- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 31, 2002

It's a tiny nation that can't feed its people. Most of its factories sit idle, lacking energy and raw materials. Its few export dollars come from arms sales, mostly to rogue nations.
But when North Korea sits down at the negotiating table, it usually walks away with a bounty worthy of a superpower.
That reputation, analysts say, helps explain the Bush administration's reaction communication, but no direct talks after North Korea expelled international inspectors and restarted a nuclear program to make the fuel used in atomic bombs.
"The words crazy, irrational, erratic and bizarre are too often used to describe North Korea's negotiating behavior," said Chuck Downs, author of "Over the Line: North Korea's Negotiating Strategy."
In fact, Mr. Downs says, the North Korean strategy is "generally effective, cleverly devised, skillfully implemented."
The United States believes North Korea has culled enough plutonium from a mothballed five-megawatt, Soviet-made research reactor to build two nuclear bombs.
About 8,000 fuel rods, put in storage under the 1994 "Agreed Framework" deal that was to have halted North Korea's nuclear program, contain enough material for an additional five bombs.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell made clear over the weekend that the United States is not interested in buying North Korea's cooperation.
"They want us to give them something for them to stop their bad behavior," Mr. Powell said. "What we can't do is enter into a negotiation right away where we are appeasing them."
Opponents of the 1994 deal, which made communist North Korea the largest U.S. aid recipient in Asia, denounced it as an act of appeasement by the Clinton administration, which they accused of caving in to nuclear blackmail. The deal promised North Korea oil and two new reactors if it shut down its existing program a package worth more than $5 billion.
Those who expected that U.S. largesse would lead to a more cooperative North Korea were disappointed. Over the next few years, Pyongyang threw its energy into the production and export of ballistic missiles.
Iran's Shahab missile, which can target U.S. forces in the Middle East, was based on technology purchased from the North Koreans. And North Korean expertise was behind Pakistan's successful Ghauri missile launch in April 1998. That launch was followed a month later by India's test of a nuclear bomb. Pakistan, in turn, detonated its own bomb, unleashing a nuclear-arms race on the subcontinent. This month, North Korea delivered Scud missiles to Yemen.
Although the 1994 deal did not put restrictions on North Korea's missile program, it was hoped that it would at least curtail nuclear activity. But by 1998, spy-satellite photos showed ground being broken for what appeared to be a clandestine nuclear-weapons plant on a North Korean mountainside at Kumchang-ri.
When the United States threatened to cut off foreign aid unless the complex at Kumchang-ri was inspected by outsiders, Pyongyang demanded money.
"If the United States wants to inspect the site, it should make compensation," a North Korean official said, suggesting $300 million.
After months of negotiations, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright announced in March 1999 that U.S. inspectors would be allowed at Kumchang-ri. "We did not agree to demands for compensation," she said.
In fact, days before her announcement, Washington quietly arranged to have 500,000 tons of grain, valued at more than $200 million, delivered to North Korea through an intermediary. U.S. inspectors later found the Kumchang-ri complex, a cave dug into a mountain, empty.
Critics denounced the food-for-access deal as yet another act of appeasement in response to a crisis manufactured by North Korea solely to extract concessions from Washington.
"The Kumchang-ri deal validated extortionist techniques," says Nicholas Eberstadt, an analyst at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of "The End of North Korea."
Robert Gallucci, who negotiated the 1994 agreement for the Clinton administration, maintains that it was a good deal, one that kept the North Korean nuclear program in check. He cautions against ruling out direct talks with Pyongyang.
"An ideological disdain for negotiating with our adversaries seldom serves our interests, and in this case could be highly dangerous," Mr. Gallucci, now with Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, said in a recent column.
Mr. Downs who has studied Pyongyang's negotiating strategy describes a pattern in which North Korea appears willing to moderate its policies, uses talks to demand concessions and aid, then halts negotiations when it has gained maximum advantage.

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