Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Jimmy Carter on North Korea acting out

The "acting out" is my phrasing, not his, but he tries to make the case that with the recent revelation of the uranium program and now its shelling of Yŏnpyŏng-do Island, North Korea is trying to push Washington to negotiate with Pyongyang directly. And, he says, we should take them up on it:
North Korea insists on direct talks with the United States. Leaders in Pyongyang consider South Korea's armed forces to be controlled from Washington and maintain that South Korea was not party to the 1953 cease-fire. Since the Clinton administration, our country has negotiated through the six-party approach, largely avoiding substantive bilateral discussions, which would have excluded South Korea.

This past July I was invited to return to Pyongyang to secure the release of an American, Aijalon Gomes, with the proviso that my visit would last long enough for substantive talks with top North Korean officials. They spelled out in detail their desire to develop a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and a permanent cease-fire, based on the 1994 agreements and the terms adopted by the six powers in September 2005. With no authority to mediate any disputes, I relayed this message to the State Department and White House. Chinese leaders indicated support of this bilateral discussion.

North Korean officials have given the same message to other recent American visitors and have permitted access by nuclear experts to an advanced facility for purifying uranium. The same officials had made it clear to me that this array of centrifuges would be "on the table" for discussions with the United States, although uranium purification - a very slow process - was not covered in the 1994 agreements.

Pyongyang has sent a consistent message that during direct talks with the United States, it is ready to conclude an agreement to end its nuclear programs, put them all under IAEA inspection and conclude a permanent peace treaty to replace the "temporary" cease-fire of 1953. We should consider responding to this offer. The unfortunate alternative is for North Koreans to take whatever actions they consider necessary to defend themselves from what they claim to fear most: a military attack supported by the United States, along with efforts to change the political regime.
That was a might pretty speech. 'Cept that the problem is this: Do you trust the North to abide by any agreement they make? I don't. We've tried that before and they've proven time and time again that they see deceit as a useful tool. Mr Carter, I fear, is a tad naïve.

And speaking of the Yŏnpyŏng-do attack, Wangkon at The Marmot's Hole has a pretty good roundup of the economic fallout of the incident. Thanks for saving me the virtual legwork. The Marmot himself has some other good links, including the US's desire for a diplomatic response instead of a military one.

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