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Analysts Urge US to Re-Energize Diplomatic Efforts With N. Korea - 2003-09-10

Recent talks failed to achieve any substantial results in reducing the nuclear threat from North Korea. And, no date has been set for negotiations to continue. Some analysts are urging the Bush administration to re-energize its diplomatic efforts with the reclusive communist country, saying North Korea is creating a serious security crisis for its neighbors and the United States.

The Bush administration has characterized the recent six-nation talks on the North Korean nuclear crisis as a modest success.

Although there were no breakthroughs, officials familiar with the negotiations called them a "good beginning," indicating it is likely to be a long time before the problem is resolved.

Analyst Michael O'Hanlon, who is an expert on nuclear weapons, has just published a book titled Crisis on the Korean Peninsula: How to Deal with a Nuclear North Korea.

Mr. O'Hanlon says it is time for the Bush administration to put North Korea at the forefront of its foreign policy, saying the country is the number one national security threat to the United States.

He is urging the Bush administration to offer Pyongyang a series of major incentives in return for beginning to dismantle its nuclear program.

"North Korea, I believe, recognizes it only has one or two cards to play in its entire inventory of possible national assets, possible ways to gain international attention, the nuclear capability being perhaps the most notable, and therefore it is unlikely that North Korea is going to unilaterally disarm without more inducements, without American pledges that it believes it can believe, that are concrete, that are specific," he says.

The Bush administration says it will not reward North Korea for breaking a previous nuclear agreement, and has rejected Pyongyang's call for bilateral talks and a non-aggression treaty with the United States. Officials say a nuclear-armed North Korea would affect a number of nations and each should have a voice in the negotiations.

Mr. O'Hanlon argues the administration needs to offer North Korea aid and security guarantees and in return should ask the reclusive nation to both abandon its nuclear program and cut its huge conventional force of more than one million soldiers by 50 percent.

He says this will significantly reduce the economic burden the North Korean military places on the country's budget and will boost the standard of living for its impoverished public.

Mr. O'Hanlon says if China and Vietnam can reorganize their economies, so can North Korea.

He says without military and economic reforms, and aid from the international community, the stalemate over North Korea's nuclear program is likely to continue.

"So we feel like we are in a [no win situation]," he says. "The president doesn't want to be blackmailed, refuses to be blackmailed. That is understandable. The North Koreans, however, are unlikely to give up their nuclear weapons capability without some kind of prospect of a more stable and more prosperous future."

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke agrees that North Korea needs to be offered incentives to dismantle its nuclear program.

Mr. Holbrooke says he believes North Korea wants to follow the lead of India and Pakistan and join the group of nations that are nuclear powers in order to protect itself and have leverage in negotiations with the United States.

"The lesson of the South Asian story and I am afraid the lesson of Iraq and the lesson of North Korea is once you get the weapons you are in a stronger bargaining position and less vulnerable. That is not a good lesson to draw. But I must bring it up because it seems to me to be one of the outcomes of the events of the last few years.," he says.

The former top U.S. envoy for North Korea, Jack Pritchard, says he does not expect much progress in seeking a diplomatic solution regarding the nuclear crisis until the United States and other countries are willing to discuss concrete proposals to assist Pyongyang.

Mr. Pritchard, who recently resigned from the State Department, says the North Koreans are not likely to allow inspections of their nuclear facilities until they know what compromises will be offered.

"For the North Koreans, they are going to want to hear what is our entire game plan. They are not particularly interested in our idea of a complete and verifiable end to their nuclear program. That is our immediate concern," he says. "We have got to get there and deal with that. But for North Koreans, what is the end game?"

During talks this year North Korea threatened to test a nuclear weapon and has said it may even export nuclear materials.

Analysts say the Stalinist regime is making progress expanding its nuclear arsenal, and is likely to have enough material to build at least one or two bombs.