Anyone following the North Korean diplomatic situation over the last ten years or so can’t help but throw their hands up in the air. Perhaps the consistent theme in all of the agreements and compromises that have been reached over the years is that North Korea always wins. At no point does this seem more true than today.
Two months after convincing the U.S. to remove North Korea from the State Department’s list of terror sponsoring countries in exchange for written verification of its nuclear disarmament process, North Korea has reneged. In what seems to be an almost comical series of rebukes on U.S. led diplomacy, the North Korean regime has refused to provide written verification that it is in fact, actually disarming its nuclear capabilities. Anyone counting on a nuclear free Korean peninsula, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Even worse is that the North Koreans have already begun reaping the ‘rewards’ of the fuel oil agreement reached under the six party talks with China, S. Korea, Japan and Russia. Supposedly the remainder is going to be halted upon receiving this verification, but this is basically just kicking the can farther down the road until the Obama Administration takes office in January.
What do we have to look forward to? Obama has denounced the hardline stance of the early Bush Administration and the six-party talks and instead called for bilateral negotiations, saying “more diplomatic engagement is necessary.” Perhaps Obama was referring to the good ole days of bilateral negotiations in the 1990′s under President Clinton. Leading up to the 1994 Agreed Framework, North Korea threatened to pull out of the non-proliferation treaty and develop a nuclear weapons program. This was met by negotiations that allowed the North Koreans to give up their nuclear ambitions in exchange for the equivalent energy in fuel oil and two 1,000 MW light water reactors to be primarily subsidized by the U.S., South Korea and Japan. Unsurprisingly, the fuel oil began to flow but the attempts by North Korea to enrich uranium, disallow IAEA inspectors free access, and bait its neighbors continued.
The type of diplomacy used by the Bush Administration under Christoper Hill and Condi Rice has consistently failed to move the ball forward and it is unlikely more talking by an Obama Administration will do any better. Kim Jong-Il has consistently gotten the upper hand in his dealings with the US/West because he realizes that no matter how many North Koreans he starves or nuclear weapons he chases, the limits of diplomacy will save him.
We need a new strategy for N. Korea, one that can actually move/force them to discontinue their nuclear weapons program.