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Far-Reaching U.S. Plan Impaired N. Korea Deal

Weeks after the Yongbyon nuclear complex's cooling tower was razed, the landmark effort to end North Korea's atomic program began to fall apart.
Weeks after the Yongbyon nuclear complex's cooling tower was razed, the landmark effort to end North Korea's atomic program began to fall apart. (By Gao Haorong -- New China News Agency Via Associated Press)
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Albright, a former weapons inspector in Iraq who reviewed the U.S. proposal for The Post, said it would be "completely unacceptable to any country's sovereignty" and amounted to "a verification wish list" and "a license to spy on any military site they have." He said Iraq agreed to such provisions in the 1990s only after it was bombed.

North Korea, in its declaration, listed about 15 nuclear facilities, including sites at Yongbyon and universities. An official involved in drafting the U.S. verification proposal, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations, said the plan was based on previous inspection proposals, such as the one that resulted in Libya giving up its weapons in 2003.

He said North Korea submitted a counterproposal in which it agreed to a number of U.S. demands but objected to two key elements -- visits to undeclared facilities and the taking of samples.

"Those are basic principles of verification," the official said. "I don't know what we could have done except say to the North Koreans, 'I believe you.' You can't just kick this can down the street."

Albright agreed that North Korea must concede on the taking of samples, which he called one of the most powerful tools inspectors have. "They have always been uptight about it," he said.

In August, the U.S. submitted a counterproposal that was somewhat more vague than the first plan but retained key elements. But in late August, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il suffered an apparent stroke. North Korean officials have not responded to the counterproposal.

Instead, the government has barred international inspectors and their surveillance equipment from the reactor site and indicated that within a week it would once again begin reprocessing spent fuel rods into weapons-grade plutonium.


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