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Nuke Talks` Collapse Strikes Blow to Bush Administration

Nuke Talks` Collapse Strikes Blow to Bush Administration

Posted December. 13, 2008 08:24,   


In the wake of the collapse of the six-party talks on North Korea`s nuclear disarmament Thursday, a U.S. diplomatic source said yesterday, “Pyongyang is using its leverage from its `verification protocol,` and has no reason to give gifts to U.S. President George W. Bush, who is now called a ‘broken duck,’ not a lame duck.”

Chief U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill headed back to Washington empty handed after failing to put in writing verification methods the North verbally agreed to when he visited Pyongyang in October.

▽ Disappointed White House

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack in a news briefing stressed the principle of “action for action” on which the talks have operated since August 2003. “This process is not going to move forward beyond this point without a verification protocol being agreed upon,” he said.

His comments signal the suspension of a million tons of fuel oil or equivalent energy aid pledged to the North by the five other parties to the talks in return for the disablement of Pyongyang’s main nuclear facility in Yongbyon.

Echoing McCormack’s comments, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Washington will reconsider the action-for-action principle, adding, “One of the things people have in mind in this regard is the provision of energy aid.”

Four of the six countries have provided 60 percent of the promised aid. The United States has delivered 200,000 tons of heavy fuel oil, South Korea 150,000 tons and Russia and China 100,000 tons each. Russia was scheduled to send an additional 50,000 tons of oil to the North.

After wrapping up the talks Thursday, Seoul’s top negotiator Kim Sook implied a halt to energy assistance, saying, “Energy aid to North Korea will continue but we don’t know when it will be complete.”

After negotiators failed to produce a deal on the verification, South Korean delegates, who had tried to link the agreement on verification protocol to energy aid from the first day of the talks, did not make official the already agreed-upon timetable on energy provision to be completed by March next year.

▽ Fate of the talks unclear

Considering the several months needed for the incoming Obama administration to form the North Korea team after its inauguration Jan. 20, chances are that the six-way talks will remain deadlocked until March or April.

With the economic crisis serving as the top priority of the new U.S. administration and Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East peace deal taking precedence over North Korea, the denuclearization of Pyongyang will be consigned to oblivion, said Michael O´Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

After the collapse of the talks, critics blasted the Bush administration’s policy shift toward the North. Michael J. Green, former senior adviser for Asian issues at the National Security Council, said, “The Bush administration erred in removing North Korea from the list without extracting a more concrete step on verification. We now know the North Koreans tricked us.”

▽ Change in South Korea’s stance

The Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun said, “South Korea clearly sided with the United States and Japan, which drew attention from many.”

“This seems to reflect the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration’s stance. This is in stark contrast to the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration, which sought a mediating role between North Korea and the United States and Japan.”

Yomiuri also said, “In trilateral talks among top negotiators from South Korea, the United States and Japan in Tokyo early this month, Seoul also joined forces with Tokyo in demanding that Washington make corrections on taking samples in the draft verification agreement reached between Washington and Pyongyang.”

The daily, however, questioned if the close cooperation among the three allies can last under the Obama administration.

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