This year has begun with a renewed diplomatic focus on the Korean peninsula as the 31 December 2007 deadline set in the agreement reached at the six-party talks in Beijing on 3 October came and went.
The six parties taking part in the talks process are the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), China, Russia, south Korea, the United States and Japan.
According to the agreement, the DPRK was to freeze and disable its nuclear reactor and also provide a full declaration of its nuclear programmes. In return, based on the principle of ‘action for action’, on which the talks process is based, the DPRK was to receive supplies of heavy fuel oil as well as energy-related equipment and materials. Intended to compensate for the DPRK’s energy shortfalls, consequent on the freezing of its nuclear facilities, these materials are supposed to be supplied by each of the other five parties in turn in monthly instalments.
However, to date, only China and south Korea have met their commitments both in full and in a timely fashion. The United States has made deliveries after a certain delay. Russia has failed to keep its commitments in time, but has insisted it will do so, reportedly citing unspecified ‘technical difficulties’ for the delay. Japan, citing separate bilateral problems with the DPRK, has refused to make its contributions, prompting the question as to whether or not it remains a viable partner in the talks process. In all, the DPRK has received less than half the fuel it was promised.
Moreover, in return for the DPRK’s moves, the United States had committed itself to removing the DPRK from its State Department list of “terrorism supporting states” and to cease applying the provisions of its Trading with the Enemy Act to the country.
It is reliably understood that these commitments made at the six-party talks were reconfirmed in a personal letter that US President Bush sent to DPRK leader Comrade Kim Jong Il in early December, when the chief US negotiator Christopher Hill visited the Korean capital, Pyongyang. Such steps are of great importance to the DPRK economy as these unilateral measures imposed by Washington not only enforce the USA’s own stringent embargo on the DPRK but also gravely hamper the DPRK’s access to international financial institutions, the banking system, and much normal trade and commerce in the wider international community.
Faced with the USA’s failure to fulfil its side of the bargain, a practice which has predictably characterised the USA’s entire history of diplomatic engagement with Korea, its spokespersons, echoed by the capitalist press, have, whilst keeping quiet about their own failures, attempted to blame the DPRK for the present impasse, alleging, in particular, that Korea had failed to present the list of its nuclear programmes.
In order to set the record straight, therefore, on 4 January 2008, a spokesperson for the DPRK foreign ministry released a statement, which explained: “It is beyond December 31st 2007, the deadline set in the October 3rd agreement. It is regrettable that points agreed there remain unimplemented except the disablement of the DPRK’s nuclear facilities. The disablement started early in November last year and all the operations were completed within the ‘technologically possible scope’ as of December 31st. At present, the unloading of spent fuel rods, scheduled to be completed in about 100 days, is underway as the last process.”
This refers to the fact that the dismantling of the DPRK’s nuclear reactor has been proceeding as agreed, in the presence of international monitors, including from the United States. Following his December visit, even Christopher Hill acknowledged that this work was proceeding smoothly and well but that its completion was not technically feasible by 31 December, adding that this was not a point of concern to the United States.
In contrast to the DPRK’s sincere efforts, its foreign ministry went on to note, “the delivery of heavy fuel oil and energy-related equipment and materials to the DPRK, commitments of other participating nations, have not been done even 50 percent. The schedule for the monthly delivery of heavy fuel oil as well as the delivery of energy-related equipment and materials and relevant technical processes are being steadily delayed. The US has not honoured its commitments to cross the DPRK off the list of ‘sponsors of terrorism’ and stop applying the ‘Trading with the Enemy Act’ against it. Looking back on what has been done, one may say that the DPRK is going ahead of others in fulfilling its commitment.”
The DPRK also refuted the allegation that it had failed to supply a list of its nuclear programmes, as agreed, explaining: “The DPRK worked out a report on the nuclear declaration in November last year and notified the US side of its contents. It had a sufficient consultation with the US side after receiving a request from it to have further discussion on the contents of the report.”
The current US pressure regarding Korea’s nuclear programmes arises from the efforts of neo-conservative hardliners in Washington to create roadblocks to a peaceful resolution of the state of conflict that has now lasted between the DPRK and USA for well over half a century. As with its relations with other states that refuse to meekly comply with imperialist diktat, the fabrication and dissemination of lies and misinformation by intelligence agencies and compliant media play a significant role in the pursuit of this agenda.
At present, two specific allegations are being levelled against the DPRK’s nuclear programme with a view to creating the impression that the country is not meeting its commitments. One is that the DPRK has a separate (apart from its admitted plutonium-based programme), undeclared programme of uranium enrichment, and the other that it is engaged in nuclear collaboration with Syria.
With regard to the supposed uranium enrichment, this issue has been repeatedly raised by the United States since 2002 in an attempt to stymie the peace process, but no evidence has ever been produced to substantiate it.
Indeed, on 1 March 2007, the New York Times reported that the allegation was now being questioned by US intelligence officials themselves: “But now, American intelligence officials are publicly softening their position, admitting to doubts about how much progress the uranium enrichment program has actually made. The result has been new questions about the Bush administration’s decision to confront North Korea in 2002.”
Analysing a case with eerie parallels to the CIA’s false claim, famously reproduced in Blair’s ‘dodgy dossier’, that the Iraqi government was sourcing uranium from Niger, the authors continued: “It is unclear why the new assessment is being disclosed now. But some officials suggested that the timing could be linked to North Korea’s recent agreement to reopen its doors to international arms inspectors. As a result, these officials have said, the intelligence agencies are facing the possibility that their assessments will once again be compared to what is actually found on the ground. ‘This may be preventative,’ one American diplomat said.” (‘US had doubts on North Korean uranium drive’ by David E Sanger and William J Broad)
Likewise, whilst the anti-imperialist solidarity between the peoples of Korea and Syria, and other countries of the Middle East, is well-known and long-standing, no evidence has been produced to suggest that such collaboration extends to the nuclear field. Instead, the intelligence agencies have used favoured sections of the media to postulate a link between alleged Syrian-DPRK nuclear collaboration and an Israeli air raid on Syria last October, which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad explained hit a disused military facility.
For its part, the DPRK has consistently maintained that it does not and will not transfer nuclear weapons, technology or knowledge to any other country.
Faced with such double standards and insincerity on the part of their imperialist adversaries, the DPRK has taken the only reasonable position by slowing down the pace of its nuclear disablement.
In the words of the foreign ministry statement: “Now that other participating nations delay the fulfilment of their commitments, the DPRK is compelled to adjust the tempo of the disablement of some nuclear facilities on the principle of ‘action for action’.”