SEOUL, August 26 (Itar-Tass) – North Korea announced a decision to suspend disabling its nuclear facilities over the violation by the United States of the understandings, reached at the six-party talks on denuclearising the Korean Peninsula, says a statement by the North Korean Foreign Ministry, circulated by the KCNA news agency on Tuesday.
BBC News has also reported that work was suspended on 14 August, a foreign ministry spokesman told the state news agency KCNA. North Korea says it took the step because the US failed to remove it from a list of state sponsors of terrorism. But the US says it wants to agree more stringent verification processes before it does so.
North Korea finally submitted a long-delayed account of its nuclear facilities to the six-party talks in June – and was expecting to be removed from the US list of terrorism sponsors in return. But that move has been delayed amid wrangling among the six parties – North and South Korea, the US, China, Russia and Japan – over how to verify the North’s declaration. The North has also threatened to restore facilities at its main Yongbyon plant – where the main cooling tower was spectacularly demolished in late June in a symbol of Pyongyang’s commitment to disarmament.
Last month, when US State Department decided to remove the DPRK from its list of terrorism-sponsoring states, we knew that the Congress had time until August 10 to enact a joint resolution that would block this from happening. No action was necessary to allow it to pass, and as of August 11, 2008, Secretary of State Rice would have completed the rescission. Obviously, something went wrong (see the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism here) and North Korea learned about it immediately. Hence, the work on disabling the nuclear facilities was suspended on 14 August. But why did North Korea make this statement only today, 26 August?
It’s logical to presume that the last two weeks were marked by the military confrontation in the Caucasus, an event too dramatic for the world to notice a minor development (or the lack of such) where North Korea remains in the list of rogue states. Today, when the world is again deeply in the sate of Cold War, characterized by the return of ideological bi-polarity, North Korea’s statement sounds dramatic and threatening enough. In the minds of Pyongyang strategists this confrontation has never ended. But now, when Moscow and Washington again look at each other through the screens of anti-missile radars, North Korea knows that it is not alone. The old “zero-sum game” continues with new fervor.
Apparently, “substantive talks” on verification between the two sides still continue. What else can be verified? Do North Koreans really have any undeclared secrets that make Americans so nervous that they break their promise easily? Only time will show. Surely, to “suspend” the disabling of its nuclear facilities is one thing, but to “reverse” this process is completely different. For the time being, Pyongyang can continue blackmailing Washington with a mere “suspension”, while hinting at further possible steps in this direction as a deterrence. Had North Koreans have some undisclosed nuclear programs, they could reactivate them very soon to start the game all over again. Had they not (meaning that they have been bluffing to squeez economic assistance from the West), they certainly need to develop one, simply to keep the stakes high.
In any case, the positive dynamic of the previous 18 months (since February 2007) is now history, and mutual trust is broken. The adopted principle of “action for action” now works against the common interest, quickly being reduced to “an eye for an eye”. Hopefully, the world will not become blind in the process, as Mahatma Gandhi once warned us.