- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 7, 2007


Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s wily dictator, is used to getting his way. Having eliminated all those in his communist kingdom who would dare contradict him, he has become accustomed to broad smiles and enthusiastic applause at his every pronouncement. This public adulation was again evident at this week’s summit with the South Korean president.

Unfortunately, Mr. Kim has also come to expect the same thing from some of America’s top diplomats. Last week’s announced Six-Party agreement on a partial dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear stockpile is the latest example of Mr. Kim getting his way. Unlike our agreement with Libya, which called for removal or destruction under international supervision of all materials used in Tripoli’s clandestine nuclear program, we sought and got much less from Pyongyang. This agreement cannot stop Mr. Kim from restarting his program any time he so chooses, just as he did when he walked away from the ill-fated Agreed Framework in 2002.

Other examples abound of one-way concessions to Mr. Kim. Earlier this year, as a price for moving forward in the negotiations on his nuclear weapons program, Mr. Kim demanded that the U.S. government facilitate transfer to Pyongyang of North Korean money in a Macau bank. The U.S. had effectively frozen the account because at least some of these funds had been obtained through selling weapons to rogue states, counterfeiting U.S. currency and trafficking in illegal narcotics.

Nevertheless, eager for some sign of progress in the nuclear talks, the U.S. government complied with Mr. Kim’s demand, using the New York branch of the U.S. Federal Reserve to make the transaction. The State Department recently went even further to avoid causing offense to North Korea, this time deciding to overlook the regime’s continuing trade in narcotics. In the department’s annual report released on Sept. 17 regarding Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for fiscal 2008, North Korea’s name was conspicuously absent.

Yet in testimony given last year before a Senate subcommittee, an official from the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs said: “Foreign law enforcement investigations clearly have established that North Korean diplomats, military officers and other government officials have been involved in the smuggling of narcotics. In many of these cases, state-owned assets, particularly ships and military patrol vessels have been used to facilitate and support international drug trafficking ventures.”

Mr. Kim’s latest demand is to have his regime removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. If granted, this coup would remove sanctions that deny North Korea access to development loans from international financial institutions. It would also make foreign investment more attractive since Pyongyang’s stigma as a charter member of the “axis of evil” would be replaced with a U.S. seal of approval.

Removing North Korea from the terrorist list would not only be morally wrong, but harmful to our efforts to dismantle that country’s nuclear weapons.

A resolution of the tragic issue of Japanese nationals taken forcibly to North Korea, including that of a 13-year-old girl, remains a prerequisite for all Japanese. But Pyongyang refuses to explain or make amends for these past actions.

To reward North Korea without a full accounting of these and other cases would be to remove its incentive to cooperate and thereby undermine Japan’s willingness to consider a broader agreement.

Unresolved kidnappings are but one reason to keep Pyongyang on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Far more serious is the possibility it continues proliferating nuclear technology and weapons. The Times of London reported the Syrian complex recently destroyed by Israeli air strikes contained materials linked to a North Korean ship that were “labeled as cement but suspected of concealing nuclear equipment.” If true, this would not be the first such incident, as Pyongyang’s connections to the A.Q. Khan nuclear black market are well-documented.

What has the State Department reaction been to the unsettling events in Syria? Chief U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill, in a news conference last month, said “the issue does not change the goal of what we’re aiming for,” namely denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. His response, however, is one of closing the barn door after the horse is out. In addition to ending the direct threat to the U.S. from North Korea, our goal must be to eliminate the possibility North Korea will sell nuclear weapons to rogue regimes and terrorists. That may be just what Pyongyang is doing with the Syrians.

Kim Jong-il counts on our impatience for an agreement of any type to secure the deal he wants, to have his regime propped up by the West, and to survive. But based on his past behavior, there is no reason to assume he will voluntarily give up all his weapons, regardless of any piece of paper he might sign. He must be forced to do so.

If we are to have any confidence of truly ending North Korea’s nuclear threat, we must change our deal-at-any-cost approach to the negotiations and stop making unilateral concessions to the regime. Instead, we must insist on Pyongyang’s taking complete, verifiable and irreversible steps to dismantle its nuclear program. North Korea should earn its rewards, or it will simply come to view them as its by right.

So the next time Comrade Kim extends his hand, asking for one more free treat, the administration’s response should be: “We require payment up front.”

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida serves is the senior Republican on the U.S. House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee.

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