North Korea Nuclear Deal Seen Strengthening U.S.-China Ties

By Vince Crawley
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - The six-party agreement to end North Korea’s nuclear program was the result of multilateral cooperation and has strengthened the diplomatic relationship between the United States and China, the top U.S. negotiator says.

“This whole six-party process has done more to bring the U.S. and China together than any other process I’m aware of,” Ambassador Christopher Hill said in a February 20 interview with ABC News, an American television network. Hill is assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

The agreement, announced in Beijing February 13 by diplomats from China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, North Korea and the United States, calls on North Korea to shut down its main nuclear reactor complex at Yongbyon and allow international inspectors to verify the process as a first step toward disclosing and dismantling its entire nuclear infrastructure. In exchange, North Korea will receive international economic, humanitarian and energy assistance. (See related article.)

Under the terms of the deal, North Korea has agreed to shut down its reactors and begin international inspections within 60 days. “We’d like to move right into the next phase on day 61,” Hill said.

During this second phase, “we would hope to get these reactors disabled, meaning they can’t pull them back up online,” Hill said. “Then, beyond that, we would look for a phase that dismantles.”

During the first 60-day phase, Hill said, “we will be discussing a list which is aimed at eventually getting a declaration from North Koreans on precisely what they’ve got in terms of nuclear programs. Because, ultimately, we do need to get these 50 or so kilos [of plutonium] already produced, we need to get those under international supervision and out of there.”

Hill said the new agreement differs from the 1994 Agreed Framework, which offered U.S. assistance in exchange for an agreement by North Korea not to pursue nuclear enrichment. The 1994 agreement was between the United States and North Korea, whereas the new agreement “is a multilateral deal” that also includes China, Japan, Russia and South Korea, Hill said. “I think that fundamentally is different,” he said.

The new agreement also attempts to “address some of the underlying problems in the region” instead of focusing exclusively on the North Korean nuclear program, Hill said. “So it’s a more comprehensive, holistic approach.”

For example, the United States has insisted that North Korea meet with Japan to address mutual concerns, such as North Korea’s past abduction of Japanese citizens.

For more information on U.S. policy, see The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula.