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THE NIGHTMARE OF THE KOREAN NUCLEAR CRISIS OVER
13.02.07
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev)


Washington has capitulated at the six-nation talks on the North Korean
nuclear problem in Beijing, an outcome that has been expected since the
beginning of the crisis in 2002. The world waited for the Bush
administration to admit its failure or pass the difficult task to the next
president.
The current U.S. administration, which needs good news now more than any
other government, has agreed to defreeze North Korea’s $24-million account
with a Macao bank despite its previous accusations of Pyongyang printing
counterfeit U.S. dollars.
There are PR experts who can present Washington’s diplomatic capitulation
as its victory and Pyongyang’s defeat. This can be done because few people
now remember that the conflict began with unsubstantiated U.S. accusations,
or know about the situation in North Korea at that time.
They would be surprised to learn that the situation in that Far Eastern
country has not changed since the beginning of the crisis. Pyongyang has
again agreed to shut down its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon in return for
international aid, and to grant IAEA inspectors access to it.
In other words, North Korea has resumed the obligations it honored before
the Bush administration, which had not had the benefit of the Iraqi
experience at the time, opted for a new policy towards North Korea aimed at
changing the regime.
According to the agreement signed in Beijing, North Korea will receive one
million metric tons of fuel oil in energy aid annually after it opens up
and disables all its nuclear installations.
That clause fits the spirit, if not the letter, of the 1994 agreements with
the Clinton administration, under which Pyongyang abandoned its nuclear
plans to receive fuel oil until the construction of a light-water nuclear
reactor according to the KEDO (Korean Peninsula Energy Development
Organization) specifications is completed.
In short, the North Korean crisis has evaporated, and its last wisps should
be cleared at the final round of talks in March, unless Pyongyang or
Washington choose to strain everyone’s patience again.
The new agreement lacks several points, though, such as mention of the
resumed construction of the North Korean nuclear reactor. But they can be
addressed later.
A new element of the agreement is the transformation of the six-nation
talks into an international organization for the development of North
Korea, just as I had predicted.
Negotiators will set up five working groups to help the parties along the
way toward implementing the September 2005 agreement, notably a group on
denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, two groups on North Korea’s bilateral
problems with the U.S. and Japan, a group on economic and energy aid to
North Korea, and a group on designing a security mechanism for Northeast
Asia.
Taken together, these elements amount to an East Asian version of the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which can become more
efficient than the OSCE.
Russia, the U.S., China, North Korea, South Korea and Japan addressed the
North Korean problem because of its importance for their economic
development and security.
Japan has so far distanced itself from contributing to plans for the
peninsula’s future.
Washington is choosing between signing a peace treaty, which the sides have
not had since the Korean War of the 1950s, and putting the issue on ice.
South Korea will continue to target economic projects for North Korea with
an active contribution by China and Russia.
Russia has used its last trump card at the talks – a promise to write off
the $8-billion North Korean debt to the former Soviet Union.
It is not surprising that the U.S. has joined the group of countries
promising to provide aid to North Korea. Washington remembers only too well
how its positions in East Asia strengthened under President Clinton, when
the U.S. pushed Russia out of North Korean nuclear programs and delivered
the first batch of Coca-Cola to Pyongyang.
The six years of quiet but persistent contribution to the settlement of the
North Korean crisis have restored the positions Russia lost in 1994.
However, the Pacific region also needs the powerful U.S. economy, as well
as the rising Chinese economy, for its development. All countries concerned
recognize Washington’s legitimate interests in that region, and therefore
the negotiators will do their best to forget the blunder the Bush
administration made by accusing Pyongyang of secret nuclear programs, which
it failed to prove.
There is one question that bothers me: Will North Korea become a nuclear
power or not?
Experts discarded Pyongyang’s attempt to threaten its negotiating partners
with a nuclear bomb, because its nuclear missile tests showed that it did
not have the nuclear capability. On the other hand, nuclear proliferation
is prohibited, whereas creating one’s own nuclear weapons is not, as India
and Pakistan have proved convincingly.
Pyongyang does not now have the capability to create its own nuclear bomb,
but it can obtain it in the future.
Many countries closely watched developments on the Korean Peninsula. What
conclusions have they, as well as the Pyongyang leaders, made from the
six-year crisis and the efforts of neighboring countries (China, Russia and
South Korea) to settle it?
Have they decided that it is better to have good friends, rather than the
Bomb? Or that it is still better to have both?

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