By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
February 14, 2007
Nearly euphoric headlines this week announced: “North Korea To Give Up Nuclear Program.”
More specifically, the situation is this: in exchange for a huge amount of oil, North Korea has “promised” to dismantle its nuclear weapon program.
And who made all the concessions?
Why, the United States, of course.
The Telegraph newspaper in London started their coverage by Toby Harnden this way: “While the White House hailed the deal as an ‘important first step toward the denuclearisation of North Korea,” John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the UN, denounced it as making America look ‘very weak.’”
Bolton told reporters the agreement contradicted “fundamental premises” of President George W. Bush’s policies and set a “bad precedent for Iran” and other would-be proliferators.
“It is rewarding bad behavior of the North Koreans by promising fuel oil,” said former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John R. Bolton.
The Washington Post said in an Editorial February 14; “if it is rewarding North Korea’s misbehavior, the bribe is a small one.”
The Post also noticed some downside: “The drawback is that North Korea keeps, for now, the weapons and plutonium stockpile it has amassed. Also, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged yesterday, the first real test of whether dictator Kim Jong Il will give up his nukes lies in a less clearly defined future.”
The concessions made as inducements to good behavior include supplying some $400 million in aid to North Korea, including 1 million tons of fuel oil.
But unlike the “Agreed Framework,” the oil will be cut off unless North Korea meets certain criteria.
The United States also agreed to end U.S. Treasury Department banking restrictions on Banco Delta Asia in Macao. That bank was found to be laundering North Korean counterfeit $100 bills to finance the regime.
“We had the North Koreans on the ropes” with the banking restrictions, Mr. Chuck Downs said. “We’re losing all of that real leverage once we open the door to identifying legitimate funds there.”
Mr. Downs is an expert in the North Korean situation and the former Associate Director of the Asian Studies Program at the American Enterprise Institute.
Six Party Talks
The six powers are the United States, North Korea and the key Asian nations with a stake in the outcome of talks with North Korea on its nuclear program.. Involved in negotiating with North Korea to keep their stated bellicose intentions in check are the other members: China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia.
The United States has refused to engage North Korea in one-on-one talks.
Background: The 1994 “Agreed Framework”
In 1994, during the Clinton Administration, the parties made an agreement known as the “Agreed Framework.”The Agreed Framework signed by the United States and North Korea on October 21, 1994 in Geneva agreed that:–North Korea would freeze its existing nuclear program and agree to enhanced International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
–Both sides would cooperate to replace the D.P.R.K.’s graphite-moderated reactors for related facilities with light-water (LWR) power plants.
–Both countries would move toward full normalization of political and economic relations.
–Both sides will work together for peace and security on a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
–And that both sides would work to strengthen the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.
As part of the agreement, two light water reactors would be constructed in North Korea by 2003 at a cost of $4 billion, primarily supplied by Japan and South Korea.
Also, North Korea would be supplied with 500,000 tons of heavy fuel annually, at no cost, to make up for lost energy production.
On October 4, 2002, the United States confronted North Korea by claiming that the North Koreans had violated the agreement. The United States said that North Korea was secretly developing a program to enrich uranium to weapons grade. Since North Korea had cheated, the United States said it was no longer bound by its side of the agreement.
Accordingly, on November 14, 2002, the United States and its allies suspended the oil shipments they had been providing North Korea under the 1994 agreement.
Despite an agreement since 1994 to freeze its nuclear program, on October 6, 2006, North Korea announced that it had tested a nuclear weapon.
The “six party” allies were, of course, shocked.
Beijing Agreement 2007: Implications
The agreement reached this week in Beijing is a bad one on several levels.
“It’s a bad signal to North Korea and it’s a bad signal to Iran,” Mr. Bolton said.
According to Mr. Bolton, the signal being sent is that “if you hold out long enough and wear down the State Department negotiators, eventually you get rewarded.”
This is an old trick of Asian negotiators facing the United States. Classic examples of the United States reaching the point of exasperation in negotiations while Asians played the waiting game include the Vietnam War Paris Peace Talks and the peace talks at to end the war in Korea.
Can North Korea be expected to abide by the agreement?
Frankly, no. North Korea’s record of abiding by international agreements is abysmal.
In fact, North Korea is probably the leading nation, currently, with a policy of violating international law in order to fund the regime.
North Korea uses state sponsored criminal activity as part of its foreign and economic policy. This is part of the reason that North Korea has been accused of a “Culture of Corruption.”
The Congressional Research Service said in a March 22, 2006 report:
“The United States has accused the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) of counterfeiting U.S. $100 Federal Reserve notes (supernotes) and passing them off in various countries.”
“This is one of several illicit activities by North Korea apparently done to generate foreign exchange that is used to purchase imports or finance government activities abroad.”
“Although Pyongyang denies complicity in any counterfeiting operation, at least $45 million in such supernotes of North Korean origin have been detected in circulation, and estimates are that the country earns from $15 to $25 million per year from counterfeiting.”
In 2002, Australia intercepted a North Korean crewed ship carrying up to 125kg (275 pounds) of heroin.
Time Magazine’s Asia editions reported on June 2, 2003:
“Missile sales to other rogue nations constitute just a fraction of Kim’s legal, if questionable, operations. His country is also a hotbed of counterfeiting and car smuggling. Perhaps the biggest money-spinner, though, is drugs—chiefly the manufacture and export of heroin and methamphetamines.”
There is also a huge cultural factor here that many westerners miss. China and North Korea are not nations rooted in the rule of law.
China’s cultural genesis is Confucian.
“Confucian attitude places low reliance on law and punishment for maintaining social order,” wrote Henry C. K. Liu. Liiu was born in Hong Kong, educated at Harvard and has been a professor at UCLA, Harvard and Columbia University.
“The dominant strain of Confucianism stresses avoidance of conflict, a social hierarchy that values seniority and patriarchy, a reliance on sage leadership,” and other factors, wrote Professor Ying Zhu.
“These principles are directly at odds both with capitalism’s faith in free markets and with modern political institutions,” continues Zhu.
And many analysts still say the ancient war strategis Sun Tzu’s thinkings and writings are highly important while attempting to understand China. SunTzu’s broad war concept was that “peace and war and difficult to distinguish fromeach other and are part of the same ongoing conflict.”
This means China will take all the time it needs to get what it wants.
Why Did The U.S. Make This Agreement?
We believe the United States felt compelled to make almost any sort of agreement that the other allies could agree to in order to defuse the dangerous situation posed by North Korea in northwest Asia.
With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan dragging on, and Iran making noises about its own missiles and potential for nuclear weapons, the United States is distracted and anxious to restore calm among its Asian allies.
The United States has also been desperately trying to get China to take more of a leadership role: especially in dealing with North Korea.
We believe China is largely responsible for forging the agreement with North Korea and then selling it to the others: the U.S., Russia, Japan and South Korea.
President Hu Jintao of China just returned from Africa, during which he strengthened economic ties to several African nation.
The Chinese greatly annoyed most of the world when President Hu visited Sudan.
The UN, EU, and US are all engaged in economic sanctions and an embargo of Sudan because of its barbaric record on human rights in Darfur.
Despite this, China’s President Hu went to Sudan to solidify economic deals. He made no public remarks about Darfur.
Zhang Dong, China’s ambassador to Khartoum, told Xinhua news agency on Thursday that China “never interferes in Sudan’s internal affairs”.
China also destroyed a satellite in space with a missile in January. This test of an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon was protested by the United States.
On the same day that the nuclear deal with North Korea was reached, China announced that it would promise not to test any more ASAT equipment and technology.
So, part of China’s rationale for forging a deal with North Korea is to demonstrate to the US and the rest of the world that China is, indeed, a peacemaker, as it has always said.
China also is protecting its complex relationship between itself, Thailand and the United States.
After a military coup deposed a democratically belected government in Thailand last September, the United Sates did what it almost always does in such situations: it took the side of democracy, condemned the coup and stopped all aid and military ties to Thailand.
Then China moved in to fill the void.
On January 22, 2007, China hosted the Thai Army Commander-in-Chief, the Communist People’s Daily reported.
“The Chinese army would like to promote friendly relations with the Thai army,” Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan said in a meeting with Thai Army Commander-in-Chief Sonthi Boonyaratkalin.
Chinese also put more money on the table than the U.S. had denied Thailand.
China announced a special assistance package that included $49 million worth of military aid and training.
Beijing continued with visits to Thailand by several senior Chinese officials, mostly in the military and security fields. State councilor Tang Jiaxuan, a former Chinese foreign minister, will be visiting Bangkok after Tet, the Chinese New Year. He is expected to reaffirm Beijing’s support of the Council for National Security (CNS), which is what the coup leaders are calling themselves.
Thai Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram asked the U.S. Department of State for approval to visit Washington last month but was rebuffed.
No senior U.S. diplomat has visited Thailand since the coup.
Now the United States is in something of a pickle.
Cobra Gold is the largest military exercise testing and training US and Thai troops together. It seems that, in light of the coup and recent events, Washington is ready to cancel Cobra goal.
Going ahead with Cobra Gold will look like the U.S. doesn’t really care if a cadre of generals overthrows an elected Prime Minister in an allied government.
But to cancel Cobra Gold may push Thailand further away from the US and closer to China.
China may have seized some high ground.
By assisting the US in its deal with North Korea, China releases some frustration about the Chinese in Washington.
China is clearly acting in its own self interest with regard to North Korea. The Chinese fear a mass migration of starving North Koreans into China: a situation the Chinese would be forced to deal with as human rights groups evaluated every Chinese action. Already this winter, China has been working hard to stem the flow of refugees from North Korea into China.
Finally, the Chinese desperately want to make a big splash on the world stage while hosting the 2008 Olympics.
China will not cross any line that would jeopardize the full success of that planned Olympics in China.
The situation in Asia is complex.
The US is distracted elsewhere, and as we have reported before, China is stirring.
The key beneficiaries of this nuclear deal on North Korea is China: and North Korea itself.
See: China is Stirring: Why now?