NEWS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: North Korea’s proliferation hiccup doesn’t stall deal

Nuclear deal reached with North Korea

North Korea has endorsed an agreement to disable all of its nuclear facilities by the end of the year, according to a joint six-nation statement released by China in Beijing today, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

The agreement sets out a timetable for North Korea to disclose all its nuclear programs and disable all facilities in return for 950,000 metric tons of fuel oil or its equivalent in economic aid.

Negotiators reached agreement on a draft plan in Beijing on Sunday after four days of six-nation talks. The United States had said on Tuesday that it endorsed the plan but was waiting for approval from other nations involved in the negotiations. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — Well, you have to hand it to the North Koreans when it comes to multitasking. While busy trying to set up a nuclear program in Syria, they were still able to cut a deal with the Bush administration.

We are informed though that a “senior administration official said the United States has told North Korea that one of the things it must disclose are details of whatever nuclear material it has been supplying to Syria.” Absolutely. And then of course this information can be passed along to Israel’s military censors and then maybe, finally, we’ll get all the details about Israel’s September attack “deep” inside Syria, striking as-yet unidentified targets.

The Bush administration must be applauded for not having allowed this little proliferation escapade to stand in the way of an important agreement.

Then there’s the issue of getting off the list of nations that sponsor terrorism. From what I can tell, this seems to be a bit like cleaning up a bad credit rating. In an exchange this morning, Assistant Secretary Hill made it clear that the United States will try to streamline the process to get the North Koreans back in good standing:

Question:How quickly will you be able to get them off the terrorism list and what have you told Congress about how quickly that’s going to happen?

Hill: Well, first of all, we’re beginning some congressional consultations tomorrow, so I haven’t been up to talk to members yet, but we will be doing that and we will be explaining how we think the terrorism list issue should proceed. First of all, I think any time you can sit down with a country and work out details of why they were on the terrorism list and how to get them off the terrorism list, this is important because it’s in our interest to get countries off the terrorism list because, by definition, countries that are on the terrorism list pose a threat. And so when you take them off, it’s because you believe you’ve diminished this threat. So we think this is in our interest to do this.

As yet, no mention on when they can expect to get removed from the Axis of Evil. Based on the most recent State Department overview of state sponsors of terrorism, it sounds like North Korea might actually have honorary membership on the list by virtue of being a member of the Axis of Evil. This is what the report says:

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since the bombing of a Korean Airlines flight in 1987.

That’s a clean record for twenty years and they’re still on the list. Let’s not forget that the United States shot down and killed everyone on board Iran Air Flight 655 in 1988 — an Airbus carrying 290 passengers that the US Navy “mistook” for an F-14 Tomcat — and the US has managed to never even get on the terrorism list. I know — authorship confers its privileges.

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