NYTimes Re 2-29-2012 Food-For-Partial-Nuke-Freeze Agreement

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johnkarls
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NYTimes Re 2-29-2012 Food-For-Partial-Nuke-Freeze Agreement

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New York Times – 2/29/2012

North Koreans Agree to Freeze Nuclear Work; U.S. to Give Aid
By STEVEN LEE MYERS and CHOE SANG-HUN -- Steven Lee Myers reported from Washington, and Choe Sang-Hun from Seoul, South Korea.


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Reading Liberally Editorial Comment = The NY Times headline above is misleading if not fraudulent for a variety of reasons which the following article does NOT mention. As made clear in the MacNeil-Lehrer (aka PBS Newshour) report of 2/29/2012, the agreement relates only to uranium enrichment even though North Korean nuclear weapons use solely enriched plutonium instead. Other commentators have pointed out that: (1) the freeze on enriching solely uranium relates only to North Korea’s Yongbyon enrichment facility and NOT to its other two enrichment facilities, and (2) the freeze on testing rockets relates only to rockets launched from North Korea and NOT to North Korean rockets launched from Iran with which North Korea has a long-standing rocket-and-nuclear-weapons-development partnership. Nevertheless, North Korea’s acceptance of 240,000 metric tons of food ($529 million if the food is valued at $1.00/lb.) for promises that experts agree are “meaningless” and “not worth the paper they’re written on” seems to be receiving universal applause as worth the price as a poker-game ante to explore whether North Korea’s new leader is willing to do anything meaningful (after all, the experts note that this is exactly the same kind of meaningless ploy that his father used to use). It would appear that the American reasoning is to enable North Korea’s new leader to “test the (political) waters” in North Korea by giving him $529 million of food for some obviously-meaningless promises from which he can quickly “back pedal” if necessary by pointing out to his internal critics how adroitly he had “played” the stupid Americans. The real question is whether, in the future, he will make any worthwhile commitments and what their price will be. Of course, Americans shouldn’t think for a moment that he will ever be willing to give up his nuclear weapons because it would be insulting for Americans to think he is so stupid that he would ever risk being Gaddifi-ized like Libya’s former leader after he agreed with America to surrender his nuclear-weapons program and, in fact, did so.
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WASHINGTON — North Korea announced on Wednesday that it would suspend its nuclear weapons tests and uranium enrichment and allow international inspectors to monitor activities at its main nuclear complex. The surprise announcement raised the possibility of ending a diplomatic impasse that has allowed the country’s nuclear program to continue for years without international oversight.

The Obama administration called the steps “important, if limited.” But the announcement seemed to signal that North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, is at least willing to consider a return to negotiations and to engage with the United States, which pledged in exchange to ship tons of food aid to the isolated, impoverished nation.

A freeze on nuclear activity, if it holds, could significantly ease anxieties over North Korea’s behavior at a time when the Obama administration, in an election year, is focused on halting Iran’s nuclear program and reducing the possibility that Israel could attack Iran. The last significant effort to negotiate a dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons collapsed in the waning weeks of George W. Bush’s presidency more than three years ago.

The United States and other nations have been watching closely to see whether Mr. Kim’s rise to power late last year after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, would result in a change in North Korean behavior. The signals have been mixed. Only days ago, Mr. Kim delivered a bellicose speech suggesting that he could resort to military actions against South Korea as he consolidated his power.

North Korea also agreed to a moratorium on test launchings of long-range missiles, which have in the past inflamed tensions in the region. But joint statements by the State Department and North Korea’s official news agency gave no indication of when substantive negotiations over the country’s nuclear program — involving the United States and North Korea, along with Russia, China, Japan and South Korea — might begin again.

North Korea must first arrange with the International Atomic Energy Agency to send its nuclear inspectors, a process that officials said could raise new obstacles and take some time. And senior administration officials cautioned that North Korea still had to show its sincerity before broader discussions could resume. “We’ve made clear that we’re not interested in talks just for the sake and the form of talks,” a State Department official said.

North Korea has agreed in the past to halt its nuclear efforts, only to back out and then return to the table before breaking off talks once more with a flurry of accusations against the United States. The North Korean statement appeared to leave wiggle room for doing so again, saying the country would carry out the agreement only “as long as talks proceed fruitfully.”

“The United States, I will be quick to add, still has profound concerns,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said when she announced the agreement at a House Appropriations Committee hearing on Wednesday. “But on the occasion of Kim Jong-il’s death, I said that it is our hope that the new leadership will choose to guide their nation onto the path of peace by living up to its obligations. Today’s announcement represents a modest first step in the right direction.”

Officials and analysts offered different theories about why Mr. Kim’s government’s would agree now to allow inspectors to return, but most said it could prove to be a significant concession. After years of negotiations, North Korea expelled inspectors and went on to test nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009. American intelligence officials believe that the country has enough fuel for six to eight weapons, but the progress of its newly disclosed uranium-enrichment program at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, conducted without international scrutiny, remains unclear.

Victor Cha, a senior analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that the agreement announced Wednesday differed little from previous ones that had failed to produce breakthroughs, but that it was nonetheless significant because the return of inspectors could shed light on the country’s nuclear progress.

“We haven’t had any eyes on this program for over five years now,” Mr. Cha said in a telephone interview from South Korea’s capital, Seoul. Some analysts and officials said the agreement might signal that the young and inexperienced Mr. Kim had consolidated power and had the backing of his country’s military.

Although administration officials said it was too soon to draw conclusions about Mr. Kim’s intentions, they said there was no doubt that he had directly authorized his negotiators to reach the deal, which the United States first offered in talks last July. An agreement appeared close during a second round of talks, but then the elder Mr. Kim died.

Two days of talks in Beijing last week between American and North Korean negotiators, as well as the Chinese, initially appeared to have produced few concrete results. But after the North Koreans returned home, the country’s leaders unexpectedly and rapidly responded. “This was very much in motion before the leadership transition,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, who called the agreement a welcome step.

Other analysts said the agreement allowed Mr. Kim to demonstrate his command and to use his early months in power to improve people’s lives after years of food shortages and a devastating famine. “It helps him show to his people that he is a leader who can deal with the Americans and bring back some practical benefits, namely the food aid,” said Kim Yong-hyun, an analyst at Dongguk University in Seoul.

As part of the agreement, the United States said it would send 240,000 metric tons (about 265,000 tons) of food, though it limited the aid to nutritional supplements, rather than the rice and grains that, as two administration officials said, has in previous instances been diverted by the government or the military, or even sold abroad.

The aid is expected to be delivered in monthly shipments of 20,000 metric tons over the next year. The United States also insisted on rigorous monitoring to ensure that the aid would be provided to the neediest, especially women and children, many of whom show the stunting effects of chronic malnutrition. In its statement, the State Department said that in exchange, the United States was “prepared to take steps to improve our bilateral relationship in the spirit of mutual respect for sovereignty and equality” and to allow cultural, educational and sports exchanges with North Korea.

The State Department official cautioned that the agreements “merely unlock the door” to a resumption of negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program. “We can’t allow the same patterns of the past to repeat themselves,” the official added. “We can’t allow wasting arguments on topics that are irrelevant to the main challenges we face. And that’s simply going to take a long time to work out.”

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MacNeil-Lehrer (PBS Newshour) Transcript - 2/29/2012

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Transcript – MacNeil-Lehrer Report (aka PBS Newshour) – Wed 2/29/2012

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Reading Liberally Editorial Note = This is the transcript that was referenced in the RL Editorial Note at the beginning of the preceding item and that highlighted the fact that the agreement with North Korea relates only to uranium enrichment while North Korean nuclear weapons have used only enriched plutonium!!!
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JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on all of this, we get two views. Former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Donald Gregg, he's now chairman emeritus of the board of the Korea Society. And Balbina Hwang, she is a visiting professor at Georgetown University. She was a Korea specialist at the State Department during the last Bush administration. And we thank you both for being here. Ambassador Gregg, to you first. How big a breakthrough is this?

DONALD GREGG, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA:
I think this is very significant. It's the first major step forward taken by the two countries since President Obama came into office. And it also, I think, says a lot about the way the Kim Jong-un regime in North Korea is going to operate. They're a very hierarchical country. And it's interesting to me that Kim Kye-gwan, who has recently been promoted, was happy to meet with Glyn Davies, who is a lower rank than the man he succeeded, Steve Bosworth. So there was no talk of hierarchy. There was just a getting down to business on issues that had long divided us and which now we were able to talk about since Kim Jong-un came into power.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Balbina Hwang, do you agree this is a big breakthrough?

BALBINA HWANG, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:
Unfortunately, no, I don't. I would even hesitate to call it a step in the right direction. The problem is the bar has been moved so far backwards that really even if we return to where talks stalled in October 2008, I'm not sure that this statement today even gets us to that point. It's certainly leading in the right direction and I certainly think it's a positive sign, but I hesitate to read too much into this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But what about Ambassador Gregg's point that you have ranking officials on the North Korean side who are willing to meet with less-ranking folks from the U.S. side?

BALBINA HWANG: I'm not sure if that's quite the calculation. Glyn Davies is actually -- was a former ambassador for IAEA of the United States in Vienna, so he does certainly have ambassadorial status. I think the more important point here is to make sure we don't read too much into this being a tremendous sign of Kim Jong-un's new regime, and that this is a tremendous sign of change, because, in fact, the statement reveals it was actually very carefully crafted. And I think it actually shows a great deal of continuity with the old regime.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Ambassador Gregg, what do you see, though, in here, that gives you hope? You mentioned the different level, the officials who came, the sense that this new regime in North Korea wants to move. What else do you see in here that gives you hope?

DONALD GREGG: Well, part of it is the new attitude shown by Ambassador Davies. He welcomed the signs of continuity, which -- the things that he heard from Kim Kye-Gwan. And also the agreements that the North Koreans have set in place are going to test how quickly they are willing to implement these new steps. It's up to them to reach out to the IAEA to arrange procedures for inspections at Yongbyon. It's also they have been told that no food will be developed -- or delivered until there are monitors set up inside North Korea. Now, the Koreans when they want to do something, can do it quite quickly. I saw that when I accompanied the New York Philharmonic on their visit to North Korea three or four years ago. The North Koreans moved very adroitly and gave a wonderful reception. So we will quickly know whether they're serious about these agreements by the speed with which they will reach out to the IAEA and arrange to have food monitors put in place.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Why isn't that, Balbina Hwang, a promising sign, or at least a sign that something could happen in a positive direction and quickly?

BALBINA HWANG: Oh, certainly, it is a positive sign. On the other hand, I think there's a very long way to go before this leads to any real progress in terms of the overall goal of denuclearization, and certainly even kick-starting the actual six-party talks. What is interesting to me is. . .

JUDY WOODRUFF: And that's a reference to the multinational. . .

BALBINA HWANG: Process that has been in place for pretty much the last decade, yes. The problem here is that even if the IAEA inspectors come in, it's unclear from the North Korean statement, which is quite different from the U.S. state issued today, on whether or not that even brings us back to where the six-party talks stalled in October 2008. It doesn't specifically state plutonium, which is the problem with the actual nuclear weapons they have today.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in fact, Ambassador Gregg, as we understand it, the North Korean statement did mention uranium. It didn't mention plutonium. What's the significance of that?

DONALD GREGG: Well, that's very significant because the nuclear weapons they have produced have been produced through plutonium, not uranium. And so it's clear from what Ambassador Davies has said that our goal is to get at denuclearization of North Korea. But these steps are in the right direction. And I would suggest to Balbina and others who are so deeply skeptical that we stop looking backward to where we have been, but let's look forward to where we can go. And what has been agreed to in Beijing sets a very clear path toward preliminary steps that can lay the basis for significant negotiations on denuclearization in the future. But that's going to take time. It isn't going to happen immediately because there are decades of mistrust between our two countries that we have to overcome. But this is a really major step in the right direction, in my view.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What about that as an approach, looking ahead, rather than back?

BALBINA HWANG: Oh, certainly, we should do that. But, also, history has much to teach us. And I think the point here is in this statement one very important missing piece was no mention about inter-Korean relations. Now, I know the U.S. State Department. . .

JUDY WOODRUFF: With South Korea.

BALBINA HWANG: That is correct, improving relations between North and South Korea. Now, the State Department has said that that was included in the dialogue with -- in Beijing with the North Koreans, and that the U.S. position has not changed on that. However, I'm not certain how much of a priority that is. And that concerns me a great deal.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Ambassador Gregg, what do you look for next to give you a sense of whether this agreement may bear fruit eventually?

DONALD GREGG: Well, I think it's important for the United States to maintain very good relations with South Korea, and it's interesting to me that the South Koreans have approved this -- this agreement. I also look for reactions from within North Korea to what has been agreed to, because we have all been saying, can Kim Jong-un really make it as the new leader? He's less than 30 years old. But the implementation of this agreement will validate his leadership in North Korea, if it brings food to mothers and small children. That will be taken as evidence in North Korea that he is a successful leader who's establishing better relations with the outside world than North Korea has had for some time. So, I think there are positives to this agreement both in Pyongyang and the United States and South Korea as well.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, just briefly, would you agree those are the next steps to look for?

BALBINA HWANG: They are, but I would caution about the food aid. If, in fact, we are prefacing our shipments of food aid based on monitoring, if North Korea cannot meet those requirements, then, from -- the message that Kim Jong-un sends to his people is that the United States reneged on the deal. So, again, this is -- we have to be quite careful with all of these steps and measures.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We thank you both, Balbina Hwang, Donald Gregg.

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