It’s increasingly likely North Korea will retain and even build its nuclear arsenal until it is reunified with the South, reports a high-powered US study group, including former top Bush administration foreign policy officials.
Reunification is likely to be happening by 2020, says the report, but it could be under unstable conditions that make securing Pyongyang's weapons difficult, and the burden of absorbing a disintegrating North might threaten South Korea's democracy and prosperity.
The report, titled "The US-Japan alliance, getting it right in Asia through 2020", paints an ominous backdrop to last week's six-party agreement. Written by Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state in George W. Bush's first administration, and Joseph Nye, a Clinton-era senior defence official, the report clearly assumes that a disarmed North Korea is not a realistic objective. A contained rogue nuclear state is the best likely outcome.
In that case, the chief virtue of the deal US envoy Christopher Hill brought back from Beijing last week is that it starts reversing another huge strategic miscalculation by the Bush White House.
The agreement "is a good thing", Armitage said at the launch of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies report. "Whether it's a good deal or not, however, remains to be seen.
John Bolton, one of the last and toughest rearguarders until he was recently squeezed out of his UN ambassador's posting, protested, "it is the same thing the State Department was prepared to do six years ago. If we were going to cut this deal then, it's amazing we didn't cut it then".
[Excerpt of an article by Peter Alford, The Australian]