US-DPRK Big Deal

[imText1]After a week of two level meeting of the fourth six-party talks, on September 19, North Korea agreed to all nuclear weapons and program dismantlement and the parties to the talks together reached an agreement, in return for security, on economic and energy benefits, potential normalization of relations with the United States and Japan, and providence of nuclear reactors to North Korea.

The agreement is of four pages and includes six clauses, and 18 sub-clauses. The agreement provides basis for timing and method for the nuclear dismantlement.

Nuclear dismantlement and related important contents are included in the first clause of the agreement.

The first clause states, “North Korea (DPRK) promises to abandon all the presently existing nuclear weapons and nuclear program and to return to the NPT and accept IAEA inspections.” Hence, it assures that not only the nuclear weapons but all the nuclear programs are also to be dismantled. At the present level, all the nuclear activities are also to be banned.

The North’s promise to return to the NPT and IAEA inspections is interpreted as “North Korean nuclear dismantlement” and despite the parties to the talks understanding of the agreement as such, the agreement failed to eliminate possibility of North Korean demand for peace or normalization of other states as preconditions.

The “presently exiting nuclear program” includes Highly Enriched Uranium, (HEU) but if North Korea denies its existence, it will cause an endless dispute between the US and North Korea.

Expected Difference in Opinion Regarding “Appropriate Time”

The last sentence in the first clause states that “North Korea has right to use nuclear for peaceful purposes. The other participating countries must express respect to it and have agreed to discuss on providing North Korea with Light Water Reactor (LWR) at an appropriate time.”

Providence of a LWR is a revision of the US position, which the US yielded right before the representatives left for Beijing. “Appropriate time” is very much a compromised expression between the US and North Korea, but it si foreseen that there will be further disputes. This is because while the US demands “complete nuclear dismantlement and recovery of international transparency and confidence,” while it is expected that North Korea will call for earlier date for the “appropriate time” for the future meeting.

Such expression of “appropriate time” could work as a magic for reaching an agreement but it could also become a trick to bring an obsolete of the agreement.

The US gave North Korea a security assurance, that it has no intention of attacking North Korea by use of force including nuclear weapons, and South Korea was given reassurance of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and urged North Korea to faithfully keep its promise.

In the second clause, the parties agree for North Korea’s nationalization of relations with the US and Japan, and the third clause agrees upon economic cooperation and energy aid.

Peaceful Regime Discussion, Separate Forums will be Held

The fourth clause states that the parties themselves will hold separate forums for the establishment of a permanent peace regime in the Korean peninsula.

The discussions on the peaceful regime are planned to be held separately from the six-party talks. Although North Korea holds priority in the peace regime talks, the US holds the position of preceding the forums according to how the situation evolves.

On the last clause, the parties agreed to hold the fifth six-party talks in Beijing coming November. The date is to be set in the future. With the formation of working groups, a clear roadmap for the North Korean nuclear dismantlement is to be drawn starting this November.

In the short term, there is a high possibility of hopeful talks to be continued. However, the agreement only reached a consensus on the principles and direction to where the talk will head to, while the content still remains ideal and vague.

What is clear is that the agreement will serve as an important founding stone for the North Korean nuclear dismantlement. However, there are may obstacles to be overcame, such as normalization of diplomatic relations, peaceful regime, HEU, IAEA nuclear inspections and verification for the North Korean nuclear dismantlement.

Regarding the background of the agreement, Kim Tae Woo, Senior research fellow of Arms Control Studies Division in Korea Institute for Defense Analyses said, “Unlike the first three six-party talks, China actively engaged in mediation and the US and North Korea had internal interest for the speed up agreement.”

“Had North Korea refused to reach an agreement, an international mood would have led to further isolation and cross examination on North Korea (its interests), and the US had Iraq and New Orleans to worry about that it had difficulties in facing another foreign issue. All these issues coincided and speeded up reaching of an agreement,” explained Kim.