The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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North Korea agrees to close nuclear plants

The U.S., in cooperation with China, Russia, South Korea and Japan, has reached a disarmament agreement with North Korea.

The Feb. 13 agreement, worked out by undersecretary of state Christopher Hill, requires North Korea to close its nuclear plants within 60 days. In return, North Korea will get 1,000,000 tons’ worth of heavy fuel oil in aid.

“Both sides are trying to feel each other out and see if the other will stick with their end of the bargain,” Mehran Kamrava, CSUN political science professor said.

This new agreement has many limitations, but this time around, the U.S. is counting on strength in numbers. The agreement was made despite the failure of the similar 1994 Clinton accord to disarm North Korea.

A majority of the aid, 950,000 tons of oil – worth about $250 million – will be given following the International Atomic Energy Agency inspection to make sure all nuclear activity has been shut down and sealed to be abandoned.

The wording of the accord does not mention dismantling and instead uses the term “abandonment” or “disablement,” which leaves open the possibility that Pyongyang might get to keep its facilities intact, the Economist reported.

In fact, on the day the six-nation agreement was announced, North Korea’s state media said the offer requires only the “temporary suspension” of its nuclear facilities, Agency France Press reported.

Nonetheless, Washington remains hopeful.

The fact that it is a multilateral accord is most important. Without a coalition, the U.S. couldn’t have succeeded six years ago, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at a press conference.

But as the nations begin working together, the hostile history between some of the countries complicates matters.

The aid will come mainly from China, South Korea and Russia.

Due to a strained relationship from North Korean kidnapping of Japanese citizens in 1970s and 1980s, Japan will not be contributing to the aid pool. Japan still considers the kidnapping issue unresolved.

North Korea withdrew from the six-nation talks back in 2005, after the U.S. Treasury accused it of making counterfeit $100 notes which led to a Macau-based bank freezing $25 million in North Korean accounts and cut ties with the country, the International Herald Tribune reported.

South Korea has begun talks of giving humanitarian aid to the North, which it suspended after the July nuclear tests performed in North Korea.

Still, South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun compared the deal to the United States’ Marshall Plan. With the Marshall Plan, the U.S. offered aid to post-WWII Europe in its containment policy to avoid their fall to communism.

Roh said the deal would have the same positive affect for North Korea.

North Korea’s relationship with US has been contentious for more than half a century. In 2002, Newsweek reported that Bush called North Korean leader Kim Jung II a “pygmy. ”

In a 2002 speech, Bush labeled North Korea a member of the “axis of evil.”

The administration believes China’s involvement is necessary to the success of the deal.

“Who would have thought the U.S. and China would be working together six years ago?” Rice said at the press conference.

The China threat might help this deal work, White House spokesperson Tony Snow said.

China wants to keep a favorable diplomatic relationship with the U.S., in the hope of convincing Taiwan not to move toward independence.

The U.S. has historically backed China on this matter, CSUN political science professor Keiko Hirata said.

Also, China has had an immigration problem with North Korea. If the regime were to collapse, many North Koreans would set out for China, Hirata said. This is something China wants to avoid.

Good relations with North Korea are also beneficial to China economically. When Japan cut off trade with North Korea, trade with China increased.

Japanese news agency Kyodo reported Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yasuhisa Shiozaki, said, a day after the agreement, that the U.S. would not remove North Korea from its terror-sponsoring nations list until the abductees’ issue has been resolved, the Economist reported.

Russia has several incentives for taking part in the six-nation talk.

North Korea has traditionally been a client state of Russia, meaning it receives military and economic assistance from Moscow, Kamrava said. They are both nominally from communist backgrounds.

“Also, the other countries in the deal are Russia’s competitors, so it makes sense that it doesn’t want to be left out,” Kamrava said.

The Russian assembly’s energy committee chief Valery Yazev told

the TASS News Agency, “It’s no problem whether our share will make up 100,000 or 150,000 tons. Russia is ready to supply electric power to North Korea from a hydropower plant in the Far East.”

Another reason for Moscow’s cooperation is that geographically Russia has concerns about being so close to a nuclear power, Kamrava said.

Moscow also announced it would forgive $8 billion in North Korean debt.

Even though the nations are working together to resolve issues diplomatically, the failure of the 1994 deal casts a shadow on present talks.

In the 1994 deal, the U.S. agreed to send 500,00 tons of aid a year for several years to North Korea, before they dismantled their facilities. The annual aid would stop when the US finished building light water nuclear reactors in North Korea.

Light water reactors have the necessary generating power, but it is difficult to generate material for bombs from them. The U.S. agreed to build these facilities in North Korea as part of the 1994 deal to eliminate the possibility of nuclear weapons on the peninsula.

This time around, they will only receive 50,000 tons of the aid before abandoning nuclear operations.

The U.S. will not begin talk of completing the light water reactor project until IAEA requirements have been complied with, Rice said.

In 2002, the 1994 accord was broken after the administration said North Korea admitted to having a uranium enrichment program, something Pyongyang has since denied, making it difficult to address the issue.

Critics say the 2007 agreement does not address uranium as well as plutonium because the U.S. knew North Korea would not sign it otherwise.

On the other hand, Institute for Science and International Security president David Albright told the London Financial Times that analysts are starting to agree that Bush wanted to kill the 1994 agreement, and there was no large-scale uranium facility in North Korea.

Last week, Rice said it is still too early to tell about the uranium project, but the U.S. wants all nuclear programs stopped.

Other critics are skeptical of North Korea’s willingness to completely disarm.

North Korea is using the nuclear threat as a bargaining tool, and it’s unlikely that they’re interested in dismantling the facilities, Hirata said.

The 2007 agreement also calls for the U.S. to begin removing North Korea from its list of terror-sponsoring nations.

Removal means less U.S. trade restrictions with North Korea, and the US is no longer required to veto World Bank and IMF aid to North Korea.

Still, the 2007 deal is a disappointment for some.

This deal could have been reached long time ago, before North Korea conducted its nuclear tests, Gary Samore, who helped negotiate the 1994 agreement, told the Economist.

John Bolton, former United Nations Ambassador, said the deal “sends the wrong message,” implying other countries might think they could also be rewarded for threatening the security of others.

Also, the agreement does not address whether North Korea has to come back to the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty it abandoned in 2002. The 1968 treaty was signed by 188 nations, and aimed to limit the spread of nuclear weapons.

North Korea initially signed the tr
eaty and later broke it in 2003. Pyonyang promised to come back at a later date, but after the Macau bank incident it refused, the Economist reported.

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