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2008年11月18日 (火)


(Mainichi Japan) November 17, 2008

Stricter protocol to verify North Korean nuclear activities needed

社説:北朝鮮核問題 検証方法をより厳格に詰めよ

It is becoming clear that the agreement that the U.S. reached with Pyongyang last month to verify North Korea's nuclear activities, which led to North Korea's removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, may have been hastily hammered out. The Japanese government's recommendation that policies be worked out at the six-party talks to insure that verification will be strictly carried out has not been adopted, and the schedule for the six-party talks has still not been set.


The countries that bear the most responsibility for the success of the six-party talks -- the U.S. and China, the chair of the talks -- need to once again convince North Korea to embark on a visible path leading to its dismantling of its nuclear program.


U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill's announcement of an agreement shortly after his visit to North Korea made references to the collection of samples that could trace the quantity of plutonium that North Korea has extracted, and to the verification of North Korea's uranium enrichment efforts and nuclear proliferation activities outside of its borders.


But recently, North Korea has issued a caveat asserting that the verification measures it had agreed to would be limited to site visits, document verification, and meetings with technical experts, would be confined to the Yongbyon nuclear facility, and would only take effect after economic assistance is extended "completely and flawlessly" by the other five parties to the six-party talks.


The deputy spokesman for the U.S. State Department said that experts would be able to collect samples and take them out of the country, but the problem is that this arrangement rests on a verbal assurance, and verbal agreements with North Korea have always been meaningless. This would be self-evident to a person with abundant negotiating experience, so did Hill act in haste in order to produce results before the Bush administration's term expires? A senior Foreign Ministry official suggests that Hill may have been duped by the North Koreans during his negotiations with them.


The North Korean caveat is intended to apply pressure on the U.S. to accelerate its economic assistance, and to keep Japan, which it may look upon as a hindrance, in check. North Korea has been applying pressure to get Japan expelled from the six-party talks, and one of its objectives may be to muddy up the abduction issue.


Given these circumstances, it would not be wise to rush to convene the six-party talks and to confirm the spadework that was hastily conducted by the U.S. We once again urge the U.S. and China to proceed cautiously.


While North Korea is seeking to extract benefits from the Bush administration, it appears to be placing more hope on the next Democratic administration under Barack Obama. During the previous Democratic administration led by President Bill Clinton, the U.S. magnanimously lavished 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil per year on North Korea, and toward the end of Clinton's tenure, his secretary of state even visited North Korea, and President Clinton himself was prepared to make a visit. North Korea believes that it is easier to negotiate with Democratic administrations.


During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama made statements that he was in favor of direct talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, and South Korea President Lee Myung-bak has told the Mainichi Shimbun and other media organizations that he would not be opposed to a North Korean summit meeting with the U.S. So it is only natural that North Korea has high hopes.

Obama did support the decision to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism but also announced that strict measures should be adopted if North Korea did not agree to halt its nuclear activities and submit to strict verification measures. He has also adopted a proactive stance toward the abduction issue.

We hope that he will adhere to this stance, and to the iron rule against entering into toothless accords.


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