North Korea kick-starting Yongbyon

posted at 10:45 am on September 24, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

The Bush administration may have one of its foreign-policy victories slipping through its fingers.  Less than three months after destroying the vent at its Yongbyon nuclear reactor, the North Koreans have kicked out IAEA inspectors and started work on rebuilding its breeder system.  Pyongyang has rejected the deal that had them on the brink of denuclearization:

North Korea has expelled U.N. monitors from its plutonium-making nuclear plant and plans to start reactivating it next week, rowing back from a 2007 deal to scrap its atomic bomb program, officials said on Wednesday.

The Stalinist state said on Friday it was working to restart the Yongbyon atomic complex it had been dismantling since last November under a disarmament-for-aid agreement with five powers.

Olli Heinonen, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s head of non-proliferation safeguards, told a closed meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors that monitors were forced to leave the plutonium facility this week.

“There are no more seals and surveillance equipment in place at the (plutonium) reprocessing facility,” IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said, referring to the most proliferation-sensitive installation at Yongbyon.

How long will it take to reactivate Yongbyon?  The IAEA says it will take several months, but they won’t be around to check the progress.  Not only did Kim Jong-Il kick them out, but the DPRK has removed all of the IAEA surveillance equipment as well.  Even the Iranians didn’t go that far in repudiating the UN agency and its jurisdiction.

What could this mean?  It may just be a negotiating ploy.  Kim was incensed when the Bush administration refused to immediately remove North Korea from the terrorist-supporting-nations list, which severely restricts its ability to sell arms internationally.  American negotiators asked Pyongyang to be patient and to comply with the rest of the agreement to get removed from that list, but Kim has other ideas.  He may also want a better deal for energy, especially heating fuel, with winter fast approaching.

The other possibility is that Kim is no longer in charge, and the military wants to keep its nukes.  That seems unlikely, as the military has to understand that it would never withstand a war with the other forces in the six-party talks, but we know little about the military leadership of the DPRK.  Are they rational, or are they even more delusional than Kim Jong-Il?

We should get some of these answers in the next few weeks.  The rebuilding time for Yongbyon will undoubtedly be filled with diplomatic efforts to get North Korea back into the agreement, perhaps with more fuel oil and lowered sanctions as a carrot.  That should give everyone a look at who is running the shop in Pyongyang, and what that means for engagement in the Hermit Kingdom.

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

What is the UN going to do?

PappaMac on September 24, 2008 at 10:49 AM

Maybe Larry King needs to invite them over for a chat. Maybe God is telling them to rebuild their nukes?

kirkill on September 24, 2008 at 10:51 AM

Kim’s dead? New guy wants a better deal?

danking70 on September 24, 2008 at 10:51 AM

Fool me once shame one you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

How many times will N. Korea pull this stunt before the rest of the world wises up?

MarkTheGreat on September 24, 2008 at 10:52 AM

John Bolton on North Korea

Money quote: “I don’t think North Korea is ever going to voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons.”

Yay for diplomacy!

420sniper on September 24, 2008 at 10:53 AM

McCain takes hand off the bible and orders air strikes.

marklmail on September 24, 2008 at 10:55 AM

What is the UN going to do?

PappaMac on September 24, 2008 at 10:49 AM

The usual: a series of emergency meetings, issue some tersely worded letters, and condemn Israel…

elgeneralisimo on September 24, 2008 at 10:56 AM

The Bush administration may have one of its foreign-policy victories blunders slipping through its fingers coming home to roost.

Fixed your lede, Ed.

Many people understood that Bush was being bamboozled by Li’l Kim from Day One. But of course Bush has a habit of not listening to people who say things he doesn’t want to hear.

But at least Bush tried to make the negotiating process look tough. Osama Obama will simply cave in on Day One.

MrScribbler on September 24, 2008 at 10:57 AM

I get the feeling it’s a delaying tactic to push for a better deal. Can you imagine how excited the N. Korean’s must be at the thought of an Obama Presidency.

BadgerHawk on September 24, 2008 at 10:59 AM

Time once again for Kafir’s plan for regime change in North Korea:

Drop crates around the countryside of North Korea.

In the crates, pack food, arms, and a high explosive.

Include a note on where, when, and how to place the explosive. Promise another crate if the explosive destroys the target.

A well-fed, well-armed, raging insurgency is something the Norks cannot defeat.

Kafir on September 24, 2008 at 11:00 AM

They want a nuclear weapon.

Give them one – in a bunker buster at Yongbyon.

Right_of_Attila on September 24, 2008 at 11:01 AM

Kim wants a nuke? Tell we deliver.

Puritan1648 on September 24, 2008 at 11:03 AM

We should drop a few bombs on that facility. Kim will come back to the table real fast.

GarandFan on September 24, 2008 at 11:06 AM

A prime example of why we should have “open dialogue” with two-bit dictators. I suspect a cruise missile would do more in shutting down the reactor.

TooTall on September 24, 2008 at 11:08 AM

Pelosi needs to get over there ASAP,
and straighten this mess out!!(Sarc)haha.

canopfor on September 24, 2008 at 11:09 AM

Hey, yeah, let’s bomb N. Korea. Then they can roll over our guys sitting right below the DMZ, who are little more than a tripwire and don’t have anywhere near the numbers neccessary to fight a full N. Korean invasion.

Killer.

BadgerHawk on September 24, 2008 at 11:10 AM

No biggy. Obama’s community organizer skills will sort it out.

LimeyGeek on September 24, 2008 at 11:12 AM

WHY does nobody listen to Stache?!

lodge on September 24, 2008 at 11:12 AM

BadgerHawk on September 24, 2008 at 11:10 AM

I suspect we’d get an object lesson in how fast you can kill a tin-pot million-man army.

LimeyGeek on September 24, 2008 at 11:13 AM

STOP ALL AID YESTERDAY!

jukin on September 24, 2008 at 11:15 AM

Doesn’t sound good.

Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee just voted in favor of the US nuclear deal with India. The House and Senate now have to pass it, so the president can finally sign it.

CP on September 24, 2008 at 11:20 AM

BadgerHawk, I’m betting that if they did decide to bomb the reactor, the border force would be beefed up in advance.

JadeNYU on September 24, 2008 at 11:21 AM

I suspect we’d get an object lesson in how fast you can kill a tin-pot million-man army.

LimeyGeek on September 24, 2008 at 11:13 AM

Well yeah, we’d destroy them. But the 2ID, of which a half dozen of my friends are serving in, would be decimated in the process. Bombing N. Korea’s not really a realistic option.

BadgerHawk on September 24, 2008 at 11:22 AM

BadgerHawk, I’m betting that if they did decide to bomb the reactor, the border force would be beefed up in advance.

JadeNYU on September 24, 2008 at 11:21 AM

Look at a map. S. Korea’s capital is like 30 miles from the DMZ, along with an entire U.S. Infantry Division. I’m not saying we couldn’t bomb any N. Korean reactor we wanted to and defeat them militarily (both would be pretty easy). I’m just saying there would be a pretty significant loss of life on our side.

BadgerHawk on September 24, 2008 at 11:25 AM

Bombing N. Korea’s not really a realistic option.

BadgerHawk on September 24, 2008 at 11:22 AM

Perhaps. But it is fun to toy with.

LimeyGeek on September 24, 2008 at 11:25 AM

There is a good book out, Downfall, about the decision to use the bomb on Japan vs an invasion. It speaks about the mindset of the Japanese generals who ran the country. They felt that a pyrrhic battle against the US during an invasion would either make the US walk away, or at least allow them to save face. I have a feeling that Kim is indeed impaired, and that his politburo/generals are pulling the strings, and their mindset is similar to 1944-45 Japan.

Vashta.Nerada on September 24, 2008 at 11:32 AM

Anyone know what China is saying about this?

ThePrez on September 24, 2008 at 11:33 AM

But Ted Turner said they were reasonable people – - a little skinny, but nice.

Bush tried and Kim lied.

Rick on September 24, 2008 at 11:36 AM

Anyone know what China is saying about this?

ThePrez on September 24, 2008 at 11:33 AM

I’m sure the Politburo is having a good laugh.

CP on September 24, 2008 at 11:39 AM

John Bolton on North Korea

420sniper on September 24, 2008 at 10:53 AM

Doctor Know.

Shy Guy on September 24, 2008 at 11:40 AM

Pray.

pannw on September 24, 2008 at 11:41 AM

I think you are seeing another indication of what the Russians meant when they said their response to the missile defense deal in Poland would go beyond diplomacy. Add the invasion of Georgia and current operations in Venezuela to Russia’s probable encouragement and support of the reactor restart and there you have it. The NORKS probably wanted to refurbish the place anyway.

crosspatch on September 24, 2008 at 11:46 AM

I am at a loss for words to describe my suprise.

ronsfi on September 24, 2008 at 12:00 PM

crosspatch on September 24, 2008 at 11:46 AM

Also, the Russkies have been dealing with Iran – - in essence, encouraging their Nuke ambitions too.

Rick on September 24, 2008 at 12:10 PM

I am at a loss for words to describe my suprise.

ronsfi on September 24, 2008 at 12:00 PM

How about “none” ?

LimeyGeek on September 24, 2008 at 12:10 PM

Fool me once shame one you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

How many times will N. Korea pull this stunt before the rest of the world wises up?

MarkTheGreat on September 24, 2008 at 10:52 AM

Doesn’t matter, because we need always to talk to them and then they’ll realize that we mean them no harm, and they’ll beat their AK’s into plowshares.

fossten on September 24, 2008 at 12:11 PM

Turn up the sanctions. Hold on to your hats.

indythinker on September 24, 2008 at 12:49 PM

Wait a minute…didn’t we just give them a whole bunch of aid money?

scalleywag on September 24, 2008 at 12:53 PM

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2008/05/20080501-5.html

Why do we keep giving billions of dollars to countries run by feckless little despots?

scalleywag on September 24, 2008 at 12:58 PM

Crazy world.

baldilocks on September 24, 2008 at 12:59 PM

I remember reading two or three years ago that Yongbyon was decrepit and needed to be abandoned or given major rework. It may have been Bolton who said that. I think we just subsidized the second option.

It is a good thing he left. It wouldn’t do to have such an agnostic on the payroll.

burt on September 24, 2008 at 1:16 PM

Hey Ed, your article was interesting, but let me put out another reason why they have dones this:
the DPRK does not do anything without permission from the PRC first. They have always been and will always be a puppet for the PRC. The PRC enjoys having this antagonist in which it can yank the chain of the west, especially the USA.

paulsur on September 24, 2008 at 1:18 PM