Several days past the official deadline for North Korea to declare its nuclear facilities as stipulated in the “October 3 Agreement,” the U.S. finally hinted at some skepticism.
White House Spokesperson Dana Perino said during a briefing on the 2nd related to North Korea’s nuclear declaration,
“As we’ve dealt with North Korea over the past several years, it is only appropriate that we would be skeptical.”
Some analysts are surprised that the White House would use the word “skeptical” with regards to North Korea’s nuclear declaration.
Scott Stanzel, Deputy Press Secretary of the White House, only had the following to say: “It has been clear that the North Koreans would not provide a declaration by the deadline, and a full and complete declaration we believe is critical in order to move to the next phase. So it is our view that that process should move forward.”
Some are proposing that the “skeptical” response to North Korea’s delay amounts to more than a simple grievance.
Other experts believe that this is because the recent series of messages from the North has been negative. For instance, Hyun Hak Bong, Vice Director of U.S. Affairs in North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, revealed that the North would drag its feet over disablement due to a delay in economic aid shipments last month. The North also reduced the number of personnel involved in the disablement of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities, according to a Japanese newspaper.
Kyodo News Agency reported that the North divided the 400 people working on the project into 4 groups. However, they recently reduced the number of people to one group and reported this fact to the U.S.
Another factor affecting the U.S. attitude could be disappointment over the fact that the North did not properly respond to President Bush’s written letter to Kim Jong Il. The letter sent greetings to the North Korean leader and called on Kim to faithfully declare is country’s nuclear facilities.
Despite this, other experts contend that the U.S. and North Korea are going to great lengths to not disturb the mood of progress at the Six-Party Talks. This is demonstrated by the fact that the New York Philharmonic is scheduled to hold a performance in Pyongyang on February 26th.
Diplomatic experts estimate that a declaration of North Korea’s nuclear weapons could be possible by the middle of February or early March, along with the extraction of the used reactor rods from the Yongbyon nuclear reactor.
In the midst of all this, Christopher Hill, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and Head of the U.S. Delegation to the Six-Party Talks, is currently making a round of visits to Northeast Asia.