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Diplomacy Is Working on North Korea

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Op-Ed
The Wall Street Journal
June 26, 2008

North Korea will soon make a declaration of its nuclear programs, facilities and materials. This is an important, if initial, step and we will demand that it be verifiable as complete and accurate.

Amidst all the focus on our diplomatic tactics, it is important to keep two broader points in mind. One, we are learning more about Pyongyang's nuclear efforts through the six-party framework than we otherwise would be. And two, this policy is our best option to achieve the strategic goal of verifiably eliminating North Korea's nuclear weapons and programs.

North Korea now faces a clear choice about its future. If it chooses confrontation – violating international law, pursuing nuclear weapons, and threatening the region – it will face serious consequences not only from the United States, but also from Japan, South Korea, China and Russia, as it did in 2006 after testing a nuclear device.

If, however, North Korea chooses cooperation – by fulfilling its pledge from the September 2005 Joint Statement to "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs" – a path is open for it to achieve the better and more secure relationship it says it wants with the international community. That includes the U.S. We have no permanent enemies.

Any effort to denuclearize the Korean peninsula must contend with the fact that North Korea is the most secretive and opaque regime on the planet. Our intelligence is far from complete. Despite these inherent limitations, consider what we have achieved and learned thus far through the six-party framework, and how much more could still be possible.

North Korea is now disabling its plutonium production facility at Yongbyon – not freezing it, as before, but disabling it for the purpose of abandonment. U.S. inspectors are monitoring this process on the ground.

In its declaration, North Korea will state how much plutonium it possesses. We will not accept that statement on faith. We will insist on verification. North Korea has already turned over nearly 19,000 pages of production records from its Yongbyon reactor and associated facilities. With additional information we expect to receive – access to other documents, relevant sites, key personnel and the reactor itself – these records will help to verify the accuracy and completeness of Pyongyang's declaration. North Korea's plutonium program has been by far its largest nuclear effort over many decades, and we believe our policy could verifiably get the regime out of the plutonium-making business.

Getting a handle on North Korea's uranium-enrichment program is harder, because we simply do not know its full scale or what it yielded. And yet, because of our current policy, we now know more about North Korea's uranium-enrichment efforts than before, and we are learning more still – much of it troubling. North Korea acknowledges our concerns about its uranium-enrichment program, and we will insist on getting to the bottom of this issue.

Similarly, we know that North Korea proliferated nuclear technology to Syria, but we do not know whether that is the end of the story. Rather than just trying to address this threat unilaterally, we will be more effective in learning about North Korean proliferation and preventing its continuation through a cooperative effort with Japan, South Korea, China and Russia.

And in return for these steps, what have we given thus far? No significant economic assistance. No trade or investment cooperation. No security guarantees or normalized relations. And our many sanctions on North Korea, both bilateral and multilateral, remain in place.

Because of its history of illicit activities, North Korea is still isolated from the international financial system, despite the fact that the matter of Banco Delta Asia was resolved and the money returned to North Korea. All we have given up is 134,000 tons of heavy fuel oil, which cannot be used in cars, or trucks, or tanks, or high-performance engines of any kind.

When North Korea makes its declaration, President Bush will lift the application of the Trading with the Enemies Act with respect to North Korea, and notify Congress that, in 45 days, he will remove North Korea from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. No other sanctions will be lifted without further North Korean actions.

North Korea now meets the statutory criteria for removal from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. However, nearly all restrictions that might be lifted by ceasing application of the Trading with the Enemies Act will remain in place under different U.S. laws and regulations. We and the other four parties will expect North Korea to cooperate with us in verifying the accuracy and completeness of its declaration. And if that cooperation is lacking, we will respond accordingly.

Considering North Korea's track record, verification is essential, but still it must be asked: What if North Korea cheats? The answer is simple: We will hold North Korea accountable. We will reimpose any applicable sanctions that we have waived – plus add new ones. And because North Korea would be violating an agreement not only with us, but also with all of its neighbors, those countries would take appropriate measures as well.

It may be the case that North Korea does not want to give up its nuclear weapons and programs. That is a real possibility. But we should test it, and the best way to do that is through the six-party framework. Is it right to proceed cautiously? Absolutely. But in the final calculation, do we think our current policy is better than the alternatives? Yes, we do. We believe that the six-party framework is the best way to learn more about the threat posed by this closed and opaque regime, and ultimately, together with partners, to eliminate North Korea's nuclear weapons and programs.



Released on June 26, 2008

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