<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> WorldTribune.com: Mobile — After N. Korea gets dropped from U.S. terror list, U.S. gets nothing; Now it's Hillary's turn

After N. Korea gets dropped from U.S. terror list, U.S. gets nothing; Now it's Hillary's turn

Wednesday, December 17, 2008 Free Headline Alerts

By Donald Kirk

SEOUL — U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill is safely home in Washington after the latest round of six-party talks in Beijing, and he has had to admit he got nowhere.

Hill should have come to that realization long ago, but he persisted in misleading his bosses, from President George W. Bush down, with the tantalizing notion that North Korea was really ready to go along with a deal to give up its nuclear weapons.

This time, Hill is admitting that, actually, North Korea agreed to nothing at the last talks – specifically, it didn’t agree to “sampling”, or extracting samples from its Yongbyon nuclear complex for testing outside the country.

The North Koreans, well before the final failure in Beijing, had made it clear they were having none of it. Its foreign ministry stated last month that the whole thing was a non-starter, and North Korea’s nuclear envoy, Kim Kye-gwan, rebuffed Hill when they met in Singapore.

Not that Hill, so often overly optimistic, was boasting of a breakthrough. He was sure, he said, that Kim had agreed to sampling in October before Washington removed North Korea from its list of states sponsoring terrorism.

The point of the talks in Beijing was to get all six parties to sign on to a “verification protocol” – diplomatic verbiage for a set of guidelines to check out whatever North Korea claims to have done about giving up its nuclear weapons.

The Chinese side produced a document for consideration at the talks, but the North Koreans were not about to agree to anything, however artfully phrased, that might be construed as removing samples.

Then why not, as some “experts” suggest, agree on a separate memo that provides for sampling after North Korea has received the last of the 950,000 tons of fuel oil promised when it signed on to the nuclear deal last year?

Under the rubric of “action for action”, of course, the North Koreans want every drop of that oil or some other substitute to help it rev up its collapsed economy.

After achieving that goal, however, only an addled U.S. negotiator would be foolish enough to think Pyongyang would not find new ways to put off getting rid of its nuclear weapons.

So, now it’s up to Barack Obama’s people, so deeply critical of Bush, to see if they can do any better than Hill. Incoming secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton will have to be a lot tougher than was her husband, Bill, when, as president, he fell for the first nuclear deal with North Korea in 1994.

That deal was made to be broken; in 2002, Pyongyang was found to be conducting uranium enrichment, entirely separate from the plutonium program that was sanctimoniously suspended at Yongbyon.

As North Korea slows its disabling of Yongbyon, then talks about reviving it, it is clear the nation poses the same threat as before its removal from the U.S. list of states sponsoring terrorism.

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