North Korea rebuffs Obama's warnings at nuclear summit (+video)
President Obama's admonition against firing a long-range rocket next month went unheeded by North Korea, which argued it is for economic development. Will China and Russia have any sway?
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“North Korea has given a kind of dilemma to both the US and South Korea in that they will go ahead with the rocket launch,” Han surmises.Skip to next paragraph
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The problem is how literally to view what people are calling “the leap year agreement” in which US envoy Glyn Davies and North Korean envoy Kim Kye-gwan, meeting in Beijing, came to three conclusions.
First, according to statements by both their governments, North Korea would observe a moratorium on tests of long-range missiles and nuclear devices. Second, the US would provide 240,000 tons of emergency food aid. Third, North Korea would admit inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the first time since they were expelled in early 2009, shortly before North Korea last tested a long-range missile and then, in May 2009, conducted its second underground nuclear test.
If the US holds back on food aid, Han explains, that will “reduce the chances” of the North’s inviting IAEA inspectors as promised. “North Korea can then put all the blame on the US,” says Han, “and the US will have to find a way to punish North Korea.”
Nor do analysts see much chance that China and Russia will risk their own relations with North Korea by more than token pleas for the North to give up the missile launch and return to six-party talks on its nuclear program.
“China and Russia will put some modest pressure,” says Paik Han-soon, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute, a leading think tank here. “But they will not be taking concrete steps.” They know very well, he says, that “North Korea will go its own way” regardless of what anyone says to the North Koreans.
Despite all the rhetoric, the sense persists that North Korea will return to a talking mode and get the US to make good on the bargain after April 15 celebrations marking the centennial of the birth of founding leader Kim Il-sung, grandfather of the young new leader, Kim Jong-un. North Korea has said it will fire the rocket at around that time.
“North Korea is not interested in what was discussed and achieved here,” says Mr. Paik. “They cannot expect anything good to come out of this summit.”
In fact, the stated purpose of the summit was to come up with ways to combat nuclear terrorism – especially the danger of highly enriched uranium falling into the hands of terrorists. The summit wound up with a communique reaffirming “our shared goals of nuclear disarmament, nuclear nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.”
One example was coordination on policies to reduce the amount of highly enriched uranium used for medical purposes. “We are working very aggressively,” said US Energy Secretary Steven Chu, “so terrorists who might have access to this material cannot have access.”
The dilemma posed by North Korea and Iran, however, overshadowed all the deliberations–though the North was not mentioned in the formal sessions.
“Washington needs to manage the situation so they don’t completely destroy formal talks,” says Choi Jin-wook, a senior researcher who specializes on North Korea at the Korea Institute of National Unification. “They will still need to get North Korea involved in that dialogue.”