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Former NSC Official Doubts NoKor Nuke Deal

Expressing what can only be described as grave doubts about the prospects of realizing North Korean nuclear dismantling through the current efforts, former director for counterproliferation strategy on the National Security Council Carolyn Leddy reminds that North Korea is still North Korea.

Last fall the chief U.S. negotiator to the six-party talks, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, testified to Congress that disablement measures underway at the Yongbyon facility would "effectively end" North Korea's plutonium production capability by year's end and that its uranium enrichment program would cease to exist as well. Yet media reports indicate that disablement activities at Yongbyon have slowed to a crawl. In a statement Friday, North Korea professed to have already disclosed all nuclear programs.

Were this merely a matter of a missed deadline, it would hardly be cause for concern. And the deadline reportedly became part of the deal only at President Bush's insistence -- reiterated in his groundbreaking letter to dictator Kim Jong Il last month.

Yet, perhaps anticipating the lapse, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last month that she wasn't "too concerned about whether [the deadline] is December 31 or not."

This view is misguided. As with all things regarding North Korea, the devil is in the details. Deadlines matter. I took part in a U.S. delegation's trip to survey the Yongbyon nuclear facility in September. Afterward, it was clear that North Korean officials view all elements of the six-party agreement as negotiable. If the deadline can be overlooked, so can the "disablement" and the "disclosure." This is how the Clinton administration's agreed framework unraveled.

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