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Deal or No Deal February 12, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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When the Six Party Talks resumed last week, they started in a rather optimistic environment. Now, one could say inevitably, they have “faltered over the amount of energy aid the North was demanding in exchange for disarming.” According to a BBC News report (12-02-2007) North Korea “has demanded two million tonnes of fuel oil – four times as much as was offered under a deal brokered in 1994.”

This quantity is seen by some as quite an excessive demand, but in a CTV News article (11/02/2007) it was stated that “South Korean and Japanese news reports gave varying accounts of how much energy North Korea was demanding, from two million kilowatts of electricity to two million tonnes of heavy fuel oil. Japan’s Kyodo News agency reported late Sunday that North Korea wanted one million tonnes of oil annually before disarming and two million tonnes every year afterward.” I imagine the true figures lie somewhere in the middle.

The fact is that no matter what the DPRK agrees to receive in energy aid, it will be a far greater amount than they actually deserve. In my opinion very little logic exists in these attempts to appease this so-called government.

Regardless, the success of these latest rounds of discussions rest entirely on North Korea. It’s up to them to decide whether or not to accept the deal which among other things (Xinhua 12-02-2007) “reportedly proposes halting within two months the work at nuclear sites in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including the Yongbyon reactor, and supplying Pyongyang with alternative energy sources.” The Taipei Times (12-02-2007) reports that “in an attempt to move forward, the negotiators — from the US, China, Russia and South Korea as well as Japan and North Korea — held a series of two-way meetings at a Chinese government guest-house.”

However, the DPRK is taking its time in deciding on this latest deal, and this leads to frustration among the participants.

One of the “frustrated” participants is Japan, who will not “provide direct energy assistance to North Korea”, because of the lack of progress on the abduction issue, but “it could provide experts to help identify exactly what North Korea’s energy needs are.” In a story published in the Asahi Shimbun (12-02-2007) The Japanese government said “such indirect assistance could be provided through a working group to discuss energy assistance for Pyongyang.” On the other hand, should the abduction matter see positive movement, “Japan is prepared to join not only a working group on economic and energy assistance, but also a study group to grasp the actual state of the North Korean economy and draw a true picture of its electric power shortages.”

“Sources close to the talks also said there was no guarantee North Korea will agree to allow an economy and energy study group to cross its borders.” I have a feeling the North will not agree to a lot of things as time goes on, no matter how many deals are reached.

As I posted previously, in a few years we’ll be back here again, and the whole “song and dance routine” will start once more. North Korea, what is it this time? Deal or no deal?

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