Monday, October 23, 2006

Jimmy Carter on North Korea

A friend sent me a copy of Jimmy Carter's book Our Endangered Values. Starting at page 106, Carter gives an excellent summary of how North Korea's nuclear threat has been handled over the past ten years or so:

In June 1994 the North Koreans had expelled inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and were threatening to process spent fuel from an old graphite-moderated nuclear reactor in Yongbyon into plutonium...

Responding to several years of invitations from North Korean president Kim Il Sung and expressions of deep concern from Chinese leaders, and with the approval of President Bill Clinton, Rosalynn and I went to Pyongyang and helped to secure an agreement from President Kim that North Korea would cease its nuclear program at Yongbyon and permit IAEA inspectors to return to the site to assure that the spent fuel was not reprocessed. The North Korean leader also promised me that he would have full diplomatic discussions with South Korea's president, Kim Young Sam, who immediately accepted the invitation we delivered to him. Kim Il Sung died shortly thereafter, and it was only later that this promise of a summit conference was fulfilled by his son Kim Jong Il.

Following up on these commitments, the United States and our allies subsequently assured the North Koreans that there woudl be no military threat tothem, that a supply of fuel oil would be substituted for power production lost when nuclear production was terminated at Yongbyon, and that two modern atomic power plants would be built, with their fuel rods and operation to be monitored by international inspectors.

The spent fuel at Yongbyon (estimated to be adequate for a half dozen or so bombs) continued to be monitored, but promised construction of the replacement nuclear plants was delayed. Extensive bilateral discussions were held between the United States and North Korea, and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Pyongyang to resolve any difficulties. With his election as president of South Korea, Kim DaeJung initiated a strong effort to work with North Korean president Kim Jong Il to bring peace to the peninsula, and made enough progress to be earn the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize.

With the advent of a new administration in Washington in 2001, the entire policy was changed dramatically. North Korea was publicly branded as part of an "axis of evil," with direct and implied threats of military action against the isolated and paranoid nation, and an official policy was established that prohibited any direct discussions with the North Koreans to resolve differences. Shipments of the pledged fuel oil were terminated, along with construction of the alternate nuclear power plants. Both Korean leaders and their ongoing north-south peace efforts were publicly ridiculed in an Oval Office summit meeting with South Korean president Kim DaeJung...

Carter then quotes Selig Harrison, director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Policy:

"the ascendancy of the [Korean] hard-liners is the direct result of the Bush Administration's ideologically driven North Korea policy..."

There's much more in the book.


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