this shift in the certification question this year is so important," one senior official told Reuters.

The White House sent a strong message, ruling it could not be sure Pyongyang was adhering to the agreement that was hailed as a landmark on signing eight years ago and aimed to freeze its nuclear weapons program.

It was a dramatic break with the administration of former President Bill Clinton, which negotiated the accord called the Agreed Framework to resolve a nuclear crisis with Pyongyang.

As a condition of U.S. assistance to North Korea, Congress requires the U.S. president to certify annually that Pyongyang is in compliance with the 1994 accord.

The White House told Congress nine days ago it could not do that because it was not satisfied Pyongyang was making new nuclear inspection arrangements with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

But it gave North Korea some respite by invoking a national security waiver allowing U.S. commitments to continue -- at least for this year.

Those commitments include $95 million for half a million tons of fuel oil to the secretive and economically desperate communist country as well as backing for construction of two light-water nuclear power reactors, all part of the estimated $5 billion deal.

Next year could be a very different story.

U.S. officials said administration hard-liners who are most suspicious of Pyongyang see this year's certification decision as a first step toward unraveling the agreement altogether.

It occurred after Bush toughened his rhetoric following the Sept. 11 attacks on America and put North Korea in an "axis of evil" with Iran and Iraq, claiming each was intent on developing weapons of mass destruction.


Officials said hard-liners believe the accord with its massive aid is propping up North Korea and impeding its reunification with South Korea -- a U.S. democratic ally.

In general, the debate over the 1994 agreement has pitted the State Department, which favors the accord, against the Pentagon, which opposes it. An exception is undersecretary of state for international security affairs, John Bolton, who often goes with the Pentagon.

The administration insists the North must immediately begin full cooperation with the IAEA on inspections to determine how many nuclear weapons or material Pyongyang produced.

Former Clinton aides argue Pyongyang does not need to begin those inspections until KEDO is ready to install the nuclear components in the reactors.

Under Clinton, high-level visits took place and North Korea agreed to suspend test launches of their long-range missiles. But Bush has taken a much harder line toward the North and talks have been erratic and at lower levels.

Just to remember the road to the present.