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Was an Agreement Reached?

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North Korea is insisting it reached an agreement with the U.S. over the Six-Party Talks stalemate. According to the KCNA (via Hankyoreh):

“The recent Singapore agreement fully proved the effectiveness of the DPRK-U.S. talks,” the spokesman said, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“We will await the fulfillment of commitments made by those countries participating in the six-party talks,” he added.

The U.S. has remained tight-lipped about any deal. Christopher Hill told reporters that “significant progress” was made, but denied a “major breakthrough” occurred.

Chosun Ilbo reports that the two sides came to an agreement regarding the wording of the declaration:

In their meeting, the two sides reportedly agreed on wording in the declaration, which will not be released to the public, regarding suspicions about the North’s uranium enrichment program and transfer of nuclear technology to Syria. A diplomatic source said, “The wording in the declaration will probably persuade the U.S. Congress.”

According to Nighwatch’s analysis, the North’s preemptive declaration was a tactic to pressure the U.S.:

The North never announces good news on talks before the US, unless it is laying a trap. This is a setup to pressure the US administration into making concessions or to justify increased tension in the likely event the US balks, based on something the North will claim was promised them in Singapore. By NightWatch’s count this would be the third time since the start of Six Party Talks that the North has pulled this stunt.


Written by nkmonitor

April 10, 2008 at 4:37 am

Posted in North-US Relations

A Deal Within Days?

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The Joongang Ilbo optimistically reports that a deal to end the Six-Party Talks impasse is at hand:

Sources said negotiations between the United States and North Korea over the North’s nuclear program declaration “have reached a final phase,” suggesting Christopher Hill, the U.S. envoy for the nuclear talks, may meet with his North Korean counterpart Kim Gye-gwan during Hill’s tour this week to Asian countries, including Indonesia and East Timor.
“If they meet again this time, the meeting will not be for another negotiation but for striking a deal,” the source said.

The deal is expected allow North Korea to skirt around allegations it helped Syria develop a nuclear facility despite Israeli Prime Minister Barack’s recent admission to Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda, as well as avoid declaring it’s highly-enriched uranium program. Joongang picks up the story:  

According to the source, the anticipated declaration is expected to state that the North perceives the U.S. suspicion that the North may have uranium-enriched programs and may have exported nuclear programs to Syria, allowing the country to address the thorny issue while neither acknowledging nor denying it.

It will be interesting to see the results of this deal, if there are any. However, if the HEU program is no longer up for discussion, then I’m not sure what the point of any deal would be. Afterall, it was North Korea’s admission regarding the development of an HEU program that got us into this mess in the first place.  Could the U.S. be setting the stage to allow North Korea to hang on to its nuclear stockpile?

Written by nkmonitor

April 3, 2008 at 5:21 am

Posted in North-US Relations

Ambassador Vershbow: Six-Party Participants Growing Impatient

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From the Joongang Ilbo

[U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Alexander] Vershbow also said there is a “sense of impatience building up” among participants in the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program over the long delay by Pyongyang to fully declare its nuclear programs.


Vershbow cautioned that people “should not have any illusion” that the recent historic concert of the New York Philharmonic orchestra in Pyongyang could jump-start the stalled talks on North Korea. His comment echoed sentiment on Capitol Hill that downplayed the political significance of the event. “My view is that North Korea is calculating what should be its next move in the six-party talks,” he said. “It is clear that North Korea has to adjust to closer relations between Seoul and Washington.”

Written by nkmonitor

March 11, 2008 at 1:12 am

Posted in North-US Relations

Bruce Klingner on How to Make Reciprocity a Reality

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Writing in today’s Korea Herald, Bruce Klingner gives some recommendations to Lee Myung Bak for making his North Korea policy more effective and better coordinated with the Six-Party Talks:

President Lee, therefore, should more clearly delineate the linkages between South Korea’s current and future economic incentives and the concrete steps that North Korea must take toward nuclear compliance. He should condition the planned expansion of Gaeseong to successful completion of Phase II of the six-party talks, including a viable data declaration and rigorous verification regime. His administration should distinguish between those October 2007 Korean summit proposals that provide direct economic benefit to Seoul and those that are politically motivated, linking the latter to defined benchmarks in North Korean economic and political reform. No new projects should be initiated, including those from the summit, without clearly defined linkage.

Lee should downplay outgoing President Roh Moo-hyun’s emphasis on peace treaty negotiations and instead insist that they occur no sooner than successful completion of Phase II of the six-party talks. The proposal for a Northeast Asian security forum is also a distracter from the real issue, i.e. North Korean denuclearization. In inter-Korean relations, the new administration should also emphasize that the Northern Limit Line is the inter-Korean maritime boundary and that South Korea’s sovereignty will not be abrogated through vague and one-sided “peace zones.”

South Korea, the United States, and Japan now have the opportunity to more closely integrate their initiatives toward North Korea in order to enhance negotiating leverage for securing Pyongyang’s full denuclearization. A more responsible policy would include Seoul joining the Proliferation Security Initiative, monitoring North Korean airborne and maritime shipments, and interdicting any suspicious shipments. It would also be useful for Seoul to condition its unilateral aid to North Korea with the action-for-action requirements of the multilateral six-party talks process. South Korea should adopt World Food Program monitoring standards to ensure Pyongyang does not divert humanitarian assistance.

President Lee must also define the degree to which South Korea’s engagement policy will incorporate human rights issues. Seoul should accede to U.N. resolutions condemning North Korean human rights abuses, demand that Pyongyang discuss its continued retention of 500 South Korean prisoners of war and 400 South Korean post-Korean War abductees, and insist upon enhancing the scope and pace of separated family reunions.

Written by nkmonitor

February 28, 2008 at 8:27 am

Posted in North-US Relations

It’s official: NIS “Broke Rules”

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Chosun Ilbo reports that the South Korean National Intelligence Service did not follow protocol during interrogations of 22 North Koreans found drifting at sea on Lunar New Years. Chosun Ilbo confirms that the drifters, alleged to have been executed upon their repatriation, were not interrogated individually, but instead, in groups of five or six. The total interrogation only lasted for a total of four or five hours. Reports the Chosun Ilbo:

In a briefing after the committee’s closed-door meeting, Grand National Party lawmaker Chung Hyung-keun said, “Rules require that refugees be interrogated one by one. Some committee members found fault with (intelligence authorities’) interrogations of the (22 North Koreans) in groups — by fives or sixes each time — for four to five hours.”

In addition, allegations have come to light that in the past, intelligence agents used threatening tactics to compel would-be defectors into returning North:

North Korean defectors’ organizations claimed that South Korean investigators have used threatening tactics when questioning refugees, and that refugees have been browbeaten in group interrogations into returning to the North. They demanded that it be ascertained whether the investigators used intimidating methods in the latest case.

Scary stuff, indeed.

Written by nkmonitor

February 28, 2008 at 12:49 am

Posted in North-US Relations

Let’s Learn Logic With the KCNA!

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The following are quotes from a recent editorial from the Korea Central News Agency (See: KCNA, February 25th)  deriding the recent U.S. shoot-down of a broken spy satellite. After a bit of background on the issue, KCNA cuts right to the “meat” of their argument:


  •  …[T]he aim sought by the U.S. in shooting down the satellite is to restore the “Star Wars” initiative in the 1980s in a bid to contain China and Russia and other countries and hold military supremacy in the space [sic]. 
    •  No wonder, the Ministry of Defense of Russia on Feb. 16 said that the shooting down of the spy satellite was obviously designed to test a new type strategic weapon.
    •  As known, the U.S. conducted a test of intercepting a satellite in 1985 by launching a missile from a fighter and has squandered a huge amount of fund on the development of space weapons for the last several decades.
    • In the wake of China’s test of intercepting a satellite in January last year, the U.S. used this as a pretext for justifying its development of space weapons and accelerated its moves for the space militarization.
  • At the recent UN Disarmament Conference the U.S. stubbornly rejected the draft treaty on banning the deployment of weapons in the space proposed by China and Russia.
    •  The U.S. in its “national policy on space” made public in October 2006 declared that it rejects the discussion on any agreement which may limit the advance into and use of space by the U.S. and objects to any form of arms reduction agreement.
    • It is crystal clear that these adventurous moves of the U.S. would reduce the international treaty on the peaceful use of the space to a dead document and spark off an arms race in the space [sic] as they were prompted by its unchanged way of thinking dating back to the Cold War era.

Hidden assumption:Shooting down the satellite and rejecting the “draft treaty on the deployment of weapons in space” would restore the Star Wars program
Hidden assumption: Anyone who restores the Star Wars program is a threat to world peace and stability


Conclusion: All these facts clearly prove once again that the U.S. is a harasser of world peace and stability.

I know, I know; it’s like shooting fish in a barrel….

The KCNA is deploying a classic slippery slope argument: the  shooting down of the satellite would “lead to” a new Star Wars program which would “lead to” instability. As far as I can tell, the U.S. has no plans to militarize space or restore the Star Wars initiative. Even if the Star Wars initiative is restored, it wouldn’t automatically lead to a instability and war, as the KCNA’s argument insinuates. 

In addition, both premises beg the question.  The purpose of the KCNA’s argument is to show through deduction that the U.S. has evil intent. Yet, in both premises they’ve assumed that the U.S. has evil intent.  If the KCNA was trying to prove that the U.S. is warmongering, they’ve failed. But then again, what else would you expect? 

Finally, while the second premise, that the U.S. failure to sign the draft treaty proposed by China and Russia, is true, the KCNA fails to mention that the U.S. signed and ratified the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. Article IV of said treaty states:

States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner.
The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military manoeuvres on celestial bodies shall be forbidden. The use of military personnel for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes shall not be prohibited. The use of any equipment or facility necessary for peaceful exploration of the moon and other celestial bodies shall also not be prohibited (See: United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs).

The draft treaty proposed by Russia and China would make it so no weapons whatsoever could be put into outer space. The full text of the working paper can be seen here. The U.S. claims the 1967 treaty is sufficient. According to a 2002 Reuters article, the U.S. never rejected the treaty, it merely said it was “ready to discuss weapons in space but that it is not prepared to commit itself to any formal negotiations on a ban.”

Written by nkmonitor

February 27, 2008 at 1:54 am

Posted in North-US Relations

Philharmonic Arrives in Pyongyang

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Call it what you want: symphonic diplomacy, violin diplomacy, orchestral diplomacy, ping-pong diplomacy round II, Kim Jong Il’s propaganda coup—the New York Philharmonic has arrived in Pyongyang and soon we will find out the viability of so-called “soft engagement” tactics. While the largest delegation of Americans to visit Pyongyang since the end of the Korean War enjoys the festivities—including a traditional Korean performance at the Mansudae Art Theater and a lavish banquet at the People’s Palace of Culture, critics around the world are debating the merits of the visit. Sentiments range from Christopher Hill and Lorin Maazel’s gushing optimism to Bloomberg’s Norman Lebrecht deriding the concert as an event “somewhere along the scale of morally inappropriate and aesthetically offensive (via NPR).”

The big question of the evening is whether Kim Jong Il will be in attendance. As of now, Pyongyang officials remain tightlipped.

NPR notes this is not the first time a U.S. orchestra has visited an enemy territory:

The New York Philharmonic is not the first American orchestra to participate in what some might call symphonic diplomacy. In September 1956, the Boston Symphony was the first major U.S. orchestra to visit the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and in the fall of 1973, the Philadelphia Orchestra made an unprecedented trip to China.

Written by nkmonitor

February 26, 2008 at 1:17 am

Posted in North-US Relations