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Korea Experts in the U.S. Discuss North Korean Nuclear Issue

Korea Experts in the U.S. Discuss North Korean Nuclear Issue

Posted March. 24, 2007 09:18,   


The six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear dismantlement were suspended after Pyongyang officials boycotted the talks due to the delayed transfer of its Banco Delta Asia (BDA) funds. In interviews with this paper, Korea experts in the U.S. expressed their concern over the recess, citing it as a prelude to numerous obstacles in implementing the February 13 agreement.

The Spirit of the February 13 Agreement Undermined-

President of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) David Albright, who met with Kim Kye Kwan, chief nuclear negotiator for North Korea and the nation`s vice foreign minister in North Korea, earlier last month, said that this signals many difficulties ahead of the resolution of the nuclear issue. He said, “The North clearly showed that they would not budge over anything less than the conditions pledged in the February 13 agreement.”

Executive Director of the Mansfield Foundation Gordon Flake said, “Related parties were moving toward the implementation of the February 13 agreement for 40 days and building momentum prior to the foreign ministers’ meeting. However, Pyongyang’s response undermined that spirit.”

Flake added that the recess over tiny technical glitches in the nuclear talks is an ominous sign of seriously tougher issues in the future.

Bruce Klingner, a conservative senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, analyzed that this is another Pyongyang tactic to gain what it wants before nuclear dismantlement.

Experts point out that the Bush administration is in part responsible for the problems. Flake said that the U.S. lost leverage by politicizing the BDA issue based on its decision to give the entire fund back to North Korea. This might have led supporters of the February agreement to rethink their stance and put more weight on skepticism.

Klingner also alluded that the U.S. turned a matter of law enforcement into a political issue. He pointed out that Pyongyang might interpret the delayed transfer as an American ploy. “While Washington hesitated over the issue of highly enriched uranium (HEU), Pyongyang boldly came up with new demands. In other words, it was as if the U.S. sent a signal that it could make more concessions to advance the six-party talks,” said the researcher.

Experts, however, predicted that the abrupt recess would not shake six parties’ diplomatic effort to the core.

Albright said the impasse surrounding the BDA funds would be broken with the resumption of six-party talks next month. Flake also forecast the six-party process itself will remain unchanged.

Klinger said, “This will have no impact on the talks in the long term, however, North Korea is likely to continue such tactics.” There are predictions that the communist country might prevent Japan from taking issue with Japanese abductions or try to deal with them in a meeting separate from the six-way talks.

Meanwhile, Senior Adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Michael Green said in an interview with Yonhap News, “The collapse is temporary. While the February 13 agreement is worth pursuing, the U.S. went too far in terms of technical aspects. Looking more desperate than the North in the negotiations, the U.S. lost its upper hand to North Korea.”

Senior research fellow Scott Snyder of the Asia Foundation said, “This is not the end of the talks, but it has tested the patience of the negotiating parties. Former President Kim Dae-jung’s departure for Pyongyang to attend the 2000 Inter-Korean summit was delayed. As it turned out, Pyongyang was waiting for Hyundai to funnel money to the country,” said Snyder.

Experts forecast that the debate over the BDA money transfer will soon be resolved, but that more challenges would follow. Flake chose IAEA inspections as being the most immediate challenge, and Klinger and Albright talked about the issue of delisting North Korea from terror-sponsoring countries with regard to abduction of Japanese nationals.

In the meantime, the White House stressed the recess stemmed from technical issues Thursday. State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said Washington expected the talks to be resumed in a week or two.

sechepa@donga.com srkim@donga.com