Wednesday, December 17, 2008

North Korea and Bush's hawks

A Boston Globe editorial claims: Implacable hawks on the Bush administration are gutting what could have been President Bush's prime achievement in national security.

The hawks - a group that includes Vice President Dick Cheney and former UN ambassador John Bolton - have sought to sabotage negotiations with North Korea in two ways. One is to break US commitments made in a series of six-party talks. The other is to demand that North Korea perform certain actions before any mutual agreement on those actions has been reached.

Last week, the chief US negotiator, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, said that four days of talks with his North Korean counterpart failed to produce a written protocol for verifying steps that the regime had taken toward denuclearization. But the administration had no grounds, under previous agreements, to demand such a document.

The six-party accords are based on a principle of action for action, and they are to be implemented in distinct phases. An October 2007 agreement on implementation of phase 2 obliged North Korea to disable its nuclear reactor and nuclear fuel rod fabrication facility at Yongbyon. In return, the United States was to remove North Korea from the State Department's list of states that sponsor terrorism.

And while North Korea had given Hill oral assurances that it is prepared to permit inspectors to visit undeclared sites and take environmental samples, there was nothing in phase 2 about a verification protocol.

Even worse, Hill was not empowered to offer North Korea anything in exchange for signing a written agreement on verification measures ahead of schedule. This is an attempt to get something for nothing and violates the action-for-action principle at the core of the six-party negotiations.

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