Experts on Korea and U.S. national security have commended a recent deal between the United States and North Korea on nuclear testing as "a positive development" and an indication that the U.S. has "turned a new page with the North Koreans." Nevertheless, conservative media are attacking the deal as a "sham" and a "fool's deal."
U.S. And North Korea Announce Nuclear Deal
AP: "North Korea Has Agreed To Suspend Uranium Enrichment And A Moratorium On Nuclear And Long-Range Missile Tests In A Breakthrough In Negotiations With The United States." From a February 29 Associated Press article:
North Korea has agreed to suspend uranium enrichment and a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests in a breakthrough in negotiations with the United States.
The joint announcement Wednesday by the two nations comes little more than two months after the death of longtime ruler Kim Jong Il, and suggests North Korea has met the key U.S. preconditions for restarting multi-nation disarmament-for-aid talks that the North withdrew from in 2009. [Associated Press, 2/29/12]
Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton: The Deal "Represents A Modest First Step In The Right Direction," But "The United States ... Still Has Profound Concerns." The New York Times reported on February 29:
North Korea has agreed in the past to halt its nuclear efforts, only to back out and then return to the table before breaking off talks once more with a flurry of accusations against the United States. The North Korean statement appeared to leave wiggle room for doing so again, saying the country would carry out the agreement only "as long as talks proceed fruitfully."
"The United States, I will be quick to add, still has profound concerns," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said when she announced the agreement at a House Appropriations Committee hearing on Wednesday. "But on the occasion of Kim Jong-il's death, I said that it is our hope that the new leadership will choose to guide their nation onto the path of peace by living up to its obligations. Today's announcement represents a modest first step in the right direction." [The New York Times, 2/29/12]
Experts Commend North Korea Deal As "A Positive Development"
Former Ambassador To South Korea Under President George H.W. Bush: North Korea Deal "Is Very Significant." In an interview with PBS, Donald Gregg -- former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, national security adviser to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, and chairman emeritus of the board of the Korea Society -- said of the North Korea nuclear deal:
I think this is very significant.
It's the first major step forward taken by the two countries since President Obama came into office. And it also, I think, says a lot about the way the Kim Jong-un regime in North Korea is going to operate. They're a very hierarchical country. And it's interesting to me that Kim Kye-gwan, who has recently been promoted, was happy to meet with Glyn Davies, who is a lower rank than the man he succeeded, Steve Bosworth.
So there was no talk of hierarchy. There was just a getting down to business on issues that had long divided us and which now we were able to talk about since Kim Jong-un came into power. [PBS.org, 2/29/12]
Arms Control Association Executive Director: North Korea Deal "Is An Important Step Toward A Verifiable Freeze Of The Most Worrisome North Korean Nuclear Activities." In a February 29 blog post, Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association, "a national nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies," wrote:
Concerns still remain, but the news, which follows a Feb. 23-24 round of exploratory U.S.-DPRK bilateral talks in Beijing, is clearly a very welcome and important development.
As I wrote in my column "Next Moves on North Korea" in Arms Control Today last month, "... it is vital that President Barack Obama re-engage the North Korean regime and re-establish a verifiable freeze of North Korea's nuclear and missile programs before they take yet another turn for the worse."
Republicans and Democrats interested in protecting U.S. and international security have an obligation to put election-year politics aside and support the steps announced by the State Department today.
For Washington and its allies in Asia, it is essential that North Korea's nuclear program remain as limited as possible.
Today's announcement is an important step toward a verifiable freeze of the most worrisome North Korean nuclear activities. President Barack Obama and Amb. Glyn Davies -- the U.S. point-man on the DPRK -- need to maintain the momentum in the weeks and months ahead. [ArmsControlNow.org, 2/29/12]
Ploughshares Fund Executive Director: The "Agreement Is A Positive Step Toward Increased Security And Stability On The Korean Peninsula." In a February 29 press release, Philip Yun, Executive Director of Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation, stated:
This small step forward demonstrates once again that sustained diplomatic outreach is the best way to understand and deal with the threats posed by nuclear proliferation, particularly with respect to North Korea where options are extremely limited. The commitment for a ballistic missile and nuclear test moratorium for the time being limits North Korea's ability to qualitatively improve its nuclear weapons capability.
While it is too early to celebrate, today's agreement is a positive step toward increased security and stability on the Korean Peninsula. Removing the threat of a nuclear weapons or missile test will help to diffuse tensions in the region and create the conditions for further negotiations on North Korea's nuclear program. It's up to North Korea now to meet its commitment and be more transparent, and it's up to the United States to aggressively follow up on this welcome first step. [Ploughshares Fund press release, 2/29/12]
Ploughshares Fund Program Director: With Deal "We Will Gain Reliable Information That We Can Use To Learn More About The Regime And Push Forward With Additional Negotiations." In the same February 29 press release, Paul Carroll, Program Director at Ploughshares Fund, stated:
The important gain in this agreement is a commitment not to test nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles, but also a new avenue for reliable information about one of the world's most opaque regimes. We will gain reliable information that we can use to learn more about the regime and push forward with additional negotiations. With IAEA inspectors and food monitors on the ground, we can better understand North Korea's abilities and foster progress toward de-escalating its nplouguclear [sic] program. [Ploughshares Fund press release, 2/29/12]
Notre Dame Expert On North Korea: Deal "Indicates We Have Turned A New Page With The North Koreans." From a February 29 Guardian article:
George Lopez, professor of peace studies at Notre Dame university who served on the UN panel of experts for North Korea until last year, said the agreement "indicates we have turned a new page with the North Koreans".
"First, the moratorium will be monitored by the return of IAEA inspectors, which is a significant move to nuclear transparency and stability. Secondly, the delivery of large amounts of nutritional foodstuffs sets a tone for other nations to respond to North Korean needs -- it is an important confidence building measure," he said.
"Finally, the US has reaffirmed the armistice agreement as a platform for peace and has essentially provided a non-aggression pledge, both important to the North. History shows that nations never fully denuclearise without a public non-aggression pledge from their foes." [The Guardian, 2/29/12]
Professor Of Security And Resilience: North Koreal Deal "Shows The Logjam Has Been Broken Between The US And North Korea." From a February 29 Guardian article:
Professor Hazel Smith of Cranfield University said the latest agreement "shows the logjam has been broken between the US and North Korea".
"We have seen it before but the timing is significant; it is so soon after Kim Jong-il's death. Whatever the shifting factions are, it shows the ones who want to push for peaceful compromise have the upper hand," she said.
"It looks like this small space has been used on both sides to open up a dialogue and I think that's very positive. The US is talking about a quarter of a million tonnes of food: that is not a token amount like 10 or 20,000 tonnes. It is a diplomatic sign. It is a pretty big gesture by the US if they go through with it all."
She added that the South Korean elections were also likely to reduce tensions. Relations on the peninsula deteriorated sharply after the President Lee Myung-bak took office and ended his predecessor's policy of free-flowing aid. [The Guardian, 2/29/12; Cranfield.ac.uk, accessed 3/8/12]
University Of Chicago Korea Expert: "This Is A Positive Development And Suggests That The New Leadership Is Turning Toward Reform." In an interview with The Hindu, Bruce Cumings, expert on modern Korean history at the University of Chicago, stated:
This is a very important agreement. It may have been more or less in hand before Kim Jong Il died, but it does go beyond what experts had expected before that event; it seemed that a deal swapping food for a halt to enriched uranium activities was in the works back then, but this really appears to put a cap on the North's nuclear and missile programme. In the early reports it is not clear if the cap extends to plutonium manufacture as well as halting enriched uranium activities, but the return of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors suggests that both programmes will be stopped. In any case the moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests is very important, because Washington wants to stop the North from working on a miniaturised nuclear weapon that could become a missile warhead.
It is hard to know what this agreement says about Kim Jong Un's leadership -- "young and untested," or directly commanding the affairs of state. Clearly he did not oppose it. Kim Jong Un was educated in Europe, and one hopes that gave him a wider view of the world than either his father or his grandfather had. But this is a collective leadership, I think, and the youth and in experience of Kim doesn't come into play on anything but the most critical decisions of war and peace -- where, in the end, the top leader has to say yes or no. I'm sure the leadership hopes there won't be any such decisions for a long while, so that Kim can become a seasoned executive. Furthermore any North Korean leader would find it in his interest to play a waiting game in 2012, pending the outcome of elections this year in Russia, the U.S. and South Korea, and the leadership transition in China. That is all the more true with a transition hastened considerably by Kim Jong Il's unexpected death. All things considered, though, this is a positive development and suggests that the new leadership is turning toward reform, and much less belligerence than in the past few years. [The Hindu, 3/1/12]
Georgetown Professor Of Security Studies: "The Most Recent Development In Dealing With The North Korean Nuclear Program Demonstrates" That "Negotiation Is Indeed The Way Out Of Possible Disaster." In a February 29 National Interest blog post, Paul Pillar, a 28-year veteran of the U.S. intelligence community and a professor of security studies at Georgetown University, wrote:
The idea that the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 was some sort of enticement to negotiate is no more valid with Iran than it was -- as some have argued -- with Libya. (Qaddafi's decisions to get out of terrorism, to end his weapons-development programs and to negotiate a new relationship with the United States came several years earlier.) The high point in Iranian cooperation with the United States came in late 2001 and early in 2002, before the Bush administration slammed the door in the Iranians' face and declared the Axis of Evil. The 2003 invasion was a reminder of Washington's dedication to regime change, not to negotiation.
Negotiation is indeed the way out of possible disaster, and the way to negotiation -- even with the most difficult and obstreperous regimes -- is through patient engagement. The most recent development in dealing with the North Korean nuclear program demonstrates that truth once again. [The National Interest, 2/29/12]
Nevertheless, Right-Wing Media Attack Deal As A "Sham" And A "Fool's Deal"
Fox's John Bolton: North Korea Deal "Is A Sham, Pure And Simple," The "Latest Display Of U.S. Weakness And Memory Loss." In a March 7 Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Fox News contributor and former Bush administration official John Bolton wrote:
Unfortunately, the Leap Day deal is worse than just another failed effort to chitchat North Korea out of its nuclear weapons. It provides a political and economic lifeline to Kim Jong Eun's uncertain new regime, and it schools him on how to outwit America. Tehran's mullahs will take careful note of the Obama administration's desperation to announce a deal, any deal, that can be described as "progress" on the nuclear-proliferation front.
State's pronouncement is extraordinarily limited in scope and verification. It contains nothing new or different from a long string of past "commitments" North Korea has broken and lied about with impunity. Pyongyang has repeatedly violated Security Council resolutions requiring it to cease nuclear and missile activities, a point conspicuously absent from our U.N.-centric administration's publicity about the latest deal.
Most objectionable morally, despite U.S. denials of a quid pro quo: We are providing 240,000 tons of food aid that will almost certainly be diverted to the DPRK military and other favored recipients. It is a strict canon of U.S. humanitarian assistance that such aid be closely monitored, but there is no reason to believe that monitoring will be any more effective than in the past. Make no mistake, we are simply feeding young Kim's dictatorship.
This agreement is a sham, pure and simple -- which the North's separate communiqué highlights. Pyongyang emphasizes that the deal with Washington is a prelude to resuming the six-party talks (including South Korea, China, Russia and Japan), which will focus on "the lifting of sanctions on the DPRK and provision of light water reactors."
But diplomacy, like all human activity, is never cost-free. There is always something to lose. In this instance, Washington's declaration that it has no "hostile intent" toward North Korea reduces pressure on the undeniably vulnerable new regime, providing it at least a partial get-out-of-jail-free card for coming misbehavior.
What we should have done is concentrate on finding ways to exploit the North's leadership transition in order to hasten Korean reunification. Unfortunately, last week's deal is visible proof that President Obama never seriously contemplated undertaking this arduous but vital effort, which is now a lost opportunity. Instead, we have strengthened the DPRK's confidence, sustained its nuclear-weapons and missile programs, and prolonged the agony of its people.
Iran, meanwhile, must be relishing this latest display of U.S. weakness and memory loss. Even as the acute threat of military force against Iran has been rising, Tehran sees with laser-sharp clarity that when the going gets tough, Team Obama gets negotiating. [The Wall Street Journal, 3/7/12]
Wash. Post's Jennifer Rubin On North Korea Deal: "Our Habitual Unseriousness Ultimately Emboldens Our Foes And Makes Our Allies Very Nervous." In a February 29 post, conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin wrote:
The real impact here may be on Iran. Certainly, the mullahs would like to get some breathing room from economic sanctions and to stave off a U.S. or, more likely, Israeli attack. Bolton notes that "fake concessions and renewed negotiations are sure to work for them, too." This surely convinces them that the United States will go for any fig leaf to disguise the West's failure to halt the Iranian nuclear weapons program.
The administration is less interested, one suspects, in verifiable agreements than in simply having paper deals (even if not co-signed by the other side). What President Obama craves is the appearance of calm, and the illusion of successful diplomacy. Unfortunately, an election strategy is not an effective foreign policy. Our adversaries use phony paper deals to advance their own interests. Our habitual unseriousness ultimately emboldens our foes and makes our allies very nervous. [The Washington Post, 2/29/12]
National Review Online's Jack David: North Korea Deal "Is Worse Than Bad." In a February 29 National Review Online blog post, Jack David, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and deputy assistant secretary of defense for combating weapons of mass destruction and negotiations policy from 2004 to 2006, wrote:
The announced bargain is worse than bad.
Wholly apart from the fact that North Korea has dishonored each and every non-proliferation agreement it has made over the years and can be expected not to comply with this agreement as well, its promise to suspend already-illegal activities in one location leaves it completely free to continue them elsewhere. Making a single-site moratorium on North Korea's nuclear misconduct the central feature of an agreement is astonishingly foolish, even for an administration like President Obama's that is naturally supine in foreign affairs.
The administration's characterization of North Korea's end of the announced bargain as demonstrating North Korea's "commitment to denuclearization" is an insult to the intelligence of even a person with casual knowledge of North Korea's dispersed nuclear-weapons and missile programs. Can it be that the administration heralds the bargain because this feature will allow it to claim victory even if the same North Korean illegal and dangerous activities continue elsewhere on the peninsula? Is the administration's desire to declare a foreign-policy success so great as to be that myopic? One can imagine President Obama in such circumstances declaring that the agreement was "a good start."
It is naïve at best for the administration to herald a North Korean "commitment to denuclearization" after the many years of North Korean actions definitively proving the contrary. In light of the mountains of evidence to the contrary that the Kim family regime has given over the years, it is especially foolish for the administration to have reaffirmed that the U.S. has no hostile intent toward Pyongyang. [National Review Online, 2/29/12]
Charles Krauthammer: North Korea Deal Is "Completely Useless," "A Fool's Deal." During the February 29 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox News contributor and conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer said:
KRAUTHAMMER: Leap day deal, it's a fool's deal on two counts. Number one, we know they are going to cheat. Every time we have had an agreement with them going all the way back to the Clinton agreement called the Framework Agreement, we provide real stuff. Here it's going to be a quarter of a million tons of badly needed food which the regime needs in order that it survive. We give real stuff, we get in return promises, every single one of them over two decades that they have not kept. And they have set up the violations in advance. They have actually said today that they will only carry out the agreement as long as talks proceed fruitfully. Well, that means at any time they can stand up and walk out and say that we are obstructing and break all agreements.
But the second part is worse. Even if they adhere to the agreements, this is completely useless. All it does is stop the uranium enrichment. But they have a uranium and a plutonium program. And the plutonium is untouched, and that is the program that actually has produced the nukes that the North Koreans have today. So it proceeds apace. There's no change at all. I think it's just a nice, soothing headline for an administration in an election year. I think it's a folly. [Fox News, Special Report, 2/29/12]