Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Report: US policy on North Korea nukes halfhearted

By FOSTER KLUG- Associated Press Writer June 15, 2010 12:11am EDT WASHINGTON — A muddled U.S. strategy on confronting North Korea's nuclear ambitions could lead to acceptance of the North as an atomic power, according to a report being released Tuesday by a leading American think tank. The Center on Foreign Relations report calls the Obama administration's efforts to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons programs vague and halfhearted. Several U.S. envoys divide responsibilities for pressuring the North on nuclear negotiations, human rights and sanctions enforcement, the report says, "with no clear evidence that these discreet missions are backed by a sense of urgency or priority at senior levels in the administration." The report comes amid high tensions on the Korean Peninsula over an international investigation's finding that a North Korean torpedo sank a South Korean warship in March, killing 46 sailors. South Korea wants the U.N. Security Council to punish North Korea for the attack. North Korea denies responsibility and says any punishment would trigger war. The ship sinking complicates already strained diplomatic efforts to get the North to give up its nuclear programs. Six-nation nuclear disarmament talks stalled after Pyongyang's furious reaction to earlier international rebukes of North Korean missile and nuclear tests. A vague timeframe for getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear aspirations, the report says, risks a U.S. policy that "will result in acquiescence to North Korea's nuclear status as a fait accompli." The State Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. The report's chairs were John Tilelli Jr., commander of U.S. forces in Korea during the Clinton administration, and Charles "Jack" Pritchard, a special envoy for negotiations with North Korea early in the George W. Bush administration and an adviser on Asia in the Clinton administration. The report contrasts the strong words the Obama administration aims at the North with what it calls "halfhearted" U.S. actions to deal with the nuclear standoff. "The Obama administration's current approach does not go far enough in developing a strategy to counter North Korea's continuing nuclear development or potential for proliferation," the report says. The United States and China are urged to work together on North Korea. Failure to do so, the report says, could jeopardize U.S.-Chinese cooperation in other areas; those include efforts to deal with global warming, Iran's nuclear program and trade and economic matters. The report also notes widespread pessimism that negotiations will get North Korea to voluntarily give up its nuclear programs, "especially given that no state that has conducted a nuclear test has subsequently reversed course without a change in political leadership." The North conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. The six-nation disarmament negotiations are the best framework for forcing change in the North, the report says, but officials "may in the end find it necessary to apply non-diplomatic tools such as sanctions or even military measures." One of the report's task force members says in dissent that the current U.S. policy isn't halfhearted but is instead "pragmatic and prudent." Stanley Owen Roth, vice president of international government relations for Boeing Company, says it allows the United States to work on missile negotiations and other matters "without raising either expectations or tensions."

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