P Crail on the Nork Declaration

A guest post from my ACA successor Peter Crail:

Perhaps the biggest news in the nonproliferation world Thursday was North Korea’s delivery of its long-awaited nuclear declaration. Caveats aside, and they are big ones (yes it’s late, no it won’t detail what the North Koreans were doing with Syria or with uranium enrichment, no it won’t cover whatever weapons were made) this is the start of getting a good look at what the North Korean’s were doing with their Pu program and hopefully, shutting it down for good.

Of course, the devil is in the details. That means verification, which has become the new buzz word for all things North Korea these days.

During Secretary Rice’s North Korea “speech”:http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2008/06/106034.htm at the Heritage Foundation this month (entitled “U.S. Policy Toward Asia,” but really…it was a North Korea speech) she outlined in quite specific terms some of the expectations for what the verification process should look like:

bq. Verification should require, among other measures, on-site access to facilities and sites in North Korea. Verification should require the collection and removal of environmental and material samples, as well as forensic analysis of materials and equipment, all at North Korean sites and facilities. Verification should require access to design documents, operating and production records, reports, logbooks, and other records for all facilities associated with production and processing of all nuclear materials in North Korea. And verification should require interviews with North Koreans involved in nuclear programs. Verification will not be easy, but it is essential. And the six parties are developing a detailed verification and implementation plan incorporating these principles.

Stanford’s Sigfried Hecker has “said”:http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2008_06/NKPlutonium.asp that, if Pyongyang agrees to measures like these, we should have “high degree of confidence” of how much Pu they produced.

Of course, Rice insisted several times that these verification measures would be required at “all facilities.” She is right, but the question is, will North Korea really agree to verification for anything beyond Yongbyon, at least in the near future? I suspect we will either be looking at more than the three phases envisioned, or a “phase three” with quite a few sub-phases to get to that point.

So, it’s still too early to break out the champagne bottles, but maybe a little “fireworks display”:http://english.donga.com/srv/service.php3?bicode=060000&biid=2008062740168 is in order.

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