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Preview of the State of the Union: A Big Win on North Korea

John on January 22, 2007 at 10:36 am

[Welcome HotAir readers with thanks to Allah (something you won't often hear coming from a Christian blogger)]

Reuters is reporting that a deal is close, others are reporting that talks will begin again soon, but Itar-Tass (the link can be very slow) says a deal has already been reached:

Pyongyang has agreed to suspend all its activities in the nuclear sphere, including its reactor in the Yongbyon research centre and allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts to conduct monitoring of its atomic facilities as the first step towards dismantling its nuclear programme. Such agreements were reached at talks in Berlin between the US and North Korean chief negotiators at the six-sided Korean Peninsula denuclearisation talks, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported here on Monday.

During the consultations held in Berlin in recent days, head of the North Korean delegation Kim Gye-gwan told US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher R. Hill that in exchange for this move the North hopes to get from the United States economic and energy assistance, as well as guarantees that Washington will unfreeze North Korea’s accounts in Banco Delta Asia in Aomen (Macau) worth 24 million US dollars.

Aside from the monetary inducements, it appears what North Korea is willing to drop its nuclear program for the sake of the two party talks it has thus far been denied. That’s according to this Washington Post story dated last week:

If North Korea gives up its nuclear programs, the United States is willing to engage in “a bilateral process” to establish “a normal relationship,” the chief U.S. negotiator said here Wednesday after two days of one-on-one talks with his North Korean counterpart.

So it sounds as if the President was right all along. If the Norks are willing to give up their nukes in order to reach a “dialogue” with the US, we would have been unwise to play that card earlier.

President Bush, let’s recall, has been under fairly constant pressure since the 2001 decision to push for multi-party talks, reversing the prior stance set by President Clinton. Mr. Bush’s consistent refusal, frustrated many liberals and those in the press (but I repeat myself). For instance, Nicholas Kristof in the NY Times on April 26, 2005:

Mr. Bush refused to negotiate bilaterally, so now we have the worst of both worlds: that uranium program is still in place, and the plutonium program is churning out weapons material as well.

[snip]

Selig Harrison, an American scholar just back from Pyongyang, says North Korean officials told him that in direct negotiations with the U.S., they would be willing to discuss a return to their plutonium freeze. Everything would depend on the details, including verification, but why are we refusing so adamantly even to explore this possibility?

Here’s US News castigating the administration stance last summer:

Diplomacy usually involves talking with adversaries. But not always, in President Bush’s playbook. As the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea advance unchecked, his administration has clung to a diplomatic formula that, to varying degrees, spurns direct talks with the two governments, core members of his “axis of evil.”

Just last month, Time magazine made a bold, “no-brainer” prediction for 2007:

Here’s a no-brainer prediction for 2007: North Korean negotiators will spend the year driving their American counterparts crazy. They will also manage to squeeze some concessions out of the U.S. while giving nothing substantial away themselves, and in the meantime continue developing an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

There ought to be some crow eaten if the Itar-Tass story is correct. It should make quite a splash in the President’s SOTU Tuesday night.

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Category: Politics |

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