Engage North Korea on More Than Nuke Issue, Think Tank Advises

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - As the deadline passed Friday for North Korea to halt nuclear operations at its Yongbyon plutonium reactor, a foreign policy think tank said the U.S. should engage North Korea on many issues, not just its nuclear program.

Last February, the United States agreed to unfreeze North Korean bank accounts in China in exchange for a halt in the country's nuclear program by April 13. The offer was supported by other countries involved in six-party talks on the issue -- South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.

According to a new report by the Atlantic Council of the United States, these agreements "set in motion a process for dismantling Pyongyang's nuclear weapon's program.

"But this agreement still leaves the parties a long distance from denuclearizing North Korea or resolving other fundamental security, political and economic issues on the Korean peninsula," the council noted.

The report said expanding the agenda through parallel negotiations alongside the nuclear talks to include other military, political and economic issues would strengthen the U.S. hand by enabling diplomats to assert additional pressures on North Korea. It would also provide Pyongyang with new incentives.

"It would lock in the North Koreans on a number of fronts so it would be harder for them to backslide like they have in the past," Atlantic Council President Frederick Kempe told a press conference in Washington, D.C.

Brookings Institution analyst James Goodby said a comprehensive approach rather than a sequential one was needed.

North Korea may be willing to change if there are incentives, he said, because "the North Korean regime realizes they are rapidly losing ground on the economic front."

But Bruce Klinger, a senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation, said the United States must continue to enforce sanctions against North Korea.

"I think that having all of the issues brought to the table is good. [But] it just runs the danger of complicating it to such a degree that perhaps nothing is agreed to," he told Cybercast News Service.

"I think the U.S. has to be resolute in continuing to enforce existing U.N. resolutions and existing international laws and agreements, and failing to do so it sends a bad signal both to North Korea and Iran that the U.S. is willing to forego existing international agreements in the interests of expediency in achieving a denuclearization accord," Klinger said.

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