Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Murphy's Law: the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train

Just yesterday I reported on the deal worked out in Beijing to dismantle Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs and its "civilian" nuclear programs. I was about to present an article on Bush's wise comments that this is just the beginning of a long road ahead, and it will not be an easy task keeping Pyongyang to its promise.

Instead, the big news is that Pyongyang is undercutting the deal,
demanding NOW the light-water reactor that the U.S. thought it was promising to discuss later. Does this mean the deal is dead? Or, as Unification Minister Chung Dong-young is now suggesting, is Pyongyang just jockeying for a face-saving position?

A number of possibilities: the hardliners in Pyongyang are trying to undermine the pragmatists who made the deal; Pyongyang is making some noise to gain a little post-agreement leverage, but if they get some attention, they'll be back to the deal (which China would hold them to); Pyongyang wants to hasten the discussion of the light-water reactor, which Washington had hoped to delay until some real action was made; Pyongyang just wanted to save face by having the last word, and they'll come around in a few days; or the deal is dead (as Marmot's Hole has already declared, blaming Seoul, Beijing, and Moscow for the death, since they provide so much aid; I guess Tokyo's aid is the special non-Pyongyang-supporting kind).

An agreement has been made that has incentives (especially normalization with Tokyo and Washington and free electricity from Seoul) for Pyongyang to keep. That makes me think this is mostly about Pyongyang trying to get the details as front-loaded as possible. With Beijing a major backer of this agreement, however, they will have little choice but to follow along eventually.

While the Flying Yangban flies off the handle in his
speedy dismissal of the agreement, Oranckay presents some convincing linguistic evidence that the English-language translation of North Korea's post-agreement statement is wrong or misleading, and that the original Korean-language statement does not quite violate the agreement.

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