Damage control, not the end of
nukes By Kosuke Takahashi
TOKYO - Although the nuclear deal between
North Korea and the United States may help defuse
spiraling tensions in East Asia, it represents a
harsh new reality: US nuclear diplomacy is unable
to "end" North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
Rather, it can only halt it.
foreign policy swamped with Iran, Syria,
Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, the Barack
Obama administration apparently aims to just
"manage and control" the US relationship with
North Korea - by keeping it from escalating out of
Experts expect North Korea's
actions this time may pave the way for a
resumption of the six-party talks, but the talks
more aimed at arms
control and disarmament of the Korean peninsula,
rather than its denuclearization.
recent years, senior US government officials have
managed and controlled US relations with North
Korea, rather than pursued an engagement policy,"
Young C Kim, professor emeritus of George
Washington University, said at a recent forum in
Tokyo. "It is problematic in that it tends to
become a policy of tacit approval."
Wednesday, Washington and Pyongyang announced that
North Korea had agreed to implement a moratorium
on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests, and
nuclear activities at its Yongbyon research center
including uranium enrichment activities, in return
for US food aid.
But on the same day, key
differences on the agreement emerged. The US said
Pyongyang has agreed to monitoring of its
plutonium program and uranium enrichment
activities by the International Atomic Energy
Agency(IAEA), while the North did not confirm
In any case, the US and South Korean
intelligence agencies know there are other uranium
enrichment facilities besides Yongbyon - North
Korea only offered Yongbyon up as a concession
while hiding other cards, in a classic
A hungry child
knows no politics The US is to provide
240,000 tonnes of nutritional aid such as corn-soy
blend, vegetable oil and therapeutic foods for
children under the age of 6, pregnant women and
elderly citizens to meet the North's urgent needs.
Interestingly enough, the tonnage of
nutritional assistance is almost the same amount
then Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi
offered in May 2004 in return for the family
members of five former abductees by North Korea.
Pyongyang is no doubt desperate for food.
A call made in a joint New Year's Day editorial by
three major North Korean newspapers on January 1
that were considered Pyongyang's policy guidelines
for the new year stressed increased efforts in the
country to address food shortages, which it said
are a ''burning issue in building a thriving
For the US, bilateral
negotiations with North Korea on humanitarian
assistance such as food aid, as well as on the
hunt for the remains of soldiers missing-in-action
from the Korean War, have been always possible
even amid intensified tensions.
because the traditional US food aid policy is
based on the slogan of "a hungry child knows no
politics," as the late president Ronald Reagan
said, although every famine is complicated by
Buying time and putting off
the inevitable According to the Center for
Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the
current consensus view in the Obama administration
appears to be that the North Korean problem is
best managed through diplomacy. A CSIS study shows
that over the past 35 years, Pyongyang has not
fired missiles or torpedoed ships when its
diplomats are sitting at the table with Americans
(with one exception in 1998).
personal mission to advocate "a world without
nuclear weapons" is fading, especially when a
nuclear Iran seems ever more imminent. But he
needs to keep Pyongyang from conducting a third
nuclear bomb test in the lead-up to the US
presidential election due this November. The US
may want to grasp an understanding for the newly
born Kim Jong-eun's rule via bilateral talks and
the six-party talks - involving the US, Japan,
South and North Korea, China and Russia.
"Please note that the United States has
long said that we will never accept North Korea as
a nuclear power," Pentagon spokesperson Leslie
Hull-Ryde told Asia Times Online.
Pyongyang, all of the recent movements may be just
dilatory efforts. Military experts expect the
North would develop intercontinental ballistic
missiles capable of carrying downsized nuclear
warheads and reaching the US mainland, which would
significantly strengthen the North's hand and
deepen the security fears of regional rivals such
as Japan and South Korea.
There is a
widespread view among experts that Pyongyang will
not and cannot abandon its nuclear and missile
development, despite any compromises by the Obama
administration as it eagerly seeks another
foreign-policy success in this election year.
For young leader Kim Jong-eun,
nuclear-tipped missiles are still the strongest
weapon and best deterrent against regime collapse
in the Hermit Kingdom. He will hang on to them by
The existing six-party talks
could be set aside and a foreign ministerial
meeting be held among six nations "to discuss the
issue of peace, security and economic
cooperation," George Washington University's Kim
said. "By way of that foreign ministerial meeting,
bilateral talks between North Korea and the US,
between South and North Koreas, and between Japan
and North Korea, can be held."
Won, professor of International Politics at Rikkyo
University, echoed Kim's views.
Kim's proposal is based on realism," Lee said.
"Future six-party talks could be reclassified as
'disarmament' negotiations, rather than aiming at
the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. It
would be more like Conference on Security and
Cooperation in Europe, which adopted the Helsinki
is a Tokyo-based Japanese journalist. His
twitter is @TakahashiKosuke
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