By securing North Korea’s nuclear declaration, the Bush Administration has taken another positive step forward toward re-capping and terminating North Korea’s plutonium program. But the declaration leaves major unanswered questions: 1) Has North Korea provided an accurate description of its highly enriched uranium program? 2) Has North Korea described its past activities to proliferate nuclear materials and technology and committed to not repeating them? 3) Has North Korea provided a full and verifiable description of its nuclear arsenal?
Even once these questions are answered, the real challenge will remain, that is to completely dismantle North Korea’s nuclear programs, including its weaponization program, and turn over all its fissile material. That will be a problem left for the next Administration, it appears.
During the next 45 days, the Congress will need to review the adequacy of the North Korea declaration. North Korea will need to allow full verification, including through on the ground access. At that time, the Congress will have the opportunity to decide whether to accept or reject the President’s decision to rescind North Korea’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The announcement by President Bush to lift sanctions will cause anxiety in Japan, whose leaders have watched with unease as the negotiation has moved forward with what they see as inadequate attention to their concerns – disposition of North Korea’s fissile materials and resolution of the abductee issue. While the Japanese Government may not wish to scuttle the deal, our relationship with our most important ally in the Asia-Pacific region needs greater attention as this process moves forward.