In a fictitious international environment where good news are scarce, the joint statement issued by the six countries assembled at the negotiating table in Beijing on September 19 resulted an encouraging one; it included a comprehensive agenda to dismantle nuclear facilities in Pyongyang. This was, however, the beginning of a difficult process. Celebrations were even more premature when the following day a dispute arose regarding the most sensitive part of the text: to supply a light water reactor to North Korea. Did the American negotiator go too far by accepting to dispute such supply “at the right time”? Washington indicated it would refuse to give anything until the North Korean nuclear program was completely dismantled. Pyongyang stated that its program would not be affected until they had the new reactor.
This is what happens when pressure is put to close negotiations with a regime that is famous for its sudden attitude changes. Negotiations, as well as the 1994 agreement, are an irrefutable example. Besides, since that date, North Korea has not only continued developing its nuclear program, but also experienced a technological breakthrough in ballistics. The Bush administration saw how an agreement, which it needed urgently to recover its prestige, was rejected.
North Korea’s situation could not be compared to that of South Africa in 1992 or Libya in 2003. Since the North Korean economy has failed, the need to invest in North Korea is real, but since the famine affecting the people is no longer a problem for the regime as long as the army and the party have food, the regime’s non-conventional programs keep being conceived as top survival guarantees. If it could negotiate those programs without giving up them while acquiring energy, goods and technologies, it would then be a considerable advantage. Nothing can prove that the North Korean regime would actually want to get rid of its bombs.
China has obviously been diplomatically successful, but its main objective was to prevent the crisis from reaching a critical level that would justify a reaction by Japan and the U.S. This could simply reflect in the enhancement of the existing relations between both countries, for example, in the area of anti-missile defense, which would be a very bad news for Beijing. In conclusion, although negotiations still continue, it is too soon to proclaim a victory.

Libération (France)
Libération followed a long path since its creation by philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre to its acquisition by financier Edouard de Rothschild. Circulation: 150,000 copies.

Accord en trompe l’œil en Corée″, by Thérèse Delpech, Libération, September 21, 2005.