The “beneath-the-surface tension” between U.S. and North Korea surrounding the North’s declaration of its nuclear programs has been increasing.
The Washington Post quoted related parties of the U.S. government that has delayed providing key details about the extent of its nuclear programs, such as whether or not North Korea has weaponized the abstracted plutonium. The Washington Post stated that the North may not complete disablement of nuclear facilities and reporting details within the year.
Further, the U.S. wants to know to what extent the North has used its plutonium, but North Korea only wants to mention the amount of the plutonium. The U.S. wants to receive all inventories regarding North Korea’s nuclear-related facilities, but suspects that the North might have handed over an incomplete list.
The U.S. has requested transparency regarding North Korea’s uranium enrichment activities, but North Korea does not want to reveal its reasons for purchasing uranium enrichment equipments.
The U.S. also wants the North to divulge information regarding whether or not it provided assistance to Syria’s, who air-raided Israel in September, nuclear facility and North Korea’s past nuclear expansion activities. However, North Korea has not backed away from the stance that “The suspicion of North Korea providing nuclear technology has been created by crazy people.”
North Korea recently relayed a brief word-of-mouth response to the U.S., “We are grateful for President Bush’s personally written letter. We will carry out all of our responsibilities. We also expect that the U.S. will try its utmost to do what needs to be done.”
This word-of-mouth reply was in response to the autographed letter delivered by Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill, who visited North Korea from the 3rd to the 5th, to Kim Jong Il.
From an ordinary diplomatic perspective, it is customary to respond to an autographed letter with another autographed letter. Kim Jong Il did not send such a letter, but relayed a short and principled “reply,” which basically stated, “these are my thoughts regarding President Bush’s letter.”
He did not give a detailed response regarding complete nuclear reporting, which was requested in President Bush’s letter. Rather, it conveyed, “We will try our best, so the U.S. should also do what is necessary.”
This response contains ambiguous features. It reflects the nuance that “If we disable the Yongbyon facility, the U.S. itself should be the first one to show sincerity in removing its designation of terrorism-sponsoring countries.” Moreover, it sounds like, “The content that we will report in the future is to the extent of carrying out our responsibility.”
Furthermore, the issue generating the most attention is whether North Korea will report in “good faith” regarding the exact places of usage of plutonium (the number of nuclear weapons), the places of usage of enrichment program installations, materials and technology related to nuclear weapons, and the removal of outside suspicion (related to rumors about Syria).
President Bush urged the North on the 14th to report all nuclear programs, materials and weapons. He urged for the second time in response to reporters’ questions regarding the autographed letter sent to Kim, “It is important for them [the North] to thoroughly report all expansionary activities and nuclear materials that could have been possibly used in manufacturing nuclear weapons and programs.”
Also, he stressed that complete declaration related to North Korea’s nuclear activities should be its “first” priority. This reemphasizes the contents of the letter which was sent to Kim.
From such perspective, Kim Jong Il is giving off the impression that he is buying time through the “reply to President Bush’s autographed letter.”
In particular, it has been known that the letter contained a “December 31st” reply date. By Kim giving an ambiguous reply of “we will do our best” before this date, he seems to be waging a propaganda war with Bush.
To restate, the possibility is high that North Korea will mount a defense of “Our declaration carries out all of our responsibilities” in response to U.S.’ continuous request for an “accurate and complete” declaration.
In such a case, Kim Jong Il, who holds office for life, will be more at an advantage than Bush, whose term is coming to a close with the passage of time.