What That Accord Really Says

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The six-nation talks on ending North Korea's nuclear programs yielded their first accomplishment last week after two years of discussions -- a joint statement of "principles" to guide future talks. The document is a classic example of diplomacy, where words are used to hide disagreements or defer outstanding problems. Within a day, North Korea and the United States were arguing over what it meant. Here is a guide to the verbiage.

-- Glenn Kessler, Post diplomatic correspondent

For the cause of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia at large, the Six Parties held, in the spirit of mutual respect and equality , serious and practical talks concerning the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula on the basis of the common understanding of the previous three rounds of talks, and agreed, in this context, to the following:

Translation: North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, insists that it is the equal of the United States, so here the United States acknowledges its respect for a country headed by a man whom President Bush has said he loathes.

1. The Six Parties unanimously reaffirmed that the goal of the Six-Party Talks is the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.

Translation: This is not only about North Korea, but also about the American nuclear umbrella over South Korea. It appears to give the North Koreans wiggle room to insist on reciprocal inspections of South Korean facilities.

The DPRK committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA safeguards.

Translation: The U.S. goal had been an agreement on dismantling all facilities. "Abandoning" suggests that something less than full dismantlement can take place before the goodies flow to Pyongyang. The United States also has demanded that North Korea admit that it has a clandestine uranium enrichment program in addition to a plutonium facility. But the U.S. side accepted something less than that -- a plural reference to "programs."

The United States affirmed that it has no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and has no intention to attack or invade the DPRK with nuclear or conventional weapons.

Translation: It sounds unambiguous -- "no intention" -- but it's actually a compromise. North Korea wants security guarantees, but the United States won't give up all options. The U.S. side refused to accept North Korea's preferred phrase, "no hostile intent." After all, North Korea is one of three countries that formed Bush's "axis of evil."

The ROK [Republic of Korea, the formal name for South Korea] reaffirmed its commitment not to receive or deploy nuclear weapons in accordance with the 1992 Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, while affirming that there exist no nuclear weapons within its territory. The 1992 Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula should be observed and implemented .

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