Thursday, March 08, 2007

Is North Korea serious?

There was optimism on Wednesday that North Korea is serious this time about disabling its nuclear facilities under the Feb. 13 six-party agreement, but some experts warn it is too soon to break out the champagne. U.S. chief negotiator Christopher Hill reported “a sense of optimism on both sides that we will get through the 60-day period and achieve all our objectives set out in Beijing.”

"After the 60-day period" means once North Korea shuts down its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon and gets 50,000 tons of heavy oil from South Korea, and “the next step” under the agreement is “disabling” the nuclear facilities. That is a process of making the nuclear facilities useless, and thus goes much further than shutting them down.

Kim Keun-sik, a professor of North Korean studies at Kyungnam University, said Kim Jong-il is “highly likely” to make a positive decision if the U.S. recognizes his regime and offers security guarantees.

Yoon Duk-min of Seoul’s Institute for Foreign Affairs and National Security indicated it is jumping the gun to speculate about Kim Jong-il’s intentions, since Washington and Pyongyang don't have to focus on their differences for the moment. An academic with another state-run think tank in Seoul said, "… I don't think Kim Jong-il will so readily abandon his nuclear weapons."

Kim Kye-gwan looked pleased with the outcome. Kim hinted he suggested a meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush and Kim Jong-il. "The shortcut to the normalization of the (North) Korea-U.S. relations is a meeting between top officials in (North) Korea and the United States,” he said.

USA Today said some former U.S. diplomats and foreign policy experts Kim met in New York were “optimistic the U.S. and North Korea would agree to formal relations before President Bush leaves office in January 2009.”

[The Chosun Ilbo]

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