Reuters — The U.S. State Department’s chief verifier says she wasn’t consulted when North Korea was removed from the list of nations sponsoring terrorism.
The axis of evil lost a charter member this weekend, when the U.S. took North Korea off the State Department’s list of terror-sponsoring states. In return, Pyongyang promised to let international inspectors look everywhere except where its nuclear materials might actually be hidden.
North Korea restores access to UN inspectors and says it will re-start the dismantling of its plutonium-producing nuclear plant. Courtesy Reuters.
Kim Jong Il, despite having broken every disarmament promise he’s ever made, has thus managed to persuade another U.S. President that he’s serious about giving up his nuclear program. President Bush’s agreement sends this message to Iran and other rogue states: Go nuclear and your political leverage increases.
The U.S. had vowed not to remove North Korea from the terror blacklist until Kim’s government had agreed to a “strong verification regime.” But then North Korea started calling the U.S. bluff — most recently on Thursday, when it told the inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to start packing their bags — and the U.S. caved. Tehran will get the point.
No verification regime is 100% certain — and searching for nuclear
materials in North Korea, with a history of lying and cheating, poses
special challenges foreven the most rigorous inspections. But our sources tell us the U.S. has the technical expertise to get up to 98% accuracy providing it can do snap, on-demand inspections anywhere in the country.
Instead, Pyongyang will permit the verifiers to have unfettered access only to its declared nuclear sites — all of which the IAEA has already combed over again and again. Access to any other location will be by “mutual consent.” Inspectors will be welcome to search the Yongbyon complex and a few other known nuclear sites, such as universities. If they want to inspect anywhere else, they’ll need Kim’s assent. If they request access, and Pyongyang agrees, it’s sure the offending materials will be long gone before the inspectors arrive. This is trust but pretend to verify.
Meanwhile, the State Department didn’t trust its own verification experts to take part in the disarmament process. Late Thursday, less than two days before the agreement was announced, we asked Paula DeSutter, head of the Bureau of Verification, Compliance and Implementation, what she knew about the pending deal: “I have no clue,” she said. “I know zero, zip, nada, nothing. . . . That’s on the record. Zero, zip, nada, nothing.”
Ms. DeSutter says that no one from her bureau accompanied State Department negotiator Christopher Hill on his trip to Pyongyang two weeks ago. Nor did anyone from her bureau take part in the interagency process that evaluated the deal. “I was not consulted,” she said. The fact that the verification bureau was left out of the loop is further cause to suspect that Mr. Hill and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cared above all about declaring a diplomatic success. (For the record, Ms. DeSutter said over the weekend that she supports the deal.)
Since the disarmament deal was struck in February 2007, the North has refused to give a complete accounting of its plutonium program, disclose how many nuclear weapons it has and where they are, or come clean on its suspected uranium program. Now it has managed to wriggle out of its commitments on verification — all without having to wait for an Obama Administration.
Long Range Reprcussions of Letting North Korea “Off the Hook”
By John Bolton
The Wall Street Journal
North Korea has now achieved one of its most-prized objectives: removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. In exchange, the U.S. has received “promises” on verification that are vague and amount to an agreement to negotiate the critical points later.
Above: John Bolton
In the Bush administration’s waning days, this is what passes for diplomatic “success.” It is in fact the final crash and burn of a once-inspiring global effort to confront and reverse nuclear proliferation, thereby protecting America and its friends. Delisting the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) as a terrorist sponsor represents a classic case of prizing the negotiation process over substance, where the benefits of “diplomatic progress” can be trumpeted in the media while the specifics of the actual agreement, and their manifest inadequacies, fade into the shadows.
In the weeks before being delisted, North Korea expelled international inspectors, first from its Yongbyon plutonium-reprocessing facility and then from the entire complex. It moved to reactivate Yongbyon and to conduct a possible second nuclear-weapons test, and prepared for an extensive salvo of antiship and other missile capabilities. All of this the Bush administration dismissed as North Korea’s typical negotiation style.
The irony is that the DPRK need not have gone to the trouble. President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were apparently ready to cave in without the show of force, and rushed to announce the terrorism delisting during a three-day weekend. Thus, while the North’s macho display was irrelevant, the conclusion Pyongyang will draw is that bluff and bluster worked.
So now Pyongyang has what it wants, and Washington has a vague, inadequate invitation to more verification palavering. In any complex negotiation, implementation is the real test, and nowhere is this more painfully evident than in arms-control agreements.
North Korea is the world’s most accomplished serial violator of international agreements, beginning with the Korean War Armistice Agreement it signed in 1953 and including every other significant subsequent DPRK commitment. Most pertinent here, these breaches include repeated promises to give up its nuclear capabilities, beginning with the 1992 Joint North-South Declaration and the ill-fated 1994 Agreed Framework.
The only upside is that the Bush administration may not have time to concede anything more to Pyongyang before it limps into history. It is hard to see how Barack Obama could do worse. John McCain penetratingly observed on Friday that the U.S. must “avoid reaching for agreement for its own sake.”
But the damage done by the administration’s latest surrender extends far beyond failing to rein in North Korea. Key allies like Japan and South Korea were not adequately consulted, thus eliminating the veneer of “multilateralism” the administration so valued. Japan has been humiliated, objecting as it did not only to the verification agreement’s inadequacy, but also to the complete disregard for the numerous Japanese citizens abducted over the years by Pyongyang and never accounted for. The abduction issue is enormously important in Japan, as it would be in the U.S. if North Korea had kidnapped our citizens.
Sidelining Japan is a manifestation of the State Department’s Sinocentric obsession. The consequences could well be detrimental to both Washington and Beijing, however, if Japanese sentiment for developing its own independent nuclear-weapons capability continues to rise. This could occur as Tokyo sees the North Korean nuclear threat persisting, and as China continues to upgrade and expand its strategic nuclear forces and blue-water navy. Fears that the U.S. nuclear umbrella is no longer reliable will only add to Japan’s concerns. Japan may have been frog-marched into acquiescing, but there will likely be a widening of the split between the U.S. and its closest ally in Asia.
The negative ramifications are not confined to Northeast Asia. In Tehran and the capitals of other terrorist states and aspiring nuclear proliferators, policy makers are doubtless ecstatic that Pyongyang has out-negotiated Washington once more, and they are considering ways to apply the North Korea model to their own situations.
The North was nearly able to complete a nuclear reactor in Syria, and possibly other, related facilities, and suffered no penalty for it. Perhaps Iran will conclude it should do the same. What does it have to lose? In Tripoli, Moammar Gadhafi must be wondering why Libya’s nuclear-weapons program now resides in Oak Ridge, Tenn., whereas the full extent of the DPRK’s program remains unknown and now unknowable.
Having bent the knee to North Korea, Secretary Rice appears primed to do the same with Iran, despite that regime’s egregious and extensive involvement in terrorism and the acceleration of its nuclear program. Watch for the opening of a U.S. diplomatic post in Tehran within days after our Nov. 4 election, and other concessions on the nuclear front. Hard as it is to believe, there may be worse yet to come.
Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations” (Simon & Schuster, 2007)