This story about disarmament talks with North Korea is basically a “nothing happened” story, and normally, it probably wouldn’t be worth commenting on, or posting. But given that the U.S. is actively engaged in diplomatic tugs-of-war with three of the PNAC’s (and the administration’s) remaining least favored nations– Iran, Syria, and North Korea– it’s worthwhile to see all three negotiations in context with each other. The big question, really, is does the U.S. have the functional capability to get what it wants in terms of concessions from these nations, without resorting to force? I say “the functional capability” because I believe that the U.S. certainly has the capability in terms of the tools and resources. The question lies in whether a) this administration has the diplomatic skills to pull it off, and b) if the U.S.’s reputation in the world, which isn’t likely to get much better any time soon, has damaged our negotiating footing too much.
When you are dealing with two belligerent nations who are on the verge of nuclear weapons capability, like Iran and North Korea, your ability to resolve conflict through diplomacy is essential. We’ll see how it goes.
[11-15-05 NOTE: It appears that the story at the original link has shifted to a new story about North Korea. (It will keep shifting too, I assume.) I guess that will teach me to make an exception to our archiving rule. The new article, which I’m pasting below the excerpts from the original one, is about the same event, but highlights one particular contentious part of that bigger story.]
This is from the original story:
China: Little Progress on N. Korea Talks
By ALEXA OLESEN
Associated Press Writer
BEIJING (AP) — Negotiators trying to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions focused Wednesday on the contentious details of how the North will disarm and what it will get in exchange, with the U.S. and North Korean delegations holding a separate meeting.
Host China said little progress had been made by day’s end in the new round of six-nation talks.
Before the talks opened Wednesday morning at a Chinese government guesthouse, Washington affirmed its refusal even to discuss the North’s demand for a civilian nuclear reactor until after Pyongyang disarms.
The last round of talks ended in September with North Korea’s pledge to give up nuclear development in exchange for aid and a security guarantee. But the North raised doubts about its willingness to proceed by demanding a civilian nuclear reactor before it disarms.
Tensions between the United States and North Korea have risen after the North on Tuesday condemned President Bush for calling its leader a “tyrant,” saying the criticism raised doubts about the prospect of the six-nation talks.
And below is the newer story. If it needs to be pointed out, observe that both sides (the U.S. and N. Korea) are stating that the other nation will have to meet some benchmark of concession or action, before they themselves will concede or act.
How likely is it that North Korea will be able to satisfy the U.S.’s expectations of disarmament, and the shutting down of any related programs they may have? How likely is it that North Korea is going to unilaterally disarm itself of the only weaponry that could possibly deter the U.S., its 50+-year nemesis, without getting huge concessions in advance?
You be the judge.
N.Korea Offers Reactor-for-Concessions Bid
By KWANG-TAE KIM
Associated Press Writer
BEIJING (AP) — North Korea on Saturday stood by its demand for aid in exchange for shutting down a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor, saying it won’t act until Washington offers concessions.
“As we have to follow the `action for action’ principle, we will act if action is made,” the North’s envoy to six-nation disarmament talks, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan, told The Associated Press. “We will never move first.”
Kim didn’t say what concessions the North wanted. He spoke at the Beijing airport as he prepared to return to Pyongyang following the end of the latest round of talks Friday.
After landing in Pyongyang, Kim said his government was committed to carrying out a September joint declaration in which it promised to disarm in exchange for aid and a security guarantee, the North’s official news agency reported.
Kim said Pyongyang was “ready to make sincere efforts to fulfill the common statement,” the Korean Central News Agency reported.
Kim said participants in the talks – which also include China, South Korea, Japan and Russia – have taken the first step toward fulfilling that September declaration.
“The parties concerned should eliminate suspicion and establish trust for each other if they really want to make progress in the talks,” Kim said, according to KCNA.
The U.S. envoy, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, urged the North on Friday to shut down the reactor at Yongbyon but said he had rejected Kim’s demand for aid in exchange.
Hill says there won’t be any discussion of a light-water reactor until what he calls an ‘appropriate time,’ which is not now.
Asked whether the North was willing to shut down the reactor if the United States offered suitable concessions, Kim said: “Of course.”
He didn’t elaborate.
There was no indication of progress this week toward agreeing on details of how to carry out North Korea’s pledge in September to abandon nuclear development in exchange for aid and a security guarantee.
The North is insisting on receiving aid in stages as it dismantles its nuclear programs, while Washington refuses to reward Pyongyang until that goal is achieved.
The diplomats agreed to meet again but didn’t set a date.
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