Slowly, but Surely, Pyongyang Is Moving

David Albright and Jacqueline Shire – The Washington Post

Copyright The Washington Post
Thursday, January 24, 2008
The optimism with which the October agreement with North Korea was welcomed has faded amid accusations that the North again is not keeping its commitments. First came word that “disablement” of nuclear facilities was slowing. Then there was the missed Dec. 31 deadline for North Korea to declare the full scope of its nuclear program, including its plutonium stockpile and uranium enrichment activities. And earlier in the fall, North Korea was accused of helping Syria construct a nuclear facility in its desert, reportedly a reactor.
The finger-wagging, told-you-so naysayers in and out of the Bush administration should take a deep breath. There is no indication that North Korea is backing away from its commitments to disable key nuclear facilities and every reason to expect this process to unfold slowly, with North Korea taking small, incremental steps in return for corresponding steps from the United States and others in the six-party discussions.
Disablement of the five-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon slowed in part because the United States decided that unloading the irradiated fuel rods as fast as North Korea proposed could needlessly risk exposing the North Korean workers to excessive radiation. North Korea is unloading the rods and making steady progress on the other aspects of disablement at the Yongbyon site. Could it be happening faster? Probably, and North Korea would point out that promised shipments of heavy fuel oil are also slow in coming.
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