Hard factsIn a recent statement, the White House said, “We are convinced, based on a variety of information, that North Korea assisted Syria’s covert nuclear activities.” Furthermore, the Central Intelligence Agency showed some Congressional members a video tape that supposedly showed that the Syrian reactor was very similar to North Korea’s Yongbyon facility.
Evidence of the alleged nuclear connection has become substantial, despite Pyongyang’s continued denials. The untrustworthy nature of the North Korean regime has been revealed, once again.
Due to the White House announcement, the U.S. administration and hawks in Congress became skeptical about the nuclear negotiations. Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said that the failure of the Bush administration to brief Congress for the past eight months “has made it more difficult” to get congressional approval for any agreement with North Korea. If this sentiment prevails, the situation will worsen and the chances of removing the North from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism will weaken.
How the North will react is also a concern, the White House statement coming as it does amidst U.S.-North Korea nuclear negotiations. Pyongyang is known for its brinkmanship, so it may strongly resist. However, the North must remember that provocative behavior will galvanize the already sensitive hardliners in the United States, stalling the talks and accelerating the crisis.
Since evidence has been presented, the North must come clean about its past nuclear cooperation with Syria and promise not to engage in such activities in the future. That is the only way to regain the trust of the international community.
For negotiations to proceed, we cannot waste time debating proliferation allegations and enriched uranium.
To achieve any measure of success in the talks, the North must make an important decision when it declares its plutonium. Pyongyang is reportedly claiming that it has about 25 kilograms of the material, far lower than the Maginot Line of the United States. Pyongyang’s claim is nothing more than a decision to hide nuclear arms. If they continue to test the patience of the U.S. indefinitely, the situation could go extremely wrong.
We also hope that the hardliners in the U.S. administration and Congress will refrain from interfering with the Bush administration’s willingness to negotiate.