米朝核合意 ウラン濃縮停止を見極めたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 3, 2012)
Suspension of uranium enrichment by N. Korea must be confirmed
米朝核合意 ウラン濃縮停止を見極めたい(3月2日付・読売社説)

Will the latest agreement really bring about a suspension of North Korea's nuclear weapons development program? The important thing is to see that country steadily carry out actions that were agreed upon.

The United States and North Korea have announced they agreed during last week's bilateral talks that North Korea will temporarily halt its nuclear program, including uranium enrichment, while the United States will extend 240,000 tons of food assistance to North Korea.

It took about a week until Wednesday's announcement because it is believed to have been necessary to check the contents of the agreement and coordinate among countries concerned.


Limited, but important, progress

According to the U.S. government, North Korea will stop nuclear and related activities in Yongbyon, including nuclear tests, uranium enrichment and the launching of long-range missiles. North Korea also agreed to accept verification and confirmation by the International Atomic Energy Agency of the halt of its nuclear activities.

Three years ago North Korea ejected IAEA inspectors from Yongbyon and carried out a second nuclear test. Declaring it would use all the plutonium it possesses for weapons and start uranium enrichment, it has been continuing its nuclear program.

If the situation is left untouched, it will only be a matter of time until North Korea deploys nuclear missiles. Considering the danger, the agreement this time is "important, if limited, progress," as the U.S. government put it.

The problem is whether North Korea will surely halt its uranium enrichment program. Past events have shown the country has scrapped international agreements a number of times. The United States must seriously discuss with North Korea the procedures for implementing the agreement so as not to allow loopholes for the reclusive country.

Food assistance from the United States will be mainly nutritional assistance to infants and small children as well as pregnant women, including dietary supplements. The U.S. government has left open the prospect of additional assistance depending on necessity.

We think North Korea will perform concrete steps such as suspending uranium enrichment and accepting the IAEA's verification team, while closely watching the progress of the food assistance.


When will actual halt take place?

According to the original plan, the United States will provide 20,000 tons of food per month over a 12-month period. Will North Korea actually take steps toward stopping uranium enrichment when the first shipment of food aid arrives or after a considerable amount arrives? It is important to clarify this point before actual shipments begin.

Even if the agreement is implemented as stated, it is still dangerous to heave a premature sigh of relief.

Concerning suspension of uranium enrichment, the agreement targets only the Yongbyon facility that was previously opened to U.S. nuclear experts. Basically, the agreement is merely a partial "suspension" of North Korea's entire nuclear development activities. Therefore, the possibility remains that North Korea will continue uranium enrichment at secret nuclear facilities elsewhere.

Since the death of longtime leader Kim Jong Il, North Korea has been hurriedly trying to consolidate the regime that succeeded him, with his young son Kim Jong Un at the center of the country's administration.

The more vulnerable the regime feels, the more it will stick to its nuclear program and missiles, dubbed the "heritage of revolution," and will never give up them.

The fundamental threat of North Korea has not been lessened. We must stay alert.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 2, 2012)
(2012年3月2日01時16分 読売新聞)

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