Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Verify, Then Distrust Anyway

I realize I'm more than a little behind the curve on the issue of the new "framework" agreement between the "six powers" led by the US (which is an implicit admission that I can only remember five of the six powers at the moment) and North Korea to shut down the latter's Yongbyon nuclear breeder plant (which produces Pyongyang's weapons-grade plutonium) in exchange for the unfreezing of $25 billion of Kim jong-il's personal fortune and another fifty kilotons of fuel oil. That's probably because I don't buy it and frankly never will. It sounds too suspiciously similar to Bill Clinton's cave-in to Kim's father twelve years ago. It also doesn't address matters like the NoKos' ongoing US currency counterfeiting program, which I thought was linked to that $25 billion sitting in that formerly frozen Macau bank account.

And matters like the NoKo's uranium production line, which this agreement doesn't even touch:

If [US chief negotiator Christopher] Hill raised the ticklish issue of North Korea's highly enriched uranium (HEU) program in any detail, he was not letting on. And if he came up with a proposal for the US simply to buy up North Korea's nuclear inventory, as widely reported in South Korea, he was not about to confirm or deny anything to that effect.

Hill did, however, appear anxious to convey the impression of having talked about highly enriched uranium without actually using the term. It was, after all, the HEU issue that torpedoed the Geneva agreement of 1994 when his predecessor, James Kelly, alleged after visiting Pyongyang nearly five years ago that a top North Korean had indeed acknowledged the existence of a secret HEU program.

"We did discuss the need to have a comprehensive list of all nuclear programs," said Hill. For good measure, he added, "And, of course, all means all."

One would like the hope so. It would be an awfully gargantuan loose end to leave the NoKos with all the HEU their reactor has produced over the past decade-plus. What would be the point of shutting down Yongbyon on terms like that?

But, then again, we don't actually know if they WILL shut down Yongbyon because all the Kim regime has agreed to do is meet with the International Atomic Energy Agency to, in essence, resume interminable negotiations over where their Keystone Cop "inspectors" can look and where they can't. And while that goes on, Yongbyon will keep churning out plutonium and that plutonium will keep being processed into nukes. In other words, another rope-a-dope.

And what would NoKo nukes be without ballistic missiles on which to mount them?:

The missile is designated the KN-02, or Toksa, and is a derivative of the SS-21 missile of the former Soviet Union.

"As this system, this particular system, approaches operational status and is deployed in large numbers, you have for the first time in the North Korean inventory" a highly accurate missile "whose only purpose, given its range, is to strike the Republic of [South] Korea," Lawless said, ...

The missiles are designed to carry non-nuclear warheads, although General B.B. Bell, the top U.S. commander in South Korea, said on Monday that North Korea's continued development of ballistic missiles is a concern because of the possibility of them being coupled with the North's "demonstrated nuclear ability."

The Toksa is also easily and eminently exportable as well. Think Hezbollah might be able to make use of it? Or Iran? Or Hugo Chavez in his burgeoning Latin American empire? Say, from....bases in Cuba?

I know we don't have much in the way of military options available when it comes to North Korea, mainly because Kim is Red China's proxy. But can we please abjure the fantasy that this latest NoKo bob & weave is some sort of miraculous diplomatic coup? All it really is is the ChiComms withdrawing one pawn on the global chessboard while their subtle, long-term world offensive continues unfettered.