North Korea verification reaches "principled consensus"

The system to verify the disarming of the DPRK’s nuclear arsenal reached a “principled consensus” among the six nations involved.  No one would divulge any details, but an agreement on verification would strengthen the previous agreement by Pyongyang to end its nuclear programs, which resulted in the earlier destruction of its Yongbyon reactor:

The six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear program reached a “principled consensus” on how to verify the information in Pyongyang’s nuclear declaration submitted last month, Chinese officials said in a Xinhua report.

The top U.S. negotiator said Saturday’s session would focus on preparing for the next phase of talks.

The six-party talks, which had been on hold for the last nine months, resumed in Beijing Thursday after several perceived positive developments in efforts to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program.

“We did have a good set of meetings yesterday,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said. “We went through all the issues that we really wanted to go through, except to have an expanded discussion on what could be the scope for this next phase.”

Verification is the key, as it was during the late Cold War period in disarmament talks with the Soviets.  The previous Agreed Framework mostly ignored verification, allowing Kim Jong-Il an opening to maintain his development of nuclear weapons.  Any aid delivered to the DPRK has to follow from verified actions in disarming its nukes and dismantling its development programs.

For one member of the talks, it will take more than that.  Japan still insists, and rightly so, on a full accounting of their citizens kidnapped by the DPRK over the last several decades.  Kim’s regime and that of his father abducted Japanese men and women for intelligence gathering, 17 of them according to Tokyo.  Five have been returned to Japan, and Kim says the other twelve died — but has not given enough information yet to satisfy Japan.  Kim agreed to start a new investigation into the abductions, but until North Korea satisfies Japan, Tokyo refuses to give any aid to Pyongyang.

The Bush administration lifted some sanctions on North Korea, leaving others in place, as a sign of cooperation.  A reliable verification system should allow for even more easing of tensions between the US and the DPRK.  However, we should not lose sight of the fact that the DPRK is still a Stalinist dictatorship with or without nukes, and our long-term goal should be to free the North Koreans from their oppressors, not to dance cheek-to-cheek with the Stalinists.  Disarming North Korea of its nukes peacefully would be a tremendous victory for the US and its partners, but it’s not the end of the issue.