The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2007

30 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U LY- A U G U S T 2 0 0 7 all it the shock of recognition. It took a nuclear test to put the United States back on the road to reconciliation with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — the only road to disarming that Pyongyang might be persuaded to take. In a commendable about-face last October, President Bush accepted North Korea’s longstanding offer to sus- pend its production of plutonium by shutting down and sealing its reactor, reprocessing plant and a factory to fabricate fuel rods, halt construction of a larger reactor and allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to verify these moves. In doing so, Bush rejected the counsel of the “irrecon- cilables” in Washington and took his first steps toward ending enmity with Pyongyang. He authorized U.S. neg- otiator Christopher Hill to meet directly with his DPRK counterpart in Beijing and Berlin; promised to free up suspect North Korean hard-currency accounts in a Macao bank; supported the resumption of shipments of heavy fuel oil suspended in 2002; promised a meeting between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and North Korean Foreign Minister Park Ui-chun; and pledged to relax sanctions under the Trading with the Enemy Act and take Pyongyang off the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Bush thus put the brakes on a North Korean nuclear program that had threatened to set off an arms race in Northeast Asia, erode U.S. alliances in the region and jeopardize his most significant foreign policy achieve- ment — continued accommodation with China. Unrestrained nuclear arming would intensify pres- sure from right-wing Republicans, who want to confront China for not bringing North Korea to its knees. It would also sow doubts in Tokyo and Seoul as to whether they can rely on Washington for their security. That could revive nuclear ambitions in Japan and set off an arms race with China and Korea. Washington can coax Pyongyang farther down the road to disarmament by sustaining direct diplomatic give-and-take. By negotiating as Clinton once did, Bush legitimated deal-making with North Korea as a biparti- san foreign policy, making it easier for his successor to follow in his footsteps. Irreconcilables like John Bolton and Robert Joseph, who had long fought to prevent Amb. Hill from meeting, let alone negotiating, with the North, immediately pounced on the deal. They argued that it failed to stop Pyongyang’s uranium enrichment program, dismantle its plutonium facilities, or deal with the seven-to-nine bombs’ worth of plutonium the North is believed to have. Yet delaying a freeze to seek a more demanding deal would have given Pyongyang time to generate plutoni- um for additional nuclear devices, adding to its bargain- F O C U S O N N O N P R O L I F E R A T I O N T URNABOUT I S F AIR P LAY W ASHINGTON HAS PUT THE BRAKES ON N ORTH K OREA ’ S NUCLEAR PROGRAM BY OPTING FOR TALKS . B Y L EON V. S IGAL C