- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2008

The White House this morning said their requirements for a full declaration from North Korea on nuclear weapon activities no longer includes proliferation activities, one day before President Bush meets with the South Korean president at Camp David. The regime in Pyongyang will have to fully disclose a list of all “facilities that produced the nuclear weapons,” said Dennis Wilder, the top White House official on East Asia, in a briefing with reporters this morning. Since North Korea signed an agreement one year ago agreeing to declare all their nuclear activities, the White House has said that those activities included proliferation — or the transfer of nuclear materials or knowledge about uranium enrichment — to other countries. North Korea is suspected of helping Syria build a nuclear facility for the purpose of building a weapon, and Israel’s top-secret aerial bombing raid into Syria last year is thought to have been aimed at this facility. But this morning, Mr. Wilder said that proliferation is “being handled in a different manner” than the main declaration, which led him to pronounce himself optimistic about a full declaration. “We have every indication that the North will comply with its obligations,” Mr. Wilder said. But he insisted that “no one has let them off the hook with that declaration” and that nuclear weapons production and proliferation have not been “decoupled.” “These two things will stand together. They are part and parcel of the same process. How we’ve gotten there are two different methods of negotiating with the North Koreans,” Mr. Wilder said. John Bolton, the administration’s former top proliferation official at the State Department, said the administration is “obviously in full retreat.” “The real question is whether they’re going to give North Korea what it wants, which is to be taken off the terrorism list, before they have verification,” Mr. Bolton said. Mr. Bolton said he believes the State Department views proliferation as a non-issue and wanted to take Pyongyang off the state sponsors of terrorism list before South Korean President Lee Myung-bak arrived yesterday in New York. “I think it’ll happen in a few weeks, and it will be a disgrace,” Mr. Bolton said. “They think the plutonium issue is the only one that matters, and it’s a potentially fatal mistake.” On trade, Mr. Wilder said that despite Democrats’ blocking of a free trade agreement with Colombia last week, the White House remains optimistic about negotiations with the South Koreans on allowing more U.S. beef imports, and about congressional approval of a free trade agreement with Seoul. Mr. Wilder said the Bush administration is “extremely hopeful” that a deal on beef can be reached soon, but did not say whether a deal would be made by the time that Mr. Bush and Mr. Lee meet and hold a joint press conference at Camp David on Saturday. Mr. Wilder also said that there is growing concern in Asia over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s actions last week to block the Colombia FTA by changing the rules requiring a vote within 60 days of the deal being submitted by the president to Congress. “I have had many East Asian diplomats come to me concerned about a growing protectionism in the United States, and concerned that Americans are turning their backs on what has been a cornerstone of our relationships in East Asia,” Mr. Wilder said. He said it is “very important for Congress to think through [the South Korean FTA] clearly.”

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