November 6, 2007

North Korea Progresses On Disablement

The process of disabling North Korea's nuclear program has gone well thus far, according to the lead American representative on the team. Sung Kim believes that they will completely disable the closed Yongbyon facility by the end of the year, as scheduled:

US experts have made a "good start" to the process of dismantling North Korea's main nuclear facility, the leader of the US team has said.

Sung Kim praised North Korean officials at the Yongbyon reactor, which produced weapons-grade plutonium, as being "very co-operative".

Pyongyang agreed to end its nuclear programme in return for diplomatic concessions and economic aid.

US officials say they hope to disable the reactor by the end of the year.

The Yongbyon plant closed when the DPRK agreed to the settlement at the six-nation talks. The disablement process involves the removal and disposal of the fuel rods, of which Yongbyon had 8,000, thus necessitating some time in completion. That will keep the facility off-line for at least a year even if the diplomatic accord reverses itself, but no indications have arisen of any such difficulty.

Of course, recent evidence in Syria indicates that Pyongyang has found another manner in which to profit from its nuclear engineering. The sudden strike by Israel against what appears to be a DPRK-built nuclear facility -- and Syria's curious lack of protest over its destruction -- show that the six-nation talks need to go farther to find out where else Kim Jong-Il marketed his wares.

There is the slim possibility that Kim divulged the location of the Syrian facility as a condition of the agreement. The juxtaposition of the six-party agreement and the strike on the facility is intriguing, if not coincidental. The US could have allowed Israel to take the heat publicly while we clucked our tongues from the sideline but knowing exactly what they would do, and why. That could explain Syria's reluctance to press its case publicly as well, if they knew that Pyongyang had given up all of the information on the site.

Even if the entire incident was coincidental, it certainly underscores the fact that any dealings with North Korea on nuclear proliferation will be temporary at best. That benefit comes directly from the agreement on the denuclearization of North Korea, which if done properly can serve as an example for multilateral pressure on other rogue nations.


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