Bill Richardson, the utility diplomat on the Democratic bench, has secured a deal with North Korea to allow nuclear inspectors back in their Yongbyon nuclear facility. They also agreed to allow fuel rods to ship to an outside country, probably South Korea, for enrichment. And, the US will receive some remains from Korean War-era soldiers:
In Pyongyang over the weekend, Richardson met top nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-Gwan and Major General Pak Rim-Su, who leads North Korean forces along the tense border with the South.
Pak told Richardson that North Korea had recovered the remains of several hundred US servicemen killed during the 1950-1953 Korean War and offered to help secure their return to the United States, CNN said.
Richardson arrived specifically to head off escalating tensions around a live-fire drill from the South Koreans, and that also worked. The DPRK backed off a threat to retaliate in the event of the drills, which the ROK started early Monday.
Analysts believe this is a significant deal brokered by Richardson, but as it mainly concerns plutonium and not uranium enrichment, the North Koreans may be giving up control of a much less crucial technology:
TADASHI KIMIYA, PROFESSOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TOKYO:
“At the foreign ministers meeting, Japan, the United States and South Korea have set higher hurdles for North Korea. Allowing back in inspectors are also included in there, but the three countries have set some other conditions.
“This is just referring to Yongbyon’s (North Korea’s main nuclear facility) plutonium issue. What’s becoming serious now is the issue of highly enriched uranium … To merely refer to the plutonium development without mentioning the highly enriched uranium issue seems somewhat delusive.
“It certainly is a change compared to nothing taking place, but (the North has recently shown that) it has developed highly enriched uranium to such a level, and if they are doing that much above the ground, it’s only natural to think that they are doing something more underground.”
The North Koreans want to get back to six-party talks, and the uranium enrichment isn’t part of the offer. But considering the trajectory of tensions between the North and South, at least diplomatic resolutions are back on the table.
Surely after this, there’s some other crisis that the soon-to-be-unemployed Richardson can be moved to as an envoy.