[Viewpoint]Short-lived compromisesUnited States President George W. Bush said on April 20 that he expected North Korea to declare all its nuclear programs and proliferation activities in a verifiable way.
At a press conference held at Camp David together with visiting Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Bush dismissed assertions that his administration had relaxed demands on North Korea so the nuclear standoff could be resolved during his term in office.
It means that Bush has not yet approved the Singapore Agreement, a compromise that the United States and North Korea reached recently in Singapore. Under that compromise, North Korea will be obliged to produce a declaration of its plutonium-related program, but will only be required to “acknowledge” U.S. concerns about its suspected uranium enrichment program and nuclear proliferation.
Only three days before Bush’s remarks at Camp David, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice implied that North Korea could be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism even before the completion of the verification process, once Pyongyang declares its past nuclear development activities.
Sean D. McCormack, the U.S. State Department spokesman, was quoted as expressing optimism that even if North Korea did not fully account for its uranium efforts, the [Singapore] deal would allow inspectors access to all of North Korea’s nuclear facilities to verify if it had stopped its nuclear weapons program.
Christopher Hill, assistant secretary of state and U.S. chief negotiator at the six-party talks, had even argued that getting the plutonium program shut down was better than getting nothing at all.
Why are Bush administration officials eager to make a compromise with North Korea, even though Pyongyang has ignored the deadline to declare its past nuclear activities for four months?
The New York Times on Monday commented editorially:
“President George W. Bush’s latest compromise for ending North Korea’s nuclear program is agitating critics outside his administration and in. It is an imperfect solution. But imperfect may be all one can expect after Bush wasted so much time refusing to consider any compromise at all. For six years, Bush rejected any meaningful negotiations. The result? Pyongyang kept adding to its plutonium stockpile — it now has enough for eight or more bombs — and tested a nuclear device.”
The paper added, “If Bush had picked up where President Bill Clinton left off in 2001, the world would be much safer because North Korea only had enough plutonium for one or two bombs.”
The Bush administration has been under constant pressure from liberals to compromise with Pyongyang so that the denuclearization deal with North Korea can progress.
But is it right to criticize the Bush administration for not making a compromise with North Korea? Is it justifiable to claim that the administration gave North Korea time to stockpile more plutonium? Would the world be a much safer place if the North did not have plutonium for more than one or two bombs?
In retrospect, the 1994 Geneva Agreement was a product of an awkward compromise: providing two new light-water nuclear reactors in compensation for freezing North Korea’s old graphite reactors.
It was the U.S. Congress that jeopardized the Framework Agreement right after its inception. It started by delaying the endorsement of the budget for heavy oil to be shipped to North Korea, according to the agreement. The construction of the reactors also lagged far behind schedule. And the North, for its part, secretly resumed its nuclear weapons development program. All these took place during the eight years between 1994 and 2002, when the compromise with the North was supposed to be working.
We learned a lesson from history that there is no compromising with communists. As long as the North Korean leadership does not give up the will to develop nuclear weapons, the agreements or compromises made with North Korea are meaningless.
More importantly, the deal on nuclear disarmament with North Korea has, by nature, aspects of a military negotiation, not a diplomatic one. It has to do with North Korea’s “Seongun Jeongchi,” or military-first policy adopted by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il as a guideline for domestic governance and foreign policy.
Under the military-first policy, the army is appropriated a greater share of already-dwindling state funds, and the generals have a louder voice in foreign policy formulation. Although the negotiators at the six-party talks deal with North Korean diplomats at the talks, the decision-makers in Pyongyang are the generals in uniform. They are not interested in a diplomatic compromise, but in building up military preparedness.
Military negotiation is carried out based on the military strength of the participating countries. It can be said that the influence of each country in the six-party talks is proportional to its military power.
It is time for the participants in the six-party talks to demand that North Korea comply with the agreement signed on Feb. 23 last year. If the demands are made in unison and in a way that conveys the military prowess of each participating country, Kim Jong-il will have no choice but to abandon the futile dream of making North Korea a nuclear power.
The liberals should stop pressing the Bush administration to compromise with the North.
They should keep in mind that peace won by compromising principle is a short-lived achievement.
*The writer, a former editorial page editor of the JoongAng Daily, is a visiting professor of media studies at Myongji University.
by Park Sung-soo