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Has North Korea Been Defanged?

Wretchard says perhaps:

Time will tell whether the Six Party talks will succeed in denuclearizing the Korean peninsula or whether it will founder, as did the Agreed Framework before it, on some new difficulty. But two factors make the new agreement more robust than the 1994 agreement. First, the multilateral format means that any North Korean double-cross would alienate not only the United States, but South Korea, Japan, Russia and most importantly, Pyongyang's patron China. North Korea has a lot more to lose by welshing on the Six Party Talks than it did on the Agreed Framework.

Secondly, because their fissile production line will effectively be dismantled -- the Yongbon cooling will be demolished -- North Korea's remaining blackmail leverage consists of a mere handful of low-yield nuclear material. And with the United States positioned to watch Pakistan and Iran, the future of any clandestine program is in serious doubt.

Expect complaints from the Bush deranged in the peanut gallery, though.


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Jim Harris wrote:

Expect complaints from the Bush deranged in the peanut gallery, though.

You're right about that. John Bolton has already denounced the agreement. He is truly one of the most deranged people that Bush ever appointed.

I disagree with Bolton of course. It is a wild exaggeration to say that North Korea has been "defanged", but what is true is that for the time being it has been contained. The agreement is a relief. Bush --- and even more, Cheney --- have often resorted to the philosophy that every diplomat is Chamberlain and every agreement is the Munich agreement. They have treated treaties as invitations to date rape, containment as cowardice, and multilateral institutions as debating societies. They brought in people who willfully destroyed America's diplomatic capital, and Bolton was one of the worst vandals. It's a relief that Bush changed his mind. The agreement with North Korea is hardly like the START treaty, but it is laudable progress.

The tragedy is that Bush had to learn the hard way. The Iraq War has devalued his leverage to the point that he has no other choice. The Iraq war has devalued our foreign influence, it has devalued military recruitment, and it has helped devalue the dollar. These devaluations will last for more than a decade after Bush leaves office.

ken anthony wrote:

Learned the hard way? When did the Bush admin first propose the six party talks? Was it after all those 'lessons' you listed?

Jim Harris wrote:

When did the Bush admin first propose the six party talks?

The issue is not when they proposed the talks, it's what they decided to say. This agreement would not have been possible while the US followed the John Bolton approach of anti-diplomacy. As I said, Bolton himself has denounced it.

Craig A. Zimmerman wrote:

Keep in mind the Israeli destruction of the Syrian-Korean complex last year. Does any adult actually think the North Koreans are forsaking nuclear weapons? First Scenario: The show we had of those cooling towers being destroyed was their way of telling us a deeply buried facility with a couple hundred feet of cooling pipe to a cave system is now in operation and producing more fuel. Second scenario: They have outsourced their production elsewhere i.e. Iran. (I don't really believe this; they would want to maintain control). Third Scenario: they have enough fissionable material for their purposes. What their purposes are is another question.

Another possibility is that the apparent failure of their nuclear test in 2006 forced the North Koreans to conclude that they just didn't have the necessary resources to produce fully functional nuclear weapons. If so, they might have decided to sell their fissile material and technology to Syria and/or Iran as a way of cutting their losses. With such a ruined economy, the regime literally couldn't afford to pass up any opportunity to make money. But they would continue to pretend that the weapons program existed in order to use it as a bargaining tool, to get some kind of agreement with the US and China that would help the regime survive. If this is true, the demolition at Yongbon is just political theatre.

Josh Reiter wrote:


Does your brain hurt at all having to constantly contort reality to fit neatly inside of this idealistic fantasy land you have created for yourself?

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on June 27, 2008 10:11 AM.

The Better Part Of Valor was the previous entry in this blog.

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