There's been plenty of saber rattling and bold talk about forcing North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program, but after a 6 year standoff, Bush has decided to give in to Kim Jung Il's demands. The western media is characterizing the new developments as a “breakthrough”, but, in fact, Bush has retreated on every issue of consequence. It is as close to a total foreign policy failure as one can possibly imagine. Nothing has been achieved. The bottom line is this; Kim refused to budge from his original position, while Bush completely capitulated on his.
“The US has talked tough without achieving anything.” Han Seung-Joo, South Korea's former foreign minister (UK Guardian)
This suggests that there may have to be a serious reworking of Dick Cheney's famous maxim that “We don't negotiate with evil; we defeat it”.
Wrong again, Dick.
The so-called “breakthrough” took place last month in a face-to-face meeting between Washington and Pyongyang in Berlin. The meeting was kept secret to conceal the administration's willingness to meet one-on-one with their North Korean counterparts. Up until then, the chest-thumping Bushies had refused to negotiate in person; choosing instead to hide behind the 6 party talks. Kim's detonation of a nuclear bomb last summertriggered a sudden reversal inthe administration's approach. (Iran has probably noticed Bush's eagerness to negotiate with nuclear-armed states.)
“According to Japan's Asashi newspaper, the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding under which North Korea would make steps towards denuclearization at the same time as the US resumed annual shipments of 500,000 tonnes of oil, which were halted in 2002.” (UK Guardian)
If this all sounds familiar, it is because the deal is identical to the “Agreed Framework” that was worked out by the Clinton administration in 1994 (and which the Bush administration stubbornly refused to honor for 6 years). The only difference now is that North Korea has nuclear weapons.
The new agreement will drop US sanctions against the North and stop “freezing” their foreign banks accounts, a violation of international law. Kim will be expected to cease his nuclear activities at the Yongbyon reactor and allow inspectors from the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog agency, to resume their work.
Kim agreed to all of these conditions10 years ago; his position has never changed. Only Bush has backed-down.
US envoy, Christopher Hill, has tried to put a brave face on Washington's capitulation saying, “I sense a real desire to have progress.”
Those who have followed the issue won't be so easily fooled. The administration is sending up the white flag and calling it victory. They've back-pedaled on every point of dispute and now they're back to “square one”.
Other parts of Clinton's “Agreed Framework” are still being hammered out, but it isnearly certainthat Bush will be required to meet the terms of the original deal and provide food and 2 lightwater reactors for electrical power. More importantly, Kim is bound to push for “security guarantees” which are now de rigueur for any nation negotiating with the war-mongering US. The North will demand a written assurance (Treaty) that the administration will not preemptively attack them. (The US National Security Statement claims the right to preemptively attack whoever it chooses depending on US national interests)
A signed treaty with North Korea would be agiant leapforward for nuclear nonproliferation as well as world peace.
6 years of failed policy, as well as wars that stretch across Central Asia and the Middle East, have finally pushed the blundering Bush administration to the bargaining table. The lesson is unavoidable: Bush CAN be forced to act rationally when all other options have been thoroughly exhausted. Perhaps, we can glean some small amount of hope from that.
South Korea's former foreign minister, Han Seung-Joo, summarized the latest diplomatic developments saying:
“The US and South Korea will play this up as a big success. But they are going back to where they were before. The US has talked tough without achieving anything. They have reached a new status quo in which North Korea is a nuclear weapons state”.
Like I said, we're back to square one, except now Kim has nukes.
By Mike Whitney
Mike is a well respected freelance writer living in Washington state, interested in politics and economics from a libertarian perspective.
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