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When It Comes to Nukes, Iran Is No North Korea

Could the North Korean diplomatic model really help in the effort to defuse Iran's nuclear program?

by
Meir Javedanfar

Bio

June 30, 2008 - 1:40 am
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In a surprise move, the North Koreans gave the U.S. president what some believe is his second major achievement in his administration’s campaign against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

After having convinced Libya to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in 2003, North Korea, after many years of negotiations, has now also decided to come clean about its nuclear program. Under a new deal, Pyongyang will now declare its plutonium-based materials and facilities, something which it has hidden for many years.

To demonstrate their goodwill, the North Korean authorities, publicly and dramatically blew up the cooling tower of their nuclear facility in Yungbyon. This was to show that the site which many have suspected of producing weapons-grade plutonium, will no longer be active, as per Pyongyang’s promise. In return, the U.S. will remove the country from its Trading with the Enemy Act and State Sponsors of Terrorism list in the next forty-five days.

Despite the achievement, the recent deal has its critics. According to some experts, the North Koreans have not declared their secret uranium enrichment facilities. They have also not divulged details about their previous proliferation activities in places such as Syria. These criticisms have some justification. But overall, the deal can be considered a success: the international community, using diplomacy, has managed to freeze an important part of North Korea’s nuclear program. This is something which many thought impossible.

So far, the Bush administration has repeatedly failed to curb Iran’s nuclear program. In light of recent events, the unavoidable question leaps to mind: Can the same methods applied to the North Korean model be used in dealing with Iran’s?

Currently, the answer is no.

Why?

First and foremost, the stance taken by the international community against North Korea was far more united than the one currently being taken against Iran. The North Koreans were told from the beginning that only one group of countries will negotiate with them: no on else. Dubbed the “six party talks,” the countries involved were China, U.S., Russia, Japan, and South Korea.

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