Kim Jong-Il has agreed to give a “complete and correct” declaration of all its nuclear programs and will allow the US to take the lead on disabling its Yongbyon reactor. The announcement, announced by representatives of North Korea and China, comes within the six-party framework and adheres to the February 13th agreement. It takes the process much closer to completion, but another issue remains open:
North Korea agreed to provide a “complete and correct declaration” of its nuclear programs and will disable its facilities at its main reactor complex by Dec. 31 under an agreement reached by North Korea and five other countries released Wednesday.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei said as part of the agreement, the U.S. will take the lead in seeing that the facilities are disabled and will fund those initial activities. …
North Korea is required to disable its sole functioning reactor at Yongbyon in exchange for economic aid and political concessions under a February deal reached through the six-party talks. In July, the North closed Yongbyon, as well as other facilities, ahead of their disablement.
Once there is a six-party agreement, Hill said on Tuesday in New York, the U.S. expects the process of disabling the reactor to get under way “in a matter of weeks.” The U.S. wants the dismantling process so thorough that a nuclear facility could not be made operational for at least 12 months.
The deal represents a breakthrough in talks, which have picked up speed in recent weeks. Last month, a meeting between US and DPRK officials resulted in a verbal agreement that Pyongyang would allow Yongbyon to be scuttled in exchange for badly-needed energy and economic aid. The US insisted in working out the details in the six party framework, and the multilateral team hammered out the agreement in detail last week.
American funding for the shutdown presents little problem for the Bush administration. They would gladly pay to shut down Yongbyon and other facilities, unnamed in this report. Had the talks not succeeded, the US might have spent much more money attempting to shut them down clandestinely. A few million dollars to ensure security is a small price to pay, and besides, we can then ensure that the facilities really cannot be reused for a very long time.
One issue remains. The US wants to get the fissile material back from the DPRK, and negotiators expect a tougher time on this point. Analysts estimate that Kim has at least 110 pounds of nuclear material, as well as some nuclear weapons. It’s critical for our security that we ensure no one else gets their hands on any of it — a point driven home by the reported DPRK-Syrian facility that Israel bombed last month. Most critically, they want to make sure none of it is missing, and if it is, who wound up with it.
The DPRK Army may not be forthcoming on this issue. The US and other four nations plan on moving forward with the scuttling of Yonbgyon and other facilities, but they’re holding off on the majority of economic assistance and diplomatic improvement until 2008, when the talks will address this in earnest. If Kim won’t cough up the goods, we may still have a standoff.