Thursday, October 04, 2007

Update with North and South Korea Summit

The United States said on Tuesday it had approved a tentative deal for North Korea to disclose all its nuclear programs and disable its Yongbyon atomic plant.

“We have conveyed to the Chinese government our approval for the draft statement,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. Separately, the top U.S. negotiator with North Korea said he expected China to announce the deal, hammered out over the weekend in talks among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, in the next day or two. [Reuters]

There aren’t many details out there about the new Agreed Framework 2.2, but the basic outline of it seems to be that North Korea will fully “disable” Yongbyon and fully declare all of its nuclear programs by the end of the year. It’s not clear whether this is a hard deadline, or whether it’s reduced to writing. Nor is it clear whether or how numerous technical disagreements over the meaning of “disable” have been resolved, or whether North Korea is back to admitting that it has been enriching uranium (although it recently did admit purchasing the equipment to do so).

Whatever the Israelis found and destroyed in Syria appears to have dissuaded neither North Korea nor the United States from continuing with this deal. No reports are yet suggesting that North Korea will be removed from the terror list immediately.

My problem with all of this is a much simpler one than of the devil hiding among details. My problem is that I can’t suspend my disbelief of anything the North Koreans say. The word of the North Koreans will never give us any security; we’ll always worry about what they haven’t declared and won’t let us inspect. Given North Korea’s extensive network of underground facilities, we won’t even know what doors or hatches to knock on. In America, the debate over this deal is divided into two camps: those who can’t suspend their disbelief, and those who are determined to find a way in the name of some illusory “greater good.” Everyone shares the disbelief. It’s just a question of how far you’re prepared to go to rationalize it away.

See also:

* In Congress, members from both parties have introduced a bill that seeks to force North Korea to account for some specific terrorist links and acts before it can be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. A reader was kind enough to forward the full text of the bill. It contains some fairly shocking assertions, including claims of links between North Korea and Hezbollah. One of the bill’s conditions is the release of the Rev. Kim Dong Shik, whom North Korean agents kidnapped in China in 2002 while he was assisting North Korean refugees. In his new book, Andrei Lankov claims that Rev. Kim died during interrogation, shortly after the North Koreans abducted him. Let’s hope this bill does better than previous efforts.

* Here’s some perfect timing: the Daily NK reports that a shipment of North Korean arms was intercepted recently before it reached the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a listed terrorist group.

* Is it me, or does Kim Jong Il appear to take Roh Moo Hyun about as seriously as I do? If the media have no substance to talk about, they will talk style. The style story here is one of Roh receiving a welcome fit for a new ambassador from Burkina Faso. I can’t imagine how this will boost Roh’s preferred successor in the polls — especially since one hasn’t been selected yet — but I could be wrong. More here.

* LiNK has recently received some substantial donations, and like any smart advocacy group, it’s seeking to use its new wealth as seed money with a traditional Washington fundraiser where it hopes to attract wealthy donors. The venue and program look impressive. You can purchase tickets here. It’s clearly a big financial risk they’re taking, and I wish them great success.

* ABC News reports that underground railroad worker Steve Kim has been released from a Chinese jail. If you think ABC should do more stories about this, please leave a comment. While the coverage is sympathetic, I saw a glaring omission in the report.

* This humble blog is ranked Number Nine among Korea blogs by this calculus, whatever it is. While the numbers and weighting look like witchcraft to the uninformed (me), it’s nice to see that someone is paying attention, especially given that may of those higher on the list are about food, technology, society, or other things that this blog doesn’t talk about.

* I’m suspicious of the Eugene Bell foundation, because it recently received a “frienship” medal from the North Korean government, and because you don’t win Kim Jong Il’s friendship by asking hard questions and without paying for it. Based on this document, I infer that the Bell foundation is having some success at convincing Democrats in Congress, particularly Carl Levin, to start a U.S. counterpart to the “family reunions” that South Korea does. They’re tightly monitored and controlled, and South Korea pays plenty for them. Still, I favor even tightly controlled reunions as long as the North Korean goverment doesn’t earn income from them. Incidentally, if you’re in Washington, Stephen Linton of the Bell Foundation will present a program on what rural North Koreans know about the outside world.

* The North Koreans caught a guerrilla cameraman, and part of their torture of this man was — literally — to hamstring him. For a moment, I was tempted to believe this was a trend toward liberalization from the usual, but then I asked myself how long a man who can’t walk will last here. The answer: probably longer than he’d want to.

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