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ND ReSource: Sanctions experts urge direct talks with North Koreans

Author: Arts and Letters


North Korea’s nuclear arsenal has grown tenfold in the last five years, according to David Cortright, a research fellow at the University of Notre Dame. He calls that growth a colossal failure of U.S. foreign policy.

The Bush administration started a war against Iraq which did not have the bomb, Cortright said, while allowing North Korea, which had a known nuclear program, to continue developing its capabilities. In 2000, he said, North Korea had enough weapons-grade plutonium for perhaps one or two bombs. Now, it could build as many as 10 bombs.

“North Korea had agreed during most of the ’90s to an inspected shutdown of its plutonium reactors and reprocessing facilities,” he said, recalling the efforts of the Clinton administration. “The Bush administration refused to carry on the negotiations that Clinton had almost concluded. It ignored the problem.”

As part of their work at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Cortright and George A. Lopez have spent more than a decade studying the use of economic sanctions to change the behavior of countries. The United States’ imposition of sanctions against North Korea has failed, they contend, as has its policy of refusing direct talks with Pyongyang.

America must restore normal diplomatic relations with North Korea, Lopez said.

“We must say `no’ to the old approach, which sets pre-conditions for direct talks,” Lopez said. He dismissed the idea that direct talks only reward North Korea’s dangerous behavior.

The U.S. also should be willing to sign a pact, agreeing not to attack North Korea, Cortright said.

“They want to survive,” he said of North Korea’s communist regime. “They’re struggling to hang on.”

Cortright and Lopez agree there should be some kind of sanctions imposed, this time, by the United Nations, to keep pressure on North Korea to change its ways. Those sanctions could include a ban on the travel of Kim Jong-il and other senior leaders, and an embargo on exports to North Korea of arms- and nuclear-related equipment.

When North Korea announced that it had conducted an underground nuclear test, the researchers said, it provided the latest evidence of a new reality — one that poses a direct threat to America’s security, and one that could spread to even more countries.

“We have a nuclear North Korea,” Lopez said. “We have to deal with it.”

Contacts: David Cortright can be reached for further comment at 574-631-8536 or . George Lopez can be reached at 574-315-7118 or .

Originally published by Julie Titone & Dennis Brown at on October 09, 2006.