(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday rejected comparisons between the nuclear deal struck with Iran and one negotiated in the past with North Korea, but of the four points he cited in doing so, at least three were questionable.
Several congressional critics of the deal reached in Geneva have raised concerns about parallels with North Korea, which acquired a nuclear weapons capability despite U.S.-led efforts to prevent that from happening.
Interviewed on CNN's “State of the Union,” Kerry was asked, “A lot of people say Iran is just going to be North Korea – a country that agrees to stop its nuclear ambitions in order to get sanctions lifted and then secretly goes ahead and continues with its program. Why do you think Iran is not North Korea?”
“Well, there are many reasons why it’s not,” Kerry replied. He listed four:
--Iran is “a member of the NPT [nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty].”
--The Iranians “have engaged in a negotiation.”
--The Iranians “have committed to have daily inspections of certain facilities; they have committed to restrict their activities with those inspections taking place.”
--The Iranians “have publicly committed that they are not going to build a nuclear weapon.”
In contrast to Iran, he added, “North Korea already has, and has tested, [nuclear weapons] and will not declare a policy of denuclearization. So there are many different things that lead one to at least say that we ought to be exploring and testing the possibility of a diplomatic solution” with Iran.
In fact, when the Clinton administration negotiated with North Korea and signed the “Agreed Framework,” also in Geneva, almost two decades ago:
--North Korea was also “a member of the NPT.” (It had threatened in 1993 to withdraw from the treaty, but reversed the decision before the withdrawal became legally effective three months later. The North Korean regime did eventually made good on that threat, but only in 2003, three months after the Bush administration confronted it with evidence that it had been violating the Agreed Framework by carrying out covert uranium-enrichment activity. The 1994 agreement then speedily unraveled.)
--The North Koreans also had “engaged in a negotiation.” (The Agreed Framework was signed after four months of bilateral talks with the U.S., launched after a visit to Pyongyang by former President Carter, acting in an unofficial capacity.)
--The North Koreans also “publicly committed that they are not going to build a nuclear weapon.” (Under the “South-North Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” signed in 1991, Pyongyang undertook not to “test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons.” That declaration was cemented in the Agreed Framework.)
Only one of the four reason cited by Kerry was arguably accurate: Unlike the deal with Iran, the Agreed Framework wording did not stipulate “daily inspections” of North Korean nuclear facilities. But it did allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to “monitor” a freeze in specified nuclear facilities, and to carry out “ad hoc and routine inspections” of facilities not subject to a freeze.
The fact that North Korea was a member of the NPT, that it had entered into negotiations, and that it had publicly committed not to build a nuclear weapon did nothing to stop it from ending up with a nuclear weapons capability after cheating on its commitments.
Years after the Agreed Framework, Pyongyang again agreed to denuclearize in a 2005 “joint statement” and follow-up 2007 agreement, and then later still in the short-lived February 2012 “Leap Day deal.” All fell through, and it carried out nuclear weapons tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013.
‘North Korea fooled the world’
Reacting to the new Iran agreement, Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told Fox News Sunday that his “greatest concern throughout this whole situation is the North Korean issue. And that is that you begin relieving sanctions, you end up basically with no deal.”
“We’ve seen what’s happened in North Korea,” he said. “They now have nuclear weapons, and I don’t want to see that happen in Iran.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) also cited North Korea in his response to the Iran deal.
“The president sees wisdom in placing trust, however limited, in a regime that has repeatedly violated international norms and put America’s security at risk,” he said in a statement. “Apparently, America has not learned its lesson from 1994 when North Korea fooled the world. I am skeptical that this agreement will end differently.”
Before the Iran deal was finalized, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) brought up North Korea too.
“[The Iranians] keep saying it’s for peaceful purposes, but if that’s the case, why are they enriching beyond the necessary level needed for a civilian program?” he said on Fox News last week. “And why do they keep investing in long-range rockets? The answer is because they want a nuclear weapons program. They are going the same direction, they are following the exact same model that North Korea followed in getting their weapon.”
The lead U.S. negotiator in the current Iran nuclear talks, Undersecretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, was the Clinton administration’s State Department counselor and special advisor for North Korea policy from 1997 to 2001.
As such, Sherman was not directly involved in the Agreed Framework talks (she was assistant secretary for legislative affairs from 1993 to 1996), but she did play a key role in subsequent dealings with Pyongyang, including negotiations over its troubling missile advances and normalization efforts. She also traveled with Secretary of State Madeline Albright to Pyongyang in 2000 and met with Kim Jong-il.
When Sherman joined Kerry at a Senate briefing on the Iran talks earlier this month, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) criticized her record in dealing with North Korea, calling it “a total failure and embarrassment to her service.”