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Expert: North Will Not Accept Permanent Disarmament

Posted February. 15, 2007 07:15,   


“North Korea will not disable its nuclear facilities permanently. Nevertheless, long-term temporary disabling is possible, which can be an important step toward denuclearization,” said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS).

Albright visited Pyongyang for five days since January 30 to meet North Korean Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Kye Kwan. He told Dong-A Ilbo on Tuesday, “The agreement reached in Beijing is similar to what North Korean officials said they expected, but supply of 50,000 tons of heavy oil as aid seems less than what they wanted.”

-Where do you think the talks will lead?

“The North Korean officials prepared a three-step approach to the talks. They said they would demand a light water reactor before they implement the final stage, the actual dismantling of their nuclear facilities and program, after the second stage of a freeze and reporting on their nuclear facilities. So there is a bumpy road ahead of the talks. Still, the agreement contains good content.”

Albright studied physics and mathematics in graduate school. He is a nuclear inspector and dealt with Iraq’s nuclear program from 1992 to 1997 with inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This paper asked him about technical aspects of disabling the North’s nuclear facilities.

“Disabling of nuclear facilities is divided into two types: permanent and temporary disablement. I have discussed disablement of nuclear facilities in Pyongyang for several years, and the North Koreans have always talked about “temporary measures.” Temporary disablement is just to extract fuel from facilities and put it back when they want. Permanent disablement, on the other hand, is to extract fuel and destroy it. From my perspective, North Korea would allow only the temporary disablement.”

He stressed, “For all that, this agreement in Beijing is philosophically different from the Geneva Agreement in 1994.”

“Under the Geneva framework, North Korea had the right to maintain its nuclear reactor and facilities for nuclear reprocessing, which means it can resume its nuclear program whenever it wants. However, the agreement reached in Beijing this time aims at irrevocable denuclearization. North Korea is expected to resist permanent disablement, but eventually it can be led to disable its nuclear facilities permanently or dismantle them. It will be difficult for dismantlement to take place in a few years, but things could change because the longer temporary disablement continues, the more time Pyongyang needs to resume its nuclear facilities.

-What caused both the U.S. and North Korea to change their positions this time?

“Several factors played a role in the talks. The Chinese put pressure on North Korea, the North had confidence since it possesses nuclear weapons, and Washington’s strategic deterrence against Pyongyang has decreased due to situations in Iraq and Iran. North Korean officials said they already secured enough plutonium to make small nuclear weapons and have missile capabilities to deliver them. Closing down the Yongbyon reactor will be a cost the North is willing to pay compared to supply of heavy oil it will get and the improvement of its relations with the U.S. The North Koreans also seem to think that they can always resume their nuclear program when they feel the U.S. is not showing willingness to improve relations.”