Non-Proliferation?

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The Opinion Journal takes a look at the long, strange trip negotiators have been on in dealing with North Korea. They do not like what they are seeing.

Granted, diplomacy requires some confidentiality, but transparency and verification are crucial to disarmament, especially when dealing with a regime like Kim Jong Il's. The February 13 six-party accord called for Pyongyang to deliver a comprehensive accounting of its nuclear program and arsenal within 60 days. We're still waiting.

Transparency is all the more essential given recent news reports about likely North Korean nuclear proliferation in Syria. Washington says the main goal of the six-party talks is to prevent proliferation, and North Korea promised to cease and desist. Yet Pyongyang seems to have been caught in the act in Syria only months after making that promise. The Israelis were worried enough to risk a confrontation with Syria by bombing the site, not to mention flying over Turkish air space. Notably, the Turks didn't object.

Syrian President Bashar Assad finally got around to confirming the air raid in an interview with the BBC yesterday, claiming the Israelis hit an "unused military building." North Korea had publicly denounced the bombing even before anyone had mentioned its involvement, and its chief nuclear negotiator last week referred to those who suspect a Pyongyang-Damascus connection as "lunatics." This is protesting a little too much.

President Bush dodged three questions on the issue two weeks ago, except to warn North Korea one more time not to proliferate, which sounds suspiciously like a confirmation. Meanwhile on September 21, the Washington Post quoted government sources as saying that "Israel shared intelligence with President Bush this summer indicating that North Korean nuclear personnel were in Syria."

Then there's the not-so-little matter of North Korea's continuing missile proliferation. Last week the State Department's Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation announced new sanctions against a North Korean company for spreading missile technology. The company–Korean Mining and Development Corp., or Komid–is a long-time offender. The U.S. Treasury last year called it "Pyongyang's premier arms dealer and main exporter of goods and weapons related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons."

The State Department's quiet issuance of new sanctions is a troubling indicator. Especially since they were announced the day before the last round of talks kicked off. Given that North Korea has also missed every deadline for disclosure that they agreed to, there would appear to be a real problem. I've pointed out that unless there is meaningful verification and inspection that any agreement with North Korea is useless. The Opinion Journal is saying the same thing.

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