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US Prepares New Measures For North Korea

Pyongyang city, North Korea.
by Pamela Hess
UPI Pentagon Correspondent
Washington (UPI) Jul 24, 2006
The United States is considering a new package of economic and other sanctions against North Korea, a top diplomat told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday.

Ambassador Chris Hill, the assistant secretary of state in the bureau of East Asian and Pacific affairs, would not say what those measures were, but told the committee the Bush administration has not backed off its hardline policy on North Korea -- no bilateral talks with Pyongyang, and no concessions until North Korea gives up its nuclear program and implements a complete moratorium on missile tests.

There will be no inducements, Hill told reporters after the hearing.

"At some point, North Korea has got to understand this is what is on the table," Hill said, referring to the September 2005 agreement with North Korea, Japan, China, South Korea and Russia, in the so-called six-party talks. That agreement laid out what North Korea could expect in return for giving up its nuclear and missile program.

The question now is who makes the first move.

"The problem is not a lack of communication. The problem is that they don't want to come to the process and make the fundamental decision to implement the September accords. When they do, we will have as many bilateral meetings as they want. It is not a problem of bilateral process," Hill said.

"We're not meting out punishments. They are punishing themselves," Hill said.

Neither the United States nor North Korea seems willing to break the impasse diplomatically; the July 4-5 launch of seven missiles may have been North Korea's attempt to turn up the heat by demonstrating the threat it poses in the region.

"America's policies toward the North seems to be hold its nose and wait for them to implode, which is possible, or for China and South Korea to see the light and join us in putting serious pressures on North Korea," said Morton Abramowitz, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation. "But waiting for that to happen is not a policy, and that still leaves the nuclear issue."

Time is not on the U.S. side, said Arnold Kanter, a principal member of the Scowcroft Group. "if for no other reason than that North Korea continues to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons while nothing else happens. And so they'll have more plutonium tomorrow than they have today; they have more today than they had yesterday. And whatever the uncertainty about how many nuclear weapons North Korea has, there is far less uncertainty about the material they have for nuclear weapons and the accumulation of that material."

Kanter told the committee the United States might be forced to make the first move -- if only to hold the support of China and South Korea.

'At the end of the day, we have to choose among the alternatives that are available rather than the world we wish we were in,' he said. 'The reality is that the North Koreans face few, if any, incentives to make what will be a very hard choice. And moreover, they face few, if any, penalties for refusing to choose.'

'I think it`s important to make the American government put down what is a negotiating package which is more than, `You commit suicide, and then we`ll talk,`' said Abramowitz, referring to the possibility that North Korea might see giving up its weapons program as trading away its only bargaining chip, and possibly inviting an invasion by a hostile United States.

That perception has developed over the last six years of the Bush administration. The Clinton administration had negotiated with a measure of success and numerous set backs -- including the 1998 North Korean missile launch over Japan. That, however, yielded a North Korean voluntary moratorium on launches in exchange for negotiations on its missile exports -- that is, whether North Korea would give up its cash cow and replace it with payment or aid.

When President George W. Bush took office, negotiations were suspended until North Korea gave up its nuclear and missile programs entirely. Anything less, the administration reasoned, would be appeasement -- rewarding North Korea for its weapons program and proliferation.

The White House also stepped up its rhetoric.

'It called North Korea a rogue state. It says it was an evil country. It said we should get rid of it -- regime change. We invaded another country which was part of the axis of evil. So now we expect North Korea to say, `Oh, wonderful, you`re a friendly country,`' said Abramowitz. 'I think we have to recognize -- I`m not making a case for North Korea, obviously. Terrible state. I`m making a case for how do we get to an agreement. And I believe our rhetoric in the past has been very detrimental, first with our allies, and secondly in getting North Korea to a serious negotiation.'

The United States must convince China and South Korea it is serious about solving the North Korean problem and maintain their support, said Kanter.

Given the U.S. refusal to offer North Korea any inducements to stopping its nuclear and missile programs, China and South Korea are critical: only they have the kind of trading and aid relationship that could materially impact North Korea.

While they are united with the United States and Japan for the moment -- part of a unanimous United Nations` Security Council Resolution voted on over the weekend condemning North Korea -- China and South Korea have very different interests and an assessment of the risks of a nuclear North Korea, and the union could fall apart quickly.

Neither country wants North Korea to have nuclear weapons, Abramowitz said, but they do not share the American urgency on that point.

'They do not want to join in bringing concerted pressures to bear on the North, fearing it would create serious tensions and potentially affect the peace, stability and economy of the peninsula,' he said.

Source: United Press International

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