June 27, 2008

Bush Eases Sanctions on N. Korea After Disclosure


By Deb Riechmann

The Associated Press


After months of stalling, North Korea offered a glimpse of its secretive nuclear program Thursday and was promptly rewarded by President Bush with an easing of trade sanctions and a move to take the communist state off the U.S. terrorism blacklist.

Bush, who once famously branded North Korea a part of his "axis of evil," offered mostly symbolic concessions in exchange for Kim Jong Il's agreement to hand over a long-awaited accounting of its nuclear bombmaking abilities. Critics said even symbolism was too much give to a regime that can't be trusted.

"If they don't fulfill their promises, more restrictions will be placed on them," Bush said, just a few hours after North Korea handed over 60 pages of documentation about its nuclear past to Chinese officials in Beijing.

North Korea declared less about its plutonium work and nuclear programs dating to 1986 than what the Bush administration initially sought. And it disclosed nothing about its stockpile of nuclear weapons, suspected uranium enrichment program or alleged role in helping Syria build a reactor.

Still, Bush called the declaration a positive step in negotiations with a fickle government that have been stop-and-go for years. Bush emphasized that he was aware Pyongyang had lied about its nuclear capabilities before.

"I'm under no illusions," Bush said. "This isn't the end of the process. This is the beginning of the process of action for action."

He rattled off a list of ongoing U.S. concerns about North Korea - human rights abuses, uranium enrichment, nuclear testing and proliferation, ballistic missile programs and the threat North Korea poses to its neighbors.

Then he announced he was erasing trade sanctions imposed on North Korea under the Trading With the Enemy Act and notifying Congress that, in 45 days, the administration intends to take North Korea off the State Department list of nations that sponsor terrorism.

The White House announcement marked a turnabout of the hostile U.S. policy toward impoverished North Korea. Better relations with Washington could eventually improve dire economic conditions for the country's 23 million people who suffer food shortages and blackouts. But with many steps to go in North Korea's disarmament process, that is unlikely to happen soon.

To demonstrate that it is serious about forgoing its nuclear weapons, North Korea planned the televised destruction today of a 65- foot-tall cooling tower at its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon. The tower is a key element of the reactor, but blowing it up - with the world watching - has little practical meaning because the reactor already has been nearly disabled.

Republicans who want the United States to take an even tougher stance against North Korea criticized Bush's action.

"It's shameful," said John Bolton, Bush's former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "This represents the final collapse of Bush's foreign policy."

"Profound disappointment" was the reaction of Rep. Ileana Ros- Lehtinen, R-Fla.

Other lawmakers from both parties took the position that the declaration, though six months late, was better than nothing. They argue that the long-running negotiations the United States, Japan, South Korea, China and Russia have been having with Pyongyang offer the best chance of eventual denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

giving little

North Korea declared less about their plutonium work and nuclear programs dating to 1986 than what the administration initially sought.

But President Bush responded with an easing of trade sanctions and a move to take North Korea off the U.S. terrorism blacklist.

Originally published by BY DEB RIECHMANN.

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