Kim comes clean

Kim Jong-Il has finally handed over his declaration of nuclear activities to China, which will share it with the rest of the six-nation partnership that has attempted for years to disarm North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.   The declaration included the plutonium development that the US had suspected Pyongyang of conducting in parallel with its uranium enrichment program.  Kim will also destroy its Yongbyon plant tomorrow in anticipation of the DPRK’s removal from the American list of terrorist-sponsoring states:

North Korea has submitted its long-awaited nuclear program declaration to China, as part of an agreement to remove itself from a U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism.

North Korea handed over the declaration to officials from China, which led the six-nation talks that hammered out the conditions of the agreement.

The declaration is expected to contain details on North Korea’s plutonium stockpile. North Korea will also continue preparations to publicly dismantle a controversial nuclear reactor — key steps meant to assuage international concerns about nuclear activity in the usually secretive Communist nation.

The White House welcomed the declaration.

“Multilateral diplomacy is the best way to peacefully resolve the nuclear issue,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. “North Korea should seize this moment of opportunity to restore its relationship with the international community.”

If the declaration is truly comprehensive, then the Bush administration has won a significant battle against proliferation.  Despite its reputation for unilateralism, the White House demonstrated tenacity in its multilateral approach while its critics insisted on direct talks with Pyongyang.  Bush understood that the previous Agreed Framework failed in large part because the previous administration cut China and Japan out of the loop, and China especially is necessary for keeping pressure on Kim.  Kim had no problem reneging on a deal with the US, but the addition of all the regional actors in this process forced him to negotiate honestly — even if that took a while.

The next step will be a review period that will last 45 days, during which inspectors will check the accuracy of the declaration.   Once verified, the six-party group will begin delivering food aid and energy supplies, both desperately needed by the DPRK.  Eventually, if all goes according to plan, the US will quarterback nuclear power plants of a type that does not produce material suitable for bombs, and will try to work towards a final resolution of the Korean War, which has never officially ended.

If all of this takes place, it shows that multilateral pressure can work to disarm a rogue nuclear state — but only as long as its leadership is rational.  Kim Jong-Il may be a strange man with strange habits, but he doesn’t believe that a Twelfth Imam would walk down a road to Pyongyang at the apex of an Armageddon to put him in charge of the world.  Kim wants to survive and remain in power himself, and the global community finally cut off all of the props for power as a means to get him to acquiesce.  Iran is a much different story, but if the world would act in a similar manner, rational actors in Tehran might rise to the occasion as well.

This looks like a tremendous victory for George Bush, perhaps the last one he’ll have as President.  When Iraq fully stabilizes, he will probably be in Crawford, having the last laugh.