- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 22, 2007

The top U.S. negotiator on North Korea said yesterday that the United States will insist on strict deadlines to keep a step-by-step deal to end the North’s nuclear-weapons programs from unraveling as did a similar deal negotiated under the Clinton administration.

Christopher R. Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian Affairs, said North Korea must shut down its nuclear site at Yongbyon and allow United Nations inspectors back into the country by mid-April under the deal struck at the six-party talks in Beijing 10 days ago.

Also by that date, a series of working groups — including a bilateral one on U.S.-North Korean relations and one on promised food and fuel aid for Pyongyang — are supposed to be up and running. The U.S. government also has promised to wrap up an 18-month investigation of a Chinese bank that was a crucial conduit for the North’s meager hard currency reserves.

“Above all, everyone is agreed that we need to avoid missing deadlines,” Mr. Hill told a packed room yesterday in a briefing at the Brookings Institution think tank.

“When you start missing deadline, it’s like the theory about a broken window,” Mr. Hill said. “If one window isn’t repaired, before you know it, you’ll have a lot of broken windows and nobody cares.”

The agreement was signed by representatives from the United States, North and South Korea, Russia, Japan and China. Beijing hosted the talks and provided crucial behind-the-scenes diplomacy to make the deal, Mr. Hill said.

China’s decision to back U.N. resolutions condemning Pyongyang for a missile test last summer and a nuclear bomb test in October “really got the attention of North Korea,” he added.

U.S. critics of the deal, including former U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton, have criticized the agreement as a replay of the 1994 Agreed Framework, negotiated by the Clinton administration to head off an earlier North Korean nuclear crisis. Pyongyang proceeded with a secret nuclear-weapons program despite the promises of energy and aid in the 1994 deal.

Mr. Hill said that this time, China and all of the North’s neighbors were parties to the deal, making it harder for Pyongyang to walk away. The six-party agreement also is far more ambitious, he said, calling for the eventual elimination of the North’s nuclear-weapons programs and normalization of relations with the United States.

But Mr. Hill said he was “not taking a victory lap yet,” because the Beijing accord left some major questions unanswered.

Among them: the fate of the North’s existing stock of nuclear bombs — estimated at four to 12 — and of the 50 kilotons of plutonium Pyongyang is thought to have on hand to make more bombs. The North still has to provide a detailed list of all its nuclear sites that will be dismantled.

The State Department envoy also conceded that major uncertainties remain about the North’s plans to use highly enriched uranium to fuel nuclear bombs. The Bush administration cited Pyongyang’s admission in 2002 that it had a secret uranium program as a reason to break off the Agreed Framework deal for good.

Pyongyang has secretly bought some equipment consistent with an enriched uranium program, but there are some “considerable production techniques that we’re not sure whether they have mastered,” Mr. Hill said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide