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    World Focus: The Cold Water North Korea Never Threw
    Posted on Wednesday, September 21 @ 19:52:54 UTC
    Topic: North Korea
    North KoreaBy Stephen Gowans, gowans.blogspot.com

    I first learned to distrust the press when I worked at a small grocery store in which a bomb had been planted and the ensuing newspaper stories got most everything wrong, including the names and ages of the people involved. Nineteen at the time, I was suddenly morphed into a mature 39.

    Later, I would occasionally come across newspaper stories about subjects I knew inside out and marvel at how astonishingly off the mark they were. "If they can be so wrong on this," I wondered, "how wrong can they be on everything else?"

    When my wife got sick and needed surgery, the surgeon railed against the media whenever my wife ventured to ask a medical question based on something she had read in newspapers. "Don't believe that crap," he'd thunder. "They never get it right."

    Yesterday, when I read about the DPRK (north Korea) agreeing to give up its nuclear weapons program, and today, when I read about Pyongyang "throwing cold water on the deal," I remembered all the times the reality of the media getting it wrong had hit me between the eyes.

    For the best that can be said about what the New York Times, Washington Post and LA Times wrote about the deal was that it was wrong. The worst is that it was wrong in a way that lined up with ruling class interests.

    According to the papers, north Korea has agreed to give up its nuclear weapons program, in return for security assurances from the US, the promise of normalizing relations, and energy assistance.

    The deal, inasmuch as it's a deal, was reached at the 11th hour in the latest round of six party talks, among Russia, China, south Korea, Japan, and the two principals, the US (which objects to north Korea's nuclear weapons program) and north Korea (which has a nuclear weapons program because US has threatened it with attack.)

    But what's being touted as an agreement is simply the principal parties committing to paper what they've insisted upon all along: in north Korea's case, that it's willing to give up its nuclear weapons program, if the US stops rattling its nuclear saber, and normalizes relations; and in the US's case, that it has no intention of attacking, and that north Korea must junk it nuclear weapons, rejoin the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and readmit international inspectors.

    The sticking point is "sequencing" -- will north Korea give up its nuclear weapons program first, or only after the US normalizes relations and provides a surrogate for the energy generated by the nuclear reactor that will have to be shut down as part of the deal?

    This is to be decided in future talks.

    But the position of the key parties is already known.

    The US wants north Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program now, in return for the US pledging to talk about normalized relations and energy assistance at some later date, while north Korea says it can't dismantle its nuclear weapons without relations being normalized and the energy lost by shutting down its nuclear facilities replaced.

    Yet, when Pyongyang said the US shouldn't dream of the Yongbyon reactor being shut down before a new (proliferation-resistant) light-water reactor had been built, newspapers said the deal was being scuttled by a duplicitous north Korea, though north Korea was only repeating what has been a long-held position.

    On the other hand, when the US restated one of its own long-standing positions – that a reactor to replace the Yongbyon facilities is "just not on" – the US wasn't said to be "throwing cold water on the deal," it was simply stating a reality that north Korea had to deal with.

    As a corrective to the chauvinist drivel that has made its way into the newspapers, I offer the following:

    There is nothing clandestine about north Korea's nuclear weapons program. It was established openly after north Korea withdrew from the NPT and in response to US nuclear saber rattling.

    The DPRK is said to be operating a clandestine uranium enrichment program, separate from its open plutonium program. Some newspapers present this as a matter of record, but there is no evidence that such a program exists and north Korea strenuously denies it. The only basis for the claim is an allegation by Washington. Washington also alleged that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

    The DPRK's demand for a light-water reactor is often portrayed as a demand for a reward, as if the north Korean nuclear weapons program was built as a bargaining chip to barter away for goodies. It was built as a means of making the US -- which declared north Korea part of an axis of evil and therefore eligible for regime change, and targets the country with nuclear weapons -- think twice about launching an attack.

    There is no acknowledgement that shutting down the Yongbyon reactor would have dire implications for a country already short of energy. Asking for a replacement source of energy as a precondition isn't negotiating trickery or a deal breaker – it's not only fair, but an absolute necessity.

    Some proposals have been made to tide over the DPRK's energy needs that would deny north Korea energy self-sufficiency. The Republic of Korea (south Korea), for example, has offered to string high-tension wires across its border with north Korea. These proposals cannot, for obvious reasons, be regarded with much interest in Pyongyang. They amount to, "You shut down your power plants and rely on ours."

    So why has Washington declared the compensatory construction of a light-water reactor -- which would offer north Korea some measure of energy self-sufficiency without much risk of proliferation – a non-starter?

    The official reason is that Pyongyang can't be trusted not to produce nuclear weapons. This is disingenuous. Light-water reactors are proliferation resistant. And north Korea would have to submit to inspections as a signatory to the NPT. It would be highly unlikely that a nuclear weapons program could be pursued under these conditions.

    On the other hand, were the DPRK denied a light-water reactor as compensation for shutting down a domestic source of energy, it would move one step closer to collapse – an outcome the US has long worked for. The collapse of the DPRK would leave the US free to dominate the Korean peninsula in its entirety, bringing the US military right up to China's borders.

    Consider sequencing. The US media thinks it's good enough to simply say this or that Washington proposal is non-negotiable, without asking why, as if Washington's non-negotiable points are forces of nature to be accepted unquestioningly and which all other countries must accommodate – or be crushed.

    But why would the DPRK dismantle its nuclear weapons program as a precondition of normalizing relations or receiving energy compensation? This is an obvious sucker's deal. Stand down your defenses and we'll talk about whether we'll attack.

    Whether north Korea pursues a nuclear weapons program is largely in US hands. A principle tenet of non-proliferation is that powerful countries should not threaten weak countries. If the US wants north Korea to renounce nuclear weapons permanently, it should dismantle its own program of military intimidation.

    But don't hold your breath. The US is compelled by the very nature of its economy to pursue an aggressive foreign policy agenda. Capitalism has, from its beginnings in the 15th and 16th centuries, been an expansionary system which has driven a core set of countries to outrage the sovereignty of weaker countries and peoples not strong enough to defend themselves.

    There are markets to conquer, raw materials to secure, sea lanes to dominate, investment opportunities to secure, and areas of low wage labor to open up, for the benefit of investors and share-holders at home.

    There are also foreign rivals to contest for these things and countries like north Korea and Cuba and others that defy assaults on their sovereignty to be slapped down and made an example of.

    It's unreasonable to suppose the US can choose to co-exist peacefully with north Korea -- not so long as these imperative remain in place.

    If a deal is done, and there's a good chance one won't be, the US will soon pick up the bone and worry over it.

    To be notified of updates, send an email to sr.gowans@sympatico.ca and write "subscribe" in the subject line.

    Reprinted from: http://gowans.blogspot.com/2005/09/

    Related Links
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    · News by ZeberuS

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