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Unformatted text preview: Hope Over Experience Denuclearizing the North-Mitchell B. Reiss- I s THE North Korea agree- ment reached on February 13 of this year a bad deal? Let us re- call that the State Department called this deal "only a first step", and that sounds about right. Obviously, much depends on whether North Korea will honor its part of the agreement. We've been down this road before with the Agreed Framework. Samuel Johnson's remark about second marriages comes to mind. He called them "a triumph of hope over experience." So we can be hopeful, but we should also be extremely cautious based on our previous experience with North Korea. Sometimes second marriages work out; sometimes they don't. At this point, we still cannot be cer- tain of North Korea's intentions. Is North Korea ready to abandon its nuclear-weap- ons program, retum to the Nuclear Non- ProUferation Treaty (NPT) and permit intrusive international inspections? Does Kim Jong-il believe he stands a better chance of sustaining himself in power if he abandons nuclear weapons, receives external economic assistance and starts to integrate his country into the broader re- gional economy? Pyongyang has still not answered these questions. From the American perspective, the Mitchell B. Reiss is vice provost for Intemational Affairs at the College of William & Mary. From 2003-2005 he served as director of Poli- cy Planning at the State Department. deal's potential strengths are twofold. First, it could suspend North Korea's ability to separate more plutonium for its nuclear weapons program. Second, it could provide a diplomatic framework for turning that suspension into a permanent elimination of the North's program. Former Clinton Administration offi- cials have said that we could have had this deal four years ago, before the Demo- cratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) separated additional piutonium and tested a nuclear device. It isn't criticism; it's po- litical commentary. Even if it's true, it is completely beside the point. We are where we are and have to figure out how best to proceed. With regards to the current deal, there are three broad categories of criti- cisms. Interestingly, two of the three are found inside the Bush Administration. It is no secret that some adminis- tration officials have opposed engaging North Korea. They are roughly divided into two camps: those who oppose en- gagement on ideological grounds and those who oppose it on more pragmatic grounds. The ideological argument is that talk- ing with Pyongyang would legitimize a fundamentally illegitimate regime, one led by "evildoers", in the president's memorable phrase. The pragmatic argu- ment against engagement is that negotia- tions are a fool's errand, as the North has proven time and again that it will renege ..The National InterestMay/Jun. 2007- on any deal....
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- Spring '09