Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Yonhap News ("P'YANG STRESSES POSSESSION OF NUCLEAR REACTOR IS ITS SOVREIGN RIGHT ", 2005-09-21) reported that DPRK's abandonment of its nuclear weapons program depends on the US' provision of light-water nuclear reactors, a pro-DPRK newspaper published in Tokyo said on Wednesday. Washington should provide Pyongyang with the nuclear reactors if it wants to see dismantlement of DPRK's atomic weapons, Chosun Sinbo said. "North Korea has already decided to abandon its nuclear program, and it will not backpedal on the commitment," it said. "Provision of a nuclear reactor to North Korea is not a gift from the US but Pyongyang's sovereign right to peaceful nuclear activities."
I think that we underestimate the symbolic significance of nuclear power to the DPRK at our peril. Given the rather glorious self-image that is part and parcel of the official DPRK ideology, it shouldn't be surprising that even if it is willing to give up nukes (obviously a rather large "if"), the DPRK might still cling to nuclear power as a sign of its great power status.


Inside the beltway here in Washington DC? Well yes. But also in Russia:
The Russian government and media welcomed the six-party agreement about North Korea's nuclear programs announced on September 19. Izvestiya even called it a breakthrough. Deputy Foreign Minister, Alexander Alexeyev, Russia's delegate to the talks, hailed it as an historic document that would have been unimaginable six months earlier and a triumph of common sense. Alexeyev also emphasized that the first paragraph of the accord calls upon the DPRK to denuclearize and rejoin the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime. He also added that while Russia will extend North Korea economic aid, primarily energy assistance, it would not offer a light-water nuclear reactor (LWR), which is what Pyongyang now demands as a precondition for denuclearization.
Other opinions are more varied. Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Duma's International Affairs Committee, emphasized Pyongyang's long record of unpredictability, whereas Major General Nikolai Bezborodov of the Duma Defense Committee openly supported North Korea's right to a peaceful nuclear program. But Russian media were more unrestrained in their assessments. Moscow Gazeta openly called this accord a victory for North Korea as it won guarantees of energy aid and security, even though it had to promise to renounce its nuclear program.

The government paper, Rossiiskaya gazeta, said that Pyongyang "won the battle of nerves" with Washington, forcing the U.S. to recognize its right to a peaceful nuclear program and to discuss supplying it with a light-water reactor and energy assistance. Washington also had to formally state that it had no intention of attacking North Korea and promise "to respect each other's sovereignty, to coexist peacefully, and to improve relations." These media outlets see the accord in this light despite the fact that they and other media, e.g., along with Moscow, observed that Pyongyang, by demanding a LWR as a precondition for denuclearizing, has reverted to its habitual nuclear blackmail of the other five parties and did so because North Korea remains a socialist state and its negotiators were accused of conceding too much in Beijing.
plus ca change

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