Issue >

Denuclearization Efforts Are Reaching a Critical Moment

Park Hyun Min  |  2007-12-28 11:11
Read in Korean  
North Korea has only five more days to finish disabling its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon and declare its nuclear programs as promised in the October 3 Agreement of the Six-Party Talks. However, it remains to be seen whether the North will fulfill its obligations under the agreement.

On November 5th, the U.S. and North Korea started disablement work at the Yongbyeon Nuclear Scientific Research Facility, including its nuclear fuel rod production plant, nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, and 5 megawatt experimental nuclear power reactors. As the disablement work had proceeded smoothly, some anticipated that the North would faithfully implement actions for the second-phase denuclearization and move toward complete denuclearization.

Unfortunately, the future of the denuclearization process is now in doubt, as the North seems hesitant to declare its uranium enrichment program. This refusal was the very cause of the second North Korean nuclear crisis in 2002.

Dispute on Nuclear Disablement

The U.S. demanded that the North get rid of unused nuclear fuel and shut down the cooling tower at Yongbyon, which is being disabled partially. However, the North said it would dispose of the fuel and destroy the cooling tower at the final stage of denuclearization as demanded by the U.S. only after it receives the aid promised in line with the principle of action for action.

Upon the Norths signing of the February 13 Agreement, the government-run Korea Central News Agency reported that the North had agreed to temporarily stop operating nuclear facilities rather than to disable nuclear facilities.

The statement triggered controversy, but this controversy was initially downplayed as the remark appeared not to have been issued by the North Korean Foreign Ministry. However, it appears that the North might have spoken its true intentions back then, considering that the North now refuses to get rid of its nuclear fuel and cooling tower.

The U.S. is pushing for the North to remove its nuclear fuel and cooling tower at the current disablement stage, because it would take only three months for the North to reactivate its nuclear facilities should the North keep the nuclear fuel and cooling tower.

What the U.S. wants from the current disabling efforts is to ensure that it takes at least one year for the North to reactivate its nuclear facilities. Therefore, if the North completes its disablement obligations but fails to remove the nuclear fuel and cooling tower, it will face serious opposition from some U.S. political circles.

The North must declare its uranium enrichment programs

The U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill delivered President Bushs personal letter to Kim Jong Il during his visit to Pyongyang on December 5th. In the letter, Bush asked Kim Jong Il to faithfully disclose the Norths nuclear programs and showed the will of the U.S. to normalize relations with the North.

Kim Jong Il responded to the letter, saying The North will fulfill its obligations, and the U.S. should do its part, too. The North has not made any further response since then.

Although the U.S. demands that the North declare its nuclear programs by years end, it stresses that the accuracy of the report is more important than meeting the deadline.

Previously, the North admitted that it imported from Russia 140 tons of high-strength aluminum tubes that could be used to build a uranium enrichment centrifuge. Nonetheless, the North continues to argue that the imported tubes have nothing to do with developing a uranium enrichment program.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf revealed in his autobiography that Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, widely regarded as the father of Pakistans nuclear bomb, sold about twenty nuclear centrifuges to North Korea. North Korea denied making such a purchase, declaring, The whole story is a fabrication.

However, according to a recent report, U.S. scientists found traces of enriched uranium on aluminum tubes samples that the North provided to put rest to allegations that the North was working on a uranium enrichment program. Of course, this report further instigated suspicion against the North.

In October 2002, when James Kelly, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, visited Pyongyang and made an inquiry on whether the North had a plan to develop highly enriched uranium, the North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kang Seok Ju half-admitted to having such plan, saying, We have one that is mightier than nuclear weapons. It is this incident that gave rise to the second North Korean nuclear crisis, and for that reason the U.S. has persistently pursued the uranium enrichment program issue.

Right now, the North is hesitant to declare its uranium enrichment programs because if it does, the North will send a message that it is willing to completely give up its nuclear programs before the Bush administration ends. However, it appears that Kim Jong Il is unsure whether he can maintain his regime without having nuclear weapons.

Diplomatic circles working to settle the North Korean nuclear crisis anticipate that even if the North fails to disclose its nuclear programs by years end, it will not likely have a negative impact on the Six-Party Talks or U.S.-North Korean relations. Nonetheless, the Bush administration is running out of time to forge a solution, before its term in office expires.
Advertisements, links with an http address and inappropriate language will be deleted.

Won Pyongyang Sinuiju Hyesan
Exchange Rate 8,000 8,000 8,025
Rice Price 4,800 4,900 5,200