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Analysts Say North Korea Won’t Surrender Nuclear Weapons

By | April 9, 2007

      North Korea won’t surrender its nuclear weapons despite agreeing to terms of a nonproliferation agreement recently, a panel of preeminent analysts predicted.

      They concluded that the United States will find it has acted in vain by trusting North Korea to act responsibly, according to the analysts, who spoke in a panel presentation at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative Washington think tank.

      “Do you believe that North Korea will ever voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons program?” John R. Bolton, a senior AEI fellow, asked rhetorically. He earlier was ambassador to the United Nations, and earlier held various State Department posts.

      “If you believe as I do that North Korea will never voluntarily give up its” nuclear weapons program, then negotiations producing a deal seeming to guarantee that result are both “futile and dangerous.”

      Bolton said the political reality here is that the North Korean regime of leader Kim Jong Il can’t truly give up its nuclear arms, because their presence helps to undergird his power over the people.

      “Agreement by North Korea to give up nuclear weapons is [tantamount to] a suicide note for that regime,” Bolton stated.

      “North Korea can’t give up those weapons in a way that is credible and verifiable without” jeopardizing and undermining the regime, Bolton said.

      He noted that with an agreement deadline bearing down in mere days for North Korea to halt operations at a nuclear facility, the North Koreans have taken few steps to comply with that mandate, Bolton noted.

      “Now we’ll see in just a matter of days” how well North Korea keeps its word, he said.

      North Korea last year jolted many observers with bellicose acts, such as firing off seven missiles in July and detonating a nuclear weapon underground in October.

      As the missile tests occurred in July, U.S. Navy forces stood at the ready, poised to use ballistic missile defense systems. But the one long-range missile in the group failed seconds after launch, while the other six missiles worked well.

      Bolton said he thinks it likely that North Korea will violate the still-new agreement, and he predicted the United States effectively will ignore this breach and paper it over.

      The State Department will issue soothing-sounding words, Bolton predicted, that there has been “substantial compliance” by North Korea with the agreement, that North Korea is moving in the right direction, that parties have had “good discussions” with the rogue regime, and that the United States doesn’t wish to become hung up on mere technicalities.

      As for North Korea, “their objective is to stretch out compliance,” he said. “They’re going to stretch this out as long as they can without” actually complying.

      Another skeptic is Nicholas Eberstadt, who holds the Henry Wendt chair in political economy at AEI.

      “Can we plausibly imagine … the (North Korean) government … will enter into voluntary negotiations to scrap permanently” its nuclear program? Eberstadt asked.

      Hardly, he indicated.

      Rather, North Korea has been pursuing nuclear capability for decades, since the 1960s, and “Kim Jong Il has been in charge of the nuclear program since the 1980s,” Eberstadt said.

      Despite all the pressures applied by other nations to force North Korea to abandon its nuclear-weapons ambitions, it has endured, Eberstadt said.

      For North Koreans, possessing military power is the base of politics in the nation.

      Using nuclear weaponry to threaten others, “international military extortion brings in resources” to buoy North Korea, in the view of leaders there, he said.

      Further, if North Korea becomes a nuclear power, it sees this as a means to undermine the credibility of the lone superpower on the planet, the United States, Eberstadt said.

      Recent negotiations with North Korea come against a backdrop of that nation having broken its word before on a nonproliferation agreement, leading some observers to ask why any nation would bother negotiating with North Korea now, given that its word is worthless.

      Yet another criticism of the isolated nation came from Dan Blumenthal, an AEI resident fellow. He previously served in the Pentagon where he was senior director for China, Taiwan and Mongolia in the office of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

      “I do have faith that the North Koreans will violate the agreement,” Blumenthal said wryly.

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