Though the Bush administration is touting its recent nuclear deal with North Korea as a major foreign policy success — and has moved to take the rogue state off its list of terror sponsors — critics, including Japan, say the pact is dangerous and should never have been signed.
The pact formalized during the weekend allows ready access by international inspectors only to declared sites, mostly allied with the North’s main nuclear plant at Yongbyon. Meanwhile, however, so-called undeclared sites can be inspected only if North Korea consents on a case-by-case basis.
“Bad deal for the United States,” declared John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
“Where are their weapons?,” Bolton said, according to a report on Voice of America. “Where is the rest of their plutonium? Where is their uranium enrichment program? What have they done in terms of outward proliferation?
“This means that North Korea has a veto over everything beyond Yongbyon,” he said, “so that’s a clear victory for North Korea.”
Bolton has joined a growing list of those cynical of the agreement — a cynicism born of such realities as North Korea’s reporting the production of less plutonium than the U.S. has estimated — about 110 pounds, or enough for six to eight nuclear bombs.
GOP Lawmaker Calls Administration 'Reckless'
The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, thinks the administration is out of touch with reality, providing Newsmax with this take on the agreement.
“With its decision, the Bush administration has placed wishful thinking ahead of reality. North Korea has not earned the trust, nor taken the steps other nations, such as Libya, had to take to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terror. The administration’s choice is reckless when compared to the standard set with Libya.
“It is a bad decision, with uncertainty shrouding the verification rules,” Hoekstra said. “North Korea should have been required to demonstrate real, good-faith efforts to earn removal from the list. Instead, the only faith being demonstrated is by the administration. And everyone knows how North Korea took advantage of the faith of the Clinton administration.”
In other reactions: Japanese Finance Minister Nakagawa Shoichi called the deal “extremely regrettable,” saying the U.S. did not properly consult Japan, its closest ally in the region, about the decision.
As far as Japan is concerned, the oversight goes beyond a perceived violation of polite protocols.
North Korea has admitted kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and ’80s. Tokyo believes a number of abductees may still be alive in the North. Japan saw the U.S. terror list as part of its leverage with Pyongyang on the issue, according to a Reuters report. Kim Tae-woo of the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul called it “an agreement for an agreement’s sake.” He said he suspected the U.S. and North Korea both had political reasons to reach this kind of deal to mollify critics at home, according to an AFP report. Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain was much less than enthusiastic, according to a report in The New York Times:
“I expect the administration to explain exactly how this new verification agreement advances American interests and those of our allies,” he said. The Arizona lawmaker noted also that he was “concerned that this latest agreement appears to have been reached between Washington and Pyongyang, and only then discussed with our Asian allies in an effort to garner their support.” Meanwhile, McCain’ opponent, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, called the deal “a modest step forward” in dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Reportedly, the at-best lukewarm reception of the pact is shared by some within the State Department and even the office of the vice president. Nobody is calling the deal made in the eleventh hour of the administration a breakthrough or silver bullet. “Verifying North Korea's nuclear proliferation will be a serious challenge. This is the most secret and opaque regime in the entire world,” says Patricia McNerney, assistant secretary for international security and nonproliferation, according to the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, also at State, Paula DeSutter, assistant secretary for verification, compliance and implementation, said the North could block access to some undeclared sites under the mutual consent clause. She qualified blandly, however, that the agreement was no different from any other inspection deal the U.S. has negotiated, according to an AP report. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., says, “I am profoundly disappointed. By rewarding North Korea before the regime has carried out its commitments, we are encouraging this regime to continue its illicit nuclear program and violate its pledge to no longer provide nuclear assistance to extremist regimes.”
The South Korean government said on Monday it had seen no signs of the North’s restarting work to take apart Yongbyon, a Soviet vintage complex that features a fuel fabrication facility and a 5-megawatt reactor.
On the other hand, according to State Department representatives, the delisting of North Korea from the terror listing was instantaneous with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's signing the agreement on Saturday.
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