This is the money quote in the Washington Post’s update, which reports that the North Korea deal
marked North Korea’s first concrete commitment to carry out an agreement in principle, dating from September 2005, to relinquish its entire nuclear program.
O.k., let’s separate the points actually agreed from those left to be agreed in the “next phase of denuclearization.”
North Korea agreed to –
- Shut down the hard-water reactor at Yongbyon and seal it within 60 days. (No “initial steps” agreement on inspections, or the separate uranium program, or … anything else)
The 5 counterparties to the talks (U.S., China, Japan, South Korea, and Russia) agreed to –
- Deliver 50,000 tons of fuel oil
In addition, the U.S. agreed to –
- “Resolve” the Banco Delta Asia dispute (in which North Korean funds suspected to be part of a money-laundering scheme were frozen in a Macau bank) within 30 days.
I smell a rat. As AEI’s Nicholas Eberstadt has written for many years (and I’m sure will have something to say about this presently) the purpose of North Korea’s nuclear program is to guarantee regime survival through extortion. All the North Koreans have done here is agree to shut off their nuclear reactor (they can turn it back on whenever they want) and to do so only after shipments of oil begin and after we have let them have their counterfeit and laundered $25 million back. Meanwhile, the administration’s goal in the talks — the verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program — has been left for future rounds of talks, which will now consist largely of bilateral face-to-face working groups. John Bolton is right — the U.S. has conceded on substantial minimum demand while the North Koreans have conceded substantially nothing.
Sadly, this should come as no surprise. When Clinton forfeited the preemption option in 1994, and our offer of all the carrots in the world was rejected while millions starved to death in North Korea, this all became inevitable. The only thing we can do in North Korea now is cross our fingers and hope the extortion won’t be too painful. But let’s be clear: the extortion has begun.