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Albright: Harder to Implement N. Korea Deal

Interviewee: David Albright, President, Institute for Science and International Security
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor
April 11, 2007

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David Albright, a well-known expert on Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, says the North Korean insistence on getting their benefits before carrying out their obligations can only slow down the implementation of the deal for ending North Korea’s nuclear program. “It’s going to make this whole deal harder to implement because every time there’s a problem that affects North Korea they grind everything else to a halt until that problem is solved. This [the release of $25 million from Macao] isn’t a good precedent; it’s going to slow implementation down."

The North Korean deal: Do you think it’s going to go ahead now that the North Korean money has been freed up in Macao?

North Korea has decided that if it makes a deal, it insists on getting whatever benefits or incentives before it moves on. It’s going to make this whole deal harder to implement because every time there’s a problem that affects North Korea they grind everything else to a halt until that problem is solved. This [the release of $25 million from Macao] isn’t a good precedent; it’s going to slow implementation down. It’s impossible to try to meet this deadline on Saturday [for closing down the Yongbyon reactor]. What you want is North Korea to shut down these facilities with the international inspectors there to monitor the shutdown and then start the procedures to ensure that nothing funny is happening. If North Korea shuts down everything now, it’ll still take the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] probably a week to get there. Because they have to get to Pyongyang, which takes several days, and then they have to negotiate with the North Koreans about what they’re going to actually do there. You don’t want to have a situation where they shut down and then you don’t even know what’s going on.

Why aren’t the inspectors there now?

They’re waiting until North Korea says, “We’re going to shut down.” They don’t want to station people there; they don’t have those kind of resources. They have to send senior members to North Korea to negotiate with the North Koreans on what they’re actually going to do. And then there’s this added complication that this is not about just freezing the facilities. There’s a commitment on both sides that disablement will happen. And disablement is a term that is not well-defined, but it essentially means that something will take place that will make it hard for North Korea to restart the facilities.

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