Last February, following a years-long, U.S.-led campaign of economic sanctions and political threats, north Korea agreed to end its nuclear program and begin decommissioning its facilities. The agreement was made in the course of talks between the governments of the DPRK, United States, Japan, south Korea, Russia, and China. In exchange, the five agreed to provide north Korea with one million tons of fuel. Washington also said it would start the process of normalizing diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, remove it from the U.S. list of "terrorist" organizations, and end some sanctions.
North Korea shut down its one nuclear reactor in July, and Washington sent a team of "experts" to north Korea in October to disable it.
In a January 4 statement, the DPRK said it needs 100 more days of work to finish disabling the reactor. But Pyongyang said it had given Washington a full accounting of its nuclear programs in November. It also reported that the U.S. government and other parties to the agreement had failed to deliver fuel oil and other promised aid, and that because of this, it had slowed down the process of dismantling its nuclear facilities.
Christopher Hill, U.S. assistant secretary of state, went on a tour of south Korea, China, Japan, and Russia in early January to get those governments to put more pressure on north Korea. Hill warned the DPRK that on February 25 Roh Moo Hyun will no longer be president of south Korea. Roh had favored more active engagement with north Korea than newly elected president Lee Myung-Bak, who calls for "stricter" monitoring of south Korean aid and economic investments in north Korea. Hill demanded the DPRK comply with the agreement by February 25.
At the same time, the U.S. official said, "There's no reason why we can't finish the job in 08. Throughout the six-party process, we've had these bumps in the road. We have had these missed deadlines but
ultimately we have been able to continue with the progress."
Chinese troops to north Korea?
Three days after the December 31 deadline imposed on north Korea had passed, two U.S. capitalist think tanks released a "working paper" called "Keeping an Eye on an Unruly Neighbor: Chinese Views of Economic Reform and Stability in North Korea." The paper, issued by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the U.S. Institute of Peace, was widely reported by the U.S. media. Its authors say it is based on discussions in 2007 with "Chinese specialists on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea."
Some of these discussions, according to the paper, took place with unnamed individuals in China's People's Liberation Army (PLA), and laid out "contingencies" for sending Chinese troops into north Korea should "instability" arise in the DPRK.
"In the event of instability in North Korea," the paper said, "China's main priority will be to prevent a flood of refugees by assuring supplies of food and strengthening border controls. PLA officers maintain that they would attempt to close the border, but admit a lack of confidence that they could do so successfully, since the border extends 866 miles and can be easily penetrated.
The think tank report added, "If deemed necessary, PLA troops would be dispatched into North Korea. China's strong preference is to receive formal authorization and coordinate closely with the UN in such an endeavor. However, if the international community did not react in a timely manner as the internal order in North Korea deteriorated rapidly, China would seek to take the initiative in restoring stability.
It stated that according to PLA researchers, contingency plans are in place for the PLA to perform three possible missions in the DPRK. These include: 1) humanitarian missions such as assisting refugees or providing help after a natural disaster; 2) peacekeeping or order keeping missions such as serving as civil police; and 3) environmental control measures to clean up nuclear contamination resulting from a strike on North Korean nuclear facilities near the Sino-DPRK border and to secure nuclear weapons and fissile materials." The French news agency AFP reported January 8 that a spokeswoman for China's foreign ministry said she was unaware of any Chinese strategy to send troops into north Korea to secure nuclear weapons, but did not outright deny that such a plan existed."
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