US-North Korean Nuclear Agreement Clearing The Decks For Iran
John Chan and Peter Symonds
Saturday, February 17, 2007
The deal reached between the US and North Korea at six-party talks in Beijing on Tuesday has been variously described in the international media as a “landmark” and an “historic agreement”—holding out the prospect of ending more than five decades of confrontation between the two countries.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Far from marking a fundamental change in the militarist course of the Bush administration, the deal represents a temporary and tactical shift that conveniently sidelines a potentially explosive issue as the US prepares for war against Iran.
Superficially at least, the deal involves an about-face on the part of the US. After coming to office and tearing up the previous 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea, the Bush administration had adamantly refused to hold bilateral talks with Pyongyang or “reward bad behaviour”—that is, to provide incentives for North Korea to abandon its nuclear programs. In 2002, Bush declared North Korea to be part of an “axis of evil” and repeatedly denounced North Korean leader Kim Jong Il as “a tyrant” and “a dictator”.
Over the past year, Bush has refrained from publicly denigrating the North Korean leadership. In the lead-up to the current round of six-party talks, chief US negotiator Christopher Hill met one-to-one with his North Korean counterpart in Germany to thrash out the agreement reached this week. And a key element of the deal is the provision of fuel oil or its equivalent in return for North Korean commitments on its nuclear programs.
However, a closer examination of the agreement reveals that the US is committed to very little, particularly in the long term. The only concrete timetable is for an initial phase of 60 days in which North Korea will freeze all activity at its Yongbyon nuclear plant and allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors back into the country in return for 50,000 tonnes of fuel oil. North Korea is also required to provide a list of all its nuclear programs, including plutonium extracted from used fuel rods.
On the other hand, all the US pledges are easily reversible. The US will “start” bilateral talks aimed at “moving towards” full diplomatic relations. The US will “begin” the process of ending Pyongyang’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. “Working parties” will be established to discuss the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, the normalisation of US-North Korean relations and Japanese-North Korean relations, regional security and economic cooperation.
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