Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion calls North Korean nu­clear moves a ‘ploy’

The Washington Times Weekly - - International Perspective -

North Korea’s re­cent “mov­ing of equip­ment” in its main nu­clear com­plex is no rea­son to panic and is most likely a “ne­go­ti­at­ing ploy” to win re­moval from the U.S. black­list of state spon­sors of ter­ror­ism, cur­rent and for­mer U.S. of­fi­cials said Sept. 3.

Py­ongyang’s lat­est move does not amount to restart­ing the Yong­byon re­ac­tor or re­build­ing the fa­cil­ity, whose key com­po­nents have been dis­as­sem­bled un­der U.S. su­per­vi­sion, the of­fi­cials said.

Still, the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion is con­cerned enough about the lack of progress in try­ing to rid the North of its nu­clear pro­grams to have dis­patched its chief ne­go­tia­tor, Christo­pher Hill, to Bei­jing on Sept. 4 in search of ways to get the process back on track.

“Our un­der­stand­ing is that the North Kore­ans are mov­ing some equip­ment around that they had pre­vi­ously put into stor­age,” said State Depart­ment spokesman Sean McCormack. “To my knowl­edge, based on what we know from the folks on the ground, you don’t have an ef­fort to re­con­struct, re-in­te­grate this equip­ment back into the Yong­byon fa­cil­ity.”

Asian me­dia re­ports said North Korea be­gan “re­assem­bling” the re­ac­tor on Sept. 1, cit­ing diplo­matic sources in China, which hosts six-na­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions on end­ing the North’s nu­clear pro­grams. Py­ongyang said two weeks ago that it would stop dis­abling the Soviet-era com­plex, about 10 months af­ter it started the process as part of a six-party deal.

Even though there is still a U.S. tech­ni­cal team at Yong­byon, of­fi­cials in Wash­ing­ton said it was not clear what ex­actly the North Kore­ans are do­ing and what their in­ten­tions are. “Is it part of a ne­go­ti­at­ing ploy?” one of­fi­cial asked rhetor­i­cally.

The In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency, the U.N. nu­clear watch­dog that has mon­i­tors on the ground, said it had no in­for­ma­tion about the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.

The North Kore­ans said they took their lat­est step be­cause of the U.S. fail­ure to re­move the coun­try from the ter­ror­ism list within 45 days of Pres­i­dent Bush’s an­nounce­ment in June.

The two sides dis­agree on the terms of the deal. Py­ongyang says the con­di­tion for “delist­ing” was a dec­la­ra­tion of its nu­clear pro­grams it sub­mit­ted just be­fore Mr. Bush’s an­nounce­ment. Wash­ing­ton in­sists, how­ever, that the plan was to take the North off the list only af­ter it agreed on a mech­a­nism for ver­i­fy­ing the con­tent of the dec­la­ra­tion, which has proved a dif­fi­cult task.

“I would say it’s stuck in neu­tral at the mo­ment, be­cause you are not mov­ing it for­ward,” Mr. Mc- Cor­mack said of the ne­go­ti­at­ing process. “They have not com­pleted their obli­ga­tions.”

Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice said Sept. 3 that the United States will “most cer­tainly live up to” its com­mit­ments when the North Kore­ans ful­fill theirs.

For­mer U.S. of­fi­cials and an­a­lysts agreed with the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s read­ing of the lat­est ac­tiv­i­ties at Yong­byon, say­ing the North is try­ing to ex­tract more con­ces­sions from Wash­ing­ton.

“It could take some time to restart Yong­byon, and that may not even be pos­si­ble given the poor state of the fa­cil­ity be­fore dis­able­ment be­gan,” said Michael Green, se­nior ad­viser at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies and a for­mer se­nior di­rec­tor for Asian af­fairs at the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

Daryl Kimball, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Arms Con­trol As­so­ci­a­tion, said the North Kore­ans “are not in a po­si­tion to sep­a­rate plu­to­nium from spent fuel,” which is an es­sen­tial part of the nu­clear cy­cle, be­cause “key com­po­nents have been dis­as­sem­bled.”

“The ques­tion is, what else North Korea has on its ter­ri­tory” out­side Yong­byon, he said. “That’s why a more ful­some and ac­cu­rate dec­la­ra­tion is es­sen­tial and ver­i­fi­ca­tion is cru­cial.”

Jack Pritchard, a for­mer State Depart­ment en­voy for talks with North Korea, said the move­ment of equip­ment is prob­a­bly meant to tell the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, “If you are in­ter­ested in legacy, you bet­ter get mov­ing on the ter­ror­ism list.”

“I don’t think you will see any­one panic over the North Kore­ans’ lat­est an­nounce­ment,” he said. “The re­al­ity is that we are un­likely to see fur­ther progress and per­haps a bit of back­slid­ing through the end of the Bush term.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.