Lessons from nu­clear ne­go­ti­a­tions with North Korea

Iran is also mak­ing harsh de­mands that in­di­cate in­tent to walk away

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Joseph R. DeTrani

As a fi­nal nu­clear agree­ment with Iran is pending, there are valu­able lessons learned from decades of ne­go­ti­a­tions with North Korea. Ig­nor­ing th­ese lessons would be un­for­tu­nate. In Septem­ber 2005, the United States sanc­tioned Banco Delta Asia of Ma­cao as a pri­mary money-laun­der­ing in­sti­tu­tion, pursuant to the Pa­triot Act, freez­ing North Korea’s $25 mil­lion of ac­counts, most ac­quired from il­licit sources. North Korea’s re­sponse was swift and clear: It re­fused to im­ple­ment a re­cently ne­go­ti­ated six-party talks joint state­ment on an eq­ui­table res­o­lu­tion of the nu­clear is­sue with North Korea. To em­pha­size this point, on July 4, 2006, North Korea launched seven mis­siles, in­clud­ing a long-range Tae­podong 2, fol­lowed by a nu­clear test that Oc­to­ber. In dis­cus­sions, North Korea was clear in stat­ing that fur­ther es­ca­la­tion would fol­low if the United States did not re­store its frozen ac­counts. The United States com­plied and in June 2007, the Fed­eral Re­serve Bank ar­ranged with the Rus­sian Cen­tral Bank to trans­fer th­ese funds to the Rus­sian Far Eastern Bank, where North Korea had an ac­tive ac­count.

Re­turn­ing to ne­go­ti­a­tions, the North Kore­ans stated that they wanted their coun­try to be re­moved from the list of state spon­sors of ter­ror­ism and from the Trad­ing with the En­emy Act. The United States ac­com­mo­dated, re­mov­ing North Korea from th­ese lists in 2008. Prior to this, how­ever, North Korea was con­fronted with ev­i­dence that it had an ac­tive ura­nium en­rich­ment pro­gram and that it was sup­port­ing Syria with the con­struc­tion of a plu­to­nium re­ac­tor for nu­clear weapons, which Is­rael de­stroyed in Septem­ber 2007. The ev­i­dence was com­pelling, and U.S. ne­go­tia­tors were force­ful in pre­sent­ing this ev­i­dence to their North Korean in­ter­locu­tors. North Korea de­nied hav­ing a ura­nium en­rich­ment pro­gram and de­nied any nu­clear in­volve­ment with Syria. North Kore­ans did, how­ever, ac­knowl­edge U.S. con­cerns with both of th­ese is­sues. That ac­knowl­edg­ment per­mit­ted the six-party talks to pro­ceed.

De­spite U.S. ef­forts to make progress with the Septem­ber 2005 joint state­ment and given U.S. ac­qui­es­cence with Py­ongyang’s re­quests, North Korea re­fused in Novem­ber 2008 to sign an orally agreed verification pro­to­col that would have per­mit­ted mon­i­tors to in­spect sus­pect sites out­side of its Yong­byon plu­to­nium fa­cil­ity and to col­lect and an­a­lyze sam­ples from th­ese sus­pect fa­cil­i­ties. The re­fusal to sign this pro­to­col con­vinced U.S. ne­go­tia­tors that North Korea was not se­ri­ous about a mean­ing­ful verification pro­to­col. To date, the six-party talks have not re­sumed, given North Korea’s ap­par­ent un­will­ing­ness to com­mit to com­plete and ver­i­fi­able de­nu­cle­ariza­tion that in­cludes full dis­clo­sure on its ura­nium en­rich­ment pro­gram and other nu­clear fa­cil­i­ties out­side of its nu­clear-de­clared fa­cil­ity at Yong­byon.

With­out progress on the nu­clear is­sue, plans to move for­ward on bi­lat­eral is­sues, re­quired for the estab­lish­ment of more nor­mal re­la­tions, were suspended. Those talks would have in­cluded is­sues deal­ing with hu­man rights abuses in North Korea, the coun­ter­feit­ing of U.S. cur­rency and se­lected phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, and traf­fick­ing in il­licit drugs. As North Korea was of­ten told, res­o­lu­tion of the nu­clear is­sue in re­turn for sig­nif­i­cant se­cu­rity as­sur­ances, and for eco­nomic and en­ergy de­liv­er­ables, was re­quired be­fore there could be move­ment to­ward a nor­mal bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship. To achieve the lat­ter, it re­quired more than progress on the nu­clear is­sue. In­deed, South Korea and Ja­pan had their own bi­lat­eral is­sues. For Ja­pan, progress on the ab­ductee is­sue was crit­i­cally im­por­tant, and for South Korea, progress with sep­a­rated fam­i­lies and other se­cu­rity is­sues had to be re­solved prior to the estab­lish­ment of nor­mal state-to-state re­la­tions. This ap­proach to ne­go­ti­a­tions with North Korea was spelled out in the Septem­ber joint state­ment.

As we ap­proach a fi­nal nu­clear agree­ment with Iran, lessons from our decades of failed ne­go­ti­a­tions with North Korea should re­in­force the im­por­tance of a verification pro­to­col that per­mits mon­i­tors to have un­fet­tered ac­cess to all sites, def­i­nitely to in­clude non­de­clared sus­pect nu­clear sites. A writ­ten verification pro­to­col that is clear in stat­ing the pro­cesses and time­lines

re­lated to such ac­cess is crit­i­cally im­por­tant. Equally im­por­tant, when ac­cess to sites is de­nied, are the pro­cesses and time­lines re­lated to ne­go­ti­at­ing de­nial of such ac­cess. Given the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency’s ex­pe­ri­ence in be­ing de­nied ac­cess to fa­cil­i­ties in Iran, clar­ity on all is­sues re­lated to verification and mon­i­tor­ing is a core is­sue.

Sanc­tions re­lief, as we ex­pe­ri­enced with North Korea with re­gard to Banco Delta Asia, the state spon­sors of ter­ror­ism list and the Trad­ing with the En­emy Act, were ac­tions the United States took in ex­pec­ta­tion of a mean­ing­ful verification pro­to­col and progress with de­nu­cle­ariza­tion. The U.S. took th­ese ac­tions, but North Korea didn’t re­cip­ro­cate. This is a pow­er­ful mes­sage as we ne­go­ti­ate with Iran on when and un­der what cir­cum­stances sanc­tions will be re­moved.

Fi­nally, re­solv­ing the nu­clear is­sue with North Korea was the be­gin­ning of a process to es­tab­lish more nor­mal re­la­tions with the U.S., South Korea and Ja­pan. This en­tailed a num­ber of crit­i­cally im­por­tant bi­lat­eral is­sues for which res­o­lu­tion or progress to­ward res­o­lu­tion was nec­es­sary. Hope­fully, Iran will re­al­ize that any nu­clear agree­ment should en­tail some un­der­stand­ing and com­mit­ment to en­ter into a dia­logue with its neigh­bors to dis­cuss res­o­lu­tion of bi­lat­eral and re­gional is­sues im­por­tant for the U.S. and its al­lies and part­ners in the re­gion.

Given Iran’s close work­ing po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary re­la­tion­ship with North Korea, Tehran knows clearly what North Korea’s ex­pe­ri­ence has been in ne­go­ti­at­ing with the United States. What Tehran needs to know is that the U.S. learned a great deal from those ne­go­ti­a­tions — and is not pre­pared to make some of the same mis­takes.

Joseph R. DeTrani is pres­i­dent of the In­tel­li­gence and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Al­liance. He pre­vi­ously served as a se­nior ad­viser to the direc­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence, was direc­tor of the Na­tional Coun­ter­pro­lif­er­a­tion Cen­ter and the mission manager for North Korea, and was the spe­cial en­voy for six-party talks with North Korea. The views are his own and do not re­flect the views of any U.S. gov­ern­ment agency or depart­ment.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY GREG GROESCH/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

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