Monday, October 13, 2008

"..sometimes, apparently, it actually pays to have been involved in terrorist activities"

North Korea: From terror supporter to Washington's new best friend


North Korea: From terror supporter to Washington's new best friend
The Bush gang likes to talk tough about its supposed commitment to the so-called war on terror, but when it comes to earning its favor, sometimes, apparently, it actually pays to have been involved in terrorist activities. Just ask Libya's democracy-crushing dictator, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, whose regime a few years ago accepted responsibility for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland in December 1988. After coughing up several billion dollars for a fund that was earmarked for victims of the Pan Am incident, which killed 270 people, and for victims of a Libya-backed bombing of a discothèque in West Berlin in 1986 (three killed, 229 wounded), Gaddafi won the Bush gang's approval.

In late 2003, the Gaddafi's government told Washington it would give up its weapons-of-mass-destruction program, and soon the U.S. resumed full diplomatic relations with the pariah state. Early last month, senior Bush lady-in-waiting Condoleezza Rice rushed to Tripoli on "the first visit by a U.S. secretary of state to Libya since 1953, and said [her mission] was proof [that] Washington had no 'permanent enemies.'"

Alas, on the emotional-intensity scale, under Bush, Uncle Sam's diplo-romances with various countries have measured only a short range, from unpredictable to fickle. Now comes the news that the Bush-Cheney-Rice policy toward North Korea also has changed.

As the normally pro-Bush-Cheney-Rice Wall Street Journal Asia notes in an editorial: "The 'axis of evil' lost a charter member this [past] weekend, when the U.S. took North Korea off the State Department's list of terror-sponsoring states. In return, Pyongyang promised to let international inspectors look everywhere except where its nuclear materials might actually be hidden. [North Korea's communist dictator,] Kim Jong-il, despite having broken every disarmament promise he's ever made, has thus managed to persuade another U.S. president that he's serious about giving up his nuclear program....Bush's agreement sends this message to Iran and other rogue states: Go nuclear and your political leverage increases." Previously, Bush-Cheney-Rice had "vowed not to remove North Korea from the terror blacklist until Kim's government had agreed to a 'strong verification regime.' But then North Korea started calling the [United States'] bluff - most recently on Thursday, when it told the inspectors for the International Atomic Energy start packing their bags - and the U.S. caved."

What explains the latest Bush-Cheney-Rice flip-flop? The Financial Times reports: "The U.S. hopes that eliminating the two-decade [sponsor-of-terrorism] stigma on...[North Korea]...will resurrect the faltering six-party process to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons." Participants in those negotiations have included North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States. Reuters notes: "The Bush administration has been scrambling in its final months to save [the] six-nation, aid-for-disarmament agreement with [Kim Jong-il's] secretive and impoverished country that it hoped to claim as a rare foreign policy success. Under the broad accord struck in 2005 between [the six parties, Kim's regime had] agreed to abandon all nuclear programs in exchange for potential economic and diplomatic benefits."

The FT, recapping recent history, notes: "North Korea started dismantling its facilities at [its] Yongbyon nuclear complex last November as part of a deal that would [have] provided [Kim's] regime with energy assistance and a path to normalized relations with the U.S. After North Korea provided a declaration of its nuclear activities in June, the U.S. promised to remove it from the terrorism list. But the U.S. postponed delisting after North Korea failed to accept a verification protocol. Pyongyang then responded by starting to reverse the dismantling. Washington is unclear whether Pyongyang was preparing for a test or employing a negotiating tactic."

The Wall Street Journal Asia observes: "No verification regime is 100% certain - and searching for nuclear materials in North Korea, which has a history of lying and cheating, poses special challenges for even the most rigorous inspections....Pyongyang will permit the [International Atomic Energy Agency] verifiers to have unfettered access only to its declared nuclear sites - all of which the IAEA has already combed over again and again....Inspectors will be welcome to search the Yongbyon complex and a few other known nuclear sites....If they want to inspect anywhere else, they'll need Kim's assent. If they request access, and Pyongyang agrees, it's a sure bet the offending materials will be long gone before the inspectors arrive."

Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun notes that "[a]lthough the details of the agreed verification scheme between the [U.S.] and North Korea have not been revealed, Washington explained, 'Every element of verification that we sought is included in this package.' But it is difficult to quell doubts about whether an effective nuclear verification regime can be realized, considering the repeated concessions made by the [U.S.] in its negotiations with North Korea, as well as by Pyongyang's behavior to date."

Japan remains deeply concerned about numerous Japanese nationals whom the communist regime abducted in the 1970s and 1980s. They were used to familiarize North Korean spies with Japan's language and customs. Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said in response to the new Bush-Cheney-Rice policy toward North Korea that it won't stop his government's efforts to resolve the abductees controversy that has long affected relations between Japan and its regional neighbor. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, the government minister charged with overseeing the abduction issue, said: "Japan has no reluctance to cooperate in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. At the same time, we have a strong feeling that the abduction issue should not be left out. We will take up the issue without fail in the six-party talks." (Japan Times)

Even the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, said of the Bush-Cheney-Rice about-face on North Korea that the U.S. should "avoid reaching for agreement for its own sake." McCain, who normally comes across as a Bush clone, stated: "I expect the administration to explain exactly how this new verification agreement advances American interests and those of our allies before I will be able to support any decision to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism." (FT)

The Wall Street Journal Asia noted: "A few hours before Washington announced it was taking North Korea off the terror list, the Pyongyang media released the first photographs of Kim Jong-il since he had been rumored to have fallen ill two months ago." Of the dictator's appearance in those photos, the newspaper pointed out: "He was smiling."

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