Sunday, October 21, 2007

Is North Korea Already Cheating on the Six-Party Nuclear Pact, in Syria?

The fallout continued (if you'll excuse the expression) this past week, from the Israeli airstrike on an alleged Syrian nuclear weapons development facility, apparently equipped and partially manned by North Koreans. First, Fox News reported that it had obtained a document in which a high-ranking Syrian official had admitted that Israel had struck a nuclear facility under construction. Syria disavowed the document.

Nonetheless, the Syrian official news agency reported today that a high-level North Korean delegation was visiting Damascus this week, to discuss ways of further developing relations between the two rogue nations. Since North Korea is bereft of money, agricultural exports (with much of its population suffering from malnutrition), any other non-military export goods, and indeed anything else that it could offer Syria other than expertise on weapons of mass destruction and their missile delivery systems, it is hard to imagine what such cooperation could involve other than assistance in nuclear, biological and conventional weapons programs.

Throughout the weeks since the Israeli airstrike, the U.S. government has selectively leaked reports to U.S. media, indicating that the target of the Israeli raid indeed was a Syrian nuclear facility, which was under development with North Korean assistance. The Washington Post actually broke that story on September 13. The New York Times followed with a similar report on October 14, which it attributed to "American and foreign officials with access to the intelligence reports."

In a column unfortunately available only to subscribers, in the Wall Street Journal Online, two members of Congress, Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl), urged the Bush Administration to be more forthcoming with the American people on what U.S. intelligence knows concerning the North Korean-Syrian nuclear relationship. Representative Hoekstra is the senior Republican member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, while Representative Ros-Lehtinen is the ranking member on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. They wrote that they were privy to information that they themselves could not disclose due to its classified nature.

David Wirtschafter, M.D., a personal friend who closely follows this story, speculated that what Hoekstra and Ros-Lehtinen were urging the White House to reveal is the full extent of North Korean violations of its non-proliferation treaty obligations. If the full story were known, he suggests, the Administration would lose political support for one of its few acknowledged foreign policy accomplishments, the October 3, 2007 "Agreement" reached with the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-il (pictured above left) to dismantle its nuclear facilities, produced by the Six-Party talks involving the U.S., Russia, China, South Korea, North Korea and Japan. That political support is crucial to the Six-Party agreement, because part of the deal requires millions of dollars of energy, economic and humanitarian assistance to North Korea, the cost of which will have to be borne by U.S. taxpayers.

In a previous post on the Hedgehog Blog, I expressed concern that, under pressure to establish a positive foreign policy legacy in the waning days of the George W. Bush Presidency, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was morphing into Madeleine Albright, the Secrtary of State in the last years of the Bill Clinton Administration. That post concerned the delusions surrounding the regional conference on Israeli-Palestinian peace, originally slated for November in Annapolis, Maryland. However, what typified the Clinton-Albright approach to foreign policy, and the attitude that I fear has now been adopted by the George W. Bush Administration, is the quest for paper agreements that earn political points and international acclaim, but in truth have no substance, and are immediately violated by the "other side." That was the true nature of the Oslo Accords and the October 1994 North Korea-U.S. Joint Framework for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, both of which were touted with great hoopla by the Clinton Administration, and both of which turned out to be worthless due to the bad faith of the Palestinian Authority, in the former case, and North Korea in the latter.

The latter treaty is especially germane to the current situation, because in 2002 North Korea acknowledged that for years it had pursued a uranium enrichment program for nuclear weapons purposes, in violation of its treaty obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (to which it is a party), the 1992 North Korea-South Korea Denuclearization Declaration and the 1994 accord. Are Representatives Peter Hoekstra and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen trying to warn us that history is repeating itself?


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