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"North Korea set off alarm bells around the world by starting to reactivate a nuclear complex, mothballed under a 1994 deal with Washington." (Reuters)
The above quotation is a Reuters piece published on January 4. For weeks I have closely monitored the North Korean issue in various mass media and found that their coverage of the issue has been massive but the substance is more or less the same as in the above quotation: North Korea receives all the blame.
Is the leadership in Pyongyang so wicked, and Washington so blameless? I doubt it. After searching for relevant material, including making an appeal to get certain information from the North Korean side, I have drawn the following conclusions.
The current North Korean crisis is mainly rooted in the "Agreed Framework" between the United States of America and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea signed in Geneva on October 21, 1994. Some of the key points stipulated in the agreement which are relevant to the ongoing crisis are as follows:
1. The US agrees to provide two light-water reactor (LWR) power plants with a total generating capacity of approximately 2,000MW by the year 2003, to replace the DPRK's graphite-moderated reactors and related facilities. (art 1.2)
2. The US agrees to provide the DPRK with energy supplies (heavy oil) of 500,000 tonnes annually to offset the DPRK's loss of energy due to the freeze of the DPRK's graphite-moderated reactors and related facilities. (art 1.2)
3. The US agrees to provide formal assurances to the DPRK against the threat or use of nuclear weapons by the US. (art 2.3.1)
4. The DPRK agrees to freeze its graphite-moderated reactors and the related facilities. (art 1.3)
5. The DPRK agrees to dismantle its graphite-moderated reactors and the related facilities when the LWR project is completed. (art 1.3)
6. The DPRK agrees to allow the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to monitor the freeze with full cooperation. (art 1.3)
7. The US and the DPRK agree to work toward full normalisation of political and economic relations, reducing barriers of trade and investment etc. (art 2.1)
8. The US and the DPRK will each open a liaison office in the each other's capital, aiming at upgrading bilateral relations to the ambassadorial level. (art 2.2, 2.3)
Washington calmly violated nearly all its commitments to the agreement (nos 1, 3, 7, 8). The last straw was its open violation of the number 2 provision mentioned above, when the US and it allies announced, on November 14, 2002, to suspend fuel-oil shipments to North Korea.
In response to the unilateral violations by the US, North Korea announced on December 12 that it would reactivate its graphite-moderated reactors and related facilities frozen under the agreement; it expelled the last two inspectors of the IAEA on December 31, 2002, and on January 10, 2003 Pyongyang announced its immediate withdrawal from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, of which it had been a member since 1985.
There were many reasons why Washington could not fulfil its obligations prescribed in the agreement. First, anti-accord sentiment in the US has been strong since the signing of the agreement. Secondly, there was a funding problem: two LWR power plants alone would cost US$4-5 billion [Bt172-215 billion]. The US set up the KEDO (Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation) in 1994 to raise funds for the project. South Korea and Japan were expected to pay most of the costs, but the former suffered an economic crisis for years after 1997, and the latter's economy has never overcome its long recession. Other donors have been hard to find.
The hawkish Bush government may have sought ways to disown the agreement concluded by the previous administration. It ignored all the approaches of North Korea to talk about ways and means to implement the agreed framework. Hence in 2003, the year the first LWR power plant was expected to be completed, one could find only the foundations of the building at Kumho lying idle. The problem is, perhaps, not the schedule of completion, but whether the project is not already abandoned. From the North Korean point of view, this alone constitutes a serious violation of the agreement.
Khien Theeravit is professor emeritis of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University Copyright Khien Theeravit 2003. For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .