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September 21, 2005

Comments

I suspect that this deal is indeed a diplomatic model for how the world intends to deal with Iran. Unfortunately this is another example of the modern practice of diplomacy. Diplomacy never fails--you just let expectations free-fall until whatever you actually got is a success.

Can you suggest alternative strategies to diplomacy for dealing with nuclear proliferation of this sort? Given that military action against smaller countries, aside from being costly and difficult to do, tends to be an object lesson to other countries that they should speed up development of their own nukes to be a deterrant against invasion.

I'll echo ++ungood; as far as I know no one likes diplomacy, but what are the alternatives? Whatever you're feelings/thoughts about Iraq, it argues that even the US must undertake "alternatives to diplomacy" one-at-a-time (we don't have the military force to deal with North Korea on anything but a diplomatic basis at this time). In a more ruthless sense, at least recognize the idea that the longer we talk to them fruitlessly, the more the rest of the world (and our own citizens) might accept the use of force as legitimate in the future ("Hey, we talked for years, 'till we were blue in the face..."). If we were to cease diplomatic efforts, and in the future claim that force is the only option, we would have a much harder case to prove.

As to your concluding paragraphs, I think that speaks to a general pessimism on non-proliferation. The djinni is out of the bottle (it left in 1945); how can we possibly hope to put it in again? At best, we can stave off proliferation for some time, but not halt it entirely.

In any event, if I were a small state concerned with Great Power Conventional Force, I'd go talk to Pakistan. I hear they'll give you plans, machines and even raw materials. One stop shopping!

I agree. Whatever we currently have, if it is only 1000 20 megaton warheads, it is not enough to deter NK. We must add 10,000 1-10 kiloton small nukes, space & ground based missle defense, and maybe 100 Soviet-style 100 megaton biguns to really scare the dudes.

And advanced research into the possibility of gigaton nukes...

...but no reductions. It would only encourage the blighters.

I would echo double-ungood as well, but instead I'll ask this:

Sebastian must have some ideal of diplomacy in mind. What is it? Give us an historical example.

Further, to what extent has diplomacy changed in efficacy since the advent of nuclear proliferation?

Also, to what extent is diplomacy with, say, a major nuclear power like the Soviet Union, different from diplomacy with a country like South Korea (or perhaps Iran) who might have five nuclear bombs of unknown efficacy, but can wreak major damage in a conventional war, as in destroying Seoul in 48 hours.

And, if diplomacy fails, what then? We can't afford it; we don't have the manpower.

And my son's not going. But if he does, there had better not be a single conservative Republican blog still going, because their proprietors had better be on the front lines. Stalemate sounds fine to me, because I like reading conservative blogs.

And, if we decide to go to war with North Korea or Iran, and George W. Bush appears on T.V. and says "no new taxes", I will begin vomiting and continue until FEMA and the entire Dept. of Homeland Security is forced
to don anti-vomit suits and every school bus in America is submerged in vomit.

I'm kinda baffled by this post. SH, you have been a virulent critic of the Agreed Framework, yet now that we're back to where Clinton was you sound merely disappointed and resigned. where's the outrage?

Can we consider a few basic realities?

1. The NKs have always held a trump card -- the ability to destroy Seoul. Oddly enough, the SKs believe that since they will bear the brunt of any war with NK, they need to give their approval. And those unappreciative SOBs still believe that diplomacy is better than a military solution.

2. The Yongbyon Plutonium Plant (facts taken from this link) was built by the NKs in the mid-80s, operated intermittently over about seven years, then was sealed in accordance with the 1994 Agreed Framework. The plutonium was extracted, allegedly, in the early 90s.

[rest of timeline from here

3. NK leaves the NPT in 1993, then reverses that decision.

4. Agreed Framework signed in '94.

5. After two years of saber-rattling on both sides, US halts oil deliveries in Nov. '02. Within a month, NK reactivates Yongbyon.

6. NK leaves the NPT for good in Jan. '03.

So first of all, can we once and for all stop blaming Clinton? To the extent there's any blame to be laid at the feet of US presidents, there's plenty to go around. If anyone should have bombed that facility, it should have been Bush pere.

Next, while the US may be the sole superpower, or even hyperpower, that doesn't mean that everyone else is going to quake in their shoes. The US built two nukes in the '40s, in what we would now consider a third-world economy using primitive methods. And, according to NPR this morning, an Austrian scientist working for the Soviets invented the centrifuge process, making the creation of weapons-grade uranium even easier.

Next, I don't think we can underestimate the importance of the axis of evil speech. We told the iranians and nks that we were coming to get them, as soon as we could get around to it. What the h-ll were we expecting, that the govts would up and quit, and move to the south of France?

If you're going to act like a bully, you got to expect that the little kids are going to go improve their firepower. And so they did.

And best of all, we now have our ground pounders stuck in iraq.

so our bluff has been called, and we are going to have to pay A LOT for the NK nukes.

but looking at the cost of reconstructing New Orleans, the price to the NKs is pennies on the dollar compared to rebuilding LA. (this assuming that the most likely delivery vehicle for a NK nuke would be a chinese container ship sailing into the Ports of LA/Long Beach).

Seb,
Thanks for posting this. However, I haven't seen any statement of what the agreement entailed and what was admitted or promised. Thus, when you list what they didn't agree to or what the understanding of the other parties was, this is just your impression. I don't say this to attack you, but just to point out what we know and what we think we know may be two different things.

However, I believe you are correct when you say:
North Korea and Iran are not interested in obtaining nuclear weapons to counter the nuclear weapons of the Great Powers. They are interested in obtaining nuclear weapons to counter the conventional might of the Great Powers.

I can't find it, but I was struck when I read someone from the Israeli defense community saying 'what would really be crazy would be if the Iranians weren't trying to get the bomb'. What disarmament does is twofold. The first would be that it would allow us to more vigorously pursue proliferation to prevent nuclear devices from falling into non state actors hands and the second is that it would provide a moral high ground with which to pursue regimes that do attempt to create nuclear weapons. I realize that you probably believe that the notion that the West needs to beef up its moral claims is an anathema, but I hope you can agree that the perception exists and is being utilized against us.

Also, my understanding is that the whole reason that it was agreed to give NK a light water reactor in the Agreed Framework is that light water reactors are much more resistant to proliferation. Given that, the reported ignoring of a problem with NK's demand by the US and SK makes sense.

Obviously, we are not going to agree on this, but it would be useful to outline how got here. From this JPRI critique

The North Korean Ploy

How did the North Koreans manage to so spook the United States? It started with nuclear weapons. Pyongyang admits, with pride, that it has a nuclear research center at Yongbyon. When the Soviet Union went down for the count in 1991, American globalists, relieved of their long Moscow obsession, began to obsess about Pyongyang. Why do they need nuclear power? Do they have a plutonium production facility? A reprocessing plant? Hard questions given that Korea's Stalinists have taken to working underground. Bombed nearly back to the stone age in the Korean War, they are taking no chances that American bombs won't fall again.

Washington worked itself into a frenzy that took it to the brink of a preemptive strike. In the nick of time, Pyongyang relented and invited the U.S. in for a look. The nuclear work at Yongbyon was found, as advertised, but weapons work was not. Had the North Koreans moved it, Iraqi style? Hoping not, in 1994 Washington offered, and Pyongyang accepted, a deal in which a U.S. technical team would put North Korea's eight thousand spent nuclear fuel rods in long-term, safe-storage. Starting in 1995, it took the team two and a half years to do so. The U.S. also agreed to organize the construction of two light-water reactors--a type considered less dangerous than Pyongyang's heavy-water reactor--plus imports of fuel oil.

The 1990s owe much to a senior American diplomat C. Kenneth Quinones, who between 1992 and 1994 was the North Korea desk officer at the State Department. He discussed North Korean nuclear intentions with its Foreign Minister, Kim Young-nam, and later with President Kim Il-sung. In 1992, Quinones was the first U.S. diplomat to visit Pyongyang since the Korean War. He negotiated working conditions for the Spent Fuel Team, was a member of the first U.S. delegation to visit Yongbyon's nuclear research center, where he spent much of 1995 and 1996, and lived in Pyongyang in the summers of 1996 and 1997. He flew low over North Korea in helicopters and drove unescorted over much of the area. Quinones questions American paranoia. This is not to say that he thinks the Pyongyang regime is nice, or that it would not like to have a few nukes. But nukes to negotiate with, not to nuke with. The American strategic doctrine of deterrence seems to be better understood in Pyongyang than it is on the banks of the Potomac.


(emph mine)

It has been a prime notion in neo-con thinking about NK that by increasing the level of discomfort within the country, we can encourage change from within. I don't want to accuse you of believing that, but in not presenting any alternative, it seems that you believe this. However, this seems to be a philosophy with very little real-life proof to support it. If we ask why there has been apparent change within (though the rail explosion has been argued to represent a coup attempt) we have to look at what North Korea experienced during the war. This is an article by Bruce Cummings. While it appears in ZNet (which you may dismiss as a far left source) Bruce Cummings, though from the left, is a pretty solid source, imho.

Furthermore, there have been several articles about this topic at Japan Focus. Two of the recent ones were this one by Selig Harrison and this one by Gavan McCormack. From the latter

Nonetheless, the overall effect of the Korean policy review was not so much to resolve the dilemmas on the peninsula, but to put forward a stance of studied ambiguity, of what might be called hostility-plus -- that is, plus readiness for some kind of deal. Late in 2004, U.S. government sources released accounts of what it called a "bold approach" toward settlement, which had apparently first been placed on the table in Pyongyang in October 2002 and was still open. If the North Koreans would suspend and dismantle all their nuclear programs (military and civil) under appropriate international inspection, address proliferation concerns about missile, biological and chemical weapons, as well as conventional arms levels and the lack of human rights in the country, the U.S. would, in return, "kick off negotiations" to convert the existing cease-fire agreement still in effect from the Korean War of the early 1950s into an actual peace treaty, push for North Korean membership in international financial institutions, and provide energy assistance and humanitarian aid. [1]

This "bold offer" was quickly overshadowed by other disputed matters and died stillborn in 2002. But it had itself been a study in ambiguity - a mix of generous-sounding promises all of which depended on North Korea's initial and comprehensive surrender to American demands. It was an offer made in order to rebut any future charges that the Bush administration had lacked interest in negotiating, and made on terms that it could be certain the other side would never accept. Now, as 2005 began, it was evidently back on the table, but so, it turned out, was the hostility.

So, it sounds like your complaint about modern diplomacy is one that should be addressed to the Bush administration.

Late in 2004, under pressure from its Asian allies, the Bush administration had evidently decided to shift from talking about the need for "regime change" in North Korea to "regime transformation" -- a subtle distinction indeed. As Jeong Se Hyun, former Unification Minister in South Korea, commented, "I don't understand why the United States is beginning to say that. If you go from telling someone else 'I'm going to kill you,' to 'If you become a good guy I might not kill you,' what will the other guy think…" [2]

Whatever the words from Washington, the view from Pyongyang must have been grim. On October 19, the North Korea Human Rights Act was signed into law, having been adopted by a unanimous vote of both Houses. It widened the administration's playing field for multifarious potential interventions short of all-out war, both along the North's borders and via the airwaves. It also supported an "East European" model of undermining and destabilizing the regime by non-military means.

Behind such actions lay the long-term lobbying of various American neoconservative intellectuals with close ties to the administration. And they now chimed in as well. The right-wing Hudson Institute's Michael Horowitz, one of the authors of the Human Rights Law, on December 23 stated his belief that North Korea would implode within the year. He also spoke of the possibility of finding generals within the North Korean military prepared to work with the U.S. and using them to bring about a coup. "Defense Committee Chairman Kim Jong Il," he added, "won't be able to enjoy the next Christmas." [3] He also mocked the South Korean government, which is absolutely opposed to such an approach, as "hypercritical and irresponsible." [4]

That's a long excerpt, but the last point, about mocking South Korea, deserves some attention. the LA Times has a typical Max Boot editorial which brings up precisely that point. Now, you might say, well, that's Max. But what caught my eye was that a NYTimes editorial makes almost precisely same point. This is countered by this rather commonsense paragraph from this Gavan McCormack article

The recent outpourings of analysis and comment on the "Korean problem" around the world are characterized by righteous indignation and denunciation. They tend to be shaped, consciously or unconsciously, by an "imperial" frame of reference, insisting that Pyongyang submit to the will of the "international community" when what is really meant is the will of Washington. To the extent that one adopts an alternative, Korean, frame of reference, and a Seoul-centered approach, the problem begins to look different. Nobody understands North Korea better, is in the present climate more positive and encouraging about dealing with it, and has more to lose from getting it wrong, than the government and people of South Korea.

Going back to the Jason Lim op-ed, I was curious about the author and googling suggests that he was the author of an earlier piece is from the Washington Times from December 2004. However, the WashTimes article describes him as 'the [former] Director of Special Projects for an international NGO.' and in the NYTimes, he is 'a graduate student in management of international public service at New York University.' In the first editorial, he presents a lot of unsourced assertions about how Koreans and Chinese feel about genetic affiliations as well as suggesting that China
'Through the calculated distortion of history, China is therefore being proactive against scenarios on the Korean peninsula it dislikes.' and is trying to assimilate NK into China.

Setting aside these assertions, what bothers me is that Jason Lim is a cipher. Googling suggests that he was on a debian-isp email list and also a staff writer for a Malaysian expatriate web magazine. Now, perhaps these aren't the same people, and even if they were, perhaps Jason Lim has some knowledge of Korean and East Asian geopolitics that support his presentation. However, we really don't know, yet he is given a platform to promote visions of a American long term interest in creating an American protectorate on a unified Korean penisula and then suggests that South Korea, by providing food to North Korea, is aiding and abetting the North. These sorts of points (which would apply to Cuban-Americans sending money to Cuba, right?) suggest that the purpose of the op-eds is not to understand the situation, but creating facts that prevent considering certain options.

Now, I'm not trying to claim that you are wrong because I don't know who Jason Lim is, but what bothers me is that we take all of these assertions about what North Korea has/does/wants with virtually no evidence to back them up. That alone should give everyone cause for caution.

It also bothers me that this seems to be exactly the way that the admin envisioned the negotiations playing out, which you take as proof of the ultimate correctness of this administration's original approach. It is almost as if the administration would like this not to succeed. The main difference is that our allies are not cutting any slack and we can't stomp out and say we won't be blackmailed. We have created a situation where we are being examined more critically than NK. That alone should give one pause.

Again, I understand that we are probably not ever going to agree on even the basic facts, so we can't really come to some sort of agreement on what the proper course of action. But I hope this gives you a bit better idea of where I come from on this. On preview, I see a lot of people have jumped in. I really don't want to make this a pile on (we've had far too much of that here lately), so I hope you could present what information has you come to your opinion. I know you have a huge problem with the Agreed Framework but I am not sure if there is new data that informs this. Thanks.

Sebastian: I was fine with the agreed framework, and I'll be fine with this too, if it turns out to be an agreement that has inspectors in before the light-water plant is constructed. The reason is not that I particularly like either, but that we have so few options. I mean, there's doing nothing, negotiating, and war, basically, and even if we had not taken our ability to either go to war or (more usefully) threaten it with any credibility and put it in Iraq, diplomacy would be by far the best option.

I don't say this because I expect this agreement to be self-enforcing or anything, but because even if all it does is kick the issue down the road, that will be a good thing. Kim is not immortal; neither is his government; down the road we might just possibly have more options, if we ever do manage to extricate ourselves from Iraq and restore some semblance of respect for our foreign policy.

Doing nothing, which has been this administration's de facto policy for years, is a terrible option, at least if having a broke and desperate regime selling nuclear weapons to al Qaeda bothers you. So what I am really, really not fine with is the fact that we took this little hiatus from the Agreed Framework and allowed NK to acquire nuclear weapons at all. Clinton almost went to war to prevent this; he drew a clear line in the sand and said to the North Koreans: do not cross this, or else; Bush just let them amble on across it; and now we have a raving lunatic armed with nuclear weapons. And it's largely because the people in charge didn't like diplomacy, but had no alternative at all, and so did nothing.

And it's largely because the people in charge didn't like diplomacy, but had no alternative at all, and so did nothing.

But they sure looked tough doing it.

"Doing nothing is a terrible option"

Seems a bit question-beggy.

If one accepts Sebastian's premises, the only logical conclusion that can be drawn is that we should destroy both NK and Iran immediately, or as soon as our military is logistically ready to go. Either that is what he truly wants or he hasn't thought the matter through adequately, because no other option would make sense.

"If one accepts Sebastian's premises, the only logical conclusion that can be drawn is that we should destroy both NK and Iran immediately, or as soon as our military is logistically ready to go."

No, there are real diplomatic options that don't involve signing meaningless pieces of paper. For example we could work with China to stop the oil into North Korea. They are particularly worried about refugees, so we would have to work with them on ways to deal with them. We could work to stop the food aid into the country. Or if one accepts that it is absolutely inevitable that they are going to get nuclear weapons (as some here seem to) we could have refused propping up the government with oil for ten years. There are real diplomatic actions which could be taken, but everyone is so hung up on 'talks' as the major form of diplomacy that we get robbed blind by people willing to use such talks to gain time.

I'll respond to some of the other comments in the morning.


To clarify, my point about British and French nuclear weapons is that they have essentially no strategic use. They were developed, and retained, to trumpet the Great Power status of these otherwise middle-ranking countries. This is most obviously true in the case of Britain most of whose armaments are under direct US control, but it's true for France also.

These countries are counterexamples to your claim that "Countries attempt to gain [in this case retain] nuclear weapons because they see a strategic advantage in obtaining them"

If countries like Britain and France, who have no conceivable strategic advantage to gain, insist on hanging on their nukes (despite promising in the NPT treaty that they will eventually disarm) how likely is it that other countries will abandon nuclear weapons programs even when it is in their rational self-interest to do so.

But, as I've discovered, arguments of this kind produce blank incomprehension (hence my title). No-one responded by arguing that Britain and France had any real use for nukes (except as items in the DSW between these two rivals), but everyone agreed it was unthinkable that they should disarm.

John Quiggin
That was a very interesting point, but if I understand correctly, the UK now farms out the testing and maintenance for its nuclear arms to the US (I think this came up with the debate to replace the Trident), so I have to imagine that the UK renouncing its nuclear arms would run into problems from the US. A few links that came up on a quick google trawl
this paper is from the International Security Information Service (UK) from 2000. This refers to discussion about the Mutual Defense Agreement and the fact that it may violate the NPT. I didn't follow the issue closely, so I may be wrong, but I thought there was some discussion when the announcement of cutbacks in the UK armed forces were made.

The French nuclear force is more interesting, given that it arose historically as a counter balance to US/UK nuclear arms. Here is a link describing the historical origin of the force de frapee. the link interesting notes that the push for a nuclear force coincided with Dien Bien Phu. One shudders to think what will if/when the US Dien Bien Phu happens in Iraq.

It is certainly more difficult to imagine France giving up its nuuclear arms, given Gallic pride. Perhaps if Disneyland gave up its nuclear weapons, the French could be convinced to do the same...

By the way, I love Crooked Timber, props to all the posters there.

I think Billmon's take is about right. We've returned to something like the deal we had before, largely because we had no better alternatives, but the cost of trying to start over with added bluster was very high.

These countries are counterexamples to your claim that "Countries attempt to gain [in this case retain] nuclear weapons because they see a strategic advantage in obtaining them"

If countries like Britain and France, who have no conceivable strategic advantage to gain, insist on hanging on their nukes (despite promising in the NPT treaty that they will eventually disarm) how likely is it that other countries will abandon nuclear weapons programs even when it is in their rational self-interest to do so.

I'm not sure they qualify as counter-examples to the general rule, but even if they do they nothing about countries who have a strategic interest for nuclear bombs--countries like Iran and North Korea. In other words, even if your understanding of why the UK and France keep nuclear bombs is correct, it doesn't lead to your argument that disarming will help non-proliferation among the scary countries like Iran and North Korea who (correctly) see having nukes as a huge strategic advantage.

I'm kinda baffled by this post. SH, you have been a virulent critic of the Agreed Framework, yet now that we're back to where Clinton was you sound merely disappointed and resigned. where's the outrage?

No, I think this is every bit as stupid as the Agreed Framework and like the Agreed Framework has the main strategic advantage of giving North Korea more time to work on its programs without real scrutiny. That unfortunately is a strategic advantage for our enemies.

I was fine with the agreed framework, and I'll be fine with this too, if it turns out to be an agreement that has inspectors in before the light-water plant is constructed. The reason is not that I particularly like either, but that we have so few options. I mean, there's doing nothing, negotiating, and war, basically, and even if we had not taken our ability to either go to war or (more usefully) threaten it with any credibility and put it in Iraq, diplomacy would be by far the best option.

My problem with this is that it is doing nothing disguised as diplomacy. That is the most dangerous form of diplomacy. And in many respects it is worse than doing nothing because we are giving active support to a regime which is really bad, and we aren't even getting anything even close to a guarantee that we are making things strategically better for us.

Doing nothing, which has been this administration's de facto policy for years, is a terrible option, at least if having a broke and desperate regime selling nuclear weapons to al Qaeda bothers you. So what I am really, really not fine with is the fact that we took this little hiatus from the Agreed Framework and allowed NK to acquire nuclear weapons at all. Clinton almost went to war to prevent this; he drew a clear line in the sand and said to the North Koreans: do not cross this, or else; Bush just let them amble on across it; and now we have a raving lunatic armed with nuclear weapons.

I don't understand what timeline you are working with. In October 2002 James Kelly confronted the North Koreans about the uranium enrichment program which had been known about since at least 1998. This was a violation of the Agreed Framework (see for example :

By the way, our negotiator for the Agreed Framework, Ambassador Robert Gallucci, had left the North Koreans in no doubt that that any uranium enrichment program would violate the Agreed Framework. Ambassador Gallucci testified before Congress in December 1994 that the Agreed Framework required the D.P.R.K. to implement the North-South Joint Denuclearization Declaration, which precludes any reprocessing or enrichment capability. "If there were ever any move to enrich," he told this Committee, "we would argue they were not in compliance with the Agreed Framework."

Shipments of oil, the payments for the Agreed Framework, were halted in December 2002. They withdrew from the non-proliferation treaty almost immediately thereafter. They had been working with Pakistani scientists for all the years in-between, but not afterward. They announced they had a nuclear bomb in February of this year. Either they were working on their nuclear program all along, and thus in violation of the Agreed Framework, or they have the fastest unaided program since nuclear weapons were first developed by the US.

In neither case does this diplomatic farce count as a diplomatic triumph. It just gives more time for Mr. Kim to work out the bugs in his system.

I think the truth of the matter is revealed when Iran used it as an excuse to pretty much say that their program is continuing. They correctly see the agreement as proof that at this time the diplomatic world isn't going to do anything to stop a country that wants to gain nuclear weapons.

In many of my other posts I have been incorrectly identified as being against multilateralism and diplomacy. I'm not. I'm against paper diplomacy and multilateral agreements which don't actually do anything to address the problems they allegedly address. The fact that this agreement can be trumpeted as a diplomatic triumph is a very bad sign.

They announced they had a nuclear bomb in February of this year. Either they were working on their nuclear program all along, and thus in violation of the Agreed Framework, or they have the fastest unaided program since nuclear weapons were first developed by the US.

There is a third option, that they announced a bomb that they didn't have. Even if they did have a weapon, the primary goal should be to control the amount of fissile material. NK has a geographic location so they are subject to retaliation. On the other hand, if Al Qaeda gets an atomic device, where exactly to we go to give retaliation.

I also don't think that Jack Kelly is the best source to rely on for Gallucci's opinions. For example

That's perhaps too strong, but that there was a lack of political will to enforce the Agreed Framework, that in fact, the complaints coming from North Korea that the United States dragged its feet and reneged have some validity.

My own view here is -- and there are disagreements about this -- that in the Clinton administration, there wasn't the enthusiasm for everything the North Koreans wanted, in terms of the political payoff from the deal. So the North Koreans were somewhat disappointed. But let's be clear about this. There are hard and soft portions to deal. A hard portion was they needed to have their program frozen, and under inspection, and they needed to re-can the spent fuel so it wasn't reprocessed. That was done.


Did they hold to their end of the agreement in that sense?

Absolutely. Absolutely. On our side, in terms of the hard part, so did we. We were obligated to create an entity called the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, an international entity -- which was really South Korea, Japan and the United States, and eventually, the European Union -- to build these 2,000-megawatt light-water reactors. That program didn't go as fast as the North Koreans might have liked. But it's a big deal doing that in North Korea. That was a hard point in terms of the deal, and we were doing that.

We also had to deliver a quantity every year of something called heavy fuel oil to provide energy replacement for what they were giving up with not having their own nuclear facilities. Did we meet every delivery schedule on the day? No. Did we generally meet the schedule, and were we generally providing what we said we'd provide? Yes. So in terms of the hard performance under the framework, both sides were doing it.

link(emph mine)

Or this

Coercive diplomacy was a failure in the 1994 negotiations with North Korea because North Korea has cheated on the Agreed Framework.

The last major assertion about the 1994 negotiations that Galluci addressed was that the Agreed Framework, and the negotiations that led up to them, was a failure due to the recent revelations that the North Korean secret weapons program. To the contrary, Galluci argued, many U.S policymakers had always assumed that there would be some cheating by North Korea. The Clinton administration's goal in the negotiations was to stop the public nuclear program. In fact, Galluci pointed out, the North Koreans, to the best of our intelligence, have not to date produced any enriched plutonium. Indeed, he noted, the Agreed Framework may actually have delayed this development by up to 15 years.

link

This is from Gallucci's co-authored book on the Korean crisis
Negotiated arrangements can advance U.S. interests even if the other party engages in cheating. Of course, it is possible to construct a deal that would leave the United States in a worse position if the other side cheated. [snip] But it is also possible to construct a treaty that leaves the United States better off every day that the other party is compliant, and not significantly disadvantaged if the other party cheats.

Certainly, it would be a mistake to base a deal on trust. But as every American president concluded throughout the cold war, it is possible to construct a deal whose provisions, including those creating transparency, benefit the United States no matter what an aggressive and untrustworthy adversary does in the course of implementation.

I've recommended this talk by Gallucci before, and I recommend it again. I can't imagine that anyone can, after hearing the complexity of these negotiations, simply reject the Agreed Framework. Gallucci points out (around the 25:00 min mark) how he dealt with essentially the same situation with a much better resolution. It also points out that the top priority that lead to the Agreed Framework was the desire to track the amount of plutonium that was made and ideally, get it out of NK. All else was second. When viewed in this way, the Agreed Framework looks like the best of a bad situation.

It was Yglesias who pointed out that many of the problems stem not from the Agreed Framework, but in the construction of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (and btw the way the IAEA controls and monitors). The NPT basically permits non-military use of atomic energy and the bright line that separates civilian and military is so close to creating nuclear arms that a country can get right up to the line (as Iran and NK are arguing they are doing) that it is just a short hop to making weapons. This Steve Clemons post is interesting in this regard.

You note:
The fact that this agreement can be trumpeted as a diplomatic triumph is a very bad sign.

Well, I think that this is being trumpeted because this administration has put the US in a situation where nothing can be done. As such, it is a bad sign, but not in the way you suggest.

I really don't see how destabilizing NK serves our purposes. No matter how much we could support South Korea and China in accepting refugees, (and given our current state, how much would be possible?) neither of those two states would accept the potential for social upheaval that your proposal of cutting off food and oil to NK, and the more NK is pushed into a corner, the more likely that fissile material will find its way into terrorists hands.

An oil embargo kind of backfired with Japan in the 1930's too. The North Koreans might arrive at same decision: take what fuel they have left, fill up the tanks, and roll the dice with an invasion of the south.

It's hard to see how much more you could hurt a regime that already presides over a population reduced to scraping the bark off trees to survive.

Extremely hard.

And I don't really understand why the "West" doesn't follow the lead of the South Koreans in this. They have the most at stake, and the best intel. Oh well.

Just to add to bob mcmanus's argument, if we don't develop gigaton nukes, we give aid and comfort to Apollo objects. Deflecting asteroids with earth-crossing orbits was the late Edward Teller's justification for building really big bombs.

The rest of you may carry on with the serious discussion portion of this thread. I'll be dreaming of 1000 megaton bolide-busters.

No, there are real diplomatic options that don't involve signing meaningless pieces of paper. For example we could work with China to stop the oil into North Korea. They are particularly worried about refugees, so we would have to work with them on ways to deal with them. We could work to stop the food aid into the country. Or if one accepts that it is absolutely inevitable that they are going to get nuclear weapons (as some here seem to) we could have refused propping up the government with oil for ten years. There are real diplomatic actions which could be taken, but everyone is so hung up on 'talks' as the major form of diplomacy that we get robbed blind by people willing to use such talks to gain time.

Sebastian, I share some of your concerns, but I also tend to think that doing nothing while pretending to be agreeing to fix things is probably better than doing nothing while beating our chests and threatening unspecified and implausible consequences. The other point I'd make--maybe the only real point--is that the significance of this "deal" probably has more to do with changing China's and South Korea's behavior than North Korea's. Yes, we need to work with China, and to do that we need to be willing to give them things that they want. What they wanted right now was for us to stop rattling our sabers and sign this piece of paper. It's possible that doing so puts us in a stronger position to work with them on next steps, including their leaning harder on the NK's. Unfortunately, given the Administration's track record, I'm not very optimistic that will actually happen. Nonetheless, it's hard to see a way forward on North Korea that doesn't start with our ratcheting the rhetoric down a bit and making nice with China and South Korea. Since a massive, probably nuclear bombing campaign against North Korea doesn't look like a great alternative, it's hard to see what other choice we have.

Sebastian: I like the agreed framework because, under it, NK's plutonium was under seal. This, to me, more than balances the fact that they were working on a much slower means of getting a bomb. Obviously, I would have preferred perfect compliance to that, but I always thought that the AF was a lot better than nothing simply because it took the fastest way for NK to get bombs off the table. As we can see from the fact that they seem to have gotten bombs so quickly after removing the plutonium, but have yet to make bombs, as far as I know, with their uranium. For this reason I thought it was much better than nothing, and also much better than Bush's alternative.

As I understand it, the main reason destabilizing NK isn't a live option is because SK and the PRC really, really don't want NK to collapse on their borders, and if it showed signs of doing so, they would go ballistic. That being the case, we need to ask ourselves whether destabilizing it, with unpredictable results that could range from a relatively peaceful regime change to Seoul being turned into smoldering glass, is worth really, truly alienating both a very close and important ally and a huge and growing power who, as it happens, owns an enormous amount of our national debt, and could destabilize our economy at will. They would pay a price, of course, but having at this point absolutely huge reserves, they could probably weather it.

To restate my point Sebastian, you think that it is currently in the strategic interest of NK and Iran to have nukes and are looking for policies that would change this, by imposing costs on them, so that the net strategic benefits are negative.

My point is that by promoting the view that nukes are desirable purely as a source of national pride, Britain and France help to generate a situation where other countries will want to get them even though they will be objectively worse off as a result.

"That being the case, we need to ask ourselves whether destabilizing it, with unpredictable results that could range from a relatively peaceful regime change to Seoul being turned into smoldering glass, is worth really, truly alienating both a very close and important ally and a huge and growing power who, as it happens, owns an enormous amount of our national debt, and could destabilize our economy at will."

That is fine. But that still doesn't explain why we have to actually be involved in holding up one of the most evil regimes in the world. If they are going to get nuclear weapons anyway, and if China and North Korea won't let them collapse, why are we involved at all? Withdraw the troops from South Korea and let them sort it out. South Korea makes huge public shows of not wanting us anyway. Withdraw to Japan and let South Korea and China deal with it. What are we gaining by being involved? It made sense when the Cold War was on. But if no-one wants to take the NPT seriously enough to stop North Korea from getting nukes, and if it is as inevitable as people above claim, why not just withdraw? What is the advantage we gain? We can't blockade the ships which will trade the nukes anyway without starting the war we cannot start.

"My point is that by promoting the view that nukes are desirable purely as a source of national pride, Britain and France help to generate a situation where other countries will want to get them even though they will be objectively worse off as a result."

Do you believe that this is one of the more important factors for North Korea and Iran? Or are you talking about hypothetical other countries? I can argue about the fact that North Korea and Iran understand the strategic benefits of gaining nuclear weapons. I can't argue about all hypothetical countries. It seems to me that the pride issue is likely much less important than the strategic issue. It also strikes me as highly unlikely that the pride issue would be much impacted by unilateral disarmament of the UK and France. So I don't understand your focus unless you see this issue as both overshadowing the strategic issue and as likely to impact the pride issue. Do you?

You ask why we just don't withdraw. Setting aside the point that it would reveal all the protestations of bringing freedom and democracy to the people of Iraq to be without even the barest thread of believability, believe it or not, Krauthammer stumbles upon the answer in his most recent op-ed
It is always difficult to extract the lede from Krauthammer, so I will just restate it as 'if you want to let China control the neighborhood, be my guest'. There are a lot of things going for it (reducing our outlays for troops and the nuclear shield would make a huge difference in our budget) but I am not convinced that China doesn't need constant supervision and foreign pressure to make it stay on the right path. One can easily point at noteworthy detours and the fact that not only nationalism is such an easily employed genie in China, but also because it is very difficult to have the natural braking effect that we have in Western culture because of a more highly developed legal system that I don't think we can simply step back and let them sort it out because the shape of such a solution might not only have severe ramifications for the rest of asia, it might also impact us.

It is also worth keeping in mind that Bolton> and this administration, fumbled the ball on beefing up the NPT (which, if I recall correctly, is the reason you changed your mind about Bolton when Hilzoy wrote about it. Given that the US bears no small responsibility in not improving the NPT, it is the height of irresponsibility to walk away from it. Though it might be better if this admin did so the next one could get a clean start.

It seems to me the NPT is the obvious forum to begin working on approaches to reducing the availability of fissile materials which should be what frightens the US the most. However, as Fred Kaplan points out

The big powers enjoy a loophole, too: Article VI, which obligates the countries that already have nuclear weapons to reduce their own nuclear arsenals—a token of good faith to those who promise to forgo nukes altogether.

Many critics of American foreign policy note that the rest of the world can hardly be expected to observe the NPT when the United States hasn't lived up to its side of the bargain.

Kaplan goes on to note that this wouldn't have been some panacea and Iran and North Korea would have not stopped behaving so badly if we made more of an effort. But it is relatively easy to see a connection between bunker busting nukes and the increased efforts by Iran and NK to obtain nuclear arms.

Finally, the notion of a unilateral disarmament, there are a number of reasons beyond the notion of the gesture for disarming (I'll be the first to admit that I don't trust a nation that thinks Jerry Lewis is a comic genius with a force de frappe, but that might just be me), but at some points in history, a gesture can serve to make a difference and there are any number of historical events that depended on a gesture (sadly, most of them are destructive rather than constructive, but that's human nature). At any rate, I don't think we can expect a gesture from the US, so it falls upon others.

Sorry, didn't close my tag. Trying again.

It is also worth keeping in mind that Bolton and this administration, fumbled the ball on beefing up the NPT (which, if I recall correctly, is the reason you changed your mind about Bolton when Hilzoy wrote about it) Given that the US bears no small responsibility in not improving the NPT, it is the height of irresponsibility to walk away from it. Though it might be better if this admin did so the next one could get a clean start.

"Kaplan goes on to note that this wouldn't have been some panacea and Iran and North Korea would have not stopped behaving so badly if we made more of an effort. But it is relatively easy to see a connection between bunker busting nukes and the increased efforts by Iran and NK to obtain nuclear arms."

What is the connection? I don't see it at all. I would be shocked if the nuclear ambitions of Iran or North Korea were significantly impacted even if the US destroyed every single nuclear weapon it had. The strategic impact of them getting nuclear weapons would not decrease in such a case NOR would the prestige effect decrease in such a case. So if there is an effect at all, it seems to me to be very marginal.

"Given that the US bears no small responsibility in not improving the NPT, it is the height of irresponsibility to walk away from it."

What in the world is this sentence meant to imply? If allowing North Korea to obtain nuclear weapons is walking away from the NPT, the US is the only power in decades which hasn't abandoned the NPT. Why should we be so unilateral? If the world isn't even willing to attempt to enforce the NPT in the most obvious cases, what leads you to believe that a 'strengthened' NPT would be anything but another worthless piece of paper? The international community doesn't even want to act now. Suggesting that the US is the biggest problem in this strikes me as very odd. Pretty much nothing compares to the fact that the international community isn't willing to enforce even the obvious cases of proliferation (or in a similar vein genocide). It is completely mysterious to me why defining the cases more strictly would be useful when the international community can't even be roused to action in cases which have clearly been a problem for at least a decade.

"Setting aside the point that it would reveal all the protestations of bringing freedom and democracy to the people of Iraq to be without even the barest thread of believability..."

Huh? Unless you are talking about invading North Korea, and no one is, which is more likely to lead to freedom in North Korea? Leaving it alone? Or, propping it up indefinitely with massive fuel aid and food aid which is used by its government to aid internal allies and starve to death people who are seen to offer the slightest resistance? Which strategy is about freedom? We are talking about different ways of letting the North Korean people continue to be destroyed by Mr. Kim (and we should note that he is already the second generation dictator which makes the wait-till-he-dies approach look rather bad too).

I really don't understand what you are getting at with:

There are a lot of things going for it (reducing our outlays for troops and the nuclear shield would make a huge difference in our budget) but I am not convinced that China doesn't need constant supervision and foreign pressure to make it stay on the right path. One can easily point at noteworthy detours and the fact that not only nationalism is such an easily employed genie in China, but also because it is very difficult to have the natural braking effect that we have in Western culture because of a more highly developed legal system that I don't think we can simply step back and let them sort it out because the shape of such a solution might not only have severe ramifications for the rest of asia, it might also impact us.

I'm not suggesting we allow China to invade Japan. I'm not suggesting we allow China to invade South Korea. I'm suggesting that we don't troops as a tripwire in South Korea. If we aren't using nukes against North Korea, there is nothing that the US can do in the case of a North Korean invasion that the huge South Korean army and militia could not do. We don't need to be a tripwire to insure US anti-communist involvement. We can do anything we need to do regarding China from Japan or Taiwan. Why bother with North Korea? I'm subject to the appeal of the more general policeman idea, but I don't think you normally use that rationale.

Suggesting that the US is the biggest problem in this strikes me as very odd.

That's a mischaracterization: LJ said it bore responsibility. Not "the most" responsibility.

Pretty much nothing compares to the fact that the international community isn't willing to enforce even the obvious cases of proliferation

Oh? They don't? Another mischaracterization. The "world" simply doesn't share the neocon vision of doing things, which given the historical record of failure, is easy to understand.

It seems to me that your plan, which requires Chinese cooperation of the sort that it is hard to see what their motivation would be (other than preventing a refugee problem that already exists), requires a perfect storm.

I mean, how would it end in NK? A people's revolution a la Romania? A military coup? What's the supposed endgame and why would it arise out of supersanctions?

"That's a mischaracterization: LJ said it bore responsibility. Not "the most" responsibility."

Does it bear an amount of responsibility that will impact the problem in any significant sense? No. So why are we talking about it? I'm not sure at all. Sounds like a distraction.

LJ outlines the argument: the NPT is the logical thing to build upon.

I would like to know how you think this is supposed to end under your plan, as I asked above.

The NPT is not a logical thing to build on because the international community isn't even interested in operating the little things that it is already committed to in that area. I don't understand why adding more goals and 'tighter' strictures to already ignored treaties which the international community already isn't interested in enforcing should be considered a positive step. A positive step would be for much more of the international community to bother with the things they have already committed to. That seems unlikely enough, but there we are.

For example, if North Korea were to violate tighter restrictions under a reformulated NPT, what would the international community do about it? Nothing. What would they do about Iran? Same thing as now. Nothing. So what would we have gained by making a facially tighter non-proliferation regime? International good-will? That isn't worth anything if international good-will doesn't lead to action. So long as France, Germany, Russia and China are willing to undermine things like sanctions--destroying the effectiveness of non-war action--they reduce the choices to non-action or war-like action. Until that dynamic is resolved, piling on words into treaties on the topics of war and peace merely provides the illusion of action--when the reality is mere denial.

2shoes is right, I specifically noted that Kaplan made the point that US actions would not have made much difference and I hoped by citing that, it would be taken that I agree with that observation.

Does it bear an amount of responsibility that will impact the problem in any significant sense? No.

Errr, yes it does. First of all, there is, among all of the people who have followed the path of negotiations with NK, the unavoidable fact that NK is reacting to its interpretations of US moves. Much of the current impasse started when NK was included in the axis of evil, despite the fact that there is no proof that they have supported terrorists that have targeted the US. That rhetorical overreach set off the current downward spiral, though Bush also heralded it by giving Kim Dae-jung the brush off when he came to the US.

In early March, barely a month into Bush's term, Kim Dae Jung, South Korea's president, made a state visit to Washington. On the eve of the visit, Powell told reporters that, on Korean policy, Bush would pick up where Clinton had left off. The White House instantly rebuked him; Bush made it clear he would do no such thing. Powell had to eat his words, publicly admitting that he had leaned "too forward in my skis." It was the first of many instances when Powell would find himself out of step with the rest of the Bush team--the lone diplomat in a sea of hardliners.

If Powell was embarrassed by Bush's stance, Kim Dae Jung was humiliated. KDJ, as some Korea-watchers called him, was a new kind of South Korean leader, a democratic activist who had spent years in prison for his political beliefs and had run for president promising a "sunshine policy" of opening up relations with the North. During the Clinton years, South Korea's ruling party had been implacably hostile to North Korea. Efforts to hold serious disarmament talks were obstructed at least as much by Seoul's sabotage as by Pyongyang's maneuverings. Now South Korea had a leader who could be a partner in negotiating strategy--but the United States had a leader who was uninterested in negotiations.

In Bush's view, to negotiate with an evil regime would be to recognize that regime, legitimize it, and--if the negotiations led to a treaty or a trade--prolong it. To Bush, North Korea's dictator was the personification of evil. He told one reporter, on the record, that he "loathed" Kim Jong-il. It was no surprise that Bush would distrust anyone who wanted to accommodate his regime. Bush not only distrusted Kim Dae Jung but viewed him with startling contempt. Charles "Jack" Pritchard, who had been director of the National Security Council's Asia desk under Clinton and was now the State Department's special North Korean envoy under Bush, recalls, "Bush's attitude toward KDJ was, 'Who is this naive, old guy?'" Kim Dae Jung had also committed what Bush regarded as a personal snub. Shortly before his Washington trip, the South Korean president met Russian president Vladimir Putin, and issued a joint statement endorsing the preservation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Everyone knew that Bush placed a high priority on scuttling the ABM Treaty.

So when Kim Dae Jung arrived in Washington, Bush publicly criticized him and his sunshine policy. Bush and his advisers--especially Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld--decided not only to isolate North Korea, in the hopes that its regime would crumble, but also to ignore South Korea, in hopes that its next election would restore a conservative.

Bush was the naïve one, it turned out. Kim Jong-il survived U.S. pressures. And Kim Dae Jung was replaced by Roh Moo Hyun, a populist who ran on a campaign that was not only pro-sunshine but also anti-American. Relations were soured further by Bush's 2002 State of the Union Address, in which he tagged North Korea, Iran, and Iraq as an "axis of evil." A month later, in February, Bush made his first trip to Seoul. James Kelly, his assistant secretary of state for Asian affairs, went in advance to set up the meeting. Pritchard, who accompanied Kelly, recalls, "The conversation in the streets of Seoul was, 'Is there going to be a war? What will these crazy Americans do?' Roh said to us, 'I wake up in a sweat every morning, wondering if Bush has done something unilaterally to affect the [Korean] peninsula."

There was no reason to tie North Korea to Iraq and Iran except for rhetorical purposes and everyone interested in cooling things down in East Asia has suffered because of that.

Secondly, our ability to deal with regimes such as NK depends on our ability to rally support. Thus, our inability to move to the moral high ground damages those chances. This is directly related to John Quiggins' point.

Aside from that, you asked several questions. To take them one by one.
What is the connection [between US rhetoric and North Korean acts]? I don't see it at all.

I don't believe that NK is making declarations at random. They are clearly responding to their interpretation of US actions. When Bush announces that regime change is a policy of the US, NK began to up the rhetoric and when confronted by US negotiators that they had broken the agreed framework, they said yes, and they *may* have nuclear weapons. (In fact, some have speculated that China's sanguine reaction suggests that the North Koreans overstated, which is why China has been in no particular hurry to rein them in) To believe that there is no connection between US rhetoric/actions and NK positions makes it impossible to have any discussion on this and if that's the case, let me know, and I'll stop trying.

What in the world is this sentence [that the US bears some responsibility for the current state of the NPT so withdrawing is irresponsible) meant to imply?

While I don't want to engage in speculation that the administration purposely allowed Bolton to bungle the review of the NPT, thus making a stronger case for withdrawing, your call for withdrawing from the NPT presents no alternative option for dealing with proliferation, both of nuclear arms and fissile material. I don't believe it is possible to lock down our borders, so our refusal to work with other nations (unless you propose an alternative to the NPT, but how would it be enforced, who would decide, etc. etc.) would give us even less control over the situation than we have now.

On preview, you suggest that there is no need for an alternative, because the international community is uninterested in having one. Here is an Asahi symposium on the possibility of a nuclear free zone in Asia. However, the plan set out crucially depends on the US, China and Russia promising not to use nuclear arms in Northeast Asia. I think this passage bears noting

Okada (president of the DPJ): I think that the Japanese government tried (to make the latest NPT review conference a success). But we were not able to see the intentions of Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro. The U.S. attitude towards the CTBT, its development of small nuclear weapons, and its preference for unilateral actions or for conferring only with countries with the same ideas .... these will all adversely affect the United States in the long term. But the Japanese government was unable to persuade the United States of the long-term effects of its stance.

You also asked:
Huh?

I'm not really sure what exactly was unclear, so I have to go back to what you said that prompted my comment and try to restate it.

But that still doesn't explain why we have to actually be involved in holding up one of the most evil regimes in the world. If they are going to get nuclear weapons anyway, and if China and North Korea won't let them collapse, why are we involved at all? Withdraw the troops from South Korea and let them sort it out. South Korea makes huge public shows of not wanting us anyway. Withdraw to Japan and let South Korea and China deal with it. What are we gaining by being involved?

How can we make a plausible argument that we are interested in the freedom of South Koreans if we withdraw? While many South Koreans (and to a lesser extent, Japanese) have anti American feelings, to withdraw from the Korean penisula in the way you suggest is to confirm their suspicions. (Of course, one could say that this might be a good practice run for Iraq)

You later note:

I'm not suggesting we allow China to invade Japan. I'm not suggesting we allow China to invade South Korea. I'm suggesting that we don't troops as a tripwire in South Korea.

You seem to suggest that if NK turns Seoul into glass, they've got no one to blame but themselves. Given the rather precarious state of relations with SK and to a lesser extent with Japan, such a withdrawal would have a message far beyond the pettiness of telling the South Koreans 'we told you so' (if withdrawing troops and quitting the NPT has any other deeper meaning, I can't see it). It is quite possible that such an act would set the stage for a raproachement between the North and South in such a way as to serious push Korean interests to align with China. Or it may set up a future conflict with between the North and the South. Given that a state of war already exists between the US and North Korea, to remove the tripwire forces either means that we will allow the North to take the South, but retaliate, or we will stand ideally by as the South falls to the North.

Furthermore, it could set Japan on the road to becoming a nuclear power. Would we demand that Japan adhere to the NPT (that I presume we would no longer be a signatory to?)

You ask the question 'Why bother with North Korea?' But it was this administration which chose to put the spotlight on North Korea. Believe it or not, I would like to see a withdrawal of troops from not only South Korea, but also from Okinawa, but just because I think it is a good idea, that doesn't mean that I think it should take place at any old time. If it were to happen in the context of current events, it is difficult to imagine that the North Korean, not having the US to kick around anymore, would simply implode.

Unfortunately, as I noted earlier, we seem to disagree on basic facts. For instance, in your post, you quoted James Kelly citing Galluci. But James Kelly is the person who was famously noted (by Richard Armitage(!)) as acting towards the other 6 party members like an envoy of the former Soviet Union, always under surveillance and and unable to take any action on his own. That you cite him as a source on Galluci's opinion of the Agreed Framework makes me think that there is no way to reconcile your version of the AF with anyone else's here.

"Unfortunately, as I noted earlier, we seem to disagree on basic facts. For instance, in your post, you quoted James Kelly citing Galluci. But James Kelly is the person who was famously noted (by Richard Armitage(!)) as acting towards the other 6 party members like an envoy of the former Soviet Union, always under surveillance and and unable to take any action on his own.That you cite him as a source on Galluci's opinion of the Agreed Framework makes me think that there is no way to reconcile your version of the AF with anyone else's here."

This is just a fallacious attack. The text of the Agreed Framework agrees with me and the reports at the time (including what Carter reported at the time) agree with me. The fact that you don't like one of my cites doesn't change any of that. Furthermore the idea that he couldn't act on his own is not logically linked to his ability to understand the agreement. The Agreed Framework re-ratified the obligations of North Korea under both the NPT and Joint Statement on a Nuclear Free Peninsula. North Korea has blatantly violated those obligations on a regular basis.

"Furthermore, it could set Japan on the road to becoming a nuclear power"

This is why talking with you is so frustrating. You are willing to advocate the path of no action against North Korea as it becomes a nuclear power, and then use worrys about Japan becoming a nuclear power to try to attack my arguments. If every bomb that Japan got decreased the chance of North Korea getting a nuclear bomb by 1%, I would give them 100 nuclear weapons tomorrow. Worrying about Japan becoming a nuclear power is orders of magnitude less important than North Korea becoming one. Worrying about what a friendly and reasonable regime becoming a nuclear power would do to the integrity of the NPT while one of the most sick, crazy and evil regimes out there gets nuclear weapons with hardly a peep from the international community shows a very odd sense of perspective.

Furthermore at least two of your points suggest I am advocating withdrawing from the NPT. Who said anything about doing that? I am talking about not being the only party trying to enforce it. If our every non-bombing effort to enforce it is going to be stopped by the international community--and it is--the NPT is not enforceable. Therefore we should not waste good-will and the lives of our soldiers trying to do the impossible by trying to enforce it. We can take that on a case by case basis, but North Korea is the clearest case. It is clearly in violation. It has been clearly a violator off and on for more than a decade. The international community doesn't want to do anything about it and in fact wants to obstruct US efforts. Fine. We can't enforce it against North Korea, let other do so. They won't. North Korea will be a public nuclear power and non-proliferation will no longer be a big deal because everyone will know how to game the system that no one wants to enforce. We can go back to the dangerous MAD concept which liberals loved so much in the 1970s and 1980s.

I'm not interested in that outcome, but if the US is the main country interested in non-proliferation that is the inevitable near-term outcome. The problem is that no other strong country is willing to take even minor non-talkie steps toward non-proliferation against any of the major proliferation threats. The US could completely de-nuclearize and that would not change the proliferation problem in any significant amount. Your repeated focus on the shortcomings of the US makes it impossible to deal with the problem because the US is currently the only strong non-proliferation actor. All the other strong powers are not acting against proliferation. That makes non-proliferation impossible. I see no method of non-proliferation which can be sustained without the international community being willing to take action. For the past 20 years the international community (France and China especially) has been more willing to block non-proliferation action than help us with it.

This isn't a function of the Bush administration because the exact same thing was happening under the Clinton administration. And I'm not blamind Clinton. It isn't his fault. It is the fecklessness of the international community that is at fault. And until that changes, we can only have unilateral non-proliferation action. Until that changes, we are boxed in to military action or non-action. Since military action would lead to the end of Seoul, and since diplomatic action is not functionally supported by the other powers, non-action is the remaining option. And if we are going to not act toward non-proliferation, we don't need soldiers in South Korea, we don't need to pay Mr. Kim to murder hundreds of thousands and we don't need to protect China from North Korea. We can keep Roh from needing to wake up in a sweat wondering if we caused a war in Korea by letting him deal with North Korea. If so much international good-will is lost everytime we act, why not let South Korea play bad cop instead of us?

"If it were to happen in the context of current events, it is difficult to imagine that the North Korean, not having the US to kick around anymore, would simply implode."

Quite possibly not. They might even be emboldened to make war-like threats against South Korea. Why is that our problem again? Are we supposed to be the enforcers of world peace? We can support, but why take the lead when support for us is so rarely forthcoming and when it is far less in our direct national interest to do so? The international community can't have it both ways. Either we are the enforcer, we put up the money for military infrastructure, we have our soldiers die, and we get to make the decisions or they get way more involved and get to be way more involved in the decisions.

We are engaged in a nasty feedback loop. Lack of international action in crucial areas forces us to act unilaterally or let things (like the NPT) fall apart. (See especially the insistance of the world that we engage in bilateral talks with North Korea). This spurs even less cooperation for multilateral action. The only way out of that loop (from the US side as of course other major countries could step up to their obligations as a way out of the loop) is for the US to refuse to act as an enforcer for issues that will effect other country's interests much more than ours. North Korea is a clear case. If they get nuclear weapons, South Korea and China are much more in danger. North Korea currently has missiles that could deliver nuclear payloads to Seoul within minutes and against China and Japan very quickly. If we remove our troops we have no direct interest. If we tell North Korea that a nuclear bomb hitting a US city from terrorists will cause their regime to end in a fiery mushroom cloud we can probably feel far more secure than South Korea, Japan or China. So let them enforce non-proliferation, and offer support if they do but don't take the lead. If this leads to proliferation, we couldn't have stopped it without them anyway. If it causes them to step up to the plate, it was totally necessary for successful non-proliferation anyway. We can focus on Iran, which is much more likely to have links with terrorists anyway. And if Iran gets a bomb we can make the same counter-strike threat against them--but only for ourselves. Nuclear bombs exploding in other countries can be analyzed on a case by case basis but not in a guaranteed nuclear retaliation situation.

This is not the scenario I desire. But being willing to go down that path is almost certainly the only way we are going to get the international community involved enough in their own protection to make non-proliferation possible.

Or do you see evidence of strong international action that I have missed?

Note: this is not 'making the world more dangerous'. It is exposing the fact that unenforced treaties are only masking the dangerousness of the world. It exposes the fact that the US cannot be the sole guarantor of peace in the world without either bringing the world into an actual US Empire or by getting serious cooperation from other countries.

Again, Sebastian, I'm sorry we are at loggerheads. However, this point

Furthermore at least two of your points suggest I am advocating withdrawing from the NPT. Who said anything about doing that?

You did

But if no-one wants to take the NPT seriously enough to stop North Korea from getting nukes, and if it is as inevitable as people above claim, why not just withdraw? What is the advantage we gain? We can't blockade the ships which will trade the nukes anyway without starting the war we cannot start.

I apologize if I misread this, but apparently, I was not the only one.

I also apologize if you feel it was unfair to take issue with Kelly's interpretation of Galluci's opinion, though in the streamed lecture that I linked to Galluci is pretty clear that the text of the Agreed Framework is not some clear document that provides bright lines. It is simply a tool to try and move things along or at least prevent the worst case from happening. That we find ourselves at precisely the place we were at the end of the Agreed Framework, except we have even less certainity about what NK has I take as strong proof that the Agreed Framework was the best route for dealing with NK. You have made your feelings for the Agreed Framework obvious, so I would guess that you would argue that it would not really matter what the Bush administration did and again, on that point, we have to disagree.

"why not just withdraw?"

Sorry I was unclear. Withdraw from South Korea. Withdraw from dealing with North Korea. Not withdraw from the NPT.

Do you think that the international community (non-US portions) will take non-proliferation seriously anytime in the near future? Do you believe that it is doing so now?

I do. Every nation has a stake in preventing it's neighbours from gaining nuclear weapons, it almost goes without saying.

Again, I believe you are mischaracterizing the position of other nations simply because they have not adopted the tactics of the Bush Administration...whatever that may be.

Do you think that the international community (non-US portions) will take non-proliferation seriously anytime in the near future? Do you believe that it is doing so now?

In all seriousness: do you think the US is doing so now? Not talking about non-proliferation, mind, but actively taking measures to prevent it?

Er, prevent proliferation. Further non-proliferation. You get my drift.

And that's a key point too, Anarch. Every nation is interested in non-proliferation. It's just, as time goes by, becoming exceptionally difficult to achieve. Most nations have achieved a level of technological self-sufficiency that embargos and disengagements are no longer viable.

Again, apologies for misunderstanding that. As I said, I support withdrawal, but doing it at this point in time (rather than immediately after 9-11 and not publically calling out the NK regime) would be less a reassurance to NK than a rebuke to South Korea (which I think is how you are describing it) It is also important to note that immediately after the 9-11 attacks, the the Korean News Service (official press organ of NK and therefore an accurate reflector of government positions) called the 9-11 acts of terrorism and said that North Korea “is opposed to all forms of terrorism" and immediately signed two U.N. antiterrorism conventions. I raise this not to cry over spilt milk, but to note that if we continue to treat NK with unalloyed hostility (regardless how despicable we find its government) we are doing no one any favors.

Do you think that the international community (non-US portions) will take non-proliferation seriously anytime in the near future? Do you believe that it is doing so now?

I think that is a separate question from what to do in North Korea. Since we agree that the NPT remains the only mechanism for dealing with non-proliferation, we now can present ideas that would make a difference. From my viewpoint, it is the US that is in the best position to take steps. Obviously, paying attention to the 5 year reviews would be a good start. Not using our influence and political capital to try and have the head of the IAEA replaced would be another good start, especially given that El Baradei proposed 7 very commonsense augmentations to the NPT. The most practical were a 5 year morotorium on new enrichment and separation facilities, speed up the conversion of research reactors, establish additional protocol to increase the ability of IAEA inspectors to verify compliance, and call on the 5 recognized nuclear powers to accelerate implementation of nuclear disarmament. All of these steps require the active participation of the US.

The US could support the NAC resolutions that were supported by all countries except the US, UK, France (cf. John Quiggin), Israel and Latvia (NATO states Germany, Belgium, Norway, and the Netherlands, after previously abstaining, also voted in support) (I'm not positive the above link gets to the final wording, but the whole process of the NAC indicates that the international community is a lot more serious about non-proliferation than you give them credit for.)

The US could reconsider the withdrawl from the ABM treaty that sidetracked START II as well as taking to heart the 13 steps in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. US officials could stop making statements like this

We think it is a mistake to use strict adherence to the 13 steps as the only means by which NPT parties can fulfill their Article VI obligations. It is…important not to confuse the political consensus reflected by the 2000 Final Document with the legally binding obligations of the Treaty itself.

The US could also reconsider its revisions to Nuclear Strike Plans.

What exactly could the international community do to match the impact of these kinds of US steps? If there isn't anything, then it seems a bit off complaining that the international community is not doing enough.

There are a number of internal and regional considerations that are very interesting, but they can only be taken into account if the US wants a realistic resolution (i.e. something other than regime change)

"What exactly could the international community do to match the impact of these kinds of US steps? If there isn't anything, then it seems a bit off complaining that the international community is not doing enough."

Most of your suggestions are about strengthening the language the treaties. The international community isn't committed to enforce the pathetically weak language we have now. Almost any increase in commitment to enforce would be vastly better than super-serious changes in language which continue to not be enforced. So your examples of what the US should don't match that at all:

The most practical were a 5 year morotorium on new enrichment and separation facilities, speed up the conversion of research reactors, establish additional protocol to increase the ability of IAEA inspectors to verify compliance, and call on the 5 recognized nuclear powers to accelerate implementation of nuclear disarmament. All of these steps require the active participation of the US.

No new enrichment facilities? Nice rule. What do we do about people who ignore the rule?

Nothing.

Speed up the conversion of research reactors? What do we do now if countries misuse reactors or improperly take fuel which is allegedly under UN control?

Nothing.

Establish additional protocol to increase the ability of IAEA inspectors to verify compliance? But if countries don't agree to inspectors?

Nothing.

If countries violate the new protocols what happens?

Nothing.

Why nothing? Is it because the US wants nothing? No. If the international community turned those nothings into something (much less a substantial something) it would be far more beneficial to the cause of non-proliferation than adding further 'commitments' which aren't going to be enforced. Nearly everything you want the US to do is like that, or an irrelevancy like below. Violate the CTBT? What will happen if North Korea or Iran does? Nothing.

Call on the 5 recognized nuclear powers to accelerate implementation of nuclear disarmament? I've dealt with that one above. Not a single person above (or anywhere I've seen) has attempted to argue that reducing our nuclear weapons (even to nothing) would decrease the strategic advantage of Iran or North Korea obtaining nuclear weapons. Logically doing so would increase the strategic advantage to them. If you want to keep making that argument, I wish you would respond to my fairly strong logical objection to it. That is obviously also my response to the NAC.

The case of Iraq is instructive. Despite that fact that Iraq had already fooled international inspectors until just after the first Gulf War, and despite the fact that inspectors had not been allowed in the country for four years, and despite the fact that inspectors were unable to leave their hotels and actually inspect before that, and despite the fact that Iraq had invaded Kuwait and remained in violation of a the ceasefire agreement by obstructing inspectors, and despite the fact that the very same ruler who masterminded all of that was still in power, Russia and France and Germany were clamoring for an end to sanctions in early 2002 and did not even push for mere inspections until Bush had the Marines practically on the beach already. That is a lack of commitment to acting on the process of non-proliferation and it continues in all of the rather less obvious cases.

2shoes, in response to "Most nations have achieved a level of technological self-sufficiency that embargos and disengagements are no longer viable" I would merely note that neither of the two most important current worries in proliferation are in a position to be immune to embargos or disengagement. So it may be true as a general concept, but it doesn't apply in the important cases before us.

North Korea is already the most isolated nation on Earth, yet they still developed the bomb.

And Iran too, like dozens of nations around the globe, has the intellectual capital to proceed to nuclear weaponry regardless of what action we take. Military or otherwise.

North Korea couldn't survive if the Chinese didn't give away oil in the pipeline.

I think we (and I take blame for not figuring this out sooner) are conflating the specific case of North Korea and the general procedure of how we work on non-proliferation. Given that hard cases make bad law, I think arguing about the particular case of NK as it relates to the NPT carries the same kind of problems. I think the same point can be made in regard to Iraq. I also think it is a mistake to assume that North Korea and Iraq represent two tokens of the same type.

I think we agree that the NPT has no enforcement mechanism, so it seems obvious to me that a consensus must be built about building in some sort of enforcement mechanisms. The first step is working on the language of the NPT. You may argue that even after such language is inserted, there will still be no international will to move towards some enforcement mechanism, but since you are arguing that we shouldn't withdraw from the NPT, I'm not sure why you think this is the case.

Also, to say that actively working towards such a goal is logically refuted by the case of NK is to take a unique geopolitical and historic situation and apply it as a universal.

To respond to your argument that North Korea (I leave out Iraq because I am not as familiar with the precise timeline and events) has a strategic advantage and all of the NPTing in the world won't change that (if that is an unfair restatement, please correct it), the obvious answer is that we have to provide NK with an incentive that reassures them and is more valuable than the strategic advantage they now accrue and this is so clearly outside the bounds of the NPT that it makes no sense to discuss the two as being linked. Giving NK an incentive means rejecting regime change as a possible option in all public statements and making sure that our actual actions don't contradict this. That would be a bitter pill to swallow for this admin, but China and to a lesser extent, South Korea are not going to accept regime change. To have China stop delivering oil and South stor delivering no strings humanitarian aid means that we have to get China and South Korea to agree to regime change and this is an impossibility.

In this sense, your proposal that we simply withdraw from the South has a kernel of plausibility. However, all of the reassurances that the North wants are ones that only the US is in a position to give. It would certainly be meaningless for China to promise that the US will do or not do certain things. It would also be highly unrealistic to imagine the Chinese or South Koreans accepting regime change as an appropriate course of action.

I don't understand why you think the strategic advantage of having nuclear weapons would be a unique situation held only by North Korea. Any time a weaker conventional force gets nuclear weapons they gain a huge strategic advantage. That is true almost anywhere. That is why Iraq sought nuclear weapons in the late 1980s and why Iran seeks them now. What is unique about that?

I think we agree that the NPT has no enforcement mechanism, so it seems obvious to me that a consensus must be built about building in some sort of enforcement mechanisms. The first step is working on the language of the NPT. You may argue that even after such language is inserted, there will still be no international will to move towards some enforcement mechanism, but since you are arguing that we shouldn't withdraw from the NPT, I'm not sure why you think this is the case.

If the international community cannot be counted on for the enforcement for a non-strict NPT why in the world do you think they would be willing to be up for the enforcement of a strict NPT? A strict NPT would cover more cases and fuzzier cases. If a country can't be bothered to enforce the few clear cases why would it be interested in getting involved with a greater number of less clear cases?

I don't understand why you think the strategic advantage of having nuclear weapons would be a unique situation held only by North Korea. Any time a weaker conventional force gets nuclear weapons they gain a huge strategic advantage. That is true almost anywhere. That is why Iraq sought nuclear weapons in the late 1980s and why Iran seeks them now. What is unique about that?

I don't believe that the strategic advantage is a given, because we are currently dealing with only two countries as problems. If it were simply a question of strategic advantage, we might see Burma or Vietnam, or Indonesia or even South American states moved up to the NPT line, developing a research reactor that would then produce enough fissile material to easily ramp up and make a bomb.

If a country can't be bothered to enforce the few clear cases why would it be interested in getting involved with a greater number of less clear cases?

No country can enter the case of North Korea without falling on one side or the other. The NAC proposals, for example, demonstrated a way for countries (notably Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden, who composed the initial 'Middle Powers' group) to enter into the debate. Unfortunately, entering in on the US side would most likely entail the US not taking criticisms about US measures seriously.

On a side note, I would observe that your last comment is essentially three questions and reviewing your other posts, they are likewise full of questions. I realize that you get frustrated, with me especially, but if you would rephrase these points as observations, such as "I disagree with your position because I think that the strategic advantage that any country gains when they are able to develop nuclear arms is unavoidable," (or however you would like to phrase your observation if that doesn't cover it) you might avoid some of that frustration.

"No country can enter the case of North Korea without falling on one side or the other. The NAC proposals, for example, demonstrated a way for countries (notably Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden, who composed the initial 'Middle Powers' group) to enter into the debate. Unfortunately, entering in on the US side would most likely entail the US not taking criticisms about US measures seriously."

No, the really unfortunate thing is that it would not involve taking crticism of North Korea and Iran seriously.

And as far as a strategic advantage, I mean a strategic advantage in war. Countries that don't worry much about being in a war don't worry much about getting nuclear weapons.

Thanks for taking the time to reply and apologies from me, I've been away for a bit. Since this post is moving out of sight, I'll simply pass on this link by the State Department's senior Korean language interpreter, which I think will be of interest regardless of your viewpoint.

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